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Should our answers to questions be the same, regardless who asks them?

I think not.

I was in the scout shop one day, and the gal working there was venting. A new scout parent/mom had just left, exasperated, with $110.00 in shirt and patches. She had to come back to the shop to find out where the patches went.


She had asked the SM where the patches all go, and (I'm told) his reply was "Has your son asked his patrol leader?"


He could have directed her to the inside of the handbook, to a mother of an older scout, or just answered her questions.


What do you think this mother thought of the answer? What does she know about the program? How on earth does a Scoutmaster expect a new scout parent to "get it" (boy led), when most ADULTS in the program don't "get it"? How is a new scout expected to know to "ask his patrol leader"?


I make it a point that all of my parents know they can come to me with any question, and get an answer, even if it was little Johnny Scout's responsibility to get that information. Anything less, I believe, is disrespectful to that adult.











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I treat the parents with the same respect as I show to the boys. When any come to me with a question I will give them an answer and then direct them where they could or should go in the future for the information.


In the example of the placement of the patches, I would would simply direct them to the Handbook, since the instructions are written out plainly there. Then ask the parent that when she gets home to ask the son to get his handbook and go through it together to find the info. This lets the new scout realize that many questions can be answered with the book. helps the boy be more independent. Just sending him off to ask his PL is not always the best solution.


With the scouts, many times I don't always have the complete answer so directing them to the proper place/person is usually better. I will also ask them to come back and fill me in with the details.

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Although the question, may be considered a gray area depending on if you are fine with the moms sewing the uniform patches on, or feel the scout should sew his own.. And if you feel the parent sewing, means the scout does not have to be involved..


You really can't answer all the parents questions, without many of them being an answer of "That is not your responsibility, you need to have your scout deal with his.... fill in blank.. (Patrol leader, Merit badge counsilor, Advancement coordinator etc..)


This is the way you slowly teach the parents that they can not walk little Johnny through like a puppet while they do all the work..


So, my question would be.. Why did this lady come back to the scout shop. Unless she lived across the street from it, the easy answer would have been to have son ask his patrol leader.. For her to ask other parents.. OR.. Look at where all the patches are located on the 20 older scouts that have their patches attached to their shirts all in the same location.


Although she did not like the answer, she did recieve an answer, and I bet the Patrol Leader would have had the answer unless they had a new scout patrol with the PL being also a new scout.


But depending on the troop some things are fine to talk to parents about, organizing money payments for an event, med forms for summer camp etc.. troops outlook, placement of patches may be seen as a parents function. But those things are on a sliding scale depending on what the troop see as the scouts responsibility, if you get to a troop like Kudu's, I bet even those things are the scouts responsibility.

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How is a new scout expected to know to "ask his patrol leader"?


By drumming that in at prospective troop visits, at the Scout's very first meeting, in parent handouts, on the Troop's website, in patrol meetings, in the Scout's first meeting with his new patrol leader ... etc. If you set the tone from the start, there should be no surprises. Parents need to understand that this isn't Cubs any more - Scouts mostly talk to Scouts, instead of parents talking to leaders.


Really, it's not that hard to do.


Alternatively, neither would it have been difficult for the mother to open her son's Handbook and check if there was anything written there about it.


Now, if the SM had said "Has your son asked his patrol leader?" and refused to answer any more questions, I'd consider that a bit rude. That question about patches should have been a teaching moment, with the SM following up with an explanation of why we do it that way, how we do it that way, and the critical importance of doing it that way.

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I really do think in the real world that the line between "drumming" And coming off sounding like a smart Alack is a very fine line.

It's kinda easy for us to sit at our key-boards and state how things should be.

It's something else dealing with a mother who has 101 things that need doing and just wants to get them done.

Sure for us Scouting is something we are passionate about, but for some parents it's just another activity that their kid has signed up for and joined. No different than soccer or baseball.


I have been in a store looking for something and been unable to find it. When I ask the store worker where it is? It turns out to be right next to me.

I'll admit to feeling a little silly.

It's OK for the worker to point me to where I need to be /go. It's not OK if the person treats me like an idiot. (Even if it might be true!)


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Alabama Scouter - The SM in your example sounds like a Helicopter Scouter being cute with a parent.


If he had recommended an info source (inside the handbook - online) and then recommend to the mother that she let the boy work it out himself through his PL, that'd be nice - recommended that is - not insisted or directed.


On the other hand - let's look at the SM's side of the story and take his tone in describing it....

His interlocutor in your example was "exasperated." This probably ruffled the SM's feathers and he momentarily lost the cool composure and social grace we all know are the hallmarks of a man who never doubts that his judgment is superior to that of parents when it comes to how HIS scouts approach scouting. - After all, this impertinent fool of a parent was either unpardonably ignorant or had an arrogantly inflated idea of her role in her son's development. Who does she think she is to so blasphemously desecrate the sacred Patrol Method?


So, Helicopter Scouters, let this parent's impertinence be a lesson to you. Be ever vigilant against the crippling influence of parents, lest they taint the purity of your sacred patrol method and thereby prevent the delicate flowers that are YOUR scouts from blossoming.


But here, I am compelled to confess that I have violated the sanctity of the patrol method and strayed from the path of scout-led purity. When my Webelos Scout sons were fixin' to become Boy Scouts, I brought them to the Scout Shop myself and bought new uniforms for them. I didn't send them to their PL to see about acquiring uniforms. I'm so sorry.


But it gets worse...


I was going to show them how to sew (rather than sending them to their PL to learn to sew) and have them sew on their own patches. I sewed on all my own patches from as early as when I was a Webelos Scout (and I sewed them uphill, in the snow, both ways). However, it was my grandmother, not my PL, who taught me how to sew. So I guess the stain of violating the sacred Patrol Method is a trait that goes way back among trash like us. I suppose there is now a patrol leader whose development will be forever stunted because my sons didn't ask him how to sew.


But it gets even worse...


Their mother and my wife (who happily are the same one person) vetoed the idea. She said the shirts are expensive and the fabric doesn't look like it'll hold up well to experimental sewing and possible patch movings and removings. I didn't agree, but I acquiesced and she sewed their patches (and mine too). I figured it wasn't worth arguing or even wanting to argue over. After all, they have, and will continue to have and to seize many opportunities to do things for themselves and for others. (and they did learn to sew - using the term loosely - from a different useful project).


So anyway... lighten up Francis. You don't have to shield your precious little scouts from every parental intrusion into the sanctity of your scout-led isolation chamber. They're hardier than you think.(This message has been edited by Callooh! Callay!)

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Again, the Scoutmaster's response (told third hand now) was Has your son asked his patrol leader?


Things missing from this story are:

1) Where and when was the question asked? (where do the patches all go?)

2) Was there a follow-up?

3) Did the mother reply to the Scoutmaster's question?


Again, I ask, what should be the response of the parent to the Scoutmaster's reply?

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Honestly, I think the SM was a little rude. Just because Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts are very different from a parent perspective doesn't mean you get to be a butt to a parent who is just trying to make sure their kid is properly outfitted.


A better answer would have been: "In Boy Scouts, we encourage the boys to take on more responsibilities for themselves. Please have your son look in the Handbook for proper placement of the patches"


I think this conveys the right attitude in Boy Scouts without being a smarty pants (I want to say smart-(Insert word that rhymes with bass here)


And I don't mean to go off-topic here, but I am beyond tired of the misconception that when a parent wants to help their kid have a good experience in boy scouts (i.e. being properly outfitted) they are automatically labeled a helicopter parent. And then we wonder why we have a hard time finding adult volunteers in boy scouting.

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Acco -


My guesses as to what the parent's response was, and some suggested replies:


>> "What's a Patrol Leader? Who is that?" (The Perfect SM's reply: "He's the youth leader of your son's patrol, the Rattlesnakes. The patrol is the building block of the troop, the core group that your son is a part of. Here's his name and number. Have your son call him.")


>> "He did talk to him, but he forgot what he was told." (The Perfect SM's reply: "Here's his name and number. Have your son call him and take notes this time.")


>> "Why does that matter? I'm the one who's sewing on all these patches. Just tell me so I can get it done." (The Perfect SM's reply: "In Boy Scouting, we try not to do anything for the boys that they can do themselves. I understand if your son doesn't know how to sew and has asked you to sew on the patches this time, but he needs to find out for himself where they go. It may seem insignificant, but it's part of the boy-led learning process that we use.")


Every conversation, handled properly, can be an educational experience.(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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I don't know what the perfect parent's response would be to the "Perfect SM's" instructions. But I can think of a reasonable response (albiet one that departs from the example in assuming that the parent has thought about and learned about the issues at hand more than the parent in the example). So here's what we're told is The Perfect SM's reply: "He's the youth leader of your son's patrol, the Rattlesnakes. The patrol is the building block of the troop, the core group that your son is a part of. Here's his name and number. Have your son call him.")--------


Parent: "The core group that my son is a part of[?]" You are mistaken SM. My son's core group is our family. His patrol is a team in which he will participate in order to learn by working with his team mates and leaders, and we hope eventually as a leader himself. We hope that from experience with other leaders in action and from leading he will learn that being a leader isn't being a dictator who lays down the law as to how the team will run, nor is it isolating the team from influences outside the leader's control. We want him to learn that being a leader means understanding a mission, communicating that understanding to and with others, and working with and motivating the team to develop and execute plans to accomplish the mission. In this case the overarching mission is to prepare him and his team mates "to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law." If you believe that part of that mission includes weening boys away from what you believe is an overly close knit family environment - or if you believe that as SM, your judgment is superior to a parent's judgment on whether or not his sons are getting enough or the right kind of adult association, then your troop is not our troop. I read in a post on an internet forum channeling the "Perfect SM" that "every conversation, handled properly, can be an educational experience." But since the post was channeling the 'Perfect SM' I wondered if all the learning was intended to be one way."

(This message has been edited by Callooh! Callay!)(This message has been edited by Callooh! Callay!)

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If I were the Perfect SM in that situation, Callooh Callay, my response to that utterly unhinged parental rant would be one of two things:


1. If the parent was just making that point for the sake of argument: "Here's an adult volunteer application. Since you feel so strongly about this, we'd love to have you learn more about what Scouting is all about and become part of our team."


2. If the parent truly believed all that: "Here's the name and number of the District Executive. He or she can help you starting your own troop, since you feel so strongly that our troop's approach is trying to harm your family structure. Our troop is not your troop. Your son is a good kid, but I'm not going to expend the mental and emotional energy needed to deal with someone like you."



CC, if your understanding of the Patrol Method is that it's trying to isolate Scouts from their parents, wean boys away from their families or impose the Scoutmaster's judgment as superior to that of any family, then you either need to file a complaint with the Scout Executive over this alleged brainwashing or quit Scouting altogether. Good grief.

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With a new parent, I think the Scoutmaster was being out of line. The SM should have said--it's in the book. If it were to the Scout instead of the parent, I agree, "ask your patrol leader (provide that they didn't have a New Scout Patrol) or Senior Patrol leader" would be appropriate. This isn't to a Scout, but a parent. If a parent gets too bad of a taste in their mouth, they aren't going to support the Troop. That's good for no one. Maybe that particular SM has a waiting list to join the troop, but if he doesn't, he's shooting himself (and the Troop) in the foot.


The other side is, I don't know what kind of orientation to the new parents that the SM has offered. If he has explained boy led and the Patrol method to the parents, then he's not so out of line.

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Yah, hmmm....


I think Alabama makes a worthy point, eh? Every SM should be conscious of da fact that new parents are like first-year boys, eh? They don't know anything yet, so da "stock answers" like "ask the PL" can come across as a bit clipped or annoying.


I think yeh solve lots of that with some good materials to give new parents and a required orientation, eh? It's especially helpful to have an old parent or two get up and talk about how awkward they felt when the SM told them to have their son do it, or call his PL or whatever, but how surprised and proud they were when their son did do it, and how much it meant to his growth and self confidence. Parents need a bit of a fellow-parent-non-scouter support group to help with da transition.


I think scoutridge makes a worthy point too, eh? Scouting is like school or a sports team or a band program. It's an activity run by others that's offered to families. Just like da other youth programs it has its own rules and expectations. If yeh yell at da ref, yeh get ejected. He or she works for da program, not for your family.


In da case of scouting, it's a program run by volunteers out of the kindness of their heart, who spend hundreds to thousands of dollars of their own money and hundreds of hours of time away from their own family just to provide a below-market-cost program to your son and family. Da proper response is "Thank you so much!", with a healthy dollop of sympathy and understanding for when da scouter is tired or curt.


Here's some other good guidelines, whether you're dealin' with Scoutmasters or coaches or whatnot:


Don't approach 'em when they're with kids. When they're with kids they have to be focused on the kids, eh? Save your question for genuine down time well after the end of the meeting when the SM has the luxury of bein' able to give you his full attention.


Use your resources. Da SM/coach/band director isn't there to answer your every question on demand, and it's unreasonable to expect 'em to. Yah, yah, it feels like just a quick question from you, but if every parent does it the poor person's time to get home and see his own kids is quickly eaten up. Read the manual. Call another parent in the program (your troop might have a scout parents unit coordinator, for example). "Have your son call his PL" is just a gentle way of redirecting yeh to other, more appropriate and responsive resources.


Start with a thank you rather than a demand, and sometimes say thank you without having a question or request. People respond best to supporters, eh? And they tend to treat folks who bring nothing but problems as ... problems. I always tell new people to a program that they're not allowed to complain about or try to change anything until they've first identified and given recognition to all of the good things that should not be changed


When yeh notice a weakness, a tired, snappy coach, a stressed band director, your first instinct should be "How can I help?" rather than to start complainin' or pointin' out faults. How can I strengthen the community for everyone rather than choose sides? .


Yep, it's your responsibility to raise your family, eh? But if yeh want anyone else to help with that, whether it's da school teacher or coach or SM, then yeh have to conform your family behaviors and expectations to what they're offering, not vice versa. Yeh accept the stuff that doesn't work for yeh as part of the cost for the other benefits yeh receive.



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