Elizabeth sent in this question
My son will be crossing over in a few weeks. He has worked hard to get his arrow of light and is proud of it. But he is flatly refusing to continue with scouting. I’m heartbroken about it. His personality is such that he doesn’t want to “do” anything. I kid you not, he balks at being given the opportunity to go to his favorite theme park! He was required to be in scouts until now and has always said he wouldn’t continue, or he’d take a year off or something. So, my question is for advice. I have tried to make it sounds really cool, he’s got friends moving up and friends in a troop now but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I can’t force him so am I doomed to this disappointment?
This is a difficult situation. Anyone who has ever had a pre-teen or teenager knows that you can’t force them to enjoy an activity. This is the age when they are becoming more independent. And they often assert that independence by expressing which activities they want to participate in and which they don’t.
The three main factors I have observed in whether youth stick with Scouts BSA are not are
- A good program with activities the youth enjoy. This is where the youth-led troop is key.
- Friends in the program
- A parent who is actively involved in the program and fully participates in outings and meetings.
If the program is good, but he still doesn’t want to participate, there is little you can do. Sometimes there are things which are competing for a boy’s attention which are also good for his development – sports, theater, band, etc. On the other hand, if he just wants to stay home and play video games and watch TV, maybe he needs some limits put on that. If he has a lot of free time and cannot engage in those activities, he might be more willing to fill the void with Scouting. But it should not be presented as a punishment for not participating. He needs to understand the importance of being well rounded.
It sounds like point #2 is already covered. He has friends in the troop. One of the best recruiting tools is when boys come back from a campout and tell their friends about all of the fun things they did. So if he does decide to “take a year off” that might be the encouragement he needs to get involved.
If your son does join the troop, I encourage you to get involved. By far, the sons of the parents who are actively involved in the troop seem to stay with the program a lot more. You might need to attend some training or learn how to hike and camp. But if you are asking your son to do something he isn’t comfortable with, shouldn’t you be willing to do the same?
Some kids just need a little additional motivation. I knew a parent who took his son out for ice cream after meetings. Sure, it was a bribe. This particular young man was an introvert and just needed a little extra incentive to get out of his comfort zone. He did stick with it long enough to get his Eagle.
Readers, what do you think? Add your ideas to the comments below.