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Scoutmaster Attitude

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Could be burnout. But that's not my initial reaction. I wouldn't be surprised if he's had this general attitude forever.


I would guess that either way he doesn't realize how he's coming across. Sometimes it's easy to roll your eyes at some Scout behavior. We try not to say anything in front of the Scouts, but sometimes it will come out around the adult campfire in the evening. We have to watch what we say there, too, because Scouts are often listening.


I could just as easily imagine feeling "Now I remember why I hate riding with groups." Takes forever, you have to wait until everyone is ready, someone has to fill a water bottle, etc, etc.


"Is this your crap?" Does he talk that way to everyone?


Some people just seem to have a little bit of a negative bias and find it easy to complain. Maybe the Scoutmaster is one of them.


I agree it's not good, but it's not easy to fix.

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One of Bess Truman's friend's complained to her about Harry's use of the word "crap". She suggested Mrs. Truman have the President say "manure" instead. "Oh, my Lord," Mrs. Truman replied, "you don't know how long it took me to get him to say 'crap'!"


I'm your Scoutmaster. My 90 minute troop meeting last night started at 5:30 and ended well past 9:00. I was one of three adults who spent five hours Saturday morning working with the new quartermasters to inventory gear and repair tents. I missed the second half of the ball game Sunday to meet with a Scout on his Eagle project. I made time in my work schedule Monday to meet discuss an Eagle project with another Scout because his mom couldn't fit a Sunday afternoon meeting in her schedule. And that's just the last four days.


If the SM was asking "whose crap is this" I'm guessing he was NOT referring to the line of packs with the gear neatly and properly stowed. Maybe your observation that the boys were tightening the gear and filling their water bottles missed a few things. Perhaps prior to doing so the SM had asked them to clean up their crap -- perhaps numerous times.


I've been in the troop almost 10 years now, more than 8 as SM. The key difference I've found between "parents" and "leader" is the leaders see the big picture and the dynamics within the whole troop. Parents see their little piece of the puzzle, probably with greater resolution than the leaders, but only a piece of the puzzle none the less. This divide between leader and parent has nothing to do registered position and little to do with parenthood.


It IS all about Scoutmaster Attitude, to coin a phrase. The attitude that the buck stops here. That he is ultimately responsible for the safety and well being of 60 children which aren't his. That when the Scouts leave their crap laying all over, the SM is ultimately responsible for bringing the boys back around and having them pick up (youth leadership issues aside). That when the biking guy blows off the biking trip for a Cub event, the SM is the guy who steps in. He does so because he knows the parents in the group have the attitude that they're there to go biking with their boys, not that they are ultimately responsible for the whole group.


And why do you have issues about merit badge requirements with the SM? Are you the district advancement chairman?


My suggestion is to do one of two things. One is to get him a $100 gift card from a really nice restaurant. Tell him how much you appreciate everything he does for your son and the entire troop. You hope he will take his wife out for a nice, relaxing dinner on you.


The other suggestion is to look seriously at those other troops.

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A couple of observations:

1) People do tend to forget the point that is made by Twocubdad. Ultimately the Scoutmaster is the lightning rod to which all of the attention is drawn if anything does go wrong. He sees, and oversees all of the planning and winds up responsible for the plans of the outing even if a parent or ASM did the actual planning instead of a boy. As the Program officer it winds up being his responsibility if a boy gets hurt, gets lost, or the campsite doesn't get properly cleaned up, and it is he who winds up dealing with the upset Parent - for whatever reason they may be upset, real or imagined, or whatever else may go awry. These things weigh on those who wear the hat even when they haven't happened yet because they are his responsibility. For those who aren't wearing or haven't worn the hat its' easy to pooh-pooh this idea - wear it for six months and you'll sing a new song.


2) For the OP, The Scoutmaster is the Program Officer, he administers the program, he doesn't write the requirements, and he generally doesn't teach the Merit Badges, but to the degree he is able and with the tools he has it is up to him to ensure the Merit Badges aren't being cheapened by allowing things he does have control of to slide. Why didn't you ASK him about the requirements rather than having "run-ins" with him? I find this question especially pertinent due to your pointing out HIS attitude.


3) As to the language thing. Sure it would possibly be neato if we could all go back to whatever era in history where no one used anything but pollyana-ic speech - could you tell me when that actually was? If in my personal history all I'm saying that offends you is "crap" a couple of times on a weekend outing then I've done my part on the social scale, how about you realize folks are different and make a little allowance also.(In my case, the outgoing SM and the CC and the COR knew who I was when they approached me).


For the OP, In the meantime, how about maybe you cut they guy some slack and pick up a small part of his load? I've had discussions with many Scoutmasters about how it's not the issue of carrying all of the sticks(the load), it's that if they need to put down five of them even if only for a while - no one steps up and carries those five sticks for a while. If you can volunteer to be a consistent carrier for a while that's great. But just doing a little to help as opposed to either doing nothing or actively adding to his load, is preferred.


Disclaimer: My wife spoke to the CC and he is asking some parents to step up for this year, my aged out Life Scout sons Senior year(Where I'm still doing Booster Club Board work for Cross-Country, Wrestling and Track), and they've been doing great. I'm only carrying about 40% of my former load - and yes, burnout happens - I'm feeling better already, now, not to pick up the load to soon so I can fully come back.

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He has been the SM for 3 years I think. 4 at the most. He has plenty of help in ASM's. One is the outdoor coordinator(outdoor plans, special activities, summer camp update), one is equipment coordinator (status of new and existing troop equipment and of troop needs, new procedures for safe use and storage of equipment), one is fundraising, one is advancement(troop advancement progress, boards of review, courts of honor) and one does service projects (special activities, district and council activities). The CC is very involved. I am also an ASM. With my job I can't always be at meetings or campouts. I am there when I can be, but with my schedule I can't commit to some things.


The PLC plans every activity the troop does. They plan everything at their Aug meeting and have new leadership in Oct. They do this so the incoming leadership has a plan to go on and not having to come up with it the first month they take over. Each patrol has an ASM that works with them to make sure they have the things that they request if they can't get it themselves.


The run-ins I've had with him about merit badges are he won't let me sign off on something my son does, which is understandable. But for his swimming merit badge he wasn't able to do a few of the requirements at summer camp so I had my dad record him on video on my phone so that he could see that he completed the requirement with no interference from me. I was off doing something else. When I tried to show it to him he started off with a counselor wasn't with him to see him do it so he won't look at it. I've asked him if they were going to do rank requirements on campouts and he told me they would be and when they came home they didn't work on any of them. I understand that my son has the responsibility to ask to do that.


His attitude has been the same since I first met him in the Cub Scout Pack. He has always been blunt in the way he talks to people. I'm just not sure who to talk to that could set him down and let him know that his way of talking to people needs worked on.

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I think your guy is in the "I yam what I yam" stage. I've seen it, caught it, and dished it out too.


Completing a swimming partial is a hassle. Took son #2 four years. Your, video should have been between your boy, you, and a merit badge counselor. SM should have only been shown completed signatures. Multiply your video by 10 other "requests for sign-offs" and the guy is probably posting a thread about *helicopter parent ASMs* to blow off steam.


(Not saying it's not his fault. He may be a generally accommodating guy and generous with cookies ... until that one extra mouse!)


And moving scouts anywhere? There's a reason for venturing and venture patrols. ;)


Bottom line: do the boys know he thinks the world of them?


Your answer to that will determine if he needs help or if you all need thicker skins.

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Yah, hmmmm....


Seems like da poor fellow has some untrained ASMs that aren't all that helpful, eh? ;) On da merit badge thing you blew it, jaffolder.


It's not your job to help your son get MB signoffs. It's not your role to have grandpa take videos of him and try to push da SM into approving the badge on that basis. It's your son's job to sit down with a merit badge counselor, engage in a mentoring relationship with that person, and meet da requirements to that MB counselor's satisfaction. When your son takes his driving test, da state examiner doesn't care that yeh have a video of your son driving around your farm, he doesn't care that dad wants to sign him off on his driver's license. It's up to your son to demonstrate his skills to the satisfaction of da examiner.


As an ASM, yeh know that, or yeh should have had training so that yeh know that.


You should apologize to the SM and stop makin' the man's job harder. ASMs are there to help and support the SM and the program for all the boys, eh? Not just your own. An ASM who is throwin' sand in the gears just frustratin'.


One of da things that is sort of true about Scoutmasters in successful troops is that they are a bit "blunt" from an adult perspective. There are a lot of reasons for that, eh? One is that it's hard work and there's not always time to have long, sit-down explanations for 60 different parents every time somethin' comes up. Another is that adolescent boys don't "get" subtle, eh? They need adults who are straight-talking and pretty darn blunt. In fact, they tend to walk all over or just dismiss adults who pussyfoot around. You're right, that isn't always da best way to handle parents, but it's rare yeh can have your cake and eat it, too. Often a good CC takes up da job of gently educatin' parents so as to allow da SM to use his straighttalkin' skills with the kids.


Da measure here is "What do the kids think?" Do they think the SM is a jerk who treats 'em like crap? Or do they actually like and respect the guy, and appreciate that he kicks 'em in the butt when they need it? Don't let your ego or personal sensitivities get in da way of what might work just fine for the lads.


Yep, I think yeh should find a way to help carry the load and support da SM, or you should get out of da ASM role and consider another place to volunteer. Districts need help, too. ;) Your son should make his own decision, with your unqualified support.






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I don't think the kids know what he thinks of them. This last camp out was all second class and below, except for two older ones (Eagle and Life). The Life Scout was with me and complained about him the whole time. I have heard that a few of the older scouts don't really care for him, one of them is his youngest son.


As far as the merit badge counselor it is the SM. Ok maybe I did mess that up and approach it wrong. I still think he needs to understand the kids and maybe figure out that not all of them respond to him as well when he talks to them like he does. I've been a supervisor and I've had to learn how to treat each person to get the most out of them. It is like working with kids to do that.


I try to step back and let things happen because I remember what it was like for me to have my dad as the SM. I don't want my son to have the same feeling that I'm picking on him.

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Fixing the problem would take a certain level of awareness on his part. Has the guy done Woodbadge? If so, then he should know about self-assessment. It might be time for him to have one. I try to get my youth and committee to evaluate me in my role as Advisor every few years. I used to think I'd do this every year, but i found that it took quite a long time to change even the simplest things.


I'm not saying you need to help this guy straighten out. I'm just pointing out the thing that I've found to be most effective. Like BD implies, sometimes the best favor you can do him is transfer your boy to another unit.

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These posts point out several common problems in troops and some good points. In a large troop it is not a bad idea to rotate the SM position among the ASM's every 2-3 years. This helps prevent burnout of a SM and it makes the ASM's more knowledgeable and efficent, just like in the patrol method. The problem is too many adult scouters once they become SM refuse to give it up, a power/control issue for most. If you look at the big picture though giving the ASM's the chance to take the reins with the support of the rest of them makes for a healthier/fresher program, develops a core of leadership, as well as bringing in new ideas and methods. Knowing that this is not a long term position means the SM can give 110% to the job. However this requires the adults to be able to think outside the box and too many scouters are unwilling to "share the power/glory", even though that is what we train the boys to do.

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I agree with Baden P. I was AS from 1981-1982 and SM from 1982-1987. By that time I was exhausted and left Scouting until 2004.


If I'd been paying more attention to the idea of succession, there was a parent who was AS who would have been interested in being Scoutmaster earlier. He never brought up the issue, it didn't occur to me and no one on the Committee brought it up either.


There are some Scoutmasters who go on and on, decade after decade. I wonder if even in those cases it wouldn't be wise to encourage giving such people a break and giving new people an opportunity to fill the position and bring in fresh ideas.


Capable, trained people should not be shut out of that position if they want to give it a try, is my opinion.


(This message has been edited by seattlepioneer)

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  • 3 months later...

Acco40, as a SM, I can only say you're 100% on target. Kids are open and ready to learn, parents know everything.


Here's a few observations after reading this thread:


1. Leave all the Cub Scout baggage at the door, the Boy Scout program in no way resembles the cub program, other then sharing the word "scout".

2. Parents and grandparents working with a scout on merit badge requirements ... video taping MB requirements to avoid work with approved MB counselors ... Yea, if I were the SM there we would have problems. There is a way things are done in Boy Scouts, and a reason why they are done that way(learn both). You state you're an ASM, what training have you had? Any MB work starts with the SM assigning an approved MB counselor. Please see number one.

3. Burn out, I'd be slow to apply that label. However, I'd be quick to say frustration is a factor, and quite likely with a few key parents who are making it difficult to run things correctly.

4. Five or six years is not a short time to do a unpaid volunteer job that likely takes as much time as his paid job.

5. A SM being gruff with a scout could be intentional, and isn't remotely a new thing. In fact, that may have been intentional, and likely had a point.

6. The SM said crap, and that's an issue? Are you kidding me, so what.

7. Give the SM the respect he deserves for his service, and get to know him before you judge him.

7. Stop being a problem, and join the SM in supporting the program.

8. Did I say get trained? After training all of this will begin to make sense.


If I've been gruff with you be assured there was a purpose behind it, to drive home a point. Often you have to get someones attention when they are overlooking the obvious, after being pointed out in way's that make you feel warm and fuzzy.


I used to be a bear

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