How to juggle the roles of dad and Scout leader

Assistant Scoutmaster R.S.’s son, a first-year Scout, keeps leaving troop activities to ask his dad questions and hand him things to hold. He asked for tips on redirecting his son without rejecting him. What Would You Do Dad Leader

In our troop, all adults are addressed by title and surname—Mr. Smith, Dr. Jones, etc.—including parents. Requiring your son to address you in this way will make him pause, think twice about the situation, and hopefully realize that, at that moment, you are a leader and not just “Dad.”

Assistant Scoutmaster R.R.
Beacon Falls, Conn.

I vividly recall the first Boy Scout campout my son, Henry, and I went on when he was a Webelos Scout. My son called to me to ask for help. As I was walking to my son, the Scoutmaster got between us, called to one of the senior Scouts and said, “Would you help Henry? Mr. Coy shouldn’t be doing this.” In one simple sentence the Scoutmaster had taught three people: my son (go ask your patrol leader or some other senior Scout), me (your job is to hang out with the adults), and a senior Scout (you have to help the new Scouts just as you were helped when you were new).

Committee Member C.C.
Austin, Tex.

Get him a daypack that he can use to carry his Scouting essentials in, including his handbook. That will give him a place to put his jacket or other items he wants you to hold for him. When he comes with a question, gently advise him, as you would any other Scout, to ask his patrol leader or troop guide. If you treat him like any other Scout when he comes to you, he will soon start to think of you as a troop adult, not just his dad.

Assistant Scoutmaster S.McD.
Portland, Ore.

WHOM TO ASK? Have a discussion at home with him about the patrol method, your respective positions in the troop, and the proper way to get questions answered. It’s tough at first, but you’ll both get used to it. You have to be consistent, though, or it won’t work.

Assistant Scoutmaster B.H.
Matthews, N.C.

Talk to the senior patrol leader. Let him know that your son is having issues remembering that this is Boy Scouts, and he will take care of it. His assistant senior patrol leaders, patrol leaders, and troop guides will keep a lookout.

Scoutmaster B.S.
Fishers, Ind.

When my son would try to bring me things to hold, I would hand them back and say, “Thank you. However, you need to put this where you can find it.”

Coalinga, Calif.

Have another adult leader intervene. If I see Scouts headed for the adult area, I head them off and ask where they’re going. Usually it ends with me turning them around and sending them back to their patrol, letting them know they can talk to their parent after the meeting.

Scoutmaster T.H.
Albany, Ore.

As a longtime Scoutmaster, assistant Scoutmaster, and public school teacher, I let my children know that they, too, have expectations to follow and are to do what the other children are expected to do. If they need any special help, I can offer this to them at home (or on the ride home).

Scoutmaster G.K.S.
Las Cruces, N.M.

I just look at him and say “Your dad isn’t on this trip. Go ask your patrol leader.”

Assistant Scoutmaster K.C.
Mullica Hill, N.J.

My son did this when we first started in Boy Scouts. I told him that if he needed anything, he must go through his patrol leader first. The adult leaders had an agreement that we would not be a direct line of interaction with our own sons, and we informed our Scouts, patrol leaders, and senior patrol leader our intent behind it: to avoid favoritism. This has been the norm, and it has worked very well for us.

Scoutmaster D.N.
Elizabethtown, Ky.

I had the same issues with my son. Teach him with love, and hold him accountable like you already do with the rest of the boys. As you consistently and faithfully adhere to the EDGE method, he will understand in time. You both are finding your way through challenges among your peers. Scouting builds boys into men, and these lessons are how that is accomplished.

Committee Chair A.Z.
Eagle Mountain, Utah

The stock answer for all us Scoutmasters is, “Ask your patrol leader.” After a few times, he will get the message, as do all the Scouts. Good luck! You and your son are setting out on a wonderful adventure.

Scoutmaster R.S.
Hagerstown, Md.

When you are both in attendance at a Scouting activity, event, or meeting, they need to understand you are the assistant Scoutmaster, but you’re still Dad or Mom. You’re still concerned about their safety and well-being, but you are there as one of their leaders. Of course, our parental ties to a Scout cannot help but give them a leg up and ensure they stay active in Scouting longer and attend more camporees, summer camps, and events—just because you’re their leader.

Scoutmaster G.B.
Park Hills, Mo.

The longstanding tradition in our troop is that there are no “Dads” or “Moms” in the unit. All Scouts, including our own sons, address all adults as “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Jones.” It helps from both sides to level the field.

Scoutmaster C.B.
Fort Worth, Tex.



  1. Who in their right mind would have their own son force him to call him Mr. Name on scouting activities and steer his son away from him?!? I understand about not wanting the father to become a crutch for the son, but the only reason I would volunteer as a father in my son’s troop is to get closer to my son, not to keep him at arm’s length. The father does need to steer the son toward self reliance and maturity, but to pretend that one’s son is not one’s son is asinine.

    • I toldly agree with you. The whole purpose for an parent to join as a volunteer in scouting is to be closer to his son and have some more time with him to totally even some places forcefully be pushed away from mom or dad. Is basically going to confuse him and make him feel like he isn’t loved by his family. Actually you do hear the rumors of fathers showing faviortism. If that is so scoutmaster or CC should talk with him. But what I’ve seen recently is that the parents are a little more harder on there kid as well. Because most often the parent knows what the kid knows. So he Expects more. Now sure a scout with a parent in scouting would do better probal becouse he/she knows what is going on as well as the kid. The camping trip coming up, the Merit badge he needs to finish. Verse the parent who walks in with there son and makes sure all is well. Goes out leaving the kid there then comes back to here the anoncements. Then my pet pve with scouting. The parent that pulls up practacly throws the kid out the door. Drives off and comes back at meetings in waiting for there son to come out. I even once had a new scout parent asked there son to bring out the sign up sheets for camping trips coming out. I told him she had to come in and sign up we couldn’t slow them out like that. I know parents have things to take care of once in a while. But really, come on this isn’t Babysitters of America. I’m fine with coming in and making sure all is well then run an errand then come back for announcements. But the “get out son be back waiting out here for you when your done. They be glad I’m not scoutmaster. I would try to find a way to make it manitory that the parent come in with them and I wouldn’t let them out of the building until the parent comes in to pick them up. Where I can go oh hey Mr. Tom hey I need a couple more parents to come on the scout trip coming up and I was informed that you don’t work on weekends can I put your name down. I think it might help your son out. And if they come in angry about waiting an hour outside for tommy to come out. ” I’m sorry. I’m not going to let tommy go outside where anyone can just pick him off the street. I need to make sure who he is going home with so there is no problems on my part. So next week if you want to go home on time I would suggest coming in instead of waiting outside. And if you come in earlier you get some info about some trips coming up that could benefit you and your son.

      Any way sorry for the rant there it is really a pet pve of mine. But totally fathers should be fathers and treat the scouts the same and help teach them responsibility mostly by saying the all purpose answer. “Go talk to your Patrol Leader First”

  2. Advancement to First Class should come from taking part in an active outdoor troop program lead by older scouts. Advancement above First Class should take place when the Scout wants to advence and the Scoutmaster provides the Scout with the names of qualified counselors from a list provided by the district advancement committee. The Scoutmaster encourages advancement in periodic conferences with the Scout

  3. From a young age its been a rule in our house if its your item it’s your responsibility. I will not carry your stuff I will not ask you to carry mine. If the Webelos den is run like mine with a dinner and den chief these are your SPL and PL. Makes the transition much easier.

  4. I can’t understand what parent would actually think that it was acceptable to talk to their kids as it was recommended in this article. I am currently a life scout and have grown up in the scouting environment since I was a tiger in cub scouts. The whole initial reason my father and I joined was to have some bonding time together. Granted, the cub scout environment and Boy Scout environment are completely different. However, having my dad involved in scouting, especially growing up was very beneficial (at least in my opinion) to my development. I’m not going to lie though, I was very attached and very reliant of my father during scouting, especially because of the fact that I was an only child. I’d never call my dad Mr. M or Scoutmaster or anything else except for the word dad because that’s what he is to me. A father is still a father and a child is still a child in scouting, it’s just that their rolls change a little bit. I eventually grew up and noticed that there was a chain of command and that there should be some separation between my dad and I. The parent/scoutmaster doesn’t have to do anything to influence that. This is part of a natural development. Your scout/child will just realize that he has to communicate with his fellow scouts and friends before he goes directly to you. And despite the fact that I relied on my dad a lot as a younger scout, I grew up. I wound up becoming the Senior Patrol Leader for four terms, a scribe for five, and a chaplain aid for three continuous terms all without the assistance of my father right there by my side. Any leader should be there to offer guidance for a scout, especially a parent.

    I view this article to be very harsh and to be very forward. Sorry to say it, but I just don’t think this article offers valid suggestions on how to deal (or at least) comply with such an issue.

  5. I agree with most of this article. I don’t expect my son to address me as “Mrs.” I am mom and that will be my first role in any situation. I do, however, nudge him to be more independent and consult with the SPL and SM when issues come up.

  6. I’ve never been called overly religious. My child is not calling Mr “Mister” anything. That’s one step away from first name, which most youth may eventually get to use – when they are adults. I’m Dad and will remain so. See the 5th Commandment (KJE). It’s not just the term of endearment, it’s more a matter of Honor and respect.

    The youngest has been to a dozen BSA resident camps with me and has never, as a Boy Scout come to me when he should be at the PL or another leader. HE learned from watching his older brother. But he will call me Dad.

  7. My sons always called me dad when I was their Scoutmaster. They were allowed to ask me questions as all my scouts were. The whole “adult area” thing is bewildering to me. If you don’t want to interact with the Scouts why are you in scouting? We did do at least one campout a year which I didn’t attend and one campout a year that they didn’t attend if they didn’t want to. My troop ended up doing that with all the dad’s and their sons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.