Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Here's a poser:

This question was posted to my Facebook wall the other day:

Hey - I'm to wit's end. After taking Friday off to get stuff prepared, and doing lots of other prep to make a scouting overnighter successful, I'm really frustrated: I was told the food was gross, it was stupid that we couldn't build a fire (Wash. Co. fire restrictions), and everything was boring. And then half the troop thought it'd be funner to sneak off during the 2 mile hike this morning than to stay together (this after 3 of the same group were told at the last overnighter that wandering off on their own was unacceptable). One of them even killed a lizard, seemingly just so he could aggravate me. I'm really tired of all the scouts' attitudes (and a couple ring-leaders in particular). I've obviously got issues with motivation and discipline among the Scouts - and after a rough night's sleep, it's hard to take without losing my temper at them. I feel like I'm wasting my time. Any great suggestions or help?

I responded with the following:

It sure is frustrating when you pour so much of yourself into something, and it goes unappreciated. But as bad as it looks right now, this is GREAT! (Except for the unfortunate lizard.) Look at it as a chance for them to learn about outdoor stewardship, leadership and good communications and other such stuff. First, read this Ask Andy post (the letter about playing with fire at the very end), and adapt it to your circumstances. If you do this, the boys get to correct themselves.

Here's the short version: Get the parents involved and on the same page - get together and come to an understanding of the problem, and a mutual agreement of standards, expectations and behavior that are acceptable to everyone. Then, with that support, each offender gets to help plan a TROOP presentation on how to do it right - LNT, outdoor code, anything else you may feel appropriate here (not on what they were doing wrong - we're trying to inculcate good behavior). Ditch "Wednesday merit badge class"; what you're really doing here is training 'experts'. Don't forget the bonus at the end of the referenced article. Commissioner Andy describes this way better than I can.

Bottom line: boy leadership. Give the whole process over to your Scouts. If the food was gross, what will they do next time? What are the fire restrictions for? (Hint: wasn't there a big fire near Hurricane just last week?) Bored? What did you (boys) plan so it wouldn't be boring? What will you do next time to keep it fun?

Scouts are supposed to call their own shots. Success/failure (for the Scoutmaster) lies in their planning and executing an event, not in his choreographing every moment and keeping them entertained. Next time, take your favorite camp chair, and when they ask you "when are we going to ___?", you say, "what did your SPL say?" Then go back to your book, or cooking YOUR dinner.

Herding cats is tough. I really believe that the boy-led Patrol Method is the way to go. It can be tough, but it's so much more worthwhile. And it will save your sanity. Check out this film strip (yes, the kind with a beep to tell you when to advance the frame) for more information:

Here are some other responses to the question:

-- I know what you mean. Some of my scouts have the same attitude. If they aren't being entertained it's a complete waste of their time.

-- As a mother of a scout I would want to know of this unacceptable behavior. You should not be treated like this. I would have a meeting with the parents and tell them their child is welcome to come next time as long as they are accompanied by a parent. Thanks for your service, time and dedication. Also being a single parent I am grateful for the time men like you spend with my son and for the great example that you set.

-- Make sure the boys do more of the preparation, they need the investment in the activity.

I think that in part, it's symptomatic of LDS boys being assigned to a Scout Troop, instead of joining an organization they're interested in, but that's the cards we're dealt. What would you tell him?


Fishgutts said...

First, I would tell them that doing it themselves (which they clearly did) results in a horrible program. Doing it for boys set the model that you are going to do everything for them in the future. Scouting isn't babying them.

Second, I would let the boys plan the next campout and if the planning bombs, let it bomb. Do not save them. Scouting is a safe place for them to fail. If they don't eat, they are not going to die. If they are bored, they will find something to do.

Third, I would hold the Scout Committee and the Bishopric more accountable for their Scouting program. If they are not asking parents to play a more active role, remind the Bishopric. At times, they have no clue how things are supposed to work.

Pale-winged Trumpeter said...

An update: So the camp following this disaster was the priesthood encampment - with 18 scouts age 12-18. I tried to take your advice to heart, and let the boys take more ownership in activities and let the boy leaders run things. It worked - sometimes. At any rate, I had a better time, and the guys (overall) did better (aside from a lizard-torturing episode, and a rattlesnake stoning incident - which was, apparently led by the priesthood leaders). I've got a lot to learn with this. Right now I'm really trying to help the boys to feel ownership, and help them understand that the values of the Scout Oath and Law are more than just something that they ramble off on command. Thanks for your advice.