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adults need to learn to let go

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We have now had the Scouter.com Choir pop in with the popular hymn "the Scouts should be allowed to lead." Well done! Kudo you were a little late on the base.


The bigger issue is in the title "adults need to learn to let go". Agreed! and your post supports why overwhelming parental involvement destroys opportunities for scouts and drives good scouts out.


Lisabob (committee member?) only has so many options.

I don't know how a single member of the troop committee can change the course of the troop. The troop obviously has parents that see boogie-men around every corner and adult leadership which has a high tolerance for hovering parents.








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So my first post was, perhaps, a bit of a vent. Let me try to frame the question in a more action-oriented manner.


When you have the majority of adults who have a well-documented problem letting boys alone, what specific things have you done to attempt "re-train" those adults, and has it worked? If you're not the SM or CC and you're in the minority viewpoint when it comes to pushing for more youth leadership and better use of the patrol method, can you still pull off culture change or is it hopeless?


Kudu, as for your assumptions, you start out from the wrong place. It isn't your emphasis on boy leadership and the patrol method that I have a problem with and in fact it never was. It is the way you often frame your "advice" and the assumptions you make about those of us who are not as learned as you are in the sayings of Green Bar Bill, et al. And by the way I want it noted, Kudu, that I'm the only person in my son's troop who has attended WB/21st C and here **I** am the one pushing for change! :)


ETA: Just saw Mafaking's post - you hit the nail on the head. It isn't a question of whether or not boy leadership is a good idea; it is a question of how to re-shape other adults' behaviors.

(This message has been edited by lisabob)

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Lisabob; In order to have a Boy Lead Scout troop, you must have a Scoutmaster who is a practicer and believer of the patrol method and who can develop youth leaders who will lead with confidence.


I support my PLC in planning and seeking activities that the SPL must present to the Troop Committee for approval. Our TC supports the boy lead model as it is the only way I will serve as SM.


During troop meetings,camp-outs and activities, the SPL will ask adults who are talking or interfering with his meeting to kindly remove themselves as they are a distraction.


We get a few raised eye-brows from new parents after cross-over when they notice that the boys are running their meetings and questions like " shouldnt someone be in there leading them?"...my answer is "someone is leading them...the boy they elected their leader". Hover parents are handled by having a veteran troop parent or uniformed adult leader physically prevent their interferance...I have guided my fair share away from "helping" their son.


Becoming boy lead will pose many challenges but it will bring many benefits when the scouts grow and become the leaders they are when simply afforded the place and ways to practice what we preach.


Curbing parental and adult enthusiasm to help in the wrong ways can be overcome by having that zeal re-directed by taking training, as you noted, you are the only WB trained adult in your troop...are the other adults at least FastStart,NLE,SM/ASM,OLS trained? Are the TC members Committee trained?


Having any adult wishing to go along on patrol/troop outdoor activities take the training we as SM/ASM and TCs will go far in shooting down any "hovering" and "hindering" adults. Hope this helps

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As SM I have an "arrangement" with my CC (former SM of the troop)


1) I will do nothing to influence the decisions, visions, insights and goals of the troop committee. Instead I will support him and champion his efforts every step of the way.


2) He will do nothing to influence the decisions, visions, insights and goals of the SM. Instead he will support him and champion his efforts every step of the way.


With that being said, I am the #1 supporter of boy-led, patrol-method scouting and he is as well. With that common goal between the two of us, we support those dynamics among the boys. We do nothing to direct, influence, or control the workings of the patrols within the troop. If I have a problem with any adult, my CC steps up and takes over, freeing me to focus my attention back on the boys. If he has a problem with an adult, I give him 100% support, freeing him to focus his attention on the overall operation of the unit.


Unlike LisaBob, I have 4 other WB trained adult leaders and the CC has hand-picked other leaders after giving full explanation of what the SM is attempting to do with the boys. I have a 5th adult (former SM of a different troop) who is chomping at the bit to take WB the next time it is offered in the area. If they are uncomfortable with assisting the SM assist the boys, then they are asked not to turn in an adult leader application.


Because of this approach we offer a significant alternative to the way this troop was run a couple of years ago and another troop in the area that does a fine job with an adult-led program.


Everyone is on the same page right down to the wording of every comment made to any boy in the troop. An adult must always preface any comment he makes to the boy leadership with "Might I suggest...". After that he/she cannot make any other comments. If an adult says "You will do...", "I think you should..." or any other similar type statements, the boy leader must respond with the phrase, "With all due respect to your suggestion, I will take it under advisement but I am responsible for making this decision. Thank you for your comment."


18 months ago we had 5 boys in the troop, I'm hoping that by the end of this month to have close to 40-50 boys in the program. Parents who cannot allow for their boys to be in this kind of leadership opportunity are encouraged to enroll their boys in the other troop where the traditional adult supervision/leadership is how they generally operate when they cross over their sons from Webelos.


This might be a grand experiment, but for sure it really involves the boys and they have total ownership of the program.


All adults and scout officers (TOC) have to be on the same page! If not it's up to the adults in the troop to get them there. As SM I am the only hands-on adult leader working with the boys. My ASM's are there to support the boys in specific areas, but the ultimate decision on any and all programming is in the hands of the Patrol Leadership. If we as an adult cadre for the boys are not constantly working to develop independent patrol leadership, we are not following the program outlined by the CC and Committee.



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Yah, Lisabob, you're in a pickle, eh?


I don't reckon it's possible to make a change in troop culture as a regular committee member. In da situation you describe, the change has to come under the direction of a Scoutmaster with some vision.


Practically speakin', I think the biggest problem is da ratio. Doesn't matter how "good" adults are tryin' to be, if each adult only mentions one thing per hour, the boys are gettin' "talked to" every 10 minutes. Who needs that?


Only two registered unit leader adults on the next one. Adults in scoutin' are present only to assist the program, eh? If they're not needed to assist the program (as drivers, for example), they shouldn't be there. Sometimes yeh can do this diplomatically as a trainin' thing, as in "If yeh haven't completed IOLS you aren't eligible to participate." But this requires the SM bein' focused on the growth of the kids, not the adults' need for "family outings."


Obviously, it's best if the lads are allowed to hike on their own, eh? A good SM will work up to this by askin' for the route plan, and settin' rendezvous points or breadcrumbs (when yeh pass this point leave a token so we know you made it). Or just designated cell phone check-in times or a text message on arrival or somesuch.


Of course, out of shape adults are welcome to stay in base camp. You can use the new BSA health form as an excuse ;). I think we owe it to the lads not to be the weakest link, eh? Any adult who participates in a high adventure should never be the guy or gal who is holdin' up the show.






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I am not so sure that the youth should be allowed to take off on rocket assist and leave the old guys in their dust. Respect for age and consideration of abilities is not a bad thing. Then again, if the adults are 40 pounds overweight and notorious "non-scouting event smokers" that's not right either to hold back the youth.


What was the plan for the hike? How many miles were to be covered in how much time and what was the youth's role in that decision?


Yes youth are supposed to lead and its hard for adults who find it easier to just do it themselves, someitmes we need to find another adult and just talk about anything and watch the event unfold. No blood no foul usually

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A few years ago I was on a Philmont trek where the boys and SM shot ahead on a consistant basis. I was not out of shape, I had trained for 9 months prior to going and I was 50 years old, 165#'s so that wasn't the problem. Finally the SM assigned another leader to fall back with me to be my buddy. After a day or so he traded out the other adult to fall back and babysit me. Then the arguing began. The adults both wanted to fall back with me. They were parents of the boys and then the boys wanted to fall back with me as well. It would seem that I was seeing more scenery, wildlife, and spending more time enjoying the trek rather than concentrating on the 3-4 feet of trail just in front of my feet. What was happening was the fast group would get out ahead, and take a 10 minute break after a 30 minute sprint. That break was over about the time I would catch up. Not a problem, I didn't need a break. This happened over and over again throughout the trek. I stopped for the half hour mid-morning break and then at lunch. I wasn't all that tired once we reached the next camp. I knew how to pace myself and when all was said and done, I would reach the break areas and final campsite only about 5-10 minutes behind the speedy group.


Interestingly I was the only member of the trek that didn't get blisters and managed to see everything I wanted to see along the way. It was interesting how many things these boys didn't see that the slow group did.


Although there was a boy assigned to lead (son of the father that dropped back with me), he was never able to slow the group down because the SM kept insisting on keeping the boys moving along at his expectations.


Sometimes one has to take inventory in what the event is all about and whether or not the adults may in fact have something to offer the situation to maximize it's benefits. If the adults aren't all on the same page, the boy's become casualties.



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Some good perspective from you all, as usual.


OGE, On this particular hike the boys only needed to camp one night and go 10 miles the next day along a well-known trail, no real time constraints but they intended to be done by mid afternoon, including eating two meals on the trail (breakfast/lunch). About a year ago when the Venture Patrol got started they elected to do a cycle of 3 hikes along the same trail, at different times of year, to earn a local trails award offered by a nearby council. It's a neat idea but this was the third and final hike, the weather was sloppy, and the boys were more excited the first two times they did this trail than they were this time. They just wanted to get it done - not really a lot of challenge or new adventure in this one for most of them.


OGE, Stosh, I'm certain that the adults might have seen some things the boys missed, although there were apparently a lot of raised voices (from what I'm told, mostly adults yelling at boys to slow down) and grumpy people in the group which reduces the likelihood of seeing wildlife or enjoying scenery. And the adults who went are mostly in good shape, but face it, none of us have the same boundless energy as a 14 year old boy. Maybe some of the boys might have learned Stosh's lesson about pacing if they'd been allowed to run ahead. And there were just so darn many adults. The kicker for my son (also the PL) was that at the end of this hike when tempers were a little frayed, an adult told the boys that if they didn't start behaving differently ("doing as you are told"), next time the ratio would be 1 adult:1 scout! As he said (to me), why bother even going. Beavah's right, boys this age are hardly looking for family outings to fulfill their desire for adventure.


There are also the same number of adults (or more) at the VP planning meetings. The boys can hardly get a word in edgewise sometimes. Last time I went into a meeting to pick up my son at the appointed time, the boys were all slumped in their chairs looking very bored while the adults discussed stuff. Every once in a while an adult would try to solicit input from the boys without much luck. This went on for nearly an hour after I got there. The boys were far more polite than I was - I got up and wandered off after a bit. When I asked about what I had seen, I got told #1 the boys wouldn't participate so the adults had to, and #2 if the adults were to be expected to support the boys then the adults deserved to have input into the decisions the boys made.


Now in the beginning more adult input was often necessary because none of the boys had done any backpacking and had no idea what they were getting into or how to plan for it. (the troop mostly does car camping - and that's why the VP got started, they wanted to do something more adventurous) That was a year ago though. They've done 3 multi-day hikes and several one-day hikes since then. They've learned to select and pack gear, write hike plans, plan appropriate meals for the trail, take care of their feet, etc. Now they need a lot less adult input but they're getting more and more of it instead.


I think I'll invite the VP adviser for a cup of coffee and see if we can't agree to whittle down the # of adults participating in planning meetings and outings. THat is something that I think needs to be dealt with on an adult level. It is a bit tough to pit a 14 year old against 6-10 adults whose basic approach has been "we're going and you have to listen to us."


I'll also share advice with the PL/my son re: splitting up the groups and having meet-up places or leaving tokens. Maybe that will help too. They have another hike coming up in about 6 weeks.






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Barry's idea make a lot of sense to me Lisa. Remember that by any number of BSA program documents, patrols can operate on their own without adult supervision. Give them some help in finding those places, then it sounds like this batch is ready to try their wings a little.


If you want to be absolutely sure, you and another adult can always pre-walk the route for sanity.


FWIW, almost 40 years ago, our Troop was out on the John Muir Trail. We'd kinda separated into 3 elements as we came down from our high elevation point to a canyon meadow for our layover day. Most of the boys were in the very front group. Dad and I thought we were taking a leisurely hike in the middle, the rest of the adults were 45 min to an hour behind us.


When we got to base camp, Tom, the oldest on the trail (he was 16 that year), said we'd had to have been hauling... we got in barely 10 minutes behind them.


Dad and I looked at each other; we'd taken time for water from the creek, some photography, and we thought we'd done our walk fairly slow.

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Just because they drive to an event doesn't mean they have to participate in it. If I wasn't big into whitewater canoeing and I drove the boys up to the river, I could spend a nice day fishing instead while the boys went off and did their thing. I've gone on a lot of trips over the years where the bus driver didn't participate in the activity, just drove the bus. Adults need to learn to let go..... :^D



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I don't see the number of adults on the trip being nearly as big a problem as with the way they behaved. If the adults knew their position on this trip (under the leadership of the boys) then there wouldn't have been a problem.


From the information provided, it sounds like there wasn't a written agenda, as in (example)

(See Backpacking MB pg. 78):


7:00 AM Reveille

8:30 AM Break camp, hit trail

12:00 Lunch at Certain Spot

12:45 Back on trail

4:30 Reach overnight location

6:00 Supper

10:00 Lights Out


The boys should create this agenda and present it to the SM. If he agrees, he lets the adults going know that this is the plan. If they can't physically make it, don't go. The adults can't alter the plan unless a health or safety issue arises.


It sounds like the boys and the adults were on different plans, kind of like a band playing from different sheets of music - it doesn't work. The boys plan, the adults follow. Everyone learns and enjoys the hike. Adults camp away from the boys.


Most of these details are in the Trek Safely procedures. In addition, we have the lead group take a "catch-up" break every 30 minutes (see Hiking MB, pages 41 - 42). If someone in the back twists an ankle, or worse, the group isn't spread out over 5 miles of trail. This is part of being courteous, as in the 5th point of the Scout Law. If the adults are so far behind that they aren't going to be able to keep to the plan, the adults aren't being courteous - and this needs to be pointed out to them.


Lisa - as far as changing the culture, I wouldn't bet money on it. You need a new group of adults working with the VP who understands the program. They should view these VP meetings just as they do a PLC meeting - the adults are only there to answer questions and veto any plan that isn't safe, or are simply impossible. The SM should discuss the produced plan with the PL and ask probing questions about parts that aren't realistic. During the meetings, the members of the VP should be courteous to the adults and stick to a meeting agenda, and not waste a lot of time socializing. Set a time limit for the meeting, and they get the work done.

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Mafaking wrote: "The bigger issue is in the title 'adults need to learn to let go'. Agreed! and your post supports why overwhelming parental involvement destroys opportunities for scouts and drives good scouts out."


We're between a rock and a hard place, aren't we? The most ready pool of volunteers are the parents. Also, I believe that parental involvement is very important and should not be vilified. Just try googling "parental involvement" and see what you find.


Here is one quote I found:

(from http://www.michigan.gov/documents/Final_Parent_Involvement_Fact_Sheet_14732_7.pdf)

"Decades of research show that when parents are involved students have:

- Higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates

- Better school attendance

- Increased motivation, better self-esteem

- Lower rates of suspension

- Decreased use of drugs and alcohol

- Fewer instances of violent behavior"


It has been my personal experience that boys tend to stay involved longer in scouting when they have a parent involved in some way. That doesn't mean the parent should hold their hand or boss them around (I literally have seen scouts walking around at camp holding hands with their mom, and it makes me cringe). However, if the parent thinks scouting is worth spending time on, they are not going to be constantly trying to pull them in some other direction to the exclusion of scouting (as many parents do with sports or other activities).

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