Badges vs. Badgering

Illustration by Darren Thompson

Ideas from the field: Promote advancement without being pushy.

Some parents in Scouter J.T.ís troop push their sons toward the Eagle Scout rank from day one; others give no thought to advancement. He asked for advice on helping parents find a healthy balance between the two extremes.



NO FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
The key is a lot of communication with parents, especially at the beginning. They (and their Scouts) may not understand the differences between Cub Scouts, where an adult plans meetings that lead to advancement, and Boy Scouts, where the PLC plans meetings that may or may not contribute to advancement goals.

When parents seem too eager, remind them that the process of advancement is as important as the checked-off boxes. For some Scouts, calling an unknown merit badge counselor and setting up meetings may be as much a learning experience as the actual requirements of the badge.

Committee Chair L.R.
Yokosuka, Japan


HAVE A FIRESIDE CHAT
Have quiet, informal talks with groups of parents. Discuss the aims of Scouting and the methods of Boy Scouting. Talk about the opportunities along the trail, including the Order of the Arrow and high adventure. Tell them Boy Scouting is a journey, not a race.

Unit Commissioner J.P
Parkville, Mo.


ALL ABOUT THE BOYS
Explain that the Eagle rank is for the kids, not the parents. My son had some learning problems and needed to be pushed, but I kept asking him if he still wanted Eagle. As long as he said yes, I would remind him what he needed to do. He received his Eagle 10 years ago!

Scoutmaster S.J.
Middle River, Md.


USE ASSISTANT SCOUTMASTERS
When I was Scoutmaster, I assigned an assistant Scoutmaster to each patrol. The ASM could monitor Scoutsí advancement and mentor them. Parents could ask the ASM how they could help at home without being a nag.

R.D.
Lima, N.Y.


THROW THE BOOK AT THEM
I encourage new parents to pick up their sonís Scout handbook and see how it is different from Cub Scouts. We explain how merit badges work. In Scouts, the boys get the ranks and merit badges, not the adults. Parents need to let the boy think for himself.

Committee Member K.H.
Poplar Grove, Ill.


SUPPORT YOUR SCOUTS
We have helped some boys approach their parents to ask them to back off a bit, which is hard for any child to do for fear of disappointment. It goes well when we sit down as a group with the Scout and parents and explain whatís going on and what could be done differently.

Committee Chair D.H.
Douglasville, Ga.


PLAN YOUR WORK, WORK YOUR PLAN
The best thing for our troop has been to have Scouts come up with a timeline on their own without their parents. They may not be realistic at first, but when you sit down with them and discuss future conflicts (driving, dating, college search, etc.), they usually can develop a reasonable path. Then you help them develop a plan to get there.

Committee Chairman D.E.
Landsdale, Pa.


GOING TWO BY TWO
How about pairing up the gung-ho Eagle-aspiring Scout and the more laid-back Scout as advancement partners? They could work together toward smaller goals such as merit badges. As the laid-back Scout becomes more involved and excited about his own advancement, his parents hopefully will, too.

Committee Member D.S.
Horizon City, Tex.


ACTIVITIES OVER ADVANCEMENT
If a boy is enjoying himself and participating regularly in activities, itís O.K. if heís not advancing. If the troop is putting on a good, active program, advancement should come naturally. It should not be treated as a separate component.

Assistant Scoutmaster M.W.
Soldotna, Alaska


WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE
The first three ranks are still a parent push time. After that, the Scout has to want to go further. Parents who get too involved after that point cheapen the award for their son. I earned my Eagle at 17.75 [years old] and enjoyed the ride. My parents were proud of me, but it was those things I had to do on my own as a Life Scout and the ďalways regretĒ talk my Scoutmaster had with me at 17 that really pushed me over the top.

Assistant Scoutmaster R.K.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa


TAKE DOWN BARRIERS
I try to remove organizational barriers. Either the advancement chair or his assistant is at every troop meeting as a resource. We always have enough committee members at each troop meeting to convene a board of review, and any Scout completing his board of review is recognized that night.

Committee Chairman E.M.
West Chester, Ohio


PARENTING 101
Hold a meeting with the new parents and explain the advancement process. If possible, have a panel of senior Scouts answer parentsí questions about advancement. Stress that not everybody gets Eagle and that advancement is only one of the eight methods of Scouting.

If you find adults that still appear prone to controlling their childís advancement, encourage them to complete the requirements for the Boy Scout Leaderís Training Award. It gives them their own recognition to work toward while increasing the number of trained leaders in your unit.

College Scouter M.M.
Kirkland, Wash.

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