When Scout M.S. noted in our September issue that adults in his troop won’t let junior leaders make decisions, readers responded with some strategies for realizing the important goal of boy-led troop leadership.
I know how M.S. feels. When I was a Scout, the adult leaders planned almost everything, and we usually had bad activities. The few times the Scouts did the planning, the activities failed, too.
The adult-planned activities failed because the boys weren’t really interested in them.
The boy-planned activities failed because they lacked adult guidance and were poorly planned.
Adult leaders need to understand that Boy Scouting is about developing future leaders.
Boys need to be allowed to plan fun activities they enjoy—and maybe fail sometimes. And failures should be analyzed for what could have been better, not for who made it fail, while successes should include ample praise for a good job.
Some adults don’t think boys can handle responsibility. The Scouts should take the initiative and make meal plans for the troop’s next outing. They should consider the Scouts’ cooking skill level and, of course, the food budget.
Ask the patrol leaders to present the plan to the adult leaders. That should show the adults what Scouts can do and open communication lines with the adults.
It is not uncommon to deal with adults who want too much control. The Scouts who are concerned about it should ask to address the troop committee. They should respectfully explain their concerns, emphasizing that lots of activities are available to them besides Scouting, and that there are great demands on their time.
Therefore they need to choose activities from which they will learn the most.
M.S. should make sure the committee understands what changes the boys think should be made and how they would proceed if given the chance to make decisions.
Whatever they do, they should make sure it is a rational discussion and not something the committee will perceive as simply complaining.
If the Scouts think through their proposal, practice their presentation, and anticipate the committee’s questions, they will probably impress the committee and convince at least some of the members that they are right.
In our Cub Scout pack, we begin introducing boys to responsibility early. As they advance in rank, they are given more responsibility. By the time they are Webelos Scouts, they are ready to plan our raingutter regatta and take part in money-earning activities, thereby learning valuable lessons in responsibility.
In our troop the boys run the show. They plan activities and menus, and shop for the food for outings.
In both the pack and troop, the boys learn that responsibility is a wonderful thing that carries over into their daily lives.
M.S. and his troopmates should come up with an idea for a troop activity and then plan how they can make it happen. For example, for a camp-out, they would plan the menus, determine expenses and where the money would come from, and make up a duty roster. With the plans complete, the Scouts should make a presentation to the troop committee and the Scoutmaster.
The presentation is the key. The more the Scouts show that they can handle responsibilities, the more confidence the adults will have in them.
Assistant Cubmaster S.B.L.
A boy-run troop, while ideal, is a challenge, not just for the boys but for the adults as well.
It is easy for adults to take and maintain control in the name of “what’s best for the boys.”
Most adult leaders are trying their best to provide a smooth program, and sometimes they feel that means running the program themselves.
If the junior leaders want to run the troop’s program, they must discuss the issue with the Scoutmaster and assistant Scoutmasters. They need to find out what the adults see as weaknesses in the boy leadership and find ways to make it stronger. The boys should express what they feel are their strengths and also their desire to have a boy-run troop.
The adults must trust the boys and not be discouraged by setbacks—which are learning opportunities.
The boys must be prepared to work hard to strengthen the program and make the adults feel included by asking their help once in a while.
North Charleston, S.C.
Your senior patrol leader should ask the troop committee to send the Scoutmaster and an assistant Scoutmaster to a Wood Badge training course. There they will be instructed that Boy Scout troops are a boy-run program.
Buy the Scoutmaster a chair and have him stay in it as much as possible. He is an observer and mentor, not a dictator.
Unit Commissioner D.M.O.
Las Vegas, Nev.
First, the boy leaders in M.S.’s troop should decide what they would like the troop to do and how they would like to do it. The ideas should be reasonable and practical.
Second, a couple of the older Scouts should ask for a meeting with the Scoutmaster and an assistant Scoutmaster or the troop committee chairman. The boys should tell them what they would like to do and why.
Third, the boys should listen very carefully to what the adult leaders have to say. They should be prepared to negotiate and not expect to get everything they want. If the adults agree to give the boys leadership responsibility, the boys must make sure to come through. If they have not had junior leader training, they may need to agree to take it.
It is possible (I very much hope not) that the adult leaders will take offense. No matter how it turns out, the boys will find it a wonderful learning experience.
Scoutmasters have to realize that a Scout troop should be boy-led. Adults should act as advisers to make sure that the junior leaders’ plans conform with BSA regulations and are acceptable to the Scouts’ parents.
Junior leaders are aware of the likes and dislikes of troop members. What adults consider fun is not necessarily what boys think is fun. Junior leaders may make mistakes in planning, but that is part of the learning process.
M.S.’s Scoutmaster needs training starting with Scoutmastership Fundamentals and, later, Wood Badge.
Coral Gables, Fla.
It sounds as if the junior leaders in M.S.’s troop may have had some training but the adult leaders have not. How can the adults deliver the Scouting program if they don’t know how it works?
I would bet that the troop’s Scouters have not had training, probably do not attend leaders’ roundtables, and take the boys camping only at a camp with a parking lot close-by for their trailers.
The troop committee and chartered organization need to take a hard look at how the troop is being run and evaluate the leadership. How many units have we seen fold because of poor adult leadership?
District Training Chairman J.B.
M.S. should call a meeting of his troop’s patrol leaders’ council to address the issue. Plan a course of action with specific guidelines you want to follow. Develop a good program and stick to it.
Invite the Scoutmaster to meet with the PLC to go over the plan. The boy leaders should insist on a specific time frame to implement the program.
Fort Worth, Tex.
As an Eagle Scout and former troop leader, I have been lucky enough to have had boy-run troops. As a Scoutmaster, I needed and actively encouraged input on camping trips and other activities from my senior Scouts, including my cadre of Eagles. Many of my Eagles went on to become Scoutmasters themselves.
The first lesson I learned in Scoutmaster basic training is: An adult leader’s primary responsibility is to train boy leaders to run the troop.
Scouts elect boy leaders, who in turn should attend a junior leader training course. The adult leader holds a patrol leaders’ council meeting so boys can plan meetings, set up camping trips, plan menus, schedule skills instruction, track advancement, etc.
Adult leaders function as a rudder on a ship. They guide, never lead, and have only three minutes during a troop meeting to talk.
The boy leaders conduct all meetings. Any corrections or adjustments in a planned troop function will be made at the patrol leaders’ council meeting.
East St. Louis, Ill.