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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. 

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.