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Hi All,


My oldest son, age 11 dropped out of Scouts last week. I have been expecting it to be honest. His actions spoke volumes... can't find his uniform, doesn't know where his book is, forgot to work on any advancements, too tired to go to troop meetings, etc. Only thing that got him excited about scouting was being a den chief. Which gave me some hope that he might stick it out.


He loves sports, plays on a traveling baseball and basketball team. Always ready to go to practice, knows where his gear is, always excited to be there.


Were there issues on the troop's side... sure. If I could wave a magic wand and change some things in the troop, it might have helped some. But I am not interested in bashing the troop.


As I think about his experience, one thing stands out as being missing... he had no friends in the troop. I know missing due to sports will make it more difficult to develop friendships. The 7 guys in his patrol went through cub scouts together and got along well as cubs. Once into Boy Scouts, my son became the odd man out... no one to tent with, bike with etc...


As I look at my Webelos I den and my younger son, I wonder how do we as adult leaders prevent this from happening? As a den leader I can run the activities so that all the boys are included, so that they all experience small successes. Is it somewhat contrived? Sure. It seems that once they are in Boy Scouts, that "power" is gone. I can't make them play nice, or be friends...


Any thoughts? I would like to see my second son have a better experience.



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Hey WDL, sorry to hear about your son's experience. I know that for my own son, making friends (older boys! I think he believed they walked on water for a while there!) in the troop was about the only thing that kept him from quitting during a rough period in his first year, so I agree that it is important.


Hopefully he'll have some fond memories of his time in scouting though, and who knows, if your younger son has a better experience maybe older brother will want to give it another try. A couple of thoughts on the issue re: your younger son.


1) Have you had a quiet chat with the troop leadership to let them know why your son is leaving? I see it happen all too often that a boy drops out (esp. the younger boys) and the troop leadership has no clue as to why (which tends to lead to assumptions that it has nothing to do with the troop program or structure). Sometimes, had they known, it is a matter that could have been fixed, or at least avoided in the future. For example maybe they'd be more careful in the future not to create a new scout patrol where all the boys except one already knew each other.


2) Are there other troops in the area? Maybe give them another look and, knowing what you do now about your older son's experience, you might ask them some more questions about how they set up their first year program to avoid a similar situation. One thing I've learned from this board is that no two troops are the same and maybe another troop would be a better fit for your family.





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The troop is in a period of transition from one SM to another. Some things were overlooked for lack of a better term. Not much attention was given to the new scout patrol.


My son crossed over with his entire Web.II den. They all know each other. Plus the prior year, the entire Web. den crossed to this troop. Many of the adult troop leaders were leaders in the Pack as well.


I went with my son and he had a SM conference to explain why he was leaving the troop. (Mom made him... mean Mom...) He used the reason that sports took too much time and he couldn't fit scouts in. Which is true, sports do take time and it is difficult to get to scouts. However, I have bent over backwards to get him to scouts ... so it wasn't an impossible issue.


Part of me thinks that it might be better to have a mix of boys from all different dens coming into a patrol... Kind of like 5 elementaries feeding one junior high.


I plan on taking my Web.I's to visit 3 different troops, so that they can choose what works for them. But, I can see it already... my younger son will go to the troop that his friends go to.


Has anyone done anything in there patrols or dens to build group identity? Build friendships, get everyone involved? Or does it just happen or not happen as in my son's case?

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WDL Mom,

I'm not sure if I can offer much advice, as our Pack is chartered by the school PTA and the kids all go to that school. All but one of the boys in my son's den (Webelos II) have known each other since Kindergarten.

We did stumble onto something at our Webelos Woods that might be of some help. On Saturday, the dens rotated around and learned some skills (knots, first aid, etc...). On Sunday, I put together a sort of obstacle course for the dens to compete against each other. They started out with the plank walking, then went to tying out a tarp using the correct knots, then making a stretcher out of 2 poles and 2 jackets to carry a folded up camp chair, and finally building a fire to burn a string between 2 stakes. The dens were all competing against one another to see who finished first. I could actually see the teamwork forming, the leaders rising from the group, and the comraderie building. It doesn't have to be an event just like this, but find something where they can compete against others in a manner that will require them to count on each other and work together.

The only other suggestion would be to let them start tenting together on campouts, if you aren't already. Let 2 or 3 of them share a tent, and the adults tent together close by. We did have one new boy transfer into my son's den this year. After one campout of tenting with a couple of the other boys, he fit right in with the rest of them.

Good luck!

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Of course I don't know your son.

I can't help feeling that maybe the Lad has just too much on his plate what with baseball and basketball.

I'm also not in favor of first year Boy Scouts serving as Den chief. These Lads need to make a clean break from the pack and move on.

It can be a little tough for both the Lad and the parent. I remember when OJ went on his first Boy Scout outing. After being the "Big Man" in the pack, he looked so small and the other Scouts looked so big.

Maybe I'm wrong? But I'm guessing that you take him to the games and are the Den Leader for the Den he was serving?

Maybe he wasn't ready to make friends on his own because he just isn't used to doing things without having you behind him?

Of course him not being a Boy Scout is going to complicate things for the family if your younger son and you decide to continue in Scouting, but I'm sure you will cross that bridge when you come to it.

I have never been involved with baseball and basketball, but I used to coach soccer. The Traveling teams were made up of the best players. Sadly a lot of these kids thought they were really good and of course some were, but most of them just didn't have what it took to make the school team when the time came to change schools, when they failed to make the team or got involved in other nasty activities like homework!! They no longer played and ended up staying home playing video games.

Still if you wait a few years he can join Sea Scouts, where the real action is!!


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Yah, not one but two travellin' sports teams?


If that's where his (and your) heart is, that's plenty, eh? Almost too much. Round here, one travel sport is a year-round commitment that pretty much aces out scoutin' and a lot of other activities. Kids need down time, too. When they don't have enough of it, they do exactly what your son did - they create it by withdrawing from something.


Like you observed, a boy has to be present and participatin' to make friends and get good at stuff, to feel part of the "team." That's one of the things the travel leagues have on us, eh? They insist that kids are present, and they make sure the parents are committed to gettin' their kid to practice by chargin' big bucks.


My best advice for your second son is to ease off on the sports push. And then, since your kids seem to like high levels of commitment in activities, find a troop that's very active and demands a high level of commitment.


Dat's how boys make friends and "build identity", eh? By doin' things together.


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Hi All,


Thanks for your comments. I support my son's decision to drop Scouts, I think it is probably best for him.


My question is more general in nature... Brent began to address it in his response.


How do your troops make sure that the kids are engaged and accepted in the Troop? My son isn't the only kids that this happens to... There are other kids that are on the fringe of the troop, if you will. What about the kid that no one wants to tent with? The kid that others ignore? What do you do with kids that aren't included by the others?


What can I do as a Webelos leader to help my kids "connect and include" their den mates and continue this once they bridge to a Troop?


Things I am currently attempting:


* selecting den emblem, designing flag, den yell etc.

* Webelos campouts - tent with friends if desired.

* continue to use denners, with small responsibilities.

* asking for another den chief from the troop

* turning over decision making to the boys gradually with

small items.

* attempting to find some group building activities/games

to teach teaming without beating them over the head.


Other suggestions? What do you use in your patrols?



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WDL Mom,

I had one other thought, coming from my experience as a Den Guide at Day Camp. That first hour of the first morning, the boys are all sort of nervous about the whole experience. The first thing I do is try to break the ice and learn their names. The easiest way for me to learn someone's name is to learn something about them. So we go around the circle and each boy states his name, his Pack, his favorite subject in school, worst subject, favorite tv show, favorite drink and favorite dessert. That gives me a "profile" for each boy to help with the names, and allows the boys to see where they may have some common interests with each other. By time we get to the last boy, they feel like they have known each for other for some time, not just 15 minutes. Not sure if you can apply this directly to an existing group, but maybe after the Christmas holidays, let the boys go around the circle and tell about anything exciting they did over the break. Maybe they will find some common interest that way.


Sounds to me like you are already doing an excellent job. Maybe push the tenting, and either draw names out of a hat for tent mates, or come up with a game with a rule that they can't tent with the same boy or boys on the next trip. Once they share a tent, staying up late at night telling stories, they seem to bond, most of the time.

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Sometimes the problem is that the boys know each other to well.


My son is ADHD and has had the attending impulse & inattention problems since grade school. Kids can be cruel at times & most of his peers in grade school were not very nice. As a result he was not overly fond of them. This made bonding as a patrol rather hard for him. There were other issues with the way the Troop was run too that did not help.


What kept him in and active (although not so much with his Troop) was working with the Cubs as a Den Chief and with the Council & District on training & activities.


He did not get along well with his Troop, but he liked working with the Council adults & younger boys. He also liked getting to know new boys his age from other Troops thru JLT (NYLT) & Summer Camp.


He might not attend many Troop meetings & his SM considers him a failure because he will never make Eagle, but he has stayed in Scouts for 12 years, has learned a lot, has helped young boys grow, & has had fun. What more can you ask for?


All boys are different. Some go in one direction, some in another. If we can get them to learn how to accept each other, differences & all, they will be ahead of the game. Team building exercises help, along with stressing proper Scout behavior & not letting them get away with some of the typical nasty kid behaviors. Other than that, simply encourage & support your Scouts & recognize them for the things they do.


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I've seen this from both sides, as a Cubmaster and later, as a Scoutmaster. I've found that dropouts were minimal when the Troop had an active First Class First Year program that included a dedicated ASM for the New Scout Patrol, a hyper-emphasis on summer camp for the NSP, and a Troop Guide who's respected among the other older Scouts, a good teacher, and has a union-steward mentality toward the NSP's care and feeding. When any of that's deficient or missing, attrition starts going up.


It's not easy to judge a Troop based on meeting visits. That's a part of the overall picture, but I'd try to see them at camp, projects, and ceremonies, too. That can take a big chunk of time. If circumstances permit, you could talk to your DE, DC, or a couple of unit commissioners about your concerns, and they could steer you toward Troops with strong FCFY programs.


Real life isn't like the BSA training videos, in which all the boys immediately get along with each other. Some of them will, some will eventually, and some never will. That's okay; it's preparation for adulthood. Also, boys mature at different rates, as you certainly know. Even though WEBELOS is meant, in part, to be a transitional program, some boys cross over into a Troop and are not quite ready for what they (and their parents, often) perceive as anarchy or the "inmates running the asylum". A good FCFY program can give them roots as long as they need them, and wings when they're ready for them.





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Ive never heard of putting new scouts all in the same patrol. You separate all the kids by age and how does an 11 year old lead more 11 year olds? If you have 5 patrols and 10 new kids put a couple in each patrol or beef up one that may have lost members to SPL/ASPL duties. If theyre all in the same troop but in different patrols they will still be friends, but they will make new friends too!

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Our Troop is in transition between SM's and there is no FCFY program currently in place. Also, all the patrols in the troop are same age groupings. If I had the magic wand, that would be two things that I would change. I agree that sometimes kids knowing each other too well going into a troop can be a problem...


I think I will have a few more questions to ask prospective troops the second time around...


* How are the NSP integrated into existing patrols?

* Explain how your FCFY program works.

* How do you use Troop Guides/ASM with the NSP?


Wish I had known all this about a year ago.

Thanks for your suggestions and comments.


Last question... would you send a reflective email regarding why first son left the troop to the new SM? Or just let it go. I am not angry with the troop, but, I think this area needs some work.


I appreciate your thoughts.

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I think any Scout Leader should make an attempt to find out why any kid drops out of scouting. Time is scarce but go to the familys home and sit with the scout and his parents. You will hear many reasons and some may be just lack of interest but a program in trouble needs to be corrected.

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Yes I would 100% send that email (or have a face to face conversation)and I would include the committee chair as well. Be sure to read it carefully for tone before you send it. If they perceive it as an attack (although you don't mean it that way) they're much more likely to just discount what you have to say. Unfortunately I see that happen all the time and "group think" is a powerful thing.


The other things you asked are all issues I've watched my son's troop struggle with over the last two years, as they've changed SMs and also gone from being a predominantly older-boy troop to one where more than half of the scouts are in their first or second years. There are still things I don't think we do well but I've seen a lot of progress too and hope we'll have better retention of young scouts as a result.


Here are a few things I've noticed that seem to make things better:


1) The ASMs who work with new scouts have to be really good. I watched a year ago as a couple of ASMs were assigned to new scout patrols and shook my head. These are good people but they have little patience, either for 10-11 yr olds or parents who don't understand the program yet. They got appointed because they were available. Wrong reason in my view. Too much yelling and "kids these days" negativity as a result and not surprisingly, attrition in those patrols is high. On the other hand, a good match between ASM and new scouts can be priceless. My son reveres "his" ASM, who has done more than any other adult in the troop (SM included) to help mentor my son and keep him motivated. He's very good at communicating with parents too (letting them know, gently, what to expect and when they're worrying more than they should).


2) The boys started out with NSPs for the first year but by the second year the patrols have been re-aligned to be more mixed age. I like that better because I see that it is really, really hard for new boys who don't know the system and don't have many skills yet, to lead each other. Most don't have the maturity to lead their peers, or more accurately, to be led by their same-age-peers.


With some boys who are a bit "quirky," being in with your age/class-mates is also a terrible idea. Some of these guys ought to be split up and would probably function much better in mixed age settings where they'd have older boys to take their cues from. And it is hard enough for a new, young, scout to lead his peers under normal circumstances; it is compounded when we add in various behavioral/emotional/social issues where a bit of added maturity on the PL's part might really be needed.


3) Troop guides are helpful. One thing I don't like about having NSPs based on age plus a troop guide though, is that I've seen the troop guide end up doing many things FOR the young/new scouts. They just assume he will because, well, he can and they can't yet. Serious training for TGs in how to assist the new scouts without doing it for them, is essential. Here's where having the right kind of ASM working with new scouts helps too (he can give the TG a nudge when the TG is doing too much). I think I'd rather see TGs work on specific skills more like instructors, rather than assign one TG to each NSP though.


Most of the ASMs in my son's troop don't seem to buy the FCFY idea. It is more typical for a boy to make FC late in his second year in this troop, after having gone to at least two summer camps. So I can't comment on implementing that idea.



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WDL Mom,

Before you send that email, you might ask the CC or SM if they conduct exit interviews of the boys and families of the boys that leave. If they don't conduct them, you might be lucky at planting the seed. I wouldn't hold my breath on it, but maybe they will take a hint that you have some thoughts you would like to share.

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