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newscoutdad

Bad Experience, advice needed

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Hello, I am the father of a Tiger Cub and our family is completely new to scouting. We have recently had some less than good experiences within our pack and I wanted to get some advice from objective people that know a lot more than I do about scouting.

 

Overall, I believe we are probably in what I have seen called a "declining pack". Membership seems extremely low (approx. 8 Tigers and 50-60 total cub scouts)for a city with a population of over 50,000. The pack seems completely unorganized - poor communication, events thrown together at the last minute, no pack website, etc. But, this in itself wouldn't tend to dissuade us from scouts.

 

The leadership within the den and pack seem to be very exclusive of others. Many (and all of the other families in the den)attend the same church and seem to discuss scouting while they are gathered there. This causes them to "forget" that they didn't tell the other parents what plans were, that meeting times changed, that we were supposed to bring X to the function, etc.

 

Some of this lack of communication culminated in a very disappointing day recently for my son. To give some background, our Pinewood Derby was last month. Leading up to the event, I did some research on the internet about derby cars, because I knew zero about it, and wanted my son to have the tools to be competitive. We asked for pack rules several times and were told "just the rules in the box". I confirmed this with the leadership until they actually seemed annoyed that I was asking.

 

The Derby came and it went very well (my son's car came in third in the pack). Some of the cars had a modifications that I had considered beyond what I personally thought fair, but since the only rules were the box rules, I said nothing and believed that overall it was just a more open competition and was fine with the outcome. A good derby day and a happy son.

 

This month was Raingutter Regatta. Again, I asked about the rules and saw the eyes roll as they said "the rules in the box!". Again we did some research and saw that many scouts cut the regatta boat in half and create a catamaran style of boat with it. Given the derby experience, we thought it safe to assume an open style of competition and that other cubs would have similar boats. My son loved the way it looked, so we built it.

 

Regatta day comes and when we arrive at the event with his boat, the parent leaders start complaining that they had discussed this type of boat the year before and that they were "illegal". Obviously, we had not been part of the pack the previous year and had no way of knowing. (Again, they assume since they discussed it, that everyone must know)They admitted that the boat conformed to all of the rules, but that the year prior they outlawed them.

 

They did not immediately disqualify the boat and decided to let him race, hoping that he would lose to an older child and no harm would be done. Much to their chagrin, his boat beat all the others. After many hushed conversations they send the den leader over to explain to us that my son will not get the trophy for the event, and that instead he will get a medal and a "Best in Show" certificate. The way my 6 year old tiger was bouncing around, it was obvious to me that he was not going miss the fact that the trophy went to a cub that he had beaten. And even after I tried to explain that he would not get a trophy he was not convinced.

 

The look on his face when the other boy received the trophy was agonizing. If someone had shown me a picture of my son's face like this before we joined scouts and said "one day he will have this look because of scouts" I never would have let him sign up. They made no mention during the awards about the incident. Despite trying to console him, he cried for over an hour and said that other boys had called him a cheater as well.

 

I am not sure if there will be long term affects from this incident, or if my son will just forget about it. I am generally one of those people that just let things go and shrug it off, but I am more concerned with how my son is going to view scouting after this.

 

I apologize for being long-winded and will wrap it up with a few questions:

 

Am I overreacting to even discuss this?

Did the leadership handle this as well as they could have?

How would other leaders here have handled the situation?

 

What, if anything, should we do about it now?

 

I appreciate your responses.

 

 

 

 

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Boy, tough putt.

 

I think the best, most positive outcome would be to go to the pack committee with some ideas for solving the problems. Perhaps you could offer to publish a pack newsletter or web site. One of the advantages would be that such a job would give you standing to go to committee meetings (not that you really need a reason, all parents should be welcome) and have a reason for "bugging" pack leaders for info about upcoming activities. If the pack committee doesn't really function as it should or if most pack matters are really decided after Sunday School, you would at least have a pretext for going to the leaders for info. Being a new to the program you could play up the "I'm new, explain it to me slowly" angle. It's a bit of a game, but if it ultimately results in better communication through the pack, it may be worth the trouble.

 

A couple times over my time as committee chairman, I've had two dens with problems due to lack of communication. Usually the biggest problem was that neither of the den leaders or assistants ever attended the committee meetings so they and their dens were out of the loop. The solution was to appoint a parent to be responsible for attending committee meetings and reporting back to the den. Ultimately, those parents became more involved and stepped in as den leaders.

 

As painful as it may be, it's probably best to let the regatta issue be. At this point there is probably not much that can be done. The pack leaders fouled things up by allowing your son to race and then essentially deciding to disqualify him. But I think you have to assume that they were trying to do their best. We had precisely that situation at our regatta two years ago, but decided that because the rules didn't prohibit split hulls, we let the boy race. Of course, he smoked everyone and went home with the hardware. We have since changed the rules. It's a tough position to be in and sometimes you have to make judgement calls which are bound to disappoint someone.

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newscoutdad:

 

Welcome to Scouting. I'll try to answer your questions. I'm a unit commissioner, which is a district volunteer, with some Scouting experience. About 30 years worth.

 

You called your pack "declining," but with 50-60 members, even in a town of 50,000 it's probably not declining. It is well above average size, and I'd wager it's not the only pack in town. 8 Tiger cubs is also not below average, but not stunningly above either.

 

You state that the pack is disorganized, and it may be, but I doubt it. The truly disorganized packs have an average size of less than 10 kids total. The poor communication you site, events thrown together, etc. could be simptoms of simply not having enough volunteers or a closely knit group tied to a single organization, such as the church you mention.

 

As to the pinewood derby and the raingutter regatta, there are rules in the box. I think you pinned it when you said that the pack may have forgotten to inform you of some of the rule modifications they made. I think that was probably an honest mistake. However, just to let you know, the "rules" in Scouting are usually found with a minimum of looking. Check the box on the kits, check the handbook for the badges and the leader's manuals for the leader stuff.

 

As to permanent damage to your son for the raingutter regatta, I wouldn't worry about it too much. I'm the last guy to advocate kid's tears, but at that age they bounce back pretty good if the parent helps them.

 

I think the pack was wrong to allow the boat and award the trophy to someone else. But I wasn't there, either.

 

Now to your specific questions:

 

"Am I overreacting to even discuss this?"

No. You're not sure of the answers and you're asking the questions. Fair enough.

 

"Did the leadership handle this as well as they could have?"

If they had, you wouldn't be upset.

 

"How would other leaders here have handled the situation?"

Differently.

 

 

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Hello NewScoutDad,

 

I'm sorry for what you and your son went through.

 

There is absolutely no reason that you know things about Scouting but here are some information which might help you.

 

Your pack is not particularly small. In fact, it likely is a bit larger than average. However, Cub Scout Packs are not run by the Boy Scouts of America. They are run by individual sponsors. Your sponsor (church) is chartered by the BSA to run your Pack. There may be one or more other Packs in your community run by other sponsors.

 

Most Packs are open but some, either formally or informally, are limited or largely limited to the membership of some church. You would seem to be connected with that kind of a Pack. This in itself isn't a problem if they are open and welcoming.

 

To answer your questions, in my opinion.

 

1) Are you overreacting? Kids can be cruel on each other and suffer from peaks and valleys. I remember that six year olds can be very much this way. From the point of view of a Scout volunteer, I think it is terribly regrettable that this situation happened in Scouting but it could have happened anywhere. JFK said "Life is unfair" and this kind of thing has happened to all of us and will happen again. I can understand your wanting to protect your son from it but as a parent, I can tell you that just isn't possible. What you can do is try to help him understand and cope and come out the far side. You can help him enjoy what he built and did and feel good about it. At age six, your approval and guidance mean a lot more than any prize. Your telling that you are proud of him means more than any prize.

 

2) Did the leadership handle this well? Obviously not. They handled it very poorly.

 

3) How should they have handled it? There are a number of ways that it could have been done. The basic idea is that a boy does not suffer or is not embarrassed because of something that he cannot control. I'm not completely sure how I would have handled it but there are many ways that six year old can be made completely happy. In a 50-60 boy Pack, very regrettably, the Pack leaders can, on occasion, let the feelings of one boy be hurt. Sadly, with children, that happens. And it is particularly painful if it is your child. But it is part of growing up.

 

What to do?

 

Done right, Scouting is a great organization. Our purpose is to improve the citizenship, character and fitness of youth and most of the time, we do it pretty well.

 

You need to get some information. You could contact your local Boy Scout Council office (phone book) and ask to talk to the District Executive who serves your community. Find out if there are any other Cub Scout Packs in your community. Find out what your other options are. Find out who the other sponsors are.

 

You then need to decide if you want to remain with your current Pack or consider moving to another one. Think about who the other sponsors are. Talk, if you wish, with the leader(s) of the other Packs. In connection with this, of course, you need to consider if you want to be connected with Cub Scouting at all. I hope you do. It's a great program.

 

One other factor in connection with considering your current Pack or another Pack. Most Cub Scout Packs are winding down about now for the summer. Your current Pack or another Pack might not do much more this year and if you transferred, there might not be much for your son to do. You might consider choosing the Pack that you wish but then becoming active again in September with your son as a Wolf Cub Scout. It's a different program and there will be plenty of time for the bad feelings to heal and be forgotten.

 

I'm sure some of the other posters will have some ideas also.

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I wish that I could put my hand on my heart and say that this has never happened before and will never happen again. But I can't.

I could sit here and give a list of reasons and could throw in a few excuses just for good measure.

Please know that as both a Dad and a member of this organization I am really sorry that it happened.

As to what to do? All I can say is what I would do. After reading this wise words from me (Joke!) I would type in www.scouting.org. Then I would find the Council Locater, stick my zip code in and find out the phone number of my local council.

Give them a ring and they will be able to find someone that knows of another pack in your area. I feel sure in city of the size you mention there are a lot.(My home town of less then 5,000 has 4)

What I or any other Leader might have done is of little consequence. However when I was in "Cubbing" Tiger events were separate from the Cub Scout events, even at our big District race we have races for Tiger Cubs only. I'm not that keen on trophies for the winner, I think that all the Young Lads should get something for participating. But that's just me.

While there may have been problems with the communication about the rules,if you were not within the rules I would have not allowed you to race. Again that's just me.

Welcome to the forums

Eamonn

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I have a special sensitivity for the cubs and this really hurts me to hear. A long time ago when I was a cubmaster, if the boy was allowed to race he was allowed to win (the trophy as well). To me this was terribly unfair on several points. The decision to allow him to race hoping he would lose was a self-deception on their part...meaning they were afraid to confront the issue honestly. It was dishonest to him and to the other participants as well. Their decision to deny him the award after he won was a betrayal not only of him but of the other boys and the pack. I fear for the damage this did to his feelings but the only thing that you may have available is to make sure this doesn't happen again. Once a hammer puts that nail in a board, it takes a lot of work to pull it out and there will always remain a hole. I hope this doesn't drive your son away from the pack.

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Wouldn't the most fair thing be to just adopt the "box rules" and leave it at that. As I try to teach new leaders, when the unit thinks they need to start making up special rules (by-laws, etc), it usually leads to unforeseen complications. As with advancement, we should neither add nor subtract requirements. Seems like this should be a good policy for other things, as well. Who cares if a catamaran wins? Sounds innovative to me, if the ru

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I'm sorry to hear about the bad experience that you and your son had. It breaks my heart to see a boy cries at one of these events (pwd, raingutter regatta, ...). My only advice is for you to actively participate, namely be the chairman for the event and fix what is wrong. That is what I did! It was my oldest son's tiger year. We did not know exactly what to do with a box of wood and four plastic wheels! This is back in the days that not much information about pwd was posted on the Internet. He and I worked on it, carved it, painted it, finished it and felt proud of our accomplishment together. We had no instruction other than what came with the box and the Pack's do's and don'ts. The car weighed 2.5 oz. We didn't know that we could lube the wheels or the car can weigh up to 5 oz. Happily, he took his car to the race. Dejectly, he saw his car not even make it half way down the track each heat (to the point of tearing up). Bravely, he said, "Dad, we'll do better next year." That's when I told myself, not another kid in the Pack will have to see his car not finishing. I got on the pwd committee and created the "pinedwood derby clinic day." We made sure that every kid's car weigh at least 4 oz and provide a tube of lube for those who want to use it. I sent out suggestions and links to various pwd sites. I made sure that the rules were clear and answer any question about it. The results? A fair playing field for everyone including the newbies! To date, we continue the tradition and every car finishes the race whether it's 1st or last, but the important thing is that the kids were satisfied.

 

"Am I overreacting to even discuss this?"

No, you reacted as a father would and there is no fault in that. If you were to have intentionly done it, then yes, you are overreacting.

 

 

"Did the leadership handle this as well as they could have?"

No.

 

"How would other leaders here have handled the situation?"

If I were the Cubmaster, I would have done it differently. If we, as a Pack, did not explain the rules well enough, then it is the Pack's fault and not the boy's. I would have gotten another trophy for your son and explain the reason why to you and your son as well as to the rest of the Pack. I would see to it that the rules are clearly spelled out to prevent future confusion. All of the adults just need to remember the Cub Scout's motto, "Do Your Best."

 

Now that this episode is over, let the water be under the bridge and move on with having fun with your son and Cub Scouting. Explain to your son (as I did with mine) the reasoning behind the event that just happened why it happened the way it did and most importantly, how much fun y'all had in making the car/boat.

 

1Hour

(This message has been edited by OneHour)

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Welcome newscoutdad to the forum and scouting.

 

The previous responses have dealt pretty well with the specifics of your situation. I just wanted to add a note about pinewood derby's and raingutter regattas and competitions in general.

 

I've participated in 7 years of pinewood derbys with my two sons. In those 7 years we have had only one car finish in the money. Even without the rule issues you faced, I have seen many boys crushed when their car loses a tight race. This level of competition is tough for Cub age boys, especially Tigers, but they all bounce back.

 

Emphasize to your son the fun you had building the boat and participating, which is the real point of the events. Anything beyond that is a bonus. I think it was fair for you to ask the questions though in hopes the issue does not come up in the future.

 

For better or worse bad calls, poor judgement and rule issues effect just about any competition I can think of. Like it or not it is part of the game. It happens in the Olympics, World Series, NFL playoffs, college sports, beauty pageants, on down the line. (Hey I'm a Red Sox fan no one knows the agony of defeat better except maybe Cubs fans :).)

 

Please don't let this one event sour your opinion of scouting. You are just starting out and as noted there several options available to you including looking into other packs in the area or working to improve the pack you now belong to.

 

Good luck.

 

SA

 

 

 

 

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No your not overeacting.

 

Nothing you can really do. I would have a talk with the cc or cm about next years rules and regulations.

 

 

THe leaders weren't right in this stituation. btw don't ever paint the bottum of the cars becuase if you do they will split in half. (Happened at ours this past year)

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Welcome to the forums!

 

Actually, stick around and try to help make things happen better. Never be afraid in Scouting to stick your hand up and say, "I think it would be better if we (substitute your desire here.) as long as you're prepared to lead the charge.

 

Don't wait for change. It rarely happens by itself.

 

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Youve gotten some good advice about the rules and raingutter regatta. Its also been suggested that you might want to look into a different pack. But what might you want to look for?

 

You seem to think that the leadership is an exclusive group, with most of the pack business being done at church. Thats entirely possible. Each BSA unit (Cub Scout Pack or Troop) is Chartered (or what we loosely call owned) by a Chartered Organization. Its possible that the Chartered Organization for your unit is this groups church, and quite possibly the vast majority of the families in the Pack also attend this church.

 

You may very well be an outsider.

 

Ive gone through this explanation so that you can better understand at least one of the things to look for should you choose to move to another Pack. It would be perfectly acceptable for you to ask, Who is your Chartered Organization, and, Where do most of your members come from. You may find a Pack that is chartered by the local VFW or Rotary and draws most of its members from the local public schools or community at large.

 

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Fotoscout raises an extremely good point. But just because a Pack is or is not sponsored by a church doesn't talk to whether they are welcoming or not. The key thing is the culture in the Pack.

 

When I was a Boy Scout, virtually every boy belonged to one church and all the men to their men's club. My father did not and, in fact, was a different religion. However, he was welcomed and was Advancement Chairman for the Troop.

 

I also know of PTA sponsored Packs or civic club sponsored Packs which are very clannish and don't welcome new people.

 

You certainly can, and should, volunteer to help with the Pack. You may or may not be welcomed. They may say "Sure, we'd be happy to have you help" but someone you never get called. Or you may get a real responsibility and become a member of the Pack leadership.

 

This is one of the things to look for in choosing a Pack.

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This can be hard, not belonging to the group that charters the unit, BUT it's up to you to be a resource.

 

In my personal experience, my church sponsors a Pack, a Troop, a Team, and a Crew. I was working as the Webelos Den Leader when my son was basically told by the boys that he was not welcomed to be there. They physically made their point known. I had been active on a District Level, and knew quite a few people in our scouting community. A buddy of mine was starting a brand new Troop. His church was chartering it.

 

We turned quite a few heads when a Troop sponsored by the Knights of Columbus had to go to two different chapels at base camp at Philmont. It was even more surpising when we learned that actually these chapels were right across the street from each other.

 

I made an effort to contribute to the Troop, they made efforts to include my family. Our son is out of the area for two years, but I'm still involved with the troop, because it's fun.

 

He went a long way from one night asking his mom "How do we tell dad I'm not going to be an Eagle scout?" To one evening inviting his Scoutmaster over to watch my him open up a very special letter.

 

Now at Knight meetings they don't have a clue who I am, I don't know what they stand for, BUT we both know that we are bringing a good program to the young men of our town. I had to volunteer, I had to get involved, but then my son's heart was broken, and he was bruised, but we got over this hurdle. Good luck, and best wishes as you try to clear yours.

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