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Eagle94-A1

Finding Balence Between Adult Led and Scout Led or ...

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OK, I need some help and advice to make sure I'm not going off base.

 

My son's troop just had unit elections. As you know they are a young troop, so there were no rank and/or expereince requirements for SPL. I do not think the scout elected SPL should have been elected since A) he hasn't been in the troop a year yet, B) Is only a Tenderfoot, and C) has only 6 months as PL of the new scout patrol. Yes, my son got elected SPL on the second ballot.

 

Long story short, the adult leadership is stretched thin, and training hasn't really been done. This is recognized and the goal is to send 2 Scouts to NYLT this summer, but that is then. I got a young (11 year old) Scout who needs help.

 

And here is where I need to make sure I am not going off base and becoming a helicopter parent.

 

The PLC has planned their monthly themes and decided where they will be camping or day tripping. But the weekly meetings have not been out. The next month is planned out in detail by the adults ( 2 rehearsals for the AOL and Cross Over ceremony, the ceremonies, and COH). But January is open season. So I'm thinking of having him sit with me, and I make the detailed plans for January's meetings and lock in to show him how it is done. Then with February's plans have him do the work with me assisting as needed. And hopefully by the time planning for March comes, he will be doing it on his own.

 

Again your thoughts, and THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!

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I think this is a great opportunity to work with your son at a "teachable" age. But ...

Don't lift a pen for him. But show him where he should be "filling in the blanks."

Read the SPL handbook with him.

See if your PLC could plan an ILST course.

 

Most importantly, make sure he has the SM on speed dial.

 

It's okay if plans are a little rough.

It would be very bad if you smoothed every thing over and raise the bar too high for the next SPL!

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Ken,

 

Yes, both of us. But son is still a little nervous about doing so. Something he needs to work on.

 

The challenge with the SM, and one he readily admits, is that someone younger, with more energy and time, needs to be SM. Also we need some ASMs who can commit more time. Currently every ASM, save one, is also involved in Cub Scouts. And the one who is not is involved in shift work, so he cannot get off to help every single meeting. So he is a bit overwhelmed first trying to get the troop running, then keeping it going.

 

Quazse,

 

ISLT is one thing that wasn't planned. And it's needed. Definately do not want to do it for him.

 

What I was hoping was the old Tell, Show Do. Tell him how it needs to be done, Show him once how it is done, and then let him do it.

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This is an important moment/opportunity. I have seen young Scouts (like you, had to use them in POR's - it's all we had) destroyed as Leaders by a bad experience early on. Why not volunteer to sit in with the PLC and help them lay out the plan as a team? Not doing it for them, just making sure they know where to dot the t's and cross the i's. Make sure they know the only expectation is that they "do their best," and Troop meetings or campouts that don't come off at 100 percent are only learning experiences not disasters. As long as they are having fun and learning, that's all anyone can ask.

 

Second the ILST - get that scheduled right away. A Leadership Campout is a fun way to make the boys gain confidence in leading.

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Or, one can quit looking for the magic balance between adult-led and boy-led. There just isn't any that will work.

 

It has not been determined how many patrols this troop has. Is SPL even necessary? If not, let the boy explore a number of different options to try out with the troop. If he is non-functional anyway, have fun with it and work on whatever he wants, it's a free-for-all situation he has been given.

 

And this goes back to the fallacy of the current BSA policy of SPL selection. The troop is new so the adults haven't had a chance to make up a bunch of rules for the boys. So what happens, the SPL is the NSP's PL. Yeah, that's a good selection. Let's set the new guy up for failure! Obviously the troop thinks the SPL position is not really all that important or they wouldn't have made a joke out of it. Seriously? Do you really think the scout with less than a year's experience even knows what's going on, let alone lead it in any functional manner?

 

I have only the PL's select the SPL if and when he is needed. I have never had a full-time SPL even when I was running a troop of 20+ boys. At summer camp last summer my SPL was the PL of the only patrol and we had formed only a couple of months before camp. So my SPL hadn't even gotten to the Scout rank. Well, he was just the PL so he went to the SPL meetings. Everything worked out just fine. Now he's the PL of the patrol again. No SPL needed.

 

One always runs the risk of electing an SPL that is not experienced, very popular, and totally dysfunctional when it comes to running a basic PLC meeting. But hey, that's the chance you take and the hassle one has to put up with for the next 6 months. Good luck with that.

 

It is unfortunate that this situation has been created in the troop because with the inexperience of the SPL, it only begs for the intervention of more adults to cover his shortcomings. It also sounds like the corps of adults is a little thin so that's going to be a problem for a while, too.

 

1) The first thing I would do is reassure the elected SPL that whatever he does is fine, but his first priority is getting his FC rank and enjoy scouting, The SPL stuff can wait out his term and nothing is going to fall apart in the meantime. He doesn't need the POR for advancement, so don't worry if it's not functional. Let the boys know how effective their election was and maybe next time they'll put a bit more thought into the process.

 

2) The second thing I would do is give the PL's the heads up that they are going to have to cover with the heavy lifting. They don't have a functional SPL they can fall back on because the one elected doesn't have the experience to do the job. That's the troop's choice so they had better make the adjustments, or better yet, decide amongst themselves who will be a functional "SPL" that will be able to help out as needed.

 

3) This whole thing is a blessing in disguise. Quit looking for the "balance" and let it fully tilt to boy-led. "Okay, Dr. Frankenstein, you created this monster, you deal with it." Let them figure it out, let them make the adjustments, let them solve the problem of an inexperienced SPL, let them do it all. Their struggles over the next 6 months is going to be the "leadership training" that isn't in any syllabus or defined by any curriculum.

 

4) Adult training at this point is: "Never converse with a scout unless the sentence ends with a question mark." Scout A, "The PLC isn't working at all!" SM, "So what are you going to do to fix it?" Scout B, "The SPL just won't, can't, refuses, to do his job!" SM, "So what are you doing to change that?" PL #1, "I don't have any support anymore when I have problems with my patrol." SM, "No adult is going to step in and bail you out, so what other options do you have?" etc. Lesson #1 for leadership - Basic Problem Solving 101. If the boys are going to lead, they had better get their heads in the game.

 

Depending on how this situation is handled, one will not need to be making up any adult rules for the position of SPL. The boys will learn that this wasn't a really good idea and make the changes at their discretion, not some adult's.

 

Had this been my boy, the first father question I would have asked is, "Do you know how to take care of your boys? If not, maybe it would be a good idea to resign as SPL until you can."

 

Stosh

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Stosh,

 

By balance and adult led, I think I need to clarify. Balance refers to me doing my job as his dad by showing him how to do things, helping him, and allowing him to be successful, BUT also doing my job as a leader and not helping him too much and actually doing things for him.

 

I want him to do things on his own and the help and advice I give him not be considered commands from dad.That is my biggest fear, him thinking any advice I give him are commands.

 

As you can imagine, in working with youth on the Scout level, I've never dealt with my own son before. Never had had to deal with the "Dad factor" and I need to strike the balence.

 

Troop is currently 18 youth, with 15 active. So 2 patrols are needed. And we are about to get 6 more in a month.

 

I agree with you, I do NOT (emphasis) think he's ready for SPL. I think he should be focusing on overcoming his nervousness in talking to the SM and get the basic 2-1 skills signed off. I keep telling him he has nothing to worry about, SM has had stutters before in the past, and it will be OK.

 

I know I need the luck with the PLCs for the next 6 months. One of the reasons I posted about the balancing act is again, I want to help him out and prepare him, but don't want it to be like I am telling him what to do.

 

In regards to intervention, I had a chat with one of the previous SPLs over the weekend. He's one of the Scouts that my son looks up to, and I have asked him to help out son and support him. Son and SM haven't appointed an ASPL yet, I believe it will occur this weekend, but he's one that has been brought up for that position or TG. He's patient and willing to work with younger guys. PLUS he goes with the decisions of the current leadership, even if it is against his advice. Told me, "It's frustrating when it happens, but they learn." I'm glad his name was mentioned and hope that he can mentor my son like my old SPL did for me when I was a PL.

 

As for adult leadership being thin, that is an understatement. And I don't see that changing anytime soon either.

 

As for your advice,

 

1) Doing that

 

2) Hoping the person above can be ASPL and mentor him. Also going to mention it to the PLs.

 

3) This is where the "balance " comes in. He can be hardheaded and determined like his mother. He feels that he was given the responsibility, and that he needs to do his best in the job. I’ve asked him several times if he really feel up to the job, does he think he can handle it, or does he think he needs to step down. I keep getting the same response: I got to do my best because they elected me.

 

BUT, I know my son’s personality. He’s a perfectionist, and when things don’t go 100% he can get extremely frustrated, to the point he can lose interest. I don’t want that to happen.

 

4) Unfortunately the troop does have some adult imposed rules for SPL. 1) Must have been a PL (OK I do agree with that one) and 2) SPL cannot run for a second consecutive term (reason I was told was to give him a break and prevent burn out).

 

From talking to the former SPL above, there have been only 2 people who have been elected SPL prior to my son. Scout A would be SPL, then had to wait 6 months before he could run again. Scout B would get elected, but then A would get reelected once eligible. Then B would get reelected after A.

 

Now the SM told me he’s going to add a First Class or higher rank requirement. And I admit I’m OK with that.

 

4) Socratic method, I got it.

 

You should have seen and heard me when I went to pick him up from that meeting! I asked him several times if he was serious, if he knew what being SPL fully entailed, if he really thinks he can handle it, and if this was a joke. I had the outgoing SPL confirm it wasn’t a joke, and still could not believe it until I got confirmation from the SM. Up until the PLC a week later, I kept asking him if he really knows what he is in for, if he can handle it, and if he thinks it may be better to step down.

 

As you can imagine this has been a roller coaster of emotions. Proud that he got elected ( I did talk to two of the Scouts who voted for him and they told me they nominated and/or voted for him because of the job he did a PL. Shock because he doesn't have the expereince. Concern because I know how "failure" can get to him. I keep telling him he doesn't need to be perfect, he WILL screw up, and that he needs to learn form the mistakes.

 

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I think Q and Scoutgripper have it right. Of course you help your son. You'll be dad forever while you'll be his scout leader for just a few years. Maybe help him plan the January meetings and volunteer to hold the ILST in January if the SM isn't able.

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When my boys was in scouts, it was an agreement amongst the adult leaders that someone other than Dad who will deal with the son. I mentored the SM's son and he mentored mine, kinda thingy. All the leaders followed this policy and it seemed to work out very nicely.

 

As far as your son is concerned, he needs to pick an experienced mentor as ASPL. With two patrols, potentially 3 the position is not that critical to be good at. Advise him to use this time to learn from the ASPL and let him take the lead so that the learning is the focus of the relationship.

 

If your boy is a perfectionist that can be a problem and you seem to have identified one of many problems with that. A perfectionist is often driven by the fear of failure. That seems to be the biggest hurdle I have had to deal with when dealing with these kinds of people. They just can't seem to see that by doing nothing they are doing something, i.e. failing. I have had boys that were so afraid of failing they would do nothing! They couldn't make choices, they couldn't offer suggestions, they just froze up and did the deer in the headlight routine. These were smart kids, very smart, 4.0 GPA smart, but they couldn't lead because of their fear.

 

I draw this problem out in the open at the very beginning of my leadership training with the new boys. Don't make little mistakes and try and cover them up. Make your mistakes boldly, you're really not going to hide anything from anyone anyway. :) I also let them know the best leaders have made the most mistakes. It is the boy that knows how to recover from mistakes that makes the best leaders. If you have never made a mistake in your life, how can you ever mentor someone who has?

 

My boys all know that if they think they are invincible to mistakes, guess again. I tell them outright that I'm going to make sure they have the opportunity to fail because it's important to learn how to deal with it.

 

Your son has had a hand of cards dealt to him. Now he has to play them. Your job as Dad is to not to get involved, but instead observe, and wait for any and all opportunities where he does well and give a wee bit of "I noticed you did well" kinda thingy. Save up the applause until the end. :) The oopses, just ignore. Don't get involved with those. As Dad you are the cheerleader, not the judge. Let the SM field the oopses that's his job as SM. If he wants to bring up the subject of failure, "Hey, Dad, I screwed up and need some advice...." then it's time to sit down and listen to his concerns and focus on how he deals with the problem, not the problem itself. The problems are always going to be there, how he deals with them is what is important and what will change over time. Remember at that point you are not ASM, you are DAD. :)

 

Stosh

 

 

 

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Dad! Stop over thinking this! No wonder the poor kid is a perfectionist!

 

With 2-3 patrols, I took a play from the guys on this forum and had the SM de-elevate the role of SPL to a sane and manageable level.

 

The SPL just checks on the two PLs to see if they need anything. Sets up a roster to assign tasks to patrols (opening, closing, clean-up). On outings assigns similar rosters (flags, site sweep, evening campfire): Find out what the patrols are doing. (The advantage for him here, is if one patrol is doing something that he might need for advancement, he could ask to drop in.) Find out what they need. Get ASPL to help with it.

 

All the other stuff that adults expect of SPL are things the PL should be doing or things that should not be happening.

 

Beyond that, SPL regularly follows-up with the SM. If your son is like mine, your hardest job will be nudging him to get on the phone with the SM and find out what needs to be done for the next meeting.

 

Oh, and drop that non-consecutive term rule ASAP. It's idiotic. If everyone feels one boy is the best for the job for 10 terms straight, let him have it.

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"Oh, and drop that non-consecutive term rule ASAP. It's idiotic. If everyone feels one boy is the best for the job for 10 terms straight, let him have it."

 

Cheesh, qwazse, do you need to be so "blunt". :)

 

I for one would drop all the adult imposed rules on this whole process. I don't have any such rules in any of the troops I have run and never seem to have a shortage of leaders and or problems getting the good ones to step up and lead. I did hit an all time record last summer with my not yet Scout rank PL doing the SPL thingy at camp. He did just fine!

 

I not only don't have consecutive term rules, I don't even have term rules. How they select/elect/arm wrestle/draw straws, or whatever they do to come up with a PL, it doesn't make any difference to me. If someone isn't doing their job, they can be replaced at the drop of a hat. If they are doing a great job, they can hold that position until they age out. The only suggestion I have ever put forward to influence the selection process was to suggest that the PL's get together and select someone they want to have as their #1 support person to be the SPL. The troop officers are kinda selected that way too, PL's decide who they want to work with in terms of the QM, Scribe etc.

 

The TG is often selected by the NSP people. Who do you want to help you guys get going as a patrol. They can pick anyone in the troop. Sometimes it's their DC, but I have seen them pick a JASM/Eagle who did a really nice job of getting them up and running.

 

Some of my renegade reputation comes from the fact that I let the boys run their own show and these things aren't critical to the operation of the Troop, so I just let them have at it. Surprisingly they seem to work out well for the boys because it was their idea and they have accepted ownership of it.

 

Stosh

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I agree with using the SPL Handbook. It's a good starting place for the SPL expectations and it is in print for both the scouts and adults to learn. The balance between adults and scouts is both groups understanding the goals and expectations of each other. The handbooks actually do a pretty good job of spelling all that out. SPL duties are pretty basic, leaving the PLs to do more of the heavy lifting. It takes practice for both the scouts and adults to understand how to do this scouting stuff, so starting with a common understanding helps a lot. Barry

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Eagle94 - I have no dog in this hunt but I can tell you what I picked up on right away - see if you notice what I have in the following passages:

 

"I do not think the scout elected SPL should have been elected since A) he hasn't been in the troop a year yet, B) Is only a Tenderfoot, and C) has only 6 months as PL of the new scout patrol. Yes, my son got elected SPL on the second ballot."

 

"You should have seen and heard me when I went to pick him up from that meeting! I asked him several times if he was serious, if he knew what being SPL fully entailed, if he really thinks he can handle it, and if this was a joke. I had the outgoing SPL confirm it wasn’t a joke, and still could not believe it until I got confirmation from the SM. Up until the PLC a week later, I kept asking him if he really knows what he is in for, if he can handle it, and if he thinks it may be better to step down."

 

How many times are you planning on suggesting he step down before he takes the hint and realizes one of his best friends, the person he probably looks up to most of all and wants to be when he grows up, has absolutely no faith in his abilities and becomes completely demoralized and decides to just give up? I know you mean well and are just thinking about what's best for him but have you given any thought as to how you just might be coming across right now? You've told us how proud you are - have you told him? Instead of sowing doubt, how about letting him know you're right behind him to support him in whatever way you can?

 

It really dosn't matter if you don't think he should be SPL - there are a whole bunch of people who disagree with you - and thats the young folks that elected him to the position. Unless the Troop is made up of a bunch of goof balls that don't take anything seriously, his peers - let me repeat that word - peers - would not have voted for him if they didn't think he could do the job. Two of the Scouts told you they liked the job he did as PL - that is high praise from boys of that age. As for experience? The only SPL's I've ever met with experience were those that served as SPL's previously. Most have absolutely no experience as SPL before they become SPL. That your son was a PL is already an advantage.

 

It's been suggested that your son appoint someone to mentor him and to assume the functional role of SPL without title. Don't do it - that's a bad, bad idea. No problem with your son appointing a past SPL as ASPL to help him learn the role but in all cases, the ASPL must - let me repeat - MUST - defer to the SPL - just as the adults would in a properly boy-led Troop - counsel and advise in private and support in public. Unless the SPL has delegated a specific task to the ASPL where it would be appropriate for aother Scout to approach the ASPL directly for help, when approached, the ASPL should be saying "Let's go talk to the SPL".

 

It also sounds like the Scoutmaster needs a bit of a pep talk. I'm not convinced that the best Scoutmasters are the ones with energy and pep - that's what ASM's are for. The best Scoutmasters I've ever worked with were "wise, "old" sages" who could talk to the boys and could mentor them. Your Scoutmaster doesn't need to be able to hike 10 miles in 4 hours carrying a 50 lb backpack - but he probably has all the energy he needs to meet with the PLC and mentor them through the planning process.

 

Your son can be a great success at being SPL. Rank truly doesn't matter if the Scout has a positive and can-do attitude about the job. Don't undermine that attitude by broadcasting your fear. I've seen some really fantastic SPL's that were "only" a Tenderfoot and in a Troop for less than a year and I've seen some really awful SPL's that were Life or even Eagle Scouts that were "veterans".

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Calico,

 

I hear ya. That's why once he did his first PLC, I dropped the matter. I also told him that I am very proud he got elected, and also jealous as I was never SPL of my troop, only the JLT troop. That put a smile on his face. He likes to one up the old man :)

 

As for the ASPL, one of the reasons why I like the former SPL who is up for ASPL or TG is because he will offer suggestions, and then follow and support the SPL's decision. Saw this several times on trips and summer camp. He knows what it is like to be thrown into a POR ( when the troop first got restarted, he was first the PL (one patrol troop), then when it grew the 1st SPL. He's dealt with lack of support, arguing, etc.

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Eagle94,

 

Calico's recommendation for not having a strong ASPL is because many of the troops are not well versed in servant leadership. If the boy in your troop is doing his best to make the SPL successful (which is what the ASPL is supposed to be doing) then I think it would be okay to have him as his mentor guide. If he's the kind of kid that likes to run the show, then go with what Calico suggests.

 

From what you are describing, it might be just fine, he sounds like he's taking his leadership lead from the SM who's there to help, not lead. If he's in the running for TG, your son might want him as ASPL to mentor another person as TG as well. A good servant leader can be infectious in the troop.

 

However, like Calico said, now is the time to step back and if you need to feed information to the SPL do it through the SM. That role is the one you need now whether your son is the SPL or not.

 

Stosh

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