Many Scouters claim; “We have a youth-led Troop,” but what does that really mean?
Official literature mentions this sort of thing often, but how is do we really define “youth-led”?
We’d like to think what the Scouts do and how they do it defines “youth-led”, but it doesn’t. Young people lead themselves all the time, it comes quite naturally to them.
What adults do is just as important to a youth-led troop as what adults don’t do.
Defining what we should not do is nowhere near as useful as sharing what we should do, but before I do let’s address one common misconception;
Youth-led is not Youth-defined.
Every once in a while I’ll hear something like; “We don’t have patrols because the Scouts decided they didn’t want them, we are youth-led after all.”
Imagine a basketball game where the players were carrying the ball rather than dribbling. You ask a coach why and they tell you; “the players all decided they’s rather play this way.” Can you still call that game “basketball”?
Just like any other game Scouting has limitations and definitions. We all play the game within those definitions and limitations, the players don’t re-invent the game.
Adults should help Scouts maintain focus on fulfilling the promises of Scouting and understand the limitations and definitions of the game we are playing.
If we honestly want to engage our Scouts in leading themselves there things we ought to do –
Adults Should Employ Guided Discovery
Adults should guide their youth leadership to find their own answers. Ask questions that help them define the goal or the problem and then let them seek a plan or resolution. Don’t provide answers – provide guidance.
Adults Should Respect Autonomy
When Scouts are focused on fulfilling the promises of Scouting poor choices will be few and far between. Respecting autonomy means our Scouts have the latitude to fail within the bounds of safety and propriety.
Adults Should Promote Cooperative Resolutions
In any situation we encounter with our Scouts there are not two sides, there’s not a right and wrong, just a question everyone is trying resolve cooperatively.
Adults have the advantages of age and guile, we can pull strings and coerce decisions, we also have the provisional authority to make absolute decisions and give absolute directions.
If we are careful to maintain focus, employ guided discovery, respect autonomy, and promote cooperative resolutions our “youth-led” troop will flourish,and we will rarely have to give absolute directions or make absolute decisions.
That’s four, easy to remember, thoughts Scouters can apply to triage any situation –
Am I maintaining focus?
Am I guiding or directing?
Do I respect autonomy?
Are we working for a cooperative resolution?