There he is, waiting for our reply; how do we respond to a Scout who wants to quit?
Not every boy is going to maintain an active interest in Scouts, it doesn’t automatically mean that anything is wrong with them, the program, or ourselves. I expect that every Scout will have a tough time once in a while, because I have tough times myself.
If a Scout says they want to quit imagine what you would like to hear if you were in their place. Few boys are going to approach an adult with something like this without having been told they have to, or without having agonized over it for some time. They are probably a little scared, and troubled by having to do this.
Nobody wants to lose a Scout. It’s upsetting and difficult when we do. We may feel angry or disappointed, but we must be careful not to turn that anger and disappointment back on the Scout. They don’t need someone to be judgmental and harsh, or have someone try to talk them out of their decision. They want someone to be understanding and empathetic. They want sincerity and respect.
If a Scout tells me they want to quit I may reply; ‘I want to quit sometimes too, but I know that the tough times I have as a Scoutmaster are worth it. Are you having a tough time with things? Would you be willing to tell me what’s going on? Maybe I can help.’
What seems small and insignificant to us can look very large in a Scout’s mind. They may be put off by something that is easy to fix, or their concerns may point out something we have missed. Whatever it turns out to be look at this as an opportunity to learn.
If they tell me that Scouts just doesn’t interest them I ask them what else they are doing. If they are involved in something like marching band (or any other activity) I may reply; ‘The marching band sounds like a lot of fun, you know you can take all the time you want to do that, we’ll always be here, you can be involved as much or as little as you want.’
Or perhaps; “I can understand that. I like listening to a marching band but I don’t think I’d be a very good band member. I am happy to hear that you are committed to that as sincerity as you are, maybe you aren’t as interested in Scouts as I am (just like I’m not as interested in the marching band). If you really think you want to stop doing Scouts altogether I’ll certainly be sorry to see you go. We could talk about how both Scouts and band could work if you want, but I certainly understand if you don’t.”
If they are going to leave Scouting I want them to go with a positive message; “You have been a valuable member of our Troop and I have enjoyed having you involved. I know you’ll be a welcomed addition to whatever you decide to do. I hope that you’ll continue to apply the Scout Oath and Law to what you do, I think you’ll find it works everywhere.”
Rather than agonizing over the Scouts we lose I am thankful for the time they have spent with us.