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Encouraging a New Scout

Laurie recently wrote to me with this question:

Dear Scouter Mom, I am enjoying your website and facebook updates. I have a tiger and a just enrolled boy scout(14yo 8th grader) I am trying to figure out how to get him launched. I have been to 2 Scouts BSA meetings-on the peripherie, to try and get him connected with a troop. He is excited but nervous and since this is his first exposure to boy scouts ( he was a wolf when he was 7-not a real good experience) I feel like if he can get plugged in he would perhaps stick with it and catch the wave. He has a friend his age who is in his troop. that was the hook in. the troop camps once a month and is “boy led”. I am just not sure who to go to for advice or guidance about where my son should start.

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.

I have looked over tenderfoot rank and all that entails. This is where I think he should start. Some early success is needed here to maintain his interest. Any advice appreciated.

Basically, if you had a boy in this position how would you advise him to get started?

So, what steps can a parent take in encouraging a new Scout who has just joined a troop with little or no previous Scouting experience? We have had several kids join our troop in the past few years with a similar Scouting background. They have had very little or no Cub Scouting experience and have joined the troop in 7th or 8th grade. Some have stuck with it and some have not.

If you need help, you should talk to the troop Committee Chair. He or she should be able to help you or give you the name of a committee member who helps answer all of those questions from new parents. You might also want to check out Beginning Boy Scouts, which answers a lot of basic questions.
Although this book was written before Boy Scouts became Scouts BSA and has the older terminology, it is still a great resource if you are new to the program. The information still applies. )(

As far as helping him to stick with it, the biggest factors I see with those who have stayed with the program:

  1. A friend in their patrol who is an active member of the troop.
  2. Parents who are willing to get them to the meetings and activities.
  3. Parents who are willing to get involved with the troop committee and learn how Scouts BSA works.

You might be surprised that I didn’t mention the requirements in the handbook or advancement. My advice would be not to worry too much about advancement. If he is an active member of the troop, that will happen naturally. He will fulfill those requirements as part of what the troop does. If he feels he is not getting enough support in advancement, he can talk to his patrol leader or the troop guide.

It sounds like he already has the first point covered.

For the second point, all I can advise is to take the time to make sure he gets to as many troop meetings and activities as possible. I know it can be difficult for families with busy schedules, but there is no substitute for being with the troop. Unlike Cub Scouts, there is not much he can accomplish at home on his own as a new Scout. The fun is in being with the other guys. And the more he does with them, the more comfortable he will become.

For the third point, contact the Committee Chair and ask how you can help the troop. The best way to start is to ask when the committee meets. Our troop committee meets once a month and parents are encouraged to attend whether they are official committee members or not. In the committee meetings, you will find out about what different roles they need adults to fill in the troop. You should also find out about training opportunities so you can understand the program better.

If you are interested in knowing more about Scouts BSA, I also recommend you set up an account at My Scouting. After you login, click on eLearning on the left. Then go to the Boy Scout tab. Scroll down to see the full course list. I recommend you take these courses:

  • This Is Scouting
  • Fast Start: Scouts BSA
  • Troop Committee Challenge

Those three courses will give you a good overview of the Scouts BSA program. Of course, you should feel free to take any of the other courses there also. You will need to do the Youth Protection training if you get more involved in the troop. If you have any trouble finding the right courses, your Committee Chair should be able to help you out.


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