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I am SM for a troop with a tradition that I would like some advice on. I understand the patrol method - that the patrols meet to buy their food for campouts and they prepare their food by patrols - this is fine and dandy, but the adults seem to have put a barrier at out campsite where no scouts are allowed. I know the scouts are supposed to be on their own, but what about a set time at evening campfires for all patrols to meet with the adults for stories and bonding? The adults of our troop tend to act like this is the military and they are officers - meaning no enlisted allowed!

I have two sons in the troop and I have little communication with them the entire camping weekend because of this. My son is actually afraid to even go near the adults. Quite frankly, I am a little fed up and I am considering stepping down and possibly leaving this troop. I am a veteran and was a medic, drill seargeant, infantryman, and artilleryman. Got my dose of the military and I am tired of seeing it here.

Please don't say anything about a troop committee. We do not have one! Really, we do not! (another irritation)

Just wanted your advice and what you do in you troops.


Robert Davis

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Hi Robert, thanks for the post.


That's an interesting problem. Obviously if you don't have a functioning troop committee, you know that you need to fix that. It sounds like your unit has already weaned the scouts to be able to manage their own affairs in patrols. That is a more mature practice than many units that get discussed on this board. Your camping protocol issue can be resolved by leveraging that strength.


It sounds like a basic bullying problem. Does the door swing both ways? Are these adults respectful of the patrol camp sites and do they only enter them when invited?


You are the Scoutmaster. Make sure that you have read the SM Handbook so that you are confident that you are on solid ground. This is important when the blowhards start quoting made up 'rules'.


1. Do not threaten to step down/leave unless you mean it. That's not a bluff that you can win. Your sons need you in the role but I'll bet that their buddies need you more. You're the leader - do not show lack of commitment or confidence.


2. From this moment forward, adults on camp outs will be limited to the Scoutmaster and 1 or 2 assistant scoutmasters. Committee members have no need to be camping with the scouts and they are not interacting with the scouts anyway. Make this stick and you're halfway there.


3. Leverage their sense of patrol identity. Start a tradition that each patrol may invite one of SM/ASM to dine with them in their camp site. Give this time and soon you'll have patrols competing with each other to impress you and your assistants with the quality of their food and good camp site practices. Thank them for their hospitality and compliment them on what they do well.

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As SM you are to set the tone for any "traditions" that happen in a troop. If you are uncomfortable with the present policy, visit with the boys on their feelings towards the issue. It is their program, or at least in theory should be. If the bulk of the boys like it the way it is, then drop the subject. If not, as SM you can allow the change. Nothing wrong with a troop campfire where all the boys gather in the evening.


On the other hand, autonomy of the patrol is vital. Adults influencing the leadership of a patrol was always a taboo in my troops. Sure there were times when I would sit down with a PL and discuss his particular patrol policy and whether it was meeting the expectations of the program. It's called mentoring, not dictating that he had to make changes. Most of the time, they were pretty much on target with what they were doing. Occasionally the PL would make changes, most of which improved their patrols.


There is nothing wrong with inviting any of the adult leaders for a meal or an evening of a chatting visit, if that is what the boys in the patrol would like to do. As long as the invited adult does not view it as an opportunity to come in and influence the functioning of the group. He/She is the guest and should not act as if they are in-laws. :)


It's a balancing act every SM needs to be aware of. Youth autonomy vs. adult directives. I have seen both work well in the BSA program, but the youth autonomy model does produce more capable leadership because they have the most experience in actually leading.


As far as boys visiting the adult camp, the same respect is expected. If anyone has a problem, they can request entrance to the adult area just like an adult would do for a patrol area. Respect goes both way. If the SM wishes to visit with their son for personal reasons, then neutral ground can be found where it does not impose on either the others in the patrols nor the other adults. It could be that the adults may wish to discuss issues relating to the various scouts where they don't want other scouts around. While specific issues may arise, we don't always know the impact those interactions are really making on others in the group, that should be respected.


Some of my SPL conferences I had were out of earshot of both patrols and adults. Heading down to the Trading Post for an ice cream and "talk" was one of my summer camp "traditions". None of the adults nor any of the patrols had a problem with it.


Stosh(This message has been edited by jblake47)

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rldavis -


I agree 100% with other who have posted here -- you are the Scoutmaster and have the power to set the tone. Move slowly and deliberately and you will be amazed how much can be accomplished!


When I became SM, the Troop was steeped in a number of traditions that did not much resemble Scouting as it should be done. It was an adult run Troop with declining numbers and almost no Scout participation and no Patrols -- just a bunch of Scouts! The "Committee" was composed of a bunch of guys who had grown up in the Troop and did things the was they had always been done.


I went through as much training as I could, and then slowly started making changes. Rarely were the changes embraced by the old guys, but the Scouts responded favorably, and our numbers doubled and tripled in a few years.


The first thing I did was create Patrols, and then an active Patrol Leaders Council. It took about 2 years of monthly meetings before this became part of the Troop culture.


Now, anytime there is an issue -- like the one you are dealing with now, I first bring it up to the PLC and let them discuss and make some decisions on what they think would work best. I discuss it with them to reach a consensus, and take it to the Committee where it is usually adopted as Troop policy.


As others have said, get the Scouts involved! Listen to them! Discuss options with them, and work together to make a better Troop. It takes a while -- like I said, about 2 years -- for the PLC to become part of the Troop culture, but the Scouts really appreciate having their voice heard!

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As the SM of the troop, you are the top leader of the unit. You do not have to follow troop traditions. You set the tone of the program.


When an adult tells a youth not to enter the "adults only zone," say, "My scouts are always welcome in my campsite as long as we are not alone. Come on in, son. What do you need?"


Tell the boys they are welcome in your area. That will spark one to approach, and give you the opportunity to issue the correction.


Probably no adult will try and stand up to you. If one does, say, "I'm the scoutmaster. My scouts in my troop will always be welcome up here." Wink at them, then turn back to whatever your doing.


Recommend you sign up for Wood Badge. Make this one of your ticket items. Also make one to build a committee.


Get thee to wood badge now! It will really help you with this stuff.


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Good discussion. We constantly have to make the sons of leaders stop and request permission to enter. If not they keep dropping by for silly stuff or stuff best handled by Patrol leaders.


However I do like to see my sons now and then. At summer camp I try to do one thing with them individually and touch base at meal time if they wish. I do think if it is a dining hall sort of situation the adult leaders can sit with the boys.


But yeah on busy weekend campouts I might hardly see them. Sometimes this is good, sometimes not. And yeah we have not done an evening campfire so that is a good idea.

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Hi Robert


This is an interesting situation. Typically the troop program follows the personality of the dominating adult. Usually the SM is that adult, but not always. By the way you are explaining the problem, I dont get the feeling you are that adult in your troop, which is surprise because you were a drill sergeant.


There are a lot of good suggestions for how to change some of the traditions in your troop, but unless you are willing to force any changes, Im not sure what to suggest. Do the scouts have equal traditions of adults not being allowed to enter the Patrol sites? I might start there. Adults are role models and the expectation for respecting the adults should be the same for the adults respecting the scouts.


But still I think you have bigger problems. No committee? Is there anyone willing to listen to your concerns? Your tone gives the impression you dont think you can make a difference. Am I just not reading your post correctly? I dont mind being corrected.


We are here to help in anyway we can. In fact we love to help in this scouting stuff, but it would help to understand better why the SM isnt able to encourage some changes.




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Is their really a physical barrier?

If I were Kudu, I would say that placing the adult campsite 300' away should be sufficient. Any scout that wants to walk that distance should get the respect of being welcome by the adults.


This may be your battle to pick. Get feedback from the boys (not just your son). Frankly, a cluster of adults by any other name is a committee. If they don't like the "C" word, call them the "Old Fart's Patrol" and declare that the SPL's expecting a song and a skit from each patrol (including OFP) at evening campfire.


Also ask the OFP that you will to divide up responsibilities into "Parent Relations" and "Youth Relations". Whoever thinks they are better at one vs. the other can choose the appropriate patch.


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We do not put up any barrier. Scouts wander into our area regularly. Depending on what their purpose is, we'll talk to them, walk back to their patrol, tell them to go find their patrol leader or the quartermaster, or whatever seems appropriate. We do try to avoid feeding them or lending them equipment, unless good judgment suggests otherwise.


The odd thing about your post is that you are the SM. Did you know what you were getting into when you took this job?


You have the position to be able to influence a lot of change, but I've seen this done badly. If you think that you can make whatever decrees you want and that the other adults should fall into line behind you, you could certainly be courting a backlash. What I'd do in this position is to really work to communicate with the other adults. Talk about what your vision for the program is. Communicate with the entire troop. I like sending periodic emails to all the parents, just so that they know where I'm coming from.


Who appointed you as SM? Why did they give you the job? What do they think about how the troop is run?


In my opinion, it's vital to build a consensus among the adults. Find some allies. Find some others who are willing to listen to you and work with you.


As Barry says, though, to make the changes you have to be willing to be the dominant personality. Not in the sense that you have to order people around, but there are lots of little things you can do to make it clear that you are in charge.

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You asked what do other troops do.


We do separate the tents by patrols and adults. This is done mainly to keep from hearing the scouts talk all night. Or to keep the snorers away from everyone else. Unless we keep an eye on the patrols they will camp too close together. That way they can cross tent talk until 1:00 - 2:00 AM. The late night talking usually only occurs the first night. By the second night they are going to bed before the adults. But to your question, there is no yellow tape or mine field between us and the scouts.


For Meals we eat as a troop. One patrol will take a turn cooking one meal for the whole troop including SM's and guests. We started off doing patrol meals but as the troop shrank the PLC has continually voted to do troop meals. It's not as bad as it sounds since more than half our meals are on high adventure trips where its buddy meals or individual meals. This way the meals tend to be more complex and develop the cook within the scout. Right or wrong this works for us.


At meal time a blessing is made and we eat as a troop. Scouts will sit next to adults and SM's may choose to sit with the younger guys. But usually the SM's sit together and the guest parents sit as a group and the scouts gather first by age and then patrol.


I must admit My 16 year old Life Scout does not hang around me much. It's more like a chase to find time to spend with him. Afterwards we discuss the campout but during the campout he is not really looking for Dad time.






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I'm surprised that no one has mentioned one of the aims and methods of Scouting: Adult Association.


Take a look at this definition: Associations With Adults. Boys learn a great deal by watching how adults conduct themselves. Scout leaders can be positive role models for the members of the troop. In many cases a Scoutmaster who is willing to listen to boys, encourage them, and take a sincere interest in them can make a profound difference in their lives.


You might use it as a way to open dialogue with the other adults and ask them how this "tradition" fits in.



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rldavis wrote "but what about a set time at evening campfires for all patrols to meet with the adults for stories and bonding?"




I guess being in a scout troop that usually had less than 8 scout at a Time makes for a different perspective than most people on here who's troops seemed to number in the Hundreds of Scouts..but our leaders were always around watching and Advising us, not telling us. We always welcomed their expertise. Of course I am the type of Scouter who enjoys listening and Learning. Our Camp fire talks went on for hours. We loved to Listen to the Stories of the adults from Military to Scouting Experiences


One of My Scout Masters was Allen Kent Johnston, a member also of Red River Renegades and Author of Buckskins-blades-and Biscuits. Learned a lot about camping and cooking from him.



We never expected our Adults to camp 300 feet away...mainly because our camps were never big enough to allow that and Our Adults never ruled with an Iron Fist..



Adults who distanced themselves open themselves up to more trouble..Isolating yourself from the scouts leads to potential disasters...So say Scouts were horse playing and one gets hurt. They all are afraid to tell because they will get punished..Monday Morning a Parent calls Council office and complains because her son comes home from camp with a Broke Ankle...your screwed .. You have no knowledge of it being broken and you rendered no Medical treatment


However if you had all had a Dinner retreat together you might have noticed the Scout either missing or favoring the Ankle..You could have looked at it and sought medical attention

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I enjoyed this discussion. My Troop sometimes does a campfire with a scout trivia game or some sort of ice-breaking game (Origin of your name and one unusual fact about you). Skits and jokes on occasion but quality control is poor (we have rules like "skits should have an end and jokes should have a punch line"). I continue to stump boys with "what was the Siege of Mafeking". Three years and know one has got it yet.


By the way the other night I overheard the punch line of an elaborate joke a first-year was telling during a card game. It ended with "The Aristocrats!" Then I hear "I liked the two dogs, the doctor, and your sister better". 5th graders today (sigh)

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>>Adults who distanced themselves open themselves up to more trouble..Isolating yourself from the scouts leads to potential disasters...So say Scouts were horse playing and one gets hurt. They all are afraid to tell because they will get punished..Monday Morning a Parent calls Council office and complains because her son comes home from camp with a Broke Ankle...your screwed .. You have no knowledge of it being broken and you rendered no Medical treatment

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