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I would definitely have a quiet conversation with SM about the bullying issue. Boy Scouts is supposed to be a safe haven. The troop I serve has zero-tolerance toward bully-like behaviour. At the best, that results in an immediate SM Conference. At the worst, it's an immediate ticket home from any activity at any time. Results: Expectation is crystal clear and we almost never have problems. This is even with patrols grouped from brand new guys to 17 yrs old.


Your culture could change too if the SM and other adults saw the need for it.


BTW - I've been there myself. I dropped out of scouts in less than a year due to bullying. After adults made some changes, it changed the troop drastically and the worst bullies weren't having their brand of fun and dropped out. I came back and prospered - leading to a lifetime of joy in scouting.


I know your son says he doesn't want to join another troop, but how much does he know about other units? Even if he says he isn't interested, you could go check out a few to see if it looks like there might be a better fit for him. It wasn't due to bullying, but my older son made the change this way. I found a couple of contenders without him (and without his knowledge of what I was doing), then convinced him to go back with me to check them out. The first was a big thumbs down, but he liked the second, joined, and never looked back.


Good luck! It's all worth fighting for!



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Thanks for the suggestions, Mike.


The thing about the bullying is that it has come up lots of times in the past. To the extent that leaders claim they don't know, it could only be because they have their heads so firmly stuck in the sand. We lose multiple first and second year scouts to this issue every single year. Their parents TELL US that's why the boys are leaving. In fact, usually by the time a kid leaves for this reason, the parents have TOLD US MULTIPLE TIMES and the problems have not abated. Because we are a larger troop and because there are 3 times as many cub packs as troops in our town, this is unfortunately a sustainable pattern.


So, your statement that "Your culture could change too if the SM and other adults saw the need for it." is certainly true, but I've lost hope that the folks in charge actually see the need, or are willing to see it. People who do bring up this matter tend to be marginalized as over-protective, or looking for an excuse to quit, or just not cut out for boy scouting. And while I give the current SM some credit for at least talking the talk from time to time, his actions have done nothing to back up what he says about bullying.


About other troops. My son is in high school. He has a right to make up his own mind, though he knows I wish he would be willing to give things a try elsewhere. I have a feeling that any hard pushing on my part would just result in him quitting all together. If he's willing to check out one or more of our district's new crews, I'll be happy.




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As long as you are a parent with a boy who is scouting age he should be your first priority. God didn't make you a scout leader, but he did make you a parent. If your boy is struggling, stop waffling and take decisive action. Quit your district job for now, forget about being a tiger dl for a while, and concentrate on helping your son. And if that means you have to butt heads with some other adults, do it, but keep the boy isolated from that. If it means helping him find merit badge counselors, do that. If it means going on more camp-outs with him, do it. If it means helping him set goals, then do that. If it means bribing him, bribe him. Be creative. When he starts progressing, it'll get more fun for him, and then you'll enjoy it more too.

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Scouter760, I respectfully disagree and I think you may have missed something here. My son is not a new scout. He is in his 5th year of boy scouting. It isn't about progress for him, it is about the type of program being offered and his ability to trust in the adult leadership to do the right thing. And I can tell you that while I have a very good relationship with my son, about the last thing he wants is for me to ride to the rescue and "make it better" for him. At his age one thing he wants from scouting is a chance to develop some independence in a reasonably safe environment, not for mom to go camping with him or set his priorities for him!


Further, scouting really isn't about attaining rank. Advancement is one small part of the scouting experience, just one of the eight methods that support the program, yet many adults place so much emphasis on it that it becomes all-important. My son has never been particularly motivated by that sort of attitude, and why should he be. I will certainly be proud of him if he earns Eagle but I'll be more proud of him for showing good judgment and character, whether he earns Eagle or not. Bribing him (even if it would work, which I doubt anyway) would tarnish the value of whatever he earned. It isn't my rank, it is his.





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I see your points. You've worked it in the troop, so it's time to elevate. Commish Staff and DE will certainly care about the large numbers of boys leaving the program. There are always multiple sides to every story, but it might be worth a few quick phone calls to the departed parents (if there are any you're not certain about), then presenting some solid information about the extent of the problem and its impact on retention.


I found your insights on size of the troop useful. Many people mistakenly assume that large troops must be better because so many flock to join. In my District, the largest troops have a much-higher attrition rate (by percentage) of new scouts. Unfortunately this information is embarrassing to the big "flagship" troops, so its never publicized. On average, smaller troops have much greater success at keeping scouts in the program, but theyre starved for new members by the neighborhood gorillas.


I'm not recommending you take it on, but maybe someone can find some new leadership to stand up a new troop so there are more local alternatives. My younger brother transferred into a new startup at your son's age and excelled in the new, challenging environment.


Your mileage may vary.




(This message has been edited by Mike F)

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"Kudu, I hear you, but that assumes that the same folks who don't appear willing to apply or perhaps understand the patrol method now, be willing to approve real patrol camping."


No, I am not talking about "Real Patrol camping" as described by Baden-Powell or Green Bar Bill. I suggest that you (and GaHillBilly too) link up with at least one other adult and take your son's Patrol camping.


The Troop in which I first volunteered as an adult was run by an Eagle Scout Scoutmaster, the kind who earn Eagle without ever walking into the woods with a pack on their backs. He started every meeting with a long lecture about their behaviour, and then moved the Troop into one of the classrooms to teach school lecture style.


He had a list of cabins in the area used by Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts, and he picked the ones with central heating. His favorite was the "Red Jacket" (built and maintained by Wood Badgers); it had two microwave ovens and projection TV: The ultimate Wood Badge vision of adventure!


He was very popular with the mothers and he loved to explain to them in great detail as to why the Patrol Method did not work with "modern boys."


Most of the rebellious kids were in the same Patrol and they were led by an exceptionally talented Patrol Leader who was always in trouble for one thing or another. It turned out that some of the dads on the Committee were not impressed with BSA Advancement but were not outdoorsmen themselves. So together we organized separate Patrol campouts for the "problem Patrol." The SM was very much against winter camping and backpacking, but there was not much he could do because enough of the Committee was willing to take the Patrol camping.


A Patrol is the primary unit of Scouting. If Beavah's advice does not work for you then why not just atake your son's Patrol camping (if you have outdoor skills)?


Be sure to give them some physical space so your son does not feel too self-conscious :)




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I've been gone for the weekend, so I'll add a little adendum to the discussion.


Lisabob: a year and a half ago I was pretty much where you were except I didn't have a boy in the program, so that adds an additional element for you. However, I was majorly frustrated with how the troop was being run that I was an ASM for. I did some checking around and was offered a SM position in another troop that sincerely wanted to have boy-led, patrol-method and were willing to offer me carte blanche on getting them there.


The former SM's son was the biggest bully of them all and was THE major reason for the troops problems and so I started there. I had a number of boys quit, but this boy stood toe-to-toe and defied the changes. I laid out a description of what boy-led, patrol-method was and said it would happen in a servant leadership emphasis. I said the boys could do anything they wanted that resembled a scout program as long as they did so from a servant position. There would be no bosses in the troop. The PL's were given one "class" in how to run their patrols, "Make your boys look good, whatever it takes, because when they look good, you look good." I said I would do everything in my power to do it for the PL's as well.


It took about 6 months of rough road and some "heated" discussions with the boys, but I have my "worst" scout as my strongest ally. His whole focus now is boy-led, patrol-method and has insisted that all the PL's get training both in the historical methods as well as the current methods. They are still struggling, but the bullying is non-existant and the boys are beginning to work as a team in their patrols.


Now, I don't know if you'll be so lucky as to get a troop that will give you a similar opportunity, but they are out there and many are desparate to have a chance at it. It might be difficult to move to another troop with your son, but if one knows there is a chance for something good down the road, it might be an option for both of you. If it means doing some extra traveling, it might be worth it, I travel 15+ miles each way to lead the troop I have and the gas is pricy, but its part of my contribution to the program and don't regret one penny.


Having your boy take on a Venturing Crew may or may not be the answer because they vary as much as Troops do. Whereas I use boy-led, patrol-method for my Troop, I run my Crew as a "dictator" and make all the decisions. Yet at the same time, I continually develop leaders in a totally different environment. The vision, goals and expectations of the two programs are quite different and this is what the boys want. The church youth group I chaperone is totally run with some scouting overtones, but altogether different. A good leader is a servant to those he/she are called to serve. If they don't serve, then they are of little or no value to them.


If it was my place to offer a suggestion it would be: talk to your boy and find out what he wants. What's his vision, goal and expectations for whatever program he decides to pursue. Then either find or create that program. There are a ton of other boys out there looking for exactly what your boy wants. Talk to them, get to know them and then start working for them.


I work as an administrative assistant for a general manager of a very large corporation. Whenever I am asked what my job is, the answer is simple, I make my boss look good, because when he looks good, I look good. Once the boys figure this out some very good things begin to happen and they begin to realize how effective that process is. Bullying just doesn't build leaders, it builds tyrants and the last thing a young adult will do is follow a tyrant unless he is forced to. It's time to create an environment of everyone looking out for the other guys and when that happens, they all begin to take on some good leadership skills.


My 2 cents worth and I do offer change with that.



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Ah, Kudu, I misunderstood. Thank you for the explanation. In fact my son is also the PL of his troop's venture patrol, which is doing exactly that. I've offered frequently to be the driver and/or "second adult" any time they need me. So far they haven't, but if they do I'll give them their space too.


The biggest hurdles appear to be getting the boys to believe they really will be allowed to do things on their own (sort of) and then getting them to find time that doesn't conflict with "regular" troop stuff (the venture patrol is not a permanent patrol assignment). But yes your idea has merit. And I will say that the venture patrol, which has a very different dynamic from the rest of the troop, is about the only thing my son is still interested in being part of in his troop at the moment. Who knows. We may yet see that develop into something bigger.


In the meantime, I have to say that the Venture patrol is a band aid. It keeps a handful of older boys who want something more, marginally involved with the troop. Because of its separate status as an occasional patrol outside the structure of the troop, it hasn't really bled over into regular troop operation and definitely hasn't had much impact on the experience of the younger fellows at this point. Maybe it will, if it survives long enough.

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At the risk of just piling on I will add the following.


Its clear (to me anyway) that the bullying is a manifestation of the boys not being in control. The lack of boy lead and the bullying are linked and as long at your troop operates as an adult run troop style the bullying will continue. In a weird way the adults leaders may believe that the bullying is a form of boys leading boys. Its creating order.


The BSA program is itself part of the blame. We call ourselves a boy lead patrol system but it really doesn't look that way in organizational structure. The patrols meet at the troop, camp with the troop and little in the way of program structure is there room for a patrol to be independent of the troop.


I honestly believe that the den system of cub scouts offers more patrol identity than the BS troop meeting.


The patrol is the building block and the PL is the core to this element. OK, let's look at how much latitude the PL has. Second guessing his every decision is the PLC and the SPL. Above them is the Scoutmasters and the committee. Finally the Charter organization has all final say in the matters. Holy-cow! Where is it in this hierarchical system where the PL leads?


Troops fall into the adult lead troop systems not because the leaders are not motivated or even trained. The program is itself causing this. To look elsewhere and constantly blame the volunteer leader is misplaced blame. (this is sure to bring BW out of Exile)


Finally, I think that frequent forum readers fall into a trap of believing that there are all these wonderful high performing troops out there. No doubt there are many great troops out there but often we forum readers may use an ideal troop from a composite of all the troops read about. We then measure this composite troop against our own.




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Being a kid with parents who are deeply involved in Scouting is not easy.

Much as we try to not push or force our little darling into doing something that he might not want to do, we somehow end up doing it anyway.

As you know, I was never a part of the Troop that OJ was a member of.

I wasn't always happy with the way things were done or how they went about doing them.

Still come Tuesday night (Troop Night.) I was the one saying things like:

" Are you getting ready?"

"Your not going to Scouts looking like that!"

"Hurry up, your going to be late"

While there were a few times when OJ said that he wasn't going and gave good reasons for not going, I know in my heart of hearts that I was guilty of applying pressure to make him attend.

Scouts and Scouting is big in our house. Somehow everything has a way of coming back to Scouting.

Most of my friends are involved or have been involved.

Over 75% of the phone calls we get seem to end up with Scouting conversations.

One of our dearest friends who has been a friend for over 30 years is the guy who was Camp Director when OJ was a staff member on camp staff. Him and OJ for some reason just don't get on. OJ hasn't a good word to say about the fellow. All of this makes life kinda hard when we invite the Camp Director over for dinner.

What I think, I'm trying to say it that at times our kids are on Scouting overload.

I don't know about other Lads!

But looking back at OJ's Scouting career!

He was the one that wanted to join Cub Scouts, it was his idea.

Once he was in and I got involved as a Cub Scouter, a lot of what he did was to please me or because I stood over him. I'm not saying that he didn't have fun. But when a group of kids were maybe doing something that they ought not to have been doing, he was at times singled out because I didn't have to work at remembering his name.

When he first joined the Troop. I think he was still trying to make me happy and go out of his way to prove to me that he was as good as I was??

He was still in elementary school when he crossed over. So other than Scouts there wasn't much else on his agenda.

We have Junior High Schools, which are in separate buildings from the High School, so again there wasn't much else going on. He did join the choir and did play soccer, but other than that Scouting was his main activity.

Things changed a lot when he went to the High School.

He got very involved in a lot of activities.

I do get a little peeved when I read about lazy, good for nothing kids who do nothing but play video games!

His day started at 6:30, the School bus picked him up at 6:45.

What with track, soccer, choir, school plays,volley ball, basket ball, the school video there were nights when he didn't get home till almost 7:00 and night when he rushed home only to rush back. Finding time for Scouts and the OA was really hard.

His big change came when he passed his driving test and was able to drive himself where he wanted to go.

This independence forced me to loosen my grip on what, where and when he was going to do.

At high school he also learned how to deal with bullies (He was a fairly popular kid, so it was never a real problem.)

While I'm not in any way trying to condone bullying. I do think that learning how to get along with other people, which at times might mean avoiding them! Learning what group of people you want to hang out with is a big part of the educational process.


Your son will in time let you know what he wants to do or not do.

How you deal with this?

I of course don't know!!

I feel sure that you will allow him to voice his opinion.

I feel sure you will offer him your thoughts and your ideas.

But at the end of the day he will do or not do what he wants to do and like it or not you will support him.


I'd be very careful of thinking that a Venturing Crew is the answer that will fix everything.

While I'm sure that many Crews have mastered the Youth Led problem. It has been my experiences that because the youth are so very busy, they are afraid to commit to doing things and even more afraid of committing to organizing them.

Finding the right adult who is good at this can be very hard.


As for what you are going to do?

I kinda think if you were to sit down and write what you think is going to happen over the: Next Year, Three Years and Five Years. You might get a much clearer picture of what you might want to do now.

Looking at myself.

Before OJ got involved, I was happy sitting on a properties committee, that met a couple of times a year, not ever doing very much and I'd donate a few dollars.

When OJ first joined I was busy as his Cubmaster, from there I went on the work at the District, Council and Area level.

I was out most nights of the week and doing stuff almost every weekend.

Then I wanted to do more stuff with the youth members so the Ship came along. Then I found I just didn't have the time that this required so I stepped down as Skipper. Now I'm happy just being the Membership Chairman, which is not demanding a lot of my free time.

OJ is hardly involved, he has become active in the local volunteer fireman and what with work and school doesn't have time. He is still registered somewhere -I'm not sure where!!

He is now doing what he wants to do.

I'm not sure if he will ever want to get heavily involved.

I'm perfectly happy saying no to a lot of the things that people seem to think I might want to do or should do.

I do kinda think that my days are numbered.

When I look in my crystal ball, I don't see me being around much after five years from now.

My heart will always be in Scouting, I'm willing to give what support I can. I just don't think this support will involve my time.

Sorry If I have gone on a bit.



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You have it right ITS ME. When someone is given a directive to accomplish a task from the "higher ups" the only recourse many have is to simply bully. When the SM dictates to the SPL, who dictates to the PLC, who dictates to the PL, who dictates to his members, bullying is going to happen somewhere along the way.


The BSA org chart mandates a certain amount of at least, mild bullying just to operate.


When did a CM ever dictate anything to a DL? The cub model of organization works, the boy model does not.



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With respect, it's me and jblake, I believe that "bullying" or at least the perception is an essentially unavoidable consequence of youth leadership, particularly for untrained youth.


The reason is that youth leadership in Scouting is one of the first real opportunities that the Scout has to lead and has to learn how to follow other youth. However, his model is likely his parents, teachers, older siblings, and leadership seen on TV. That is what he knows. And that style of leadership, while perhaps acceptable from parent to child can be very problematical with youth peers.


Here's an example:


Child: Why do I have to do this?


Parent: Because I'm the mommy and I'm bigger than you are.



Now let's translate that to Scouting:



Scout: Why do I have to do this?


Patrol Leader: Because I'm the Patrol Leader and I'm bigger than you are.



We can argue about whether the parent in the example above is using good parenting techniques. I believe that we have all heard examples like this and have seen children being so led.


The latter case would be considered by many to be bullying. Yet it uses the exact same words as the first example. Arguably, Yet I have to ask where this Scout would learn any peer management and leadership techniques other than through Scouting.


If we are truly going to give youth the opportunity to be leaders, in some cases, they will move into what objectively could be called bullying. That is part of the teaching experience. They need to learn other methods and other styles. Those are what we are trying to teach.

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It might be better if one didn't pick a bullying mom for an example.


Child: Why do I have to do this?


Parent: Because everyone in the family has their part to do to make it a family. This is your part, and I have mine and Mommy has hers, etc.


And just because adults teach kids to be bullies doesn't make it anymore acceptable. We reap what we sow.



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YOU have the convenience of picking the mom that you want to model. The Scout with bullying parents who has been elected Patrol Leader does not. He has learned leadership styles from the parents and other leaders with which he is associated.


No one is arguing that bullying is acceptable. I am suggesting that for untrained youth being put into a leadership position, bullying will be one of the leadership styles that result. We need to teach the Scouts how to lead without being bullies. But I would suggest that is an outcome which comes at the end of the process and the Scouting trail, not a precondition particularly if there is no training.

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>>You have it right ITS ME. When someone is given a directive to accomplish a task from the "higher ups" the only recourse many have is to simply bully. When the SM dictates to the SPL, who dictates to the PLC, who dictates to the PL, who dictates to his members, bullying is going to happen somewhere along the way.

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