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Should parents withhold meetings to punish Scouts for bad grades or misbehavior?

“No Scouts for you until you start behaving, mister!”

Come on, nobody says that, right? Wrong. Here’s proof:

I am a den leader in a pack, and parents use coming to Scouts as a reward. If Scouts misbehave, their punishment is they can’t come to Scout meetings. But Scouts has done wonders for these kids. Any ideas on how to encourage the parents not to use the meetings as their reward for being good or getting good grades? I don’t mind if they do that for other events, but not the meetings. The Scout misses out on so many things.

Trying to help my Scouts,

M.M.
Cradle of Liberty Council (Philadelphia)

Thanks to M.M. for the letter. It’s a really tricky one: Should you discourage this form of punishment — and keep Scouts coming to meetings? Or would that risk offending the parents by telling them how to raise their child?

I asked our Facebook friends for help, and they came up with several great suggestions. Take a look:

Be Frank With the Parents
“I am a leader, and I have run into this. I carefully approached the parents and pointed out that Scouts teaches good behavior and that maybe a different punishment was better suited (than missing the pack meeting). Sometimes if you explain that the outing is not just a field trip but an opportunity to learn and display (publicly) Scout behavior and be an example that works. Other times, if you explain that they will have to make up the outing on their own time in order to not get behind, that works too. If parents feel like you are teaching their son to become an honorable young man by instilling values, and by expecting stellar behavior, they are more likely to trust you to help with the issue!”
— Rebecca H.

Lessons Learned
“As with anything else, there has to accountability. Parents who don’t send their child to Scout meetings are showing them that there are consequences to their actions. As long as they don’t miss a lot it shouldn’t hurt them. As a Cubmaster, my son knows that his attendance depends upon his grades and behavior from one meeting to the other. I may seem harsh to some, but growing up we learned that misbehaving often lead us to missing things that we enjoyed, and after one time we didn’t want to miss again.”
— Sandra F.

Follow the Law
“That punishment is counter to the second line of the Law of the Pack: The Cub Scout helps the Pack Go. Attending pack meetings and representing his den in the pack activities is one way the Cub lives up to his commitment to “help the pack go.” If he misses a pack meeting, sure he’s being punished by missing fun activities, but he’s also letting down his den teammates by not being there to do his part.”
— Greg F.

Set Some Limits
“When my son first became a Boy Scout he had grade issues at school. He lived for Scouts! He was allowed to attend two meetings a month but no outings until his grades came back up. That kept him active with the unit but also showed him what he was missing.”
— Phyllis K.

Not My Place
“I think this is a parenting decision and not my place to interfere. I love being a leader and I love Scouting and see the good it does. However, it is extracurricular, and if a boy’s grades drop or he needs correcting, it is up to the parent to decide is a Scout is attending or not. I don’t use this as punishment for my son, but it isn’t my place to tell parents how to parent. Or judge them.”
— Nancy A.

Read more solutions from Scouters like you by clicking here.

But first, a final point I couldn’t resist posting: “When it comes to total value, maybe the child should be kept home from school and allowed to attend the Scout meeting.” — Ray C.

That’s unlikely, but it’s definite food for thought!

15 Comments on Should parents withhold meetings to punish Scouts for bad grades or misbehavior?

  1. No. In many cases, Scouting is the only positive thing in the boys life. However school work should still be a priority.

  2. Perry Harris // December 7, 2011 at 4:22 pm // Reply

    In our troop we emphasize the requirement to study hard and get good grades before Scouts. If their grades are slipping, then they need to spend that time studying instead of attending a Scout meeting.

  3. As a Cub Master, Leader and Parent… YES they should. Because if they aren’t going to behave at home or at school they aren’t going to behave at Scouts either and then their behavior punishes the whole den because you have to repeatedly speak to the scout who already isn’t behaving at home…..

  4. Parents have to set priorities for their own family… hopefully using that as a punishment shows that the boy enjoys scouting and it acts as an incentive for better behavior. We are the scout leaders, not the parents (except our own children of course) and it is not for us to decide. If my child were to have a major behavioral issue, I might decide to keep him out of sports… when a child in highschool can’t keep his grades up he is not allowed to play sports… and as much as I believe scouts is good for children, so are sports. So why would it be okay to withhold sports but not scouts? Again, each family has to decide and I would not try to influence their decision, other than providing an excellent program that they do not want to miss!

  5. I agree that school work and behavior comes first. I don’t take away Scouts from my son but I do take away everything else outside he may want to do. Sports, movies, parties, PS3 and computer games as well as the telephones and TV.

    It is the choice of the parents but in my experiences with scouting my scoutmaster has been a good role model for my son and encourages him and the other scouts to do well in school and talks to them when they get out of sorts.

  6. As a former Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Explorer and an Eagle Scout, i would not have remained in the program if my parents had used the privilege of attending Scouting events as a negative reinforcement tool.

    There is far too much negativity in this world and using it to reinforce acceptable behavior in children only creates resentment and hurt which children never forget. The child who is raised in a positive and respectful environment gains an sense of belonging, self-worth, and an understanding that worthwhile things require dedication and hard work to succeed. Too many youth members become discouraged when they are restricted from attending Scout events and never go back, so it is a tragic loss for them and for Scouting, considering what they might have enjoyed or achieved.

    It is foolish and a disservice to a Scout to tell them that if they aren’t performing in school they shouldn’t participate in Scouts until they do improve in school, because that again is negative reinforcment which never works. What should be done is to help the Scout and their parents find ways to see why they aren’t achieving in school. Talk to teachers, see if there are ways to help the Scout improve their learning skills and get better grades. Talk to the Scout and ask why they are having trouble with school. They will tell you a lot if you ask them and may give you some great insight that may help them to succeed. By no means should they be told not to attend Scout meetings because that sense of belonging and having fun may just be the key to their finding a sense of purpose and meeting other Scouts, making friends, and developing a new enthusiasm for achieving in school and other parts of their life

    My parents heavily encouraged and supported my participation and served in Scouting leadership roles to make sure that I enjoyed a full and rich Scouting experience. Their example and that of a very special Explorer Advisor and Mentor, gave me an enthusiasm for Scouting to later serve as a Scoutmaster and Explorer Advisor, Venturing Advisor and Sea Scout Ship Skipper which I have enjoyed for more than 50 years.

    Many of today’s parents just don’t get it! Today more than ever, youth need Scouting as it is
    [ and always has been], by far the best youth program to develop leadership skills, self reliance, self confidence, creativity and so much more that they just don’t receive in schools or in many other ;youth organizations such as athletics.

    How to fix the problem? Meet with the parents and explain to them that negative reinforcement is seldom an effective means of promoting good behavior and performance, and only makes things worse. Most of all missing meetings and activities deprives the youth of valuable and irreplaceable experiences that his peers are enjoying. Parents who really care about their children and want them to succeed will get involved in supporting the unit and participating with their child. Their enthusiasm is contagious and serves as a role model for their child and others. Too many parents think B.S.A. stands for “baby -sitters of America” and only bother to drop off and pick up their child. They don’t know what they are missing out on and most of all they don’t understand how Scouting can bring them much closer to their child by enjoying Scouting as a family activity. Sure, some parents work and hold down multiple jobs, but if they really value the relatively short duration of raising a child, and want that child to be a high achiever and to excel in academics and other pursuits, they will find a way to spend time with them in Scouting activities. Work should never take higher priority than raising a child properly. Get parents involved in any role they can fit into their schedule, a little at a time, and then work up as they start meeting other parents and interacting with them and their children. For many it becomes very enjoyable and almost a positive addiction.

    Many parents over the years have told me that they would have loved to be involved but no one asked them or encouraged them to participate in a committee or leadership role, so YOU HAVE TO INVITE THEM, make them feel welcome and useful, and encourage their continued participation. Good unit communications is vital to success through e-mail, phone calls, social media or whatever it takes to make sure they are informed and stay involved with unit activities.

    We used to tell new Scouts and their parents that if the Scout joined it was expected that the parents be involved in at least a minimal support role with the unit, and then followed up to make sure they were participating. Nearly all did, and actually found it a very rewarding experience to share with their child and see them excel and grow in Scouting.

    It really does “take a village to raise a child” properly and that village often is Scouting!

  7. My foster parents punished me by not letting me attend scout meetings, as a result, I never advanced in the program passed my scouting rank and by the time I wanted to go back to it, I was too old to join as a scout. Personally, I would look for an alternative approach before I withhold scouting from a child.

  8. Attending all meetings in the scouting program is vital to a scouts advancement and den/pack success. If a cub or scout misses too many meetings it can become difficult for him to catch up and/or get back into the fold, I have seen this happen. Unfortunately falling behind in the program may cause him to drop out. Failure in scouting and/or other programs may cause anxiety and disappointment that can also adversely affect his grades.

    If a cub misses a meeting try giving the parent the homework to get the cub caught up on the missed activity. Many parents do not understand the scouting program. Make sure ALL parents have read their scouts handbook from cover to cover then have a group parent meeting to briefly go each chapter. Have the parent read the handbook BEFORE the meeting. If the parents fully understand the program a scout can achieve Eagle and have a great time along the way with friendships, skills and principles that will last a lifetime.

    Sometimes slipping grades are more a parent issue. I and many other parents are guilty of keeping up or ahead of the Jones in attempting to be good parents by making sure kids are signed up in scouts, sports, karate, dance….the list goes on and on. A parent must “step up” to keep their kid up to speed in these programs. Sometimes less is better.

    Lastly, if a scout does drop out at some point always reflect on the fun, success and the positive things the scout has leaned from the program. Even a brief membership in BSA can and should be a positive experience.

    YIS, Father of a Tiger Cub, Eagle Scout and Girl Scout.

  9. Let parents be parents and decide. Not all local Scouting programs are run well and instill the character traits we would like, but run well or not: The decision is not the place for anyone other than the parents or guardians.

    The parents want them to focus on schoolwork, which should come before Scouting and their personal behavior in their family, which should also come before Scouting.

  10. Tom, I believe there are three paths in scouting. The first is a self motivated scout that will achieve his goals and ranks regardless of the leadership and parental support. This is the type of scout that would succeed on his own merit in the loan scout program as well as in a pack or troop, this is a rare scout. Second is a scout that moves forward though the program due to great adult leadership. The problem with this is the Adult volunteers change as the scout moves up though the ranks. As scouts move on so do their adult leaders and the program can change. The final is a scout that has a parental mentor helping him make up for his own shortcomings and those of the adult volunteer leadership. I have yet to see an Eagle Scout without an active parent helping him along the way. Sometimes the parent is an adult volunteer leader and sometimes they mentor from the sidelines. That is what scouting is all about, leadership.

  11. In my son’s final write-up for Eagle he mentioned that scouting is unlike school in that when they miss something in school it can easily be on thier record for ever. Scouting on the otherhand takes the same young man misses something they are encouraged to fix what they missed and succeed and it is this success they take with them through thier life.

    Having 3 boys they miss on occassion due to extreme amounts of homework but we try to make sure if they cannot attend that they understand the reason. It is like telling someone they cannot date until they have thier Eagle. While I understand the concept the negative feedback can turn they boys against scouting and away from those very leaderst they need around when they don’t feel they can talk with mom and dad.

    Some years ago my son that is now the Eagle did something that was extremely disrespectful to his mother or sister (pardon me that I don’t remember) and we discussed and his scout book was impounded for a week for “conduct unbecoming a Cub Scout.” He was still able to attend but he had then to explain to his leader why he was missing his book – which he had every week.

    We have worked with a young man who has stuggled with motivation in school. Once we were able to apply what he was learning in school he began to succeed in both. Likewise, when I work with scouts especially via email I make sure they use proper grammer and complete sentences to drive home the importance of schools. We worked with his parents to work on positive motivators where he was able to earn the things he needed for his next campouts. He is presently working on his Eagle.

  12. Mike Brannon // December 19, 2011 at 4:41 pm // Reply

    Thanks for all of the feedback on this. Ironically, this has become an issue for my troop recently. Orignially we passed a by-law in committee that basically followed the no-pass no play rules of most states. It had never cropped up. All of a sudden I have kids missing meetings and I learn that it is their grades, and following the rules of the troop that is keeping them home. With this information in hand I think I’m going back to the troop committee so that we can revisit this. What I am seeing is that if a scout misses six weeks due to bad grades I can loose him forever. Although I still feel there should be recourse for bad grades / behavior, missing meetings / events might not be the best idea for the boy or the unit.

    • I feel the BSA, districts, troops, packs, patrols or dens should not in any case have a GPA requirement for membership or attendance. This decision must be left to the scout. A scouts grades may be a result of poor teaching methods or teachers, a unidentified or unaided learning disability, or any other mild or serious personal problem of the student. Many students feel outcast at school regardless of their GPA, BSA and other organizations and groups can provide the mental support that a student just may desperately need to get back on track. With teen depression, suicide and drug abuse on the rise in this country it is nice to know a youth can connect with wholesome groups that provide a healthy supervised environments to grow. A no pass no play rule is a ridiculous comparison. School sports require long mandatory daily practice attendance and game day participation dedicating hundreds of hours over a season. Scout attendance requires 2 to 4 one hour meetings a month excluding any outings, about the same as church attendance. From experience the BSA program is not fully understood by many parents, they feel it is more fun and games than a learning experience. The program promotes a good clean lifestyle with respect for the country, other people and the scout himself. Many parents also do not understand the personal pressure a youth maybe going though and scouts may give them something far more important to hang onto than an education, wrap your head around that, what if I am right? As with church, if a youth wants to attend scouts it should be their decision, not ours.

  13. I have seen this from both sides as a parent of scouts starting in the first grade thru 2 Eagle scouts, to being an adult leader.

    We had a boy in our Pack that got suspended from school for slamming another kid’s head in a locker door. That same night he came to the meeting and started another fight with the same boy for turning him into the school. Because of this incident the boy who was being bullied left Scouting to never return and I had to ask the parents of the boy starting the fights to attend meetings with him,when they refused we were forced to ask him to leave.

    My youngest son who is currently a Webelos, had to be removed from all outside activities including Scouting for fighting. He lost half of his wolf year due to poor behavior. I agree that Scouting builds character but that building needs to start at home. If you can’t or won’t follow the rules then there are concequences. That is how you help build character setting clear boundaries and following through.

  14. Peggy Sue Murphy // March 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm // Reply

    The scouts behavior at the pack and den meeting are terrible!!!!! About 90% of them just want to run around!!! I feel sorry for the leaders to go to work and they prepare fun and helpful things to do, but the cub scout espically seem to have a short attention span. The parents do not discipline their own kids. You see more parents discipline other peoples kids and don’t brother with their own. Are all mtg like this?

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