Many Scouts will, at some point, resist going any further in Scouting. When does a parent intervene and make him stay in Scouts?
Just about every boy will reach some impasse along the way that will make them reluctant or downright adamant about participating. If you are a Scouting parent it’s more than likely that this is going to happen to you; don’t be surprised. Your son is probably not much different than the millions of other Scouts who preceded him.
These concepts are generalities but boys are individuals and every one needs individual attention.
There are three general scenarios that may influence a boy’s desire to stay in Scouts:
They Encounter Predictable Changes
As boys grow up they change. They lose interest in some things and become interested in others. Even though this is a healthy, natural, process parents may find it unsettling or confusing.
They are Subject to Peer Pressure
The shifting standards of youth culture at many different levels exert an almost irresistible pressure. Conformity and acceptance are incredibly important to boys.
They Encounter a Negative Experience
A sudden complete change of attitude could be attributed to something as simple as an offhand remark from a friend or it could also be something more serious like bullying. Any alarmingly sudden shifts in behavior or personality may indicate serious problems.
Interpreting and responding to these scenarios is a real challenge for most parents. They tend to catch us off guard and it’s likely that we don’t have a lot of practice or experience in dealing with them. These changes can come at us with surprising speed and complexity.
There are three basic concepts that boys need to meet the common challenges of adolescence. I wouldn’t expect boys to articulate these needs, or to even acknowledge them. Quite to the contrary I’d expect a fair amount of resistance to them!
Consistency and Security
As boys grow up and especially during their adolescence they need consistent, secure, predictable experiences and relationships. Much of their world is shifting and changing as they grow and change themselves.
Affirmation and Confidence
As self-assured and arrogant some boys may seem they are encountering changes that make them question their abilities and redefining the way they see themselves. This uncertainty can be invigorating or unsettling, or a bit of both. Boys need expressions of affirmation and confidence especially when they make mistakes in judgement or encounter failure.
Discipline and Expectations
Boys are defining the borders of their world as they grow into adults. They question rules, they push limits, they resist. They are looking for the reason behind the expectations imposed on them. They appreciate (often begrudgingly) some discipline that helps them focus on these expectations.
There are three basic situations to consider: Sometimes boys are ready to move on, sometimes they are in the throes of adolescent uncertainty, sometimes they are clearly headed for trouble.
While I am confident that Scouting can benefit any boy sometimes it is in their best interest to move on. They may fill their schedule with other interests, they may grow to abhor camping, they may just be ready to explore new things. I encourage parents in this situation to help their sons make a clear decision.
When boys are experiencing the uncertainty of adolescence they need consistency, security, affirmation, confidence, discipline and predictable expectations; all things that Scouting can provide. As a parent I would push him to stay in Scouting. He’ll resist, he’ll complain about it, but I’d keep with it for a few months and reassess the situation.
If a boy is headed for trouble (by that I mean his behavior and choices are clearly leading him towards people, places and activities that are going to threaten his education, health or safety) his parents are headed for one of two battles. Would you rather go to battle over making him to stay in Scouting or would you rather deal with the consequences of your son getting into serious trouble? There’s no guarantee but making him stay in Scouting may save you and your son from suffering the consequences of real trouble.
Whatever the situation do discuss it with the Scoutmaster. I alway welcome these discussions with parents.
If it’s time for a boy to move on I let them know the door is always open should they want to come back. If a boy is going through a rough patch and his folks are pushing him to stay involved I like to know because I can become an ally. If his parents are concerned he’s really headed for trouble and needs help I am on the alert to monitor the situation even more closely.
Nearly every Eagle Scout I have known wanted to quit at one time or another and their parents pushed them to stay in Scouts. At their court of honor each new Eagle Scout is given the opportunity to make a few remarks. Almost without exception they thank their parents for the push that helped them decide to stay in Scouting.