Parents in the Troop

A Parent's New Role in the Troop

You may be wondering—even a little nervous—about what your role is in Scouting. Well, your first role in Scouting is simply to continue what you are doing: Be a parent. Help your scout succeed. Be supportive. Follow through. You're here because you see value in the Scouting program. Help that value come through. There will always be times when your scout doesn't want to go the weekly meeting or seems to be losing interest in advancing and doing his best in Scouting. That's when he needs a parent's encouragement. Scouting works best when the whole family is behind it.

And you're probably dreading the standard call for volunteers that you hear from school and every other organization you are associated with. Well, don't get me wrong — Scouting operates only because we have great volunteers. And yes, we hope that you will offer to help out the troop in some way. We have volunteer roles of every size and every type. Even if you only have a few minutes a month to help us out, we can use you.

But being a Scouting volunteer isn't just another chore you take on because you have to. Let's hear some typical experiences of Scouting volunteers:

"When I first got into Scouting, it was because of my child. I thought it would be a great program for him. What I didn't realize then was what a great program Scouting has been for me. I have met so many great people in Scouting and have made some great friends. It is something I wasn't looking for and didn't expect. I know I'll always be with friends at a Scout meeting or event."

"When I first got into Scouting, I expected to just drive my child to meetings and drop them off. I'm not an outdoor person. I work in an office all day. But when the committee chairman announced that they were looking for a new treasurer, I figured that would be a small way that I could contribute, so I put my hand up. Well, I was surprised to find that even my skills were needed by the troop. Everyone really appreciates what I do, and I've even started taking an interest in the outdoor stuff—I went on my first campout last month, and it was a blast!"

"With my job, I don't really have a lot of free time, and I don't have a regular schedule, so I can't really go to Scout meetings or on campouts. But they told me that as a merit badge counselor, I could meet with Scouts whenever it was convenient for me. This way I get a chance to share my woodworking hobby with these great scouts , and can do it on my schedule."

"One of the things that surprised me, after I had been an assistant Scoutmaster for a year or so, was that I had starting applying things to my job that I learned in Scouting. The training for Scouting adults is excellent and has a lot of practical applications. It's a lot more than learning to tie knots."

"I don't have a lot of time I can contribute to the troop. But one thing I did sign up for is to be a troop committee member so I can sit on boards of review. Boards of review are like little job interviews, where adult committee members ask the Scouts about their experiences in the troop and what they have learned. It is so rewarding to have a real conversation with those scouts ."

Regardless of your skills or interests, there is something you share with all Scouting volunteers that makes your involvement priceless—your interest in having your scout in the best possible Scouting program.

Cub Scouts vs. Scouts

Let's focus on the youth-led concept of Scouting. As mentioned on other pages, it is different than how Cub Scouting works, and it is different from the way a lot of youth activities are run, where the adults decide what to do and the youth do it. Scouting is different, and it is sometimes difficult for adults to realize that we have a different role and a different goal. In Cub Scouting and in many other programs, our goal is to have fun activities and generate achievements. Our role is to make sure that the activities happen, that the achievements take place.

Scouting is different. In Scouting, the role of the scouts is to have fun activities and generate achievements. The role of the adults is not the destination, but the journey. That is, our responsibility as adults is to promote the "process" of Scouting. What is important for us is:

  • Not the food on the campout, but that the scouts cooked it.
  • Not a sharp-looking flag ceremony, but that the scouts put it together.
  • Not who would make the best patrol leader, but that the scouts elect one.
  • Not that Johnny learns first aid, but that Billy teaches him.
  • Not that we cover everything on the meeting agenda, but that the senior patrol leader is in charge.

Our goal is not to get things done, but to create a safe and healthy environment with the training and resources that the Scouts need, and then let them do it. It can be a very messy business, and painful to watch. Meetings where the scout leaders are in charge can be very chaotic. And it can be very tempting for adults to jump in and sort things out, because that is what adults do. But we have to remember that that is the process of Scouting. That is how they learn—even from disorganization and failure. We just have to remember that our business as adults is not the same as the business of the scouts. It is up to them to get things done. It is up to us to make sure they have what they need, but (within the bounds of health and safety) not what they do with it.

Now, a word about Youth Protection. The BSA Scouts of America has had a very strong program in place for many years to protect our youth from abuse of all kinds. We require all of our leaders to be trained in Youth Protection, and to refresh that training at regular intervals. There are some rules we follow that you will hear about, such as two-deep leadership and no one-on-ones. That means that there should not be a situation where a Scout leader is alone with a single Scout. There are other rules and policies as well, and we encourage you to take the training and learn about Scout Youth Protection.