I have a problem with my grandson, who’s a Star rank Scout. I’m an “old timer”—been in Scouting as an adult since 1988—and still proud of my Scout uniform. My wife (his grandmother) and I pay for my grandson’s Scouting experiences: all except summer camp, which his mom pays for. We fund the rest of his yearly summer camping trips, membership fees, and yes, his uniform(s) too. This all amount to about five hundred dollars a year.
My problem is my grandson’s lack of respect for his uniform. He insists on not wearing it, and this is a constant battle between us. He says I’m forcing him to something against what he wants to do and I have no right to do so. I’ve come to a point where I’m considering that, if he doesn’t wear his uniform and show some respect for it, I’m going to quit funding his Scouting adventures. But this uniform issue is causing a great strain on the relationship between my wife and me, and his mother (our daughter) says I’m too hard on him. Can you please give me your best advice on what to do? Help!!!! (Scouter Grandfather)
From 1950 through 1964 I was a Cub Scout, Boy Scout, and Explorer. I re-joined Scouting as an adult volunteer in 1988 and have been active ever since. So yes, I’m “old school” too, and as a grandfather myself, I think I pretty much understand how you feel and why you feel that way. I believe I can also appreciate your frustration and the dilemma you and your wife and your daughter are facing at the moment.
Unfortunately, there’s no “magic bullet” here…nor a magic wand to wave so that everything will be okay. Let’s look at some of the factors involved…
One factor is how well-uniformed your grandson’s troop is. Often, boys are fine with their uniforms, but a troop’s adults—for reasons I’ve personally never understood completely—aren’t. But the fact—and I’ve seen it way too many times—is that, if the adult “role models” don’t wear their uniforms, or wear only part (like, wearing the Scout shirt with jeans or cargo pants or shorts), the usual result is that the Scouts will emulate them.
Another aspect of this is just generally sloppy uniforming on the part of the troop. When this happens, a boy stands out when he does wear his full uniform correctly, instead of the other way around. So it may well be that, if your grandson wears his uniform he’s going to stand out like some sort of “Scout nerd”—and, at his age, that’s the very last thing he wants to do!
Another factor is age. At Star rank, it’s most likely he’s in his early teen years, I’m guessing. These adolescent years are very difficult to cope with. He’s trying to individuate himself from parents (and grandparents, too), and sometimes this looks like rebellion. He’s trying to find his way, but hasn’t found it yet. This is a huge struggle for him and what he needs most is kindness and openness as he works his way through this period of his life.
Taking his age a little further, remember that at this point there’s very little of his own life that he can actually control. His mother tells him to get up and go to school, his teachers tell him what to study and learn, his sports coaches (if any) dictate practices and who’s starting and who’s on the bench, and that list goes on… But he can (partially) control what he wears, and even though it may look like rebellion, he’s really trying very hard to fit in with his peers as well as to control at least some small part of his life right now.
Yes, the Scout uniform can be a bond between boys and worn with pride, dignity, and a sense of belonging. But it can have the opposite effect as well, depending on circumstances. So here’s something for you to consider: If you had to choose, would you rather he wear his uniform and resent his own grandfather, or would you prefer that he have a fun, challenging, peer-bonding, and value-based Scouting experience. Yes, this is your decision to make, because if you insist on that uniform, the only thing left that your grandson can control is whether or not he’s a Scout at all, and that’s where you’ll lose him: He’s likely to quit Scouts altogether, and now where are you? And where is your relationship with your grandson (and your wife and daughter) over the next several decades?
In short, I’d have to ask, for all of you: Is this a hill worth dying on?
I believe that, as grandfathers, you and I have two jobs: Be positive role models for our grandchildren and love them unconditionally (not necessarily in that order).
I was just introduced to your columns through a District Executive in my council, and I’m hooked! I’ve been training chair and registrar for my son’s troop for the past two years (I was a Cubmaster for five years before this). I’ve personally taken all the BSA’s online training courses, all the face-to-face trainings for Cub Scout leaders, and I’m right now working my Wood Badge ticket. I plan to complete Scoutmaster-Specific and IOLS training this summer because many of our current ASMs will be leaving us with in the next 12 months as their sons age out. As the troop’s training chair, I make sure that all the adult leaders and Scouts know when training is being offered and strongly encourage and support them to attend. And that’s where I need your advice.
I recently sent out information to all troop committee members and ASMs (many of whom aren’t trained), about the upcoming training being offered. To my horror our SM, responded in an email to “All” that “If you really want to technical, no one needs any of the training; just Youth Protection. However, I do suggest that our adult leaders get IOLS-trained. That “Trained” patch should be treated as a badge of honor.”
Now there have been some arguments back and forth via email on this, unfortunately in full view of all. I even spent almost an hour on the phone with my DE about this is, and figured out that our Scoutmaster is using a loophole that, in order to be a registered leader, all you need show is completing and a certificate for Youth Protection Training, but there’s no outright requirement by the BSA for any additional training of any sort.
I do understand that our chartered organization can implement a requirement of their own, that all adult volunteers be fully trained in order to hold their position with the troop (in fact, they can specify any other prerequisite they see fit, so long as it’s within reason achievable).
I’ve never heard of this before and I’d like to bring it to our chartered organization to discuss and implement. Can you direct me to where I might find this, and you provide any guidance on the topic of training being “required” or not? (Frustrated/Puzzled Unit Training Chair)
Thanks for getting “hooked” and please thank your DE for me! Pass the word on… These columns are read throughout literally every BSA council, even including the Transatlantic, Far East, and Direct Service council! (They’re also widely read up and down the halls of a certain national headquarters in Irving, Texas.)
As training chair for your troop, you have a knotty problem. The BSA being a volunteer movement at street level, that Scoutmaster’s correct: we really can’t “demand” that volunteers devote additional time to training (much as we might like to!). Even the annual charter agreement simply says that the CO will “Encourage adult leaders to receive additional applicable training made available by the council”… “encourage” being the key word here. He’s also correct that the “Trained” badge is one of honor and I’d add commitment.
So, I suppose (check with your DE on this) that a CO could “STRONGLY encourage” adult volunteers to get position-trained, and a CO might even make their commitment to such training as a prerequisite to getting signed off on the BSA Adult Volunteer Application. Neither of these would be a bad thing, IMHO. In fact, I’ve written on this in prior columns: “Hi! I’m not trained at all in how a Boy Scout troop is supposed to be run and I haven’t been vetted by anyone on having the skills necessary to take your son and his friends camping or hiking…So how’d you like to entrust your first-born to me???”
But now we have another aspect to consider: “Leadership style.” Your responsibility, as training chair, is to lead the way toward your fellow troop volunteers to sign up and take the training they need to do the best possible jobs they’re able to…for their own sons. You have a binary choice: You can lead via (1) authority (i.e., “these are the rules and I have the power and you’d better do as I say”) or (2) influence (“Hi! Our district is offering a special opportunity for committee folks like you n’ me to learn how to do a better job for our troop and our sons. It’s Saturday morning at… How about I pick you up and we’ll go together!?”). Think it over. Which of these two would you prefer to be on the receiving end of?
In other words, the best way for a training chair to get other folks trained is as basic as it gets: Use the Buddy System! (Can be more than two buddies, BTW.)
Finally, let’s take a little bit of a look “upstairs” to the district training committee…
Far too many district training committee folks think their “mission” is to run training courses. Nope. That’s not the mission. The mission is this: GET FOLKS TRAINED. That’s right: to Get Folks Trained, we use all the tools in the shed; not just one. If we stuck to just “running training courses,” that would be like trying to use a hammer for everything…pounding nails, screwing screws, sawing wood…and we’d eventually figure out that, to get the job done, we need a bunch of tools; not just one.
So, what does this mean, from a practical standpoint? How about this: Your committee meets at least once a month, right? Okay, so how about inviting a “guest” from the district training committee to come to several committee meetings, for 15-minute “how-to” sessions, and include a little Q&A time? Over a few months, guess what? Everybody’s trained!
Now, you get a little tricky… You help the committee (of parents, right?) understand that the Scoutmaster (who takes their sons into the woods n’ all) hasn’t had a lick of training. Then stand back and let them “encourage” him
No, it doesn’t happen “overnight” and there’s no “magic bullet.” But with patience, ingenuity, and smarts, you can make it happen…and you’ll do it without a nose-to-nose confrontation!
Go for it!
Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to email@example.com. Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)
[No. 494 – 7/5/2016 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2016]