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gblotter

Difficult Parent Interraction

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A dad of a 17 year-old Scout reached out to me for guidance about the Cooking merit badge (which meals count, which meals do not, etc). I'd prefer to deal with the boy - not the parent - for such questions. I'd also prefer the boy receive that guidance from the merit badge counselor - not me, the Scoutmaster. This is a lawnmower parent, so I don't respond to his initial email.

Then the merit badge counselor chimes in and also asks for my guidance (he is trying to punt a difficult parent situation to me). I then respond and give my opinions, but I direct my  response to the boy (who is copied on the email thread). The dad keeps sending me more emails trying to negotiate an easier outcome for his son. I finally told the dad that I'd prefer to talk to his son because that is a way to ensure the Scout is engaged in the process. Then the dad gets huffy and accuses me of being a Scouting purist who is concerned only with the program and not the boys. I don't understand the reality of busy teens (even though I have three teenage children myself).

I apologized for offending him and I told him I was withdrawing from the conversation because the merit badge counselor should provide that guidance anyway. Finally an email response comes from the son's email address, but the writing style looked suspiciously like the dad was the actual author. There is no winning with some parents.

Edited by gblotter

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Scout must be close to Eagle.If the scout were 14 or younger, dad would be looking for another troop. I'm surprised this didn't happen a few years earlier.

Barry

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6 minutes ago, gblotter said:

There is no winning with some parents.

too true. And the worst bit is they think they're helping their kids. 

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I feel for you. We have several parents like that. One is ticked off at the district advancement chairman because of a similar situation. DAC told him he would only communicate with the Scout regarding Eagle project and BORs. Dad kept at it. DAC told him 2 more times that he communicated directly with the Scout, not parents.  Eventually the DAC stopped responding.

 

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I wonder if texting and email pushes the problem. Texting wasn't popular 15 years ago, but I ignored emails. My communication with adults was either face to face (preferred) or by phone. When the parents see your body actions as they listen to your reasoning, they learn how far they can push. 

Barry

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I always punt my response to a face to face discussions.

Email is for:

sending/recieving documents

setting up appointment date/time

thanking someone after the meeting

It is NOT for:

discussions

 

So for this situation, I would reply to the scout's email with:

"I am happy to provide some guidance and clarity with the cooking merit badge process. Will you be at the next scout meeting? I will arrive 10 minutes early to give you my undivided attention. Please let me know if this works for you. I can also be available at other times if this date/time is not convenient."

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I'm always blunt about the fact that this is Scouting, not parenting.  "Johnny needs_______."  Well, Johnny needs to ask the questions, not you.  Parents need training as well. :D

email / text / facebook are good communication tools, but face to face is much more effective.

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1 hour ago, gblotter said:

 Then the dad gets huffy and accuses me of being a Scouting purist who is concerned only with the program and not the boys. 

I'd love an opportunity to hit that pitch. 

"I am a Scouting purist. Your son taking responsibility for his own needs and communicating with adult authority figures will be critical when he enters college or the workforce. I'm a purist because I want him to learn these skills now." 

Maybe this is why I'm not a SM or CC. My smart mouth would offend some parent and they'd pull their son out. "How dare you tell me how to raise my son!"

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1 minute ago, Sentinel947 said:

I am a Scouting purist

The thing is, I'm not a purist at all. I am actually quite pragmatic and flexible and willing to customize for a given situation. There are some parents who take advantage of that fact and push things to absurdity.

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17 years old?!?  My father has seen this regarding EBORs and has had a mom state that their son is shy which is why the mom needs to take the lead in all communications.  My father’s response is that your son earned communication MB (required for Eagle) and should therefore be able to communicate directly.  What type of leaders are we producing if everything needs to go through mom or dad?

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12 minutes ago, gblotter said:

The thing is, I'm not a purist at all. I am actually quite pragmatic and flexible and willing to customize for a given situation. There are some parents who take advantage of that fact and push things to absurdity.

Maybe we have differing definitions of Purist. I don't think a purist is inherently inflexible. 

There are underlying goals, guidelines and methods to this program. Following those is being a purist in my mind. You wanting the Scout not the dad to talk to his MB counselor is being a purist, but it's not to be difficult or unreasonable.

How will that young man approach a college professor with a question when mommy or daddy road graded everything for him previously? At 11? Sure, maybe mom or dad need to coax a shy boy. At 17? Really? Maybe if that 17 year old has a disability. But that's probably it. 

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1 hour ago, DuctTape said:

I always punt my response to a face to face discussions.

Email is for:

sending/recieving documents

setting up appointment date/time

thanking someone after the meeting

It is NOT for:

discussions

 

So for this situation, I would reply to the scout's email with:

"I am happy to provide some guidance and clarity with the cooking merit badge process. Will you be at the next scout meeting? I will arrive 10 minutes early to give you my undivided attention. Please let me know if this works for you. I can also be available at other times if this date/time is not convenient."

Second on this one. The father can be present but make the conversation between you and the scout.

You're in an LDS troop, that 17-year-old Scout is probably going to be cooking all of his meals for himself in a year. You're not helping him if you cheat on the requirements.

Edited by Saltface

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29 minutes ago, Saltface said:

Second on this one. The father can be present but make the conversation between you and the scout.

You're in an LDS troop, that 17-year-old Scout is probably going to be cooking all of his meals for himself in a year. You're not helping him if you cheat on the requirements.

I disagree a little bit on this.  The fact is that for however much we may want scouts to work through us and be independent of their parents, their parents remain THE most important fact in their lives.  If you have a conversation with this scout and not the parent you're just going to end up frustrating the scout, probably yourself, and the dad.  You're going to put the scout in the middle of a disagreement between two adults; it shouldn't be that way but it is.

Talk to the father face to face, explain your position, explain your reasoning, and then talk to the scout to be sure that he understands the expectations.  You're not going to be able to avoid this conversation.

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14 minutes ago, T2Eagle said:

I disagree a little bit on this.  The fact is that for however much we may want scouts to work through us and be independent of their parents, their parents remain THE most important fact in their lives.  If you have a conversation with this scout and not the parent you're just going to end up frustrating the scout, probably yourself, and the dad.  You're going to put the scout in the middle of a disagreement between two adults; it shouldn't be that way but it is.

Talk to the father face to face, explain your position, explain your reasoning, and then talk to the scout to be sure that he understands the expectations.  You're not going to be able to avoid this conversation.

I agree, but that's not what the situation is. This is the parent doing all the talking for their son. Possibly the son isn't involved at all. All for talking to the son and his dad together. Parents have a right to be involved if they choose, but the broader point is, by doing it for their son, they are doing him no favors as life as a real adult looms.  

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41 minutes ago, gblotter said:

.... Then the dad gets huffy and accuses me of being a Scouting purist ...

File under "not an insult."

51 minutes ago, gblotter said:

... concerned only with the program and not the boys. I don't understand the reality of busy teens (even though I have three teenage children myself). ...

No program. No boys. Again not an insult. Your "job" is not to understand "really busy teens." Your job is to direct teens to associate with adults who will guide them in character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness. Busy does not equal fit.

58 minutes ago, gblotter said:

... I apologized for offending him and I told him I was withdrawing from the conversation because the merit badge counselor should provide that guidance anyway. Finally an email response comes from the son's email address, but the writing style looked suspiciously like the dad was the actual author. ...

This, as far as I can tell, was your only mistake. You did not offend. The Guide to Advancement did.

Maybe you could have apologized for not insisting that this issue remain strictly between the scout and the counselor who you (evidently) advised to give as much leeway as the requirements would allow ... and no more than that.

1 hour ago, gblotter said:

... There is no winning with some parents.

Don't let the rotten apples spoil your bushel.

Like @Sentinel947 said, playing by the book is not synonymous with totally rigid. We've had scouts with time management issues on this badge. Here are some suggestions that we put out there:

  • Talk to the scout's PL and see if there's a way they can free up time for him to cook for them.
  • Offer the opportunity for the scout to cook dinner for his patrol or troop before meetings.
  • Or, if the guy's busy with fall sports, maybe he could cook up a meal for the concession stand.
    • When I announced soccer games, I always mentioned by name the boosters working the stand, the cook, and what they were serving. I would have been thrilled to announced "Tonight's special of ___ is brought to you by troop ### and their recent master of cooking merit badge, player ###!"
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