What to do when Scouter’s young age poses problem with Scouts and Leaders

When a 21-year-old assistant Scoutmaster said that Scouts and Scouters see him as “a kid,” readers suggested steps—including more leadership training—to help improve his standing as an adult with both groups.

There is no doubt that 21-ish adults have a particular challenge in bridging the gap between the youth and adult. But young adults are among our greatest assets, especially in working with teenagers in Venturing crews, for they serve as role models.

We “old” adults, who are often of the same generation as Scouts’ parents or grandparents, sometimes seem to be in a different world from the Scouts, who may find it difficult to believe we truly understand what life is like for them.

Younger adult leaders are close enough in age to Scouts that there is an assumption of understanding between them. It is easier for Scouts to truly try to be just like them, as young adults set the example in the way they relate to others and live their lives.

Young adult Scouters should remember this and hold themselves to a high standard of behavior. If they do, older Scouters will grow to recognize their worth.

I highly recommend that young Scouters take the adult leader training offered by their district because it will help them project a knowledgeable air.

Columbia, Md.

I am reminded of myself as a brand-new Army second lieutenant 30 years ago and can offer the following advice.

First, take your position and your duties seriously but avoid taking yourself too seriously.

Second, seek out a mentor from among the experienced Scouters around you. Share your thoughts and experiences with him or her, and use this person to help bolster your base of knowledge and your own self-confidence.

Third, take advantage of all training opportunities and attend monthly roundtables.

Fourth, volunteer to take on any organizational and planning duties that present themselves. Others will soon see that you are capable, responsible, and worthy of respect.

Lastly, make certain that your actions fit the image of a leader. If you act more like “one of the boys” than “one of the men,” it will be difficult for Scouts and Scouters to treat you consistently the way you see yourself.

Colonel, U. S. Army-Ret. and Assistant Scoutmaster D.B.,
Tomahawk, Wis.

The way J.S. can make others treat him as a mature adult will be by handling himself as an adult. As a young person, he offers tremendous energy to the program, but he needs to act as an adult and not one of the gang.

I suggest that he focus on a particular area—perhaps the new Scout patrol, and help the boys with advancement. The young Scouts will always see him as an adult, and he will earn respect in the eyes of other adult leaders as well.

Arlington Heights, Ill

The question shows J. S.’s own doubts more than the doubts of others. The Scouts and other adult leaders are waiting for him to step up to the plate.

J.S. has a better understanding of what a boy-run troop should be than most of the parents, so he should stay away from tasks that a troop guide or senior patrol leader might do. Instead, he should grab some important work of the troop committee. He might also think about what he might do on the district or council level, on camp staff, or with Cub Scouts. Finally, he should take advantage of adult leadership training.

Santa Cruz, Calif.

I can sympathize with J.S. I am a 19-year-old assistant Scoutmaster who grew up in my troop and became an Eagle Scout. I’ve found the best way to gain the respect of the adult leaders is to prove myself to them. I make sure I am responsible for various activities, and I make sure to get them done. If a young Scouter does that, older leaders will begin to realize that he is a responsible adult.

Once the adult leaders treat you as a fellow leader, the Scouts will see you as an adult, too.

Another way to improve your standing with the Scouts (although not always feasible) is to join another unit as a leader, to grow a little more, so when you come back to your original troop, you will be a more seasoned leader.

I went to Switzerland to work at the international Scout center for three months. That time away helped me to grow in Scouting, and the Scouts saw me in a different light.

Assistant Scoutmaster T.S.
Baltimore, Md.

First, J.S. should take as much adult leader training as possible. Obviously he needs Boy Scout Leader Specific Training, and he should also take Wood Badge.

Second, he should volunteer to help with district events or to help the district training staff.

This has three benefits: You learn what a Scouter does, you show leaders and Scouts that you are worth taking seriously as a knowledgeable adult, and the fellowship of older Scouters who are involved will rub off on you.

San Francisco, Calif.

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