How to deal with an unruly parent

Chartered Organization Representative J.S. has a problem: A troop parent is constantly badmouthing the Scoutmaster (who J.S. thinks is doing a great job). He is looking for ways to rein in this unruly parent.


FILL OUT A COMPLAINT FORM

A fellow Scouter likes to say that her complaint form is the adult-leader application. If the parent has legitimate concerns, he or she should discuss them with you, as it is the chartered organization representative who screens and approves adult leadership. Otherwise, the parent should be invited to join the committee and put his or her ideas forth in the proper forum. Suggest that he or she take the online Fast Start training to get a better idea of what the Scoutmaster’s job is.

Committee Chairman F.M.
Novi, Mich.


TALK IT OUT

In a similar case, I sat down with the person and explained that we are here for the boys, and they are our priority. I then listened to everything the person had to say. It turned out it was a personal dispute with the Scoutmaster. Once the person was able to vent, the situation improved.

Scoutmaster T.R.
Harker Heights, Tex.


PUT UP OR SHUT UP

Offer this parent the position of assistant Scoutmaster to help work with the Scoutmaster to straighten out any perceived problems. Point out what the required training will be (This is Scouting, Leader Position-Specific, Youth Protection) before he or she can become active.

Also point out any additional meetings and training he or she will be expected to attend each month. Faced with the need to put up or shut up, the person doing all the complaining will usually shut up. In the few instances where the person steps up, you get someone who is beneficial to the program.

Council Executive Board
Member B.S.
Marshalls Creek, Pa.


SHOW THEM THE DOOR

I would confront the offensive parent, with the committee chair as your witness, and inform the parent that, as a consequence of his or her actions, he or she is no longer welcome at your troop’s activities. You will likely lose a Scout, but this parent’s toxicity can no longer be tolerated.

Chartered Organization Representative T.M.
Ankeny, Iowa


END IT NOW

I suggest a meeting with the disgruntled parent, the committee chair, the chartered organization representative, and the Scoutmaster. Allow the parent to present his or her issues with the Scoutmaster, allow the Scoutmaster to respond, and then allow all parties to come to a compromise. Be clear that the issue “dies” when you leave the room.

Cubmaster J.S.
Williamston, N.C.


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22 thoughts on “How to deal with an unruly parent

  1. The Chartered Organization Representative does not believe boys should be so “obsessed” with getting their Eagle rank and and the Committee Chair, Advancement Chair and Scoutmaster all engage in “stall tactics” and artificial methods to detain or fail scouts in their advancement so they cannot make Eagle until their senior year. The Advancement Chair says he cannot question the Scoutmaster’s authority- even defending bullying and denial of Scoutmaster conferences. The head of the chartered organization won’t get involved. The Committee Chair tries to stifle discussion of advancement problems at meetings. Boys leave the troop in anger and frustration, and the local Council defends the leaders’ questionable tactics because they don’t want to lose membership or the Scoutmaster. No one reaches out to the boys who leave, and anyone who questions the troop’s refusal to follow advancement policy is viewed as disloyal, a “fast-tracker” or a troublemaker. Who should be the watchdog in this scenario?

    • Issues that are not being handled adequately by the troop leadership should be brought to the attention of the District Scout Executive, and if necessary the Council Executive.

    • No one should artificially delay advancement. That is adding requirements and against BSA policy. The leaders agreed to abide by BSA policy when they signed the application.

      The parent’s part in this is easy — find another troop that is actually doing Scouting. Encourage others to do this. These people will be out of a job after all the boys leave.

      Transferring only costs $1. It is surprisingly easy. We’ve had several boys transfer into our troop.

    • It sounds like you don’t have many Troop options in your area if your Scouts think they have to stick with this toxic group. You need to decide how much you are willing to invest in fixing the situation. It sounds like time to start a new Troop, and those Scouts that have left the old Troop are excellent candidates for the new one. Parents and Scouts can tell when a leader has the best interests of the Scouts at heart, so do not doubt that this is a viable solution to your problem.

  2. (Sorry the above post was meant as a new question.)
    In response to the “unruly parent,” I think it is important to give that person a chance to air their grievances.
    I think it’s not really following the Scout Oath and Law to ask someone to leave a troop, True, this person’s complaints may also be unjustified and equally in violation of the Scout Oath and Law, but we should always make time to hear a person’s concerns and give them the benefit of the doubt. This is important from a a quality control standpoint, not to mention a youth protection standpoint. When one shuts the door on open dialogue, it creates an unhealthy envitonment. So, I recommend taking time to meet with the parent and hear their concerns and see if they have a point– that’s what the Troop Committee should be assisting with from a programming standpoint. You don’t want to give the impression of a closed, dictatorial environment. That’s not good for anyone– especially the Scoutmaster.

    • JP – As a Charter Rep, I mostly agree with what you say, but after having such an incident happen in front of the boys (with a Cubmaster and unruly parent) I took the parent aside and had a discussion. I have to disagree with you on the scout oath and law though, because open conflicts like this are NOT in the interest of the boys at any age. I was considering asking this parent not to return when he suggested the same thing himself and hinted that he had some mental health issues. Wow! You never know whats going on behind the scenes until you discuss it. Remember the overall consideration is what is best for all concerned, especially the boys.

  3. I have had a similar situation with our troop, some boys seem to be fast-tracked thru to Eagle yet other boys are left to either quit Scout altogether or have to fight for every rank that they get. Why in scouting does it still matters who you are and how much money you have? I thought scouting was more about teaching the boys to know right from wrong and how to be a good role model.

    • ZB, Many times it is nothing the unit adult leaders are doing that fast-tracks certain boys and not others but rather the boys parents either pushing (or sometimes trying to do the work for them) or holding them back (not getting them to outings or merit badge sessions) or the scout’s own level of ambition. My oldest son was stuck at Life for many years until his 4 1/2 year younger brother came into the troop and started pushing him at which point he finished his Eagle with 2 months to spare.

  4. BP- I didn’t realize this was done in front of the boys. Certainly, adults should not engage in this behavior and I do agree this is not in the best interest of the boys. I believe we all need to follow the adage, “praise in public, criticize in private.” Isn’t that in the BSA training materials? :}

  5. I agree with those who have said that a meeting should take place involving the disgruntled parent, the committee chair, the chartered organization representative, and the scoutmaster.

    The first thing that needs to discussed before any of the substance is the parent’s behavior. The Committee Chair or COR need to tell the parent that regardless of his/her issues, it is entirely inappropriate to raise them in front of the scouts at any time, and that regardless of the outcome of the meeting, if it ever happens again the parent and the scout will be immedaitely asked to leave the event and the troop.

    Next, explain to the parent that he or she is welcome to take their issues to the District Scout Executive if they are unsatisfied with the outcome of the meeting. The parent needs to know that there is an “out”

    Finally, ask the parent to outline their issues and the basis in fact for them, and have a discussion about what they would like to see done differently. See whether you can meet them halfway, and then at the end ask them if they would like to help implement the changes you’ve agreed on by becoming a trained adult leader.

  6. It is best to air the issue out. Frequently it is a boil over of an issue occurring among the Scouts, or an advancement issue. I have found that simply offering a forum leads to the offending party demurring from the opportunity.

  7. Too funny, because my unit would this is me. I don’t do it in public, but I call the committee on it when they mess up. Last time I got a 600 word missive from a CC blaming anyone and everyone else, including my son, for a simple “can we fix this advancement error?” question.

    Then, when it turned out I was right and the CC wasn’t, he went into what everyone proposes, “we should meet.”

    NO WAY! I’ve been a DL, WDL, ACM, CM, ASM, SM, MC, CC, plus service team leader and advisor in exploring and district chair, advisor, mc, and IH in Venturing. You don’t sit me down when your committee makes a mistake and try to tell me what you expect, at this point you should’ve learned that if I tell you theres a problem, you fix it.

    The COR may think the sm is doing great, and the sm may be doing a good job. Depending on the parent I would INSTEAD be looking at what the complaints are, trying to see if there is any justification or if the parent has, gee, just a little more knowledge than the average person on the subject, and work from there.

    Trust me, asking me to “discuss” what should’ve been a simple “let me check and get back to you” made me madder, it didn’t settle anything.

  8. One more thought: SCOUTS shouldn’t be punished (ie “asked to leave”) for disagreements between adults. We should make every effort to 1) hear concerns and 2) make scouts feel welcome. Leave the scouts out of it whenever possible!

  9. There’s a similar rift amongst our pack leadership. I’m the CR and am witnessing the self destruction of our Pack because the adults can’t seem to behave in an adult Scouter way. In this case, the unruly parent IS the Scout leader (DL, CM), and she refuses to meet with the Committee. The situation has bred discord among the boys in the Pack, and has nearly cost the Pack another DL and MC. Since she has no interest in what the DE has to say, I’m inclined to “Show her the door.” We’re going to lose 3 boys from the Pack because of this, and possibly 2 more from the Pack and 2 Scouts from the Troop if it continues. “Toxicity” is the right word, and any Scout leader who does not have the boys’ best interest at heart should find some other way to occupy their time.

    • Get everyone involved in an adult training program! As you go through the courses- especially Woodbadge- you can see the different stages of group development, and you can learn strategies to minimize the effect of “storming” in your group. You will learn strategies toward making lasting solutions that will provide a long term benefit to your boys!

  10. Obviously, each situation is different. Keeping your cool, and speaking moderately, can over-take the situation. Invite the parent to another room, with another adult, to attempt to extinguish the attitude. Do not corner the parent, have a place to sit down, and take notes. This will show the parent that you are taking things seriously. The best person to have with you is your Committee Chairman or Unit Commissioner.
    There is a side to every story. Every parent can only see the side that they are on, or their lack of knowledge of the program, or presence, allows them to be unaware of what is really going on. Always look at it from the parent’s point of view, and explain why they are right or wrong, but never tell them they are wrong. Keeping to works like, “I understand what you are saying, but here is what we have observed.” or “I agree with you, but here is my concern.” This type of redirecting can solve 90% of your parent’s perdicaments. Most parents want to be heard, and expect some type of median to be achieved. Do not attempt to keep everyone happy.
    Dispite what many will say, scouting is not an ‘Everybody Wins’ organization. Someone will always be unhappy with a decision, event, or position. Everything should be based on the greater good of the youth, because that is why we are here.
    Offer parents to be registered with the troop as a committee member, ScoutParent, or Assistant Scoutmaster. Have the troop send them to trainings in your local council to understand what the program is about.
    With all this being said, sometimes you have to be blunt with individuals who are unable to get the point, or who are being inappropriate. Never take on an individual by yourself. Always keep someone around who can vouch for what you say and do. Keep a record of Who you were talking to, What you were talking about, and When you had the conversation. Write down every aspect of the conversation, and what they conclusion was.

  11. One must not forget that the program is BOY LED. i find parents think that scoutmasters are the driving force of what is done. little do they know we make very few decisions and are there to be a help as these boys become leaders. I would sit with the parents with my SPL and my committee chair. we would talk over the problems. we would remind them what the purpose of scouting is. we would further educate them that what we as leaders do is “Trust them, Train them, and let them lead”

  12. I thank them for their input and hand them an adult application. Usually, they don’t say anything, ever again.

  13. In my experience, it usually works best if I take the parent aside and ask then what it is they think the leader is doing wrong, why they are doing it wrong, and how it should have been done..

    Then I explain how the program works and what it is supposed to do.

    Most of the time, it turns out the parent just didn’t understand how the program works or why we do what we do.

    In the few cases that the parents turn out to be “It’s all about my son only” parents, I tell them they can enjoy what we have or I can give them the location and times that other units meet if they want to go shopping for another unit.

  14. The answer to this is simple- training. The parent probably doesn’t understand the expectations of the unit being boy led. They further probably do not understand the role of the scoutmaster. The trick to this is to make sure that the scoutmaster is fully trained and that the entire unit leadership has attended all of the local training programs (including Woodbadge). Then invite the parent to attend, it will give them insight into the running of the troop, give them something to do, so that they aren’t so concerned how the scoutmaster is doing their job, and the youth benefit by getting another highly trained adult leader.

  15. The 4 most important questions to managing conflict:
    1. What do you want?
    2. What are you doing to get it?
    3. Is that working for you?
    4. Would you like to try something different?

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