Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting - and Keeping - the Parents Involved

Cub Scouting is supposed to be family-oriented, but too often it's just another "class" where boys disappear for an hour a week. In this model, families all too often don't do much more than attend a pack meeting.  This article in the Sept/Oct 2001 Scouting magazine discusses how to not only retain new boys, but their parents as well, because to keep the boys active, the parents need to be interested, too.  The author offers some great ideas for getting parents to take an active role in their sons' Cub Scouting. Of course this means planning something beyond the all-too-common half-hour "badges-in-a-baggie" Pack Meetings (look at LDS Scouter and Cub Scout Chronicles in the "More Links" at right for inspiration).

We all know that in spite of our having attended an overnight Webelos Woods back in 1986, today LDS Cubs aren't allowed to go on campouts as in the above article. But imagine a Pack picnic, hike or cookout in the woods. Whatever it is, it has to be make good on Scouting's promise of adventure. Parents and families are all invited.  Invite the PrimPres as well, to give it a bit more authority.

The Committee Chair and Cubmaster would talk with the parents while the kids work on achievements and play under the Den Leaders' watchful eyes.  Find out what they hope their sons get out of Cub Scouts, and invite them to be a part of making it happen by serving on the committee, in any capacity.  It's okay to go all "commitment pattern" and ask direct, 'will you?' questions, but remember, and be clear, that you're asking for a volunteer, not presenting a calling. (I personally believe there will be a higher level of commitment from a volunteer; that's the whole premise of this blog.)

Be prepared to resolve concerns by explaining the Aims, Mission and Vision; they likely have never thought about Cub Scouts beyond, "boys-go-to-Cub-Scouts-because-that's-where-they're-s'posed-to-go."  If this is a first-timer family, they probably don't have the slightest clue of what Cub Scouting is about, anyway.  But done right, they just might be willing to step up and be a part of it.

Here's a great blog post from LDS Scouter about involving parents: 
Some wards use the Primary's Baptism Preview to also introduce the activity programs for 8-11 year-olds. A Cub Scout leader and Activity Days leader are each invited to speak for a few minutes about the programs. This is a great opportunity to introduce the idea to parents that they are an important part of the program. Let them know that their own attitude and involvement will have a big influence on their son's experience. Show them the parent guide at the front of the Wolf book and let them know they can and should work on many of the achievements with their son. Let them know they are invited to Den Meetings and that the whole family should attend Pack Meetings. You may even want to quote Elder Oaks' "Good, Better, Best" talk and point out that Cub Scouting can actually provide them with more quality family time.

I know of one Wolf Leader who even visits personally with parents who cannot attend the Preview and tells them all the things she wishes someone had told her when her sons started Scouts.
The key here is that leaders, both Primary Presidencies and Cub Scout leaders, need to clearly lay out the expectations up front (this, of course, requires coordination and 'training' of the PrimPres); that parents understand it's not a weekly "class" for babysitting their little angels, but that it is a family-centered program of character development and spiritual preparation.  Bradley Harris has said, it's "hundreds of father/son, mother/son activities waiting to happen."

The same can be said for Activity days.  I have the same expectations for my daughters as for my sons, maybe without the uniform and patches, but I hope for the same outcome for each of them. That outcome is defined in the Aims of Scouting: individuals of good character, physical, emotional and spiritual fitness, and good citizens.

I've thought of a couple more resources to use for planning boys' and girls' activities- both promote adventure, learning, character and FUN!:

The Dangerous Book for BoysThe Daring Book for Girls


Eric the Half-bee said...

I fixed the links for "Dangerous" and "Daring".

Evenspor said...

Love those books.

We had a great pack meeting last night with lots of energy. One of the things was a skit. The main idea was a busy family, mom trying to get everyone together for dinner. The cub scout brought her his wolf book, where she read something about going on an outing to an important, local place. There was a lightbulb over her head, and she planned an outing for that weekend for their whole family.

I followed up the skit with the tagline, "Don't think of this as a list of achievements to pass off. Think of it as your family activity idea book."

Fishgutts said...

Evenspor - great idea!!!

Fishgutts said...

From other non-LDS Scout blogs, I see that those parents like to hover over their boys. And from my personal experience, LDS Scout parents like to drop off like a daycare. How do we change this mentality in the Church?

Eric the Half-bee said...

Good point. There has to be a"Goldilocks" just right position. I think that those of us who know need educate leaders, in this case Primary presidencies, so that they can communicate expectation to the parents, and the adult scouters can focus on working with the boys. As Harris said, it's a sea-change.