Help! My Son Doesn’t Want to Be a Scout
A Question about a Son Who Doesn’t Want to Be A Scout Anymore
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. So that might be part of the reason he is telling you he doesn’t want to be a Scout.
What Makes a Youth Want to Be a Scout?
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 will help them want to be a Scout
- A parent who is actively involved in the program and fully participates in outings and meetings.
These seem to all be factors which impact whether a young man or woman will want to be a Scout or not.
If the program is good, but he still doesn’t want to be a Scout and 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 does not want to be a Scout but 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 about what makes a young person want to be a Scout.
Do you have a question about Scouting? Ask it here.
This is a similar question from another reader, but it relates to a whole troop. “My son has just crossed over into Scouts BSA 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 Scouts BSA 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?”
And this is another question and answer along the same line. “I have looked over the book and am kind of trying to get a feel for where to start. I am struggling with trying to be a supportive mom, yet not overly do for him. But he needs a starting point. I wonder if you have any advice for a mom of a new, kind of nervous, scout. Actually, I am amazed he’s going through with joining. I don’t want him to lose enthusiasm but he seems kind of lost at the moment.”
From Scouting Magazine.
If you recruit new Scouts into your troop without a plan for retaining your existing members, you’re just spinning your wheels.
Help Scouts get the most out of this life-changing organization with a program that keeps them coming back week after week.
Scout retention requires a long-term plan where adult leaders and youth leaders work together to create compelling troop meetings and memorable outings.