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Fat Old Guy

Losing Kids

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I know that we all hate to lose Scouts for any reason and there are some who say that if you have a good program, you won't lose any Scouts but I don't buy that because even the troops with the best programs lose kids.

 

I think that there are three groups of kids that drop out of Scouting of their own volition. I don't want to discuss the boys that quit because the parents aren't willing to drive them or quit because the parents are afraid that they'll be turned into mindless automatons who are ready to join the Marine Corps. Also excluded are the boys whose parents yank them out of Scouting because they don't like the SM, the poltics or the religious aspect of Scouting. I want to limit this to the boys who say, "Mom . . . Dad, I don't want to continue with Boy Scouts."

 

The first group is somewhat the saddest bunch to lose. The boys who just HATE camping. Bugs . . . dirt . . . pooping in latrines, these just give these poor boys nightmares and there is no getting around it. I think that for the most part, these boys go on to do other stuff but you know that if they could get past their fear of the outdoors that they'd be good Scouts.

 

The second group are the Scouts that we really hate to lose. They are good Scouts but just have too many activities and something has to give. Band, soccer, drama have all become year round activities and if a boy wants to really focus on one of those, he has to give up something else. We all know the exceptions but they are rare. However, we know that when this group of boys drop out of Scouting that they've gotten something good out of the program and that they are doing something with their time.

 

The third group are the boys who has declared that Scouting is lame, gay or stupid. Oddly, when these boys quite Scouts they usually seem to do nothing else with their time. They don't even go out and make their own fun. I see these boys generally hanging out at a shopping center complaining how there is nothing to do. Quite often they seem to have skateboards and are putting out a half-hearted effort to learn some trick with the skateboard. The rest of their time is spent on the internet or playing video games.

 

Usually when this third group of boys leaves a troop, we rejoice because they are the malcontents and the troublemakers. Howerver, the problme can be that their attitude can infect other Scouts who will start to waver because they are afraid that they will be seen as uncool by their friends.

 

At every board of review I talk to Scouts about what their friends think of Scouts. For the most part, I've observed that the Scouts whose friends are involved in other activities are "cool" (if that word is still used) with Scouting. They may not want to do it but they are okay with a friend being a Scout. It is the guys whose friends do little more than complain about having nothing to do who are the ones who get the greatest level of grief from their peers.

 

Thoughts? Comments?

 

 

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I agree.

 

I think though, that many Scouters feel that they can retain some of your second and even third group of boys, by having a more exciting program.

 

Even with the absolute best program that we can possibly run though, we are still going to lose some.

 

The key is, don't lose heart, and don't give up on trying to keep the ones that are left.

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I agree 110%!!

 

In Cub Scouts the primary cause of lost boys (where is Peter Pan when you need him?) fall within two of your categories:

 

1) The parents don't like Cub Scouts or (this one surprised me) think that their son will somehow get hurt while on a Scout outing (in my case the parents gave no specifics - they just quit with that excuse). I suspect this might be a version of the "boy hates camping" category.

 

Along these lines I had one parent to thought the boys were too "wild" during den meetings and eventually pulled her boy out. She was the type that complained about everything we did but never would volunteer to help. At the time I asked ALL of the other parents in the den for their opinions on the wildness of the boys and none were concerned. In a typical den meeting I tend to let them blow off some steam in a controlled manner (races, games,..) and then bring them back with an activity (crafts, skills,...) at least twice per meeting. It takes them a few minutes to "calm down", but that is typical for you boys. I've definitely noticed the time it takes to calm down has decreased as they've gotten older.

 

2a) The boy is just involved in too many activities and Scouting is one that gets axed.

 

2b) This one is the most unfortunate. It is when a boy's SIBLING is so involved in an activity that the parents are forced to pull the boy out of scouting. I have a boy in my den that loves Scouts, but he tends to miss over half of the activities because it older sister is very heavily involved in dance recitals. It breaks my heart.

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At every board of review I talk to Scouts about what their friends think of Scouts. For the most part, I've observed that the Scouts whose friends are involved in other activities are "cool" (if that word is still used) with Scouting. They may not want to do it but they are okay with a friend being a Scout. It is the guys whose friends do little more than complain about having nothing to do who are the ones who get the greatest level of grief from their peers. I think, at least in the 2 troops in my area, that if you were to ask this question, the answer would be, "my friends don't know I am in scouting". There are still some of my friends who are in scouting, that I don't know that about them.

 

Eric

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There is no mystery about why boys quit Scouting. If boys quit, it simply means that the attractions outside Scouting are stronger than the attractions within Scouting.

 

If the boy doesnt like camping, that indicates that his camping experiences in Scouting were not positive enough to overcome his dislike of bugs and dirt.

 

If the boy has other activities that conflict with Scouting, and the boy chooses to dump Scouting, that indicates that the Scouting program was not strong enough to overcome the attraction of other activities.

 

If a boy declares Scouting is lame, gay, or stupid, that indicates that your program is not strong enough to keep him interested.

 

What to do? You have no control over external attractions. You have total control over your troops program. Strengthen your program.

 

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"I think, at least in the 2 troops in my area, that if you were to ask this question, the answer would be, "my friends don't know I am in scouting"."

 

We have a few of those guys but for many, it is hard to remain in stealth mode when your picture is on the front page of the local paper.

 

"I have a boy in my den that loves Scouts, but he tends to miss over half of the activities because it older sister is very heavily involved in dance recitals."

 

Have you talked to the parents about arranging transportation for that boy? I have seen families like the one that you mention, one kid suffers because of the other's activities. The suffering one usually winds up resenting and hating the one who get the attention. We do have a couple families that are stressed because of one child's over-involvement but we've kept the boy in Scouting by making sure that he always had a way to get to the event and back, including a place to hang out if needed. It's a bit more of a burden but that's why we get paid the big buck.

 

 

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Remember the reason that BP started Scouting in the first place, the boys in London were running wild with nothing to do but get in trouble. Things sure have changed since then now extra curricular activities in schools, sports, church youth groups are all out there pulling the kids in all directions. Society today is in a "fast food" mentality of thinking, they want it now and fast and do as little as possible to get it.

 

Losing kids is inevitable and for all the lame reasons you guys have given by the parents and kids. Even with the best program possible you are going to lose some.

 

I think the image of scouting has drastically changed as well, in WWII scouts were shown helping in the war effort, helping with rescues during natural disasters, portrayed helping in a variety of community events. Nowadays its a struggle to get the kids to even wear the uniform in public. I think society has changed so much that the core values in Scouting are no longer the same as the core values of our society. The parents for the most part , see scouting the same as a soccer team just an activity instead of building leadership, character, self confidence, and skills they will use their whole life. I wish that National would launch a large scale PR program that portrays Scouting for all that it is. That being fair and honest is much better than stepping over people to get ahead, and accumulating material possessions should not be the only goal in life.

 

Until then be the best leader you can be to the boys you do have and who knows maybe one day one of them will be the one who changes things for the better.(This message has been edited by BadenP)

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While even the best troops with the best programs will or might lose the odd Scout. The troops with poor and weak programs will lose a lot more.

I agree that there are Lads who don't like the outdoor program and might leave Scouting because of this reason.However being as most of our Boy Scout Membership originates from the Cub Scouting program, these Lads have been exposed to the great outdoors. I also question if the troop is holding outdoor events every month, how long does it take a little fellow to work out that he doesn't like it? How often do we meet Lads that went to the troop down the road and didn't like it? They have all sorts of reasons why they didn't like it. I would go back to the idea that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Bring a little fellow into a troop meeting that has a bunch of Merit Badge classes going on, no fun, no plans for the future and I would be surprised if he wants to join.

If we are using the New Scout Patrol, we might want to break these guys in slowly. Camping at sites that have flush toilets and so on till they get used to the idea of all the other stuff.

Many of our Scouts struggle with having too much to do. I just went over all the application forms for the Lads who are going to attend the Jamboree. Over half of the Scouts are in one kind of band or another. Many are active in their churches, play sports and are involved in other extra curricular activities.

Sure we do lose a few of these kind of Scouts. However most of these sorts of Scouts are the type that they aren't happy unless they are rushing from one activity to the next. As Leaders we need to understand that there are times when these Scouts just won't be around. We need to be flexible and understanding. Most of all we have to be ready to welcome them back with open arms when they are done doing whatever it was they were doing.So many adults have this "Them or Us" mentality. They force these Lads to chose. While life would be a lot easier if every Scout attended every meeting and turned up for every activity. We know that this isn't going to happen, so fighting it is not worth while.These Lads are good Scouts, they miss out on a lot of the fun that the troop is having in their absence,maybe they miss out on opportunities to advance which can lead them to become despondent. Surely it is our job to help them get over it and make sure that they feel that the troops is still theirs and the right place to be.

The Lads that leave because they state that Scouting is lame or stupid. I think we need to look at the program and see if there is any truth in what they say. I have been around enough troops to know that there is a lot of truth in what they are saying. Very often when a boy quits it is because we haven't laid a good enough foundation. When the Scout joined did someone go and visit him and his parents at home? Do the adult leaders know the family and have they formed a relationship with the family?

When the Lad missed a couple of troop meetings, did anyone contact the Scout? Did anyone take the time to revisit the family? I'm sorry I have never to date rejoiced when a Lad has quit Scouting. In fact I feel very hurt and that we have failed him.

We are here to serve the kids and hopefully help them become adults who will make good choices over their lifetimes. We can't do that if the boy or girl isn't in our programs. If getting them back into the program means bending over back-wards, then that's what we have to do.

There are a few kids that the methods that we use won't work for or with. These are very few.

It is one thing if a Lad comes to a few meetings and decides that Scouting is not for him, but when we lose a Lad who has been in the troop for a while we need to look at what we are doing wrong and pull out all the stops to get him back.

Eamonn.

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(My first perspective is from the Boy Scout Program.)

Trying to figure out the reason for boys leaving the program or trying to organize their reasons into categories of early departure for some kind of resolution is to fall into the mistaken assumption that the BSA is the only or the best program.

 

Here is my reasoning and approach:

 

1. It is not my program. I am part of a support system for the Scouts in their program.

 

2. I believe that there are other valuable programs that can be more fun, interesting, and exciting. I have personally chosen the BSA because I have found those elements and more.

 

3. I ask the Scouts (PLC) what they want to do each year for the next year. We vote on the elements and then we take those to the Troop Committee. Our support comes from them and if they cannot for some reason(s) or they don't have the resources, then we consider Plan B or a scaled down version, etc. But the program is basically what the Scouts decided to do.

 

4. After each event, we sit down as a group with three sheets of paper. One sheet has a smiley face, the second has a sad face and the third has eyes looking forward. What do you like?, What do you not like?, and What can we do better?. It is their program and they get to vent, change things, and learn things.

 

5. If they still quit and some do, we have an exit conference to inquire about their reason(s), to wish them luck, and to let them know the door remains open.

 

6. If they leave a program that they helped create and mold, then I don't have any reservations about them leaving. I trust each Scout to make good decisions and if they don't, then the responsibility for change has been set aside for other opportunities.

 

7. I personally love Scouting. I have found a lifetime of adventure and friendship here but then that is just me.

 

 

Secondly, Cub Scouting:

 

My good friend SS was the CM of a fairly large pack. I visited on several occasions as a UC. I told him that on the third visit that I would take pictures (slides) of what I saw. The film was developed and we sat down and looked at them. What was evident was that he was leading the program and the Cubs were watching.

 

He agreed to let me help as an ACM for a period of time. I asked that we simply follow the Program Helps. The next meeting was Knights of the Roundtable. We ALL showed up in cardboard gear and horses and swords. Each Den had their part of the program and SS had his part. It was wild, fun and exciting. It was the most outstanding Pack meeting that I had attended for some time.

 

Results: the Pack expanded and the kids joined in. Three years later, I resigned as ACM. I figured that SS could read the Program Helps as good as I could, since he was a college professor and all. Did we have Scouts that left, sure, most of them when they bridged into Boy Scouting.

 

I strongly believe in and rely on the program of the BSA, why, because I have evidence that it works and it retains a majority that has engaged in the best of it.

 

FB

 

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Great analyses...I agree with everyones'.

 

It saddens me to see those scouts who fall in the third category. I know several of them, some of whom have come very close to earning eagle, but they rarely go to meetings or on camping trips with their troop.

Their "troop" (I use this term loosely) consisted almost entirely of such scouts who just didn't care. The patrol method was almost entirely absent in their troop program, and camping trips were simply a means of hanging out and complaining about there being nothing to do. I was extremely surprised and troubled to learn that one of the adult leaders of the troop actually cleaned the pots and pans after the boys cooked and ate a meal. Eventually, as their troop was beginning to dissolve because of a lack of interest, the troop got a new scoutmaster who actually wanted to introduce some sort of correct program to the troop. The scoutmaster tried, enforcing the patrol method and promoting camping and high-adventure for the older scouts, but his efforts were no use in swaying the boys' disinterest in scouting.

 

Still, I manage to maintain a cheerful spirit as I look into the eyes of the younger scouts of my troop and realize their potential. I've stayed in scouting long enough to come to love it, and only by continuing in service to my troop can I ensure that those younger scouts will also come to love scouting.

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