Stephanie sent in this question
My son has just crossed over into Boy Scouts with 11 other boys. Since this group has crossed over in Feb. the boys are dropping out fast. Of the 11 there are 4 or 5 left. The same complaint is being heard by all the parents. The fun is gone. I know Boy Scouts is different than Cubs, but is it supposed to be no fun? Is there a suggestion I can take to the Scoutmaster that might help him keep these boys interested?
The key to fun is letting the youth lead the troop. The PLC (Senior Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, and Patrol Leaders) should be planning activities which help Scouts advance but are also fun. A common problem is that meetings become totally focused on advancement with kids sitting around “working” and getting things checked off.
A better approach is to let the youth leaders first plan what they want to do – a theme for the month for example – and then they can decide how that fits in with advancement and the other methods of Scouting. They should ask their troopmates what they are interested in doing. Your son and his friends should suggest to the PLC what they would like to do. The Boy Scout troop program features are a good start if your PLC is not sure how to do this. These contain a month’s worth of troop meeting plans with a good balance of instruction and fun.
Your youth leaders might need more training also. If your troop is not sending Scouts to National Youth Leadership Training every year, start raising some funds to send a few next year. Our troop tries to send about three every year. They will learn leadership skills and will also come home with a whole set of team building, instructional, and initiative games.
Finally, Scoutmasters are typically overworked and underpaid. Very few troops have too many adult leaders. Your youth leaders need a lot of mentoring and help. I always recommend that adults who really want to improve the troop go to Adult Leader Training (sometimes known as Scoutmaster Training). This is not just for Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters. Training will help the parents understand the program better and know how to help. Both moms and dads can get trained.
Training is important because parents often want to do something to help the program, but without a good understanding of the methods of Boy Scouting they will often introduce ideas which are not consistent with the appropriate methods. This can lead to tension between the Scoutmaster and the parents. Parents will think that the Scoutmaster is ignoring their input, when in fact he or she might just be trying to run the program the way it is intended to be run. Sometimes the methods of Boy Scouting seem inefficient or just don’t make sense to somebody who is not trained.
I hope that helps. Perhaps some readers can add their input in the comments below.