Crossing Over From Webelos– Boy Scouting for Parents

Boy-Scout-Image-Webelos-Fitting-In I suppose the beginning is the best place to start.

Around the April/May timeframe, Webelos start to crossover to their chosen Boy Scout troops, as long as they meet one of the following joining requirements:

  • 10 years old and completed the Arrow of Light requirements OR
  • 11 years old OR
  • completed 5th grade

This is an exciting time for these Cub Scouts turned Boy Scouts, as they finally get to hang out with the Boy Scouts they have looked up to since they were Tigers.  However, even though the recent changes to the Cub Scout program have helped prepare Webelos to be more successful as Boy Scouts, the transition can still be tough… for parents. 

Devoted Cub Scout parents face a culture shock when they arrive at the troop meetings or campout, and their son is spirited away to spend time with his new patrol, with no parental involvement at all. They often end up with the same feeling they had when dropping their son off for the first day of Kindergarten. “Does he even need me anymore? What is my role? How can I help him out?”  Halfway through a post on this topic, I realized that greater minds (specifically, one of my favorite Scouting bloggers Ask Andy) has already covered this topic superbly:

I went on my first camping trip with my son’s troop this weekend and I had no idea there were so many rules for the trip. He was not allowed to sit by me or eat the food that I had brought with me. Is there a guide that I can get that would show me all the rules for camping with your Scout?

This is one terrific question and the short answer is: In Boy Scouts, parents don’t camp with their sons. This is not “Webelos III”!

Here’s the longer answer…

One of the main purposes of Cub Scouting is to strengthen the natural bond between a boy and his parents. Thus, many activities (all of them at the Tiger level, in fact) are of the boy-and-parent type, and up through Bear rank and arrow points, the parent is “Akela”! Only at the Webelos level — the transitional program — do parents begin to take a background role and the Den Leader comes to the fore, but even then camping is still of the “family” variety and boys do not camp without a parent. This is because, across the ages of Cub Scouting, boys are still largely in the “dependent” mode of their maturation.

By Boy Scout age, however, boys will naturally begin to seek more independence — this is a normal progression of the maturation process through which they will ultimately become productive adults. Recognizing this need for independence and individuation from one’s own parents, the Boy Scout program is geared differently from Cub Scouting. In Boy Scouting, the focus is on independent choices and actions, boys leading boys, peer relationships, and minimal parental contact, especially while on hikes and camping trips. This minimizing of parental contact is neither arbitrary nor accidental; it is deliberate and purposeful, based on studies of the male maturation process by the BSA over the past 98 years.

Your son’s troop seems to be following the proper format quite well. Parents, if they attend campouts with the troop, are definitely to be kept separate from the Scouts. If they aren’t kept separate, there’s simply no Boy Scouting going on — It devolves to “Cub Scouts in tan shirts.” The more a troop keeps parents and their sons from interacting while camping, the better the troop is in delivering the Boy Scout program.

If you like “family camping,” by all means please do this! It’s fun, and it’s a nice thing to do with your son, because you give him the opportunity to “show off” how much he’s learning in Boy Scouts! I heartily encourage you to continue camping with your son! But, when it comes to his troop, and camping as a Boy Scout, the greatest gift you can give your son is to wish him well, give him a big hug, wave to him as he goes off on another new adventure with his troop, and then welcome him home again with a big hug when he returns!

My other favorite Scouting blogger (Clarke Green) has also covered this same topic (because it comes up for every parent of every new Scout!):

Is there a briefing or meeting for parents with no experience in Boy Scouts know what to do or ask ? I feel there is a lack of needed information.

Typically we don’t have detailed briefings or meetings about this sort of thing for parents. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the role parents have in Scouting or that we want to keep them in the dark. It’s just that Scout parents aren’t the ones we want asking these sorts of questions or doing these sorts of things, we want their Scout asking and doing.

You are a bit frustrated because you feel you lack the information a responsible, supportive parent needs. Many parents feel this way – you are not alone! I want to help by giving you the most important information a Scout parent needs to know and what I wish every Scout parent understood.

Scouting is unique. It  is different from school, church, sports and other youth organizations. Understanding just what we are trying to do is not easy sometimes; in fact one of my key challenges as a Scoutmaster is talking to parents who think they know what I am talking about but they really don’t.

When it comes to the things Scouts do there are at least  two things happening at once. There’s the immediate practical goal (like getting a merit badge or going camping) and the much broader (and more important) goals of developing leadership, citizenship and physical, spiritual and mental fitness.

For example; when a Scout goes camping he needs to find out what to bring, gather the gear and put it in his pack. It’s perfectly understandable that a parent may feel they need to do some or all of this for him – after all that’s part of being a supportive, responsible parent right?

I wish they wouldn’t.

If a new Scout packs his own pack he’ll forget something and maybe be a little uncomfortable (I still forget things after 30+ years of camping!) but he will learn more from forgetting than he will if you pack his bag for him. What he learns from that process is one step closer to that broader goal.

At first this may seem a little harsh or make a Scout parent feel that they are not being responsible and that’s an uncomfortable feeling for most of us.

Scouting is  not just an opportunity for Scouts to do fun stuff  it’s also an opportunity for parents to learn and grow. I went through this process with my son.  It was uncomfortable and challenging at times, but ultimately it was very rewarding.

My son now works for the college he attended and he’ll tell you that one key skill many new students lack is the ability to navigate the routine things that they are used to having done for them (from laundry to signing up for classes and managing a schedule). He’ll also tell you that he learned how to look after himself and others through the process of Scouting.

What I wish every Scout parent knew is something they can’t really understand until they have been through this process. I want them to step back, be supportive, understanding, and cooperate with the process. I want them to look for teachable moments and help their Scouts figure out what to do next not by supplying answers but by asking questions.

If you cooperate with the process, if you keep your eye on the broader goal, you’ll see your Scout start to grow and figure things out for himself . You’ll find that your job is not so much telling and doing as helping him discover answers and how to things done. Your job is not making things easier but helping him look past the initial frustrations of not knowing. Soon he’ll learn to ask those questions of himself, he’ll grow in confidence and ability and surprise you as he does.

It’s hard for Scout parents to get comfortable with the idea of not knowing on purpose – but if they don’t know a Scout has to figure things out for themselves. When parents get uncomfortable, when their Scouts get frustrated, they go after the Scoutmaster and complain about how chaotic, inefficient and needlessly difficult things are.

I try to tell them that the Scouting process is purposefully designed to be challenging and every Scout (and Scout parent) will experience frustration or discouragement from time to time. We embrace the challenge, the chaos; we take the inefficient,  frustrating moments and turn them to our advantage to help our Scouts achieve those broader goals.

When Scouts get discouraged or frustrated, (and they will),  that’s when we need a supportive, responsible parent to step up and help them overcome the discouragement or frustration and keep on trying.

Scouting cooperates with parents who cooperate with Scouting. It gives them powerful opportunities to help their sons grow. What we do in Scouting is almost never about the immediate, practical goal. Boys don’t always understand this and I don’t expect them to, but I wish every Scout parent did.

We’ll take excellent care of your Scout, I promise.  After heavy involvement in the Cub Scout program, it is okay to take a little break as an adult before jumping head first into the Boy Scout program.  Take time to observe, learn how the program works, ask questions, attend training, and when you’re ready… there’s always a position for a volunteer, whether in the Troop Committee, as a Merit Badge Counselor, or as an Assistant Scoutmaster.