As we have continued our involvement and journey in Scouting and while trying to recruit or help other families do the same, I have encountered two very common concerns about Scouting expressed mostly by mothers of young boys or former Scout moms. While they recognize the benefits and intentions of doing Scouting, they have become frustrated or burned out while helping their son earn his achievements. These two concerns might very well have been expressed like this:
“I’m OK with my son doing Scouting, but I don’t want to have to hound him constantly to get things done or passed off. I want him to do it and not me.”
“If he doesn’t want to do it, then I don’t want to make him.”
The other concern goes something like this:
“I don’t really understand why we would need Scouting. Our family loves to camp and hike and we do that on our own. I don’t see the point of making him do Scouting.”
These two concerns have been voiced by several parents in one form or another and I have had the opportunity to respond to them a few times. Since these concerns are common, I would like to record some thoughts or responses that I can share with you.
To the first concern about not wanting to have to constantly remind them to get things done, my response is in two parts. First, Advancement isn’t everything! It seems that a lot of families have felt an inordinate amount of stress to help their Scout achieve the awards and rank advancement such as the Eagle rank and as fast as possible. The other feeling might be that earning the Eagle rank is the only value or purpose in Scouting. I would like to address that by reminding everyone what the purpose and goals are in Scouting. The goal is not simply to earn the Eagle – that is rather a method in scouting. The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law. Whatever rank a Scout achieves may not matter if they develop and achieve the mission. Now, obviously we encourage rank achievement as one of the methods of Scouting, but it is only 1 out of 8 methods we use to achieve the mission. The 8 methods of Scouting include:
- The Ideals of Scouting as expressed in the Oath and Law
- The Patrol Method
- Outdoor Programs
- Advancement (to Eagle)
- Association with Adults
- Personal Growth
- Leadership Development
One more thing to add to this; Now that we have the mission in mind, Scouting has 4 goals or aims to achieve to support the mission. The aims or goals of Scouting are Character development, Leadership development, Citizenship training and Physical Fitness. These 4 goals support the mission and are accomplished by the 8 methods of Scouting.
Therefore, I would like to emphasize that advancement to Eagle rank is only one part or piece of Scouting and the goals and mission could be achieved without it. All of the methods of Scouting work together to help youth develop character, leadership, citizenship and fitness. It may well be better measured by their level and length of their involvement rather than their rank. Hopefully, if the program is successful and fun, the advancement will take care of itself. Outdoor programs, games and the fun of Scouting is supposed to help the learning and the achievement happen, not the other way around.
Now, the second part of my answer to the first concern is: Why not help and encourage them to finish their requirements and awards?! What is wrong with helping them, reminding them, encouraging them, and holding them accountable for their work? Do we not do that with their homework for school? Do coaches not do that during their sports practices? Do their music teachers not do that? It is OK to do that! Yes, it can be frustrating sometimes, but when done with love and kindness as well as skill and planning, we can help our youth to become better. We can help them prepare for the future. It is one of our most important and sacred duties to do so. Yes, it takes effort on our part, but I cannot think of anything more important than helping our youth succeed in life. If we truly believe in the mission, goals and methods of Scouting, then it is worth the effort.
Finally, I would like to address the second most common concern I have heard about Scouting expressed by parents and that is: Why do we need it when we could do all of these things as a family? Or “Their father can take them camping and teach them how to hike or climb or whatever.” My answer is: Youth need other youth, peer groups and other adults in their development. There are certain things that are learned best, or only learned by participating in peer groups and other social interaction. Obviously, we believe that the family unit is the most important foundation of our society and it is the most important part of their lives. However, for our youth to grow and develop into healthy, responsible and moral citizens and leaders they need a lot of social, intellectual and spiritual development outside of the home. They need lots of healthy and positive interactions with others of their age group as well as interaction with other adults. Now these interactions can be achieved in a number of ways which include school, sports teams, church activities and others. Of all of the choices we have as parents about activities our children could be involved in, which ones are the most beneficial for their development? It will likely be a combination of activities that suits their interests and the interests of the family, but consider how many of them were specifically designed for youth development in all of the dimensions of their lives – physical, social, intellectual and spiritual? We hope to offer Scouting as a very attractive choice for parents to help their children, now both boys and girls, to achieve healthy and positive development. As mentioned before, the patrol method and association with good leaders in Scouting as well as challenging outdoor activities and leadership roles provide opportunities for this kind of balanced growth and development.
I will close by adding my testimony of Scouting. I believe this program was inspired in its inception and it has stood the test of times for over 100 years because of its goodness and applicability to our youth and families no matter the time or the place. It was a principal part of my youth and helped me become who I am today, and I am grateful for it. Indeed, I am grateful for the parents and leaders who made it possible for me and I am glad to make it happen for others. I know there are countless other testimonies just like mine of the importance and influence this program has had in their lives as well. I will now invite any and all of you to join us in this great movement. Become a scouting family!
Crossroads of the West Council