‘That’s Mr. West to you, mister’: Are your Scouts on a first-name basis with leaders?

names-jamesewestIf BSA founder James E. West were around today, how would your Scouts address him?

Mr. West? James? Mr. James? Jimmy E.?

The way Scouts and Venturers address leaders was on the mind of Scouter Terry (or is it Mr. Scouter Terry?) yesterday when he sent me this email:

My wife and I have always made our children address adults by title and last name, Mr. or Mrs.

I have explained to our young Scouts on several occasions that as an adult I felt it was appropriate that they address adults by title and last name, yet they continue to refer to the adults by first name.

It seems as though many adults are lax on this as well, never correcting the children.

My Wood Badge Troop Guide said that his rule was: Once a boy earns Eagle Scout, first names are acceptable. Until then, use Mr./Mrs. and the last name.

Are there suggestions on how this needs to be addressed? Am I off base with this one? What do others think/suggest?

Good question, Terry. After your email, I polled our Facebook friends and saw an overwhelming response of 335 replies in less than 24 hours.

Some Scouters are OK with first names; others require Scouts to use honorifics and last names. Still other leaders use a combination method: Mr. Bryan, for example.

Here’s a representative sample of the responses, broken down by subject. Take a look, and then weigh in by leaving a comment.

Title/honorific and last name

For many Scouters, this comes down to simple respect. They tell Scouts to use the appropriate honorific (Mr., Mrs., Dr., Father, etc.) and the adult’s last name.

  • “We always have the Scouts address adults by title and last name. However, as soon as a Scout ages out, I let them know they can call me by my first name. Some do immediately, some never do. We feel that Scouts may be one of the few places that they learn respect and manners. It was odd at first, but now I couldn’t imagine it any other way.” — Lou S.
  • “When I was a Cubmaster, I let the kids call me by my first name, then realized after a while that I goofed. It was a tough transition, but we got through it, and the boys are all more respectful to their elders. We are their leaders, mentors and educators, not their buddies.” — John C.
  • “When working on camp staff, I tried to address my Scouts as ‘Mr. Anderson’ and ‘Mr. Richards,’ etc. Thought it built respect both ways.” — Dan S.

First names only

In many units, especially Venturing crews, everyone uses first names.

  • My name is Andy. Mr Sissons is my father! I am only 46!” — Andy S.
  • “I always insisted that my Cubs call me by my first name. It’s friendlier, and they tend to open up more when they think you’re on the same plying level as them. It’s been six years since I crossed my first set of Webelos, and I still have some of them coming to me for advice.” — Stephanie M. 
  • “First names are fine. Respect isn’t developed through an enforced construct.” — Diane G.
  • In our crew we are all on a first-name basis. Adults are referred to as Advisors rather than leaders in the Venturing program because the goal is for the youth to lead themselves.” — Chris M.

Leave it up to each Scouter

Why set one policy? Some Scouters argue you should leave it up to each adult to choose a name he/she prefers.

  • “It’s totally a matter of personal preference. The key is showing respect, regardless of which is preferred.” — Rich W.
  • “The short answer to this is… how do you want the Scouts or any youth to address you? Then introduce yourself that way and correct them if they do it differently.” — Orinda W.
  • “Several of our leaders have nicknames. Like, I am ‘bigpoppapork,’ but the other leaders go with what make them comfortable. I don’t think a name commands respect; your actions do.” — James P.

Title/honorific and first name

Get the best of both worlds, some Scouters wrote, by combining a title with a first name.

  • We compromise. We like the informal first name but we use the title: Mr. Brad, Ms. Mary, Mr. Jason.” — Brad B.
  • “Ms. Sarah. I am a leader, not a teacher. I call them by their first names.” — Sarah O.

Other thoughts

Some of these great ideas didn’t fit into any of the above categories:

  • My Scouts earn the right to call me by my first name when they earn the Eagle rank — not before.” — Lou K.
  • “I have Scouts who address me as Mrs. Lindsay at Scout meetings and Mrs. Foster at school (where they are my students). In our explanation, it commands a level of respect, but also recognizes a level of friendship/mentorship.” — Lindsay F.
  • Over here in Australia, Scout leaders and Cub leaders are given names by the youth members. Cubs will pick names out of the Jungle Book; the only restriction is the name must be a good name not an evil name. With Scouts they can select a name they think best suits that person, but it must be a “socially acceptable name.” We have three leaders: Batman, Gecko, and I am Obi-Wan Kenobi. The leaders name badges have that name on them, and even leaders will refer to other leaders by their leader name.” — David R.

Your turn, Mr. or Ms. Scouter

Please weigh in by leaving a comment below.


  1. I re-posted to the Longhouse Council Facebook page and the overwhelming response was Mr./Mrs. as appropriate and the first names were too informal for an adult/youth mentoring relationship.

  2. Scouts address adults by title & last name. What we’ve found to be a little bit of a challenge is when Scouts age-out and then become an adult volunteer, the youth that they were Scouts with are then expected to call them “Mister”.

  3. This issue is bigger than how we adults feel individually about how we choose to be called. Society has changed with regard to title and name conventions. I feel this was primarily pushed forward by Baby Boomer adults who chose never to grow up and refused to by called by Mr./Mrs. Smith. Wrong or right, good or bad, our societal name/title conventions have changed. As scouters trying to teach young men and women to have respect for the environment and others, then encouraging or even demanding the more respectful Mr./Mrs. Smith convention is not only the best move for these future leaders, but for all of society.

    • GUILTY! I refuse to grow up. And that includes how you address me. To me scouting should be fun and addressing me as Mrs or Miss takes the fun out of it. MY CHOICE. IF you want to be called Mr then I will honor that and do so, but you should not force ME to be called that if I do not choose that. As many have already said….calling a person the title DOES NOT in anyone’s dreams actually mean they respect anything. It’s a requirement, like doing your homework. You do it because you have to. The APPEARANCE is respect, but it has nothing to do with respect in reality. If that child does not respect you, calling you Mr. will not make him respect you any less or more.

      • I think a lot of it has to do with the maturity of the leader. I’m 50 years old. I’ve been a Cub Scout, a Boy Scout, a US Army sergeant, a manager, a business owner, a Bear den leader, an asst scoutmaster, I’m a cubmaster, a father, and an adult. I’m quite sure that I deserve to be called “Mr. Sackett” by 8 and 9 year old boys, and even 12 and 13 year old boys. I don’t have to wait for them to decide if they respect me. EVERYONE deserves respect until they demonstrate that they are not worthy of it. If you’re doing things that keep your boys from respecting you, you need to either start being respectable or leave Boy Scouting. However, it’s obviously not all about respect. It’s also about etiquette, and being polite (which is all about APPEARANCE), learning how to conduct oneself, and how to treat elders.
        Every leader is free to choose how to deliver the Scouting program to the boys in their unit, and whether they deserve to be called by their surname. I believe that one of the biggest problems in our society is an increasing lack of respect for positions of authority. Boy Scouting should not be a contributor to that attitude, in my opinion.
        In regard to the boys not having fun because they call leaders by their surnames; that’s patently ridiculous, quite frankly! My friends and I had fun in Scouting when we were boys, and the boys in my pack have fun now, even though I’m not their playmate. They play with one another, and they learn from us. If the boys in your unit can’t have fun in Scouting because they don’t call leaders by their first names, you need to reevaluate how you are presenting the program to them.

  4. As I posted on Facebook, Mr. Cleary in Cub Scouts, Shawn in Boy Scouts. My father and grandfather are Mr. Cleary. I can say that the Scouts in my troop were always calling me Mr. Cleary when we first started the troop, but they warmed to calling me Shawn after a short time.

    James P said it along the lines of how I think…a name doesn’t command respect, the actions do. The Scouts around me have shown they respect me, not for what they call me, but because I respect them back.

    On another note, some of the Scouts have nicknames based on the moment. One Scout was talking about Finding Nemo, and the “Sharkbait, Sharkbait…who-ha-ha!” popped into my mind. The nickname stuck, and the Scout loved finally getting a nickname. Other Scouts in the troop are Tee-Tee, Fluffy, Rigatoni, Jacques, Jimbo, Brutus, Antler, Stick and Peanut. Mine is Lord Cleary, based on the first Scouts that started the troop, and one of them presenting me their book for a signature. All in fun, but the respect is there.

    • Often times I will address youth with “Mr. ” to set the example. I find that by respecting others, the same respect is shown and then this just becomes a natural thing.

  5. Oddly enough, this has never come up in our troop. All Scouts address the leaders with the title and last name. Even Scouts who have made Eagle still do. I know, too , that this is reinforced by the parents, who will address the leaders in the same way, in the presence of the scouts.

  6. My kids have always called me by my last name with the honorific, and when they try to use my first name I take them aside and let them know that in a less formal situation, a one on one talk, at my home, some social gathering, my first name is ok and appreciated, but when we’re at a meeting or scouting event they must call me Mr. They grasp the need for decorum, discipline and respect. They do get a kick out of using my first name when we see each other at the store or at a party.

  7. When I first became an adult Scout leader, I asked this question of a very experienced Scouter who I respected. Her answer was that as adult leaders, we are friendly with the Scouts, but we are not their “friends.” Our job is to teach respect, among other character values, and demonstrating this respect by addressing their adult leaders as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” is one way we can do so. By living this value in the unit, we help avoid confusion when Scouts address other adults outside of Scouting. I know that some Scout leaders disagree and believe a first-name basis is OK and I will say that for the Scouts from their units, I have sometimes felt the need to explain that until they are adults themselves at 18 years old (including Eagle Scouts), I prefer that they address me as “Mr.” and my last name. In that way, I make the exchange with them friendly and respectful and I don’t criticize the policy within their own unit.

    • It’s all in your own choice. I don’t even think it should be a troop rule…it should be an individual choice. And I disagree. I AM friends with our scouts and I wouldn’t want it any other way. A situation arose in my old troop, long story….let’s just say our CO and a rep they placed over us (who had been kicked out of our troop 6 years before for mentally and emotionally abusing the boys) became liars and attackers and killed our troop. They would not remove him even after all our parents threatened to quit, and they then started making up lies.

      Because we are all friends, including the boys, I had the complete and utter backing of the entire troop, so much so, that they said where I go, they go. How many leaders can say an entire troop will desert a CO when they have become the devil in disguise.

      OFF TOPIC! the CO rules need to be revised. They should not be able to kill a troop….especially when caught in lie after lie (the CO – not the troop). We tried to get a new CO, but they wouldn’t release our troop number, funds or equipment. We had no way to start over – so we all quit. There is no troop in our town anymore after more than 60 years.

  8. I agree that scouters should be addressed by title and last name. This separates them from the youth which empesizes their role.

    • Sorry, I don’t agree. Well, yes, it does separate you. To me, too much so. I want the kids to be able to joke around in front of me and not worry that I am going to come down on them. I’m not talking about inappropriateness. I would not hesitate for a second to correct them in that case. But if they want to tell me about girlfriends I want them to feel comfortable doing so, or I don’t want them to STOP talking because I happen to walk up during a discussion. I, personally, think it DOES put up a wall. IF they respect you, they will respect you whether you are called Mr, Mrs or first name. The title has nothing to do with it.

  9. When I was in my troop as a scout everyone was Mr. Lastname except one really informal leader. When I was active in OA it was half and half. In the OA I called some very informal but wonderful advisers by their last name yet other very professional yet just as wonderful advisers I called by their first name.

    I think it depends on one main factor, what does the leader want to be called. The relationship an adult leader has with scouts is not defined by a name so it should be based on what makes the leader happiest.

    I understand if a troop may want all leaders to be called Mr. or Ms. or some version of such to present a certain atmosphere but in my opinion that same atmosphere can be created with actions and those scouts will tie respect with those actions without the need of the title.

  10. I think it depends on how the individual adult likes to be called- in our troop our Scoutmaster is Mr. A ( his first name is Aaron), there are other adults that go by their last name or even initial ( Mrs. G) . Other committee members that partake in events like to just be called by their first name- myself included… if you call me Mrs ( last name) that is my mother-in-law so I normally will not even pay attention to that name.

  11. It is very strange to me that a youth would even consider addressing an adult without title. Our troop uses title/lastname for adults, but it natural and not forced. My father taught me this early on, perhaps it is the military background of our family, or maybe other factors, but I would get it if I ever addressed an adult by their first name.

    In fact, my Scoutmaster was Col. Miller. Always Col. Miller. Even now I call him Col. Miller 🙂

    • I am 51 and still call my best friend’s Dad “Mr. Pastor”. My Khory League coach, “Mr”. I call police officers “sirl or “officer”. My parents taught me it is a sign of respect. I require my son to do the same to his elders.

  12. In the Cub Scout Pack we do title and first name (Mr. Dan) and when they cross over to the Troop it changes to title and last name (Mr. White).

    • To elaborate further, as a Cub Scout leader I call the boys by just their first name but in the Troop I often refer the boys the same way that they refer to me (e.g. Mr. White) to show that it’s not just a one-way path of respect.

  13. In general, our troop uses Mr. Y, Mr. M, Mrs. U, etc. I on the other hand, am always Father Bob–it’s who I am as an ordained Orthodox Priest. I don’t see it as disrespectful to me and that one carries over to Round Table and Council activities. Not right or wrong, it just is! Have a great summer…Fr. Bob

  14. with our cub unit, we go for the less formal first name, but have them add the title, as well (Mr., Ms., Father, etc). it commands that level of respect, but still keeps us on their level and helps the cubs to open up with us and overall it’s a friendlier environment in which to teach and learn.

  15. I view anyone who insists on an honorific as a sign of respect as a person who neither deserves respect nor an honorific. Boys deserve the same respect which you might demand. If the honorific is important to you then it is only appropriate that you use the same courtesy and use the honorific when addressing boys. Respect is earned, not assumed. Boys have called me by my first name since I began my adult scouting career in 1970. The only issue I have ever had with respect was from so-called adults who have had issues of their own and were incapable of commanding respect from others. When I am confronted with such individuals with whom I have no respect, I then insist that they call me Dr. Heilbrunn. To everyone else, I remain Fred.

    • I love this! Exactly how I feel. However, I don’t have a problem addressing someone with the honorific if they choose – that’s their choice. However, for me, it DOES put up a wall. I joined a new troop and I am working hard at learning their rules – a very large troop. I come from a small, very close and personal troop. The boys are friends OUTSIDE of scouting. This new troop is very friendly and I told the boys to call me by my first name….and the adults. But I do notice that mostly they use Mr. with everyone else. That’s fine. I just do not want to be called Mrs or Miss. I’m old…(60), but I don’t FEEL old and I don’t ACT old, so I do not want to be made to feel the age I am. I enjoyed it (made me laugh) when my dad would kiddingly tell me to act my age not my IQ. My dad was VIGIL, a past scoutmaster and started both the troop and pack in our town….as was my brother. So scouting is in my blood. I grew up a Girl Scout and completed the GS’s equivalent to Eagle, so I have a deep love for scouting. Just USE MY FIRST NAME!

    • Fred, the honorific is there because, by years of experience, by mature commitment to one’s spouse, by voluntarily taking on the responsibility of training to become a leader and mentor, and by a plethora of other reasons, the person has already “earned” that respect that is due from the youth.

  16. I was a scout from 1958 till 1970, as a youth. We always showed respect to our leaders, by referring to them as Mr. Jones or Mr. Smith, etc. Even when I was in Cubs it was Mrs. Johnson. When I was scoutmaster, I heard one of my boys address my assistant by his first name. I had a meeting with the entire troop, saying that while they were here at troop meetings it will be a sign of respect to address your leaders/adults as Mr./Mrs.. My dad was scout master for many years. Now, some 50 years later, he will meet some of his ‘boys’ at the market and they still address him as Mr. Casias . Even in social settings, I address elders that I knew as a youth, by Mr. Only when they say, “you can call me ‘Sam’.
    But even then it feels strange.

  17. I was a Scoutmaster for 22 years and my Scouts always refered to me as Scoutmaster or Scoutmaster Robert then when we started de Venturing group evereything changed to just Robert or Leader, never had any problems with that as long as there was respect between the leaders and the scouts / ventures.

  18. West preferred to be called “Dr. West” after he was awarded his honorary doctorate.

    Rowan, Edward L (2005). To Do My Best: James E. West and the History of the Boy Scouts of America. Las Vegas International Scouting Museum. ISBN 0-9746479-1-8.

  19. 31 years of Childcare has proven to me that if you allow children to call you by your given name, they fail to see and honor the respect that should always be there.

    Calling me Mrs. Bell or my husband, Mr. Bell lends an air of respect and awe… it doesn’t put a barrier up between the boy and you. Not if you have an easy going manner and are approachable.
    The one thing I can’t stand is when a child walks up to adults and jump into a conversation as though they are 30-50 yrs old. Not appropriate.

    Yes we are there for the boys. That said, they still need to know by calling me Mrs. that I have authority. There are to many children out there who don’t respect authority and that is because to many parents haven’t set a level of expectation.
    Just look at the news. See the trouble the kids are getting into.

    I feel we are there to set an example and a level of expectation, not be their best friends. We are there to guide. and teach.

    • Unfortunately, calling someone Mr. or Mrs. is often a ‘requirement’ and has absolutely nothing to do with respect. They do it because they have to not because they respect you. Not you specifically ‘you’ in general terms. Kids today quite often respect no one. Summer camp has always been a place I felt comfortable bringing my expensive cameras and computers (I take lots of pics of the kids and the leaders). Recent situations have shown that thefts were occurring while the boys were at badge work. Now a leader has to not enjoy their time with the boys and stay in camp to make sure nothing is stolen. THAT IS ABSOLUTELY HORRENDOUS! It means SCOUTS were doing the stealing because it had to be someone who could get in and out of camp without question and know the routine. IT sickens me. This happened all over camp – not just our troop. So scouting does not exclude criminals unfortunately. They are among us – so respect IS EARNED by both the boys and the adults. PS: I, personally, have never had anything stolen, KNOCK ON WOOD!

      • Regardless if you are called by your first name or honorific, you do not have respect overnight. Using your first name doesn’t get you there faster either. Respect has to be earned regardless of naming privileges. Likewise, requiring an honorific doesn’t create a wall. It simply establishes respect for position in life as an advisor with experience and wisdom to share. Mister or miss denotes they’ve been “down the trail” quite a few more times than I have. And, I would hate to break it to you, but 60 is “old” in their eyes. I was told I was “old” at 30 years of age, and I am 51 now. Having them call you by first name is not going to change that fact. Thank you for being a Scouter! I am a Scouter too.

  20. As an ault leader, especially now in Venturing, I prefer to be more of a big brother than an authority figure. The kids know they can kid around with me, but listen when I have something important to say. They also know that I’m there for them if they need me.
    The kids are my customers. I work for them. But this is Venturing…

  21. I don’t mind if the boys in our troop call me by my first name. I agree with what others have said – respect is earned not forced. I know the boys respect me and I have no problem with them calling me by my first name. The only exception is my son. Due to religious rules he calls me “Mom” not Beth or Mrs./Dr/Prof. Ginsberg (I go by all of those since I am a PhD and college professor). I think it is a matter of personal preference and should probably be discussed at a troop committee meeting for an official troop policy.

  22. I grew up old school in a military home. I would have never, EVER thought to address my leaders by the first name even to this day. I think it shows a lot about a boys upbringing and family if they address me by my title and last name. I have always told my Scouts when they are out of High School, they an address me by my first name. Until then, like me or hate me, you address me with the proper title and my last name.

  23. It depends on the individuals, both youth and adult. We typically refer to each other by title and first name; Scoutmaster Dan, etc. I come from a military background as well. Scouting is NOT the military and we won’t force our boys to be that way.

  24. In my troop as a youth, the Scoutmaster was George and one ASM was Gary, but all other adults were addressed by their last names. When I turned 18, I had no interested in becoming “Mr.”, so I stayed Aaron, and have remained that way for the last 25 years. In general, though, we do stick with Mr. and Mrs.

    In the OA, everyone has been on a first name basis for as long as I can remember. The only time I ever refer to someone as Mr. is when I’m talking to a scout from that person’s unit who may not know who I mean if I use a first name.

  25. We have just moved back to the South, have been in troops/packs in RI, NY, MD, and NC. most people in the south use “Miss” and first name, but I grew up in the north, and I prefer “Mrs.” Last name. That’s what I teach my children too, and they respect that. For scouts, as a den leader I introduce myself as Mrs. Johnston, and have never had any problems being called something more familiar. And that is how the other leaders are in our packs. I don’t dictate what others request to be called, but my children all use the honorific and last name. A fellow den leader told my teenaged sons to call her by her first name, their response was “I’m sorry, but you are my mother’s friend and that deserves respect”. She understood.

  26. Off Topic: Apologies, but is anyone else bothered that the article credits James West as the founder of the BSA instead of William D. Boyce? Mr. West was the first Scout Executive…

    • Since the BSA was actually founded by a group of people, of which Dr. West was part, no, I’m not bothered by it. The group of people founded the BSA, and Dr. West was chosen (by the group as a whole) to be the first Scout Executive.

      Also, let us remember… Mr. Boyce left the movement after there was a disagreement on where the first magazine about Scouting was going to be published.

    • James West is one of the founders of the BSA and much of the framework was his doing. So it is proper to say founder James West even though it seems a little odd. The others are Thomas Seton and Daniel Beard, all called founders even though it was William D. Boyce that was the catalyst behind BSA specifically.

    • Boyce had the Boy Scouts of America incorporated, but it was Edgar Robinson of the YMCA that kept it from becoming just a club for Boyce’s paper boys in Chicago. Boyce agreed to an offer by Robinson to make the BSA a national organization and use the YMCA’s vast network of camps to get it started. Robinson asked Ernest Thompson Seton and Daniel Carter Beard to apply their experience with similar boys’ organizations and share the leadership with him. He soon realize they needed leadership and he asked James West who agreed to come on board for 6 months to pull things together. 32 years later West retired, leaving a very strong national organization that he had wrestled control over. Boyce, Seton and Beard were primarily given honorary titles but had very little real impact.

      • Gentlemen, thank you all for your insight. It’s always good to learn a bit more about our Scouting history from other Scouters!

  27. Our troop is informal and the kids use first names – HOWEVER as a parent , I insist that my son call them by at least a title and name , his leader is Miss. Jen , Scoutmaster is Mr. David – etc – it is a southern tradition and at least it is a form of respect ……….

  28. I’m a young Commissioner (30), and I honestly hated it when people called or referred to me at Mr. Snider… it made me turn around and look for my grandfather. NOW, though… I don’t mind it as much. I address Scouts with title and last name, as both a respectful note and as an attention getter (addressing a room full of boys and saying “Mr. Smith” to one of them lets you know it’s a serious matter). In turn, they began calling me Mr. Snider, and it was a two-way street of respect.

    Adult leaders… there are some who I still refer to as “Mr. X” and “Capt. Y” because that is how I addressed them when I was a youth, and that has still carried over, even though they have said on numerous occasions, “Please, call me Kevin.” Some old habits die truly hard. But, to be fair – there are a couple of adult leaders who asked me (and my mother) to allow me to call them by “Mr. Bob” or “Bob,” which she allowed me to do.

  29. To prepare a boyscout for life, it is essential that they understand when to use first names and when to use Mr./Ms.
    First names have a casual peer to peer emotional relationship connotation. Whereas the Mr./Ms. or if the last name isn’t known Sir/Ma’am is a clear business relationship with respect for the logic or expertise of the other person.
    The saying “its not personal, its business” is important to understand. Often, adult leaders have to make decisions that are best for the boys, even though it may not be the popular one at the time. Just like business people have to make decisions that are best for their business, regardless if they are popular with employees at the time.
    In the Adult/youth mentoring relationship the adults goals can never be the same as the youth’s goals or you no longer have a mentoring relationship. By blurring the relationship by use of friendly first names. We do a disservice to the boy and his preparation for the business world.

  30. I believe that the use of Mr./Ms. is important for two reasons: First, to keep present in the mind of the youth that they are not one of the adults, and second, to keep present in the mind of the adult that they are not one of the youth. In my personal experience, the latter can quite frequently be more the more important of the two.

    I believe the whole position that “respect is earned not forced” is simply wrong. When the President of the United States enters or leaves a room everyone stands out of respect, regardless of if the man has earned or deserves any respect. The same basic principle applies, or should apply, in every other relationship.

    Respect your parents, whether you agree with their parenting style or not. Respect your employer/boss and those in your chain of command whether you agree with their leadership style or not. Respect your Scoutmaster and Scouting leaders whether you think they earned it or not. Respect all other people, from all demographics, no matter what.

    While I respect those who disagree, I would simultaneously submit that one of the reasons this nation is so deeply divided is because we lost this lesson as a society, and have come to not respect our fellow citizens as a starting position, to start respecting them only once we feel them worthy, and to stop respecting them at any moment we feel they are unworthy. Respect should be an immutable constant, most especially for those that we feel do not deserve it.

    • I understand your point; however calling me Mrs. S. does not imply respect; I have been called Ms. S. with derision in the tone of voice and that was way more disrespectful than a friendly “Carrie”. I happen to prefer my first name; I find it disrespectful to disregard my wishes, once I have specifically asked someone to use my first name. My last name is often mispronounced, just adding to my preference. BTW, we use a combo in my pack, each adult choosing how they prefer to be addressed.

    • Amen. Our Troop is Mr. LASTNAME, period. NO adult ever insisted that he be called that and rarely if ever does an adult insist that a Scout refer to another adult as Mr/Mrs LastName. It just happens, and prepares the boys for the real/business world. We don’t want adults to think they can hang with the kids, the Scouts run the Troop. Once a Scout turns 18 that Scout is told, often, first names are now fine but then the adults remind all Scouts that Mike, who is now 18 years 6 days old, is to be referred to as Mr. LastName from now on. Helps remind the now 18 year old who wants to still attend meetings and an outing that YP protocols apply and he has to treat his long-time friends, who are still 17, differently as far as BSA interactions go. Not fun, but that is the reality. Also helps educate the Scout if he gets into trouble no more “kiddie court” for unfortunate real world problems with law enforcement. Part of growing up education, which I think is the business that BSA is in.

      We are not that formal; often the Scouts will start to call Mr. LastName more informally as Mr. LastInitial. Typically only older Scouts do that and most often for adults they like. It is almost an honor for a Scout to refer to an adult as Mr. last initial since it denotes a different type of respect, and acceptance.

  31. Our adult leadership address each other by Mr./Ms., so it’s only appropriate for the boys in the Troop (and Pack) to do the same.

    As my own last name has 10 letter, when I was a Den Leader the boys were permitted to call me ‘Mr. Charlie’, but an appropriate adult title has always been required.

    As an aside: I am a 48 year old Systems Engineer, and many times our customers and senior managers are addressed with similar formality. There’s nothing at all wrong with that.

  32. I have always been Mr. H. to the Scouts. However, they were always taught to use Mr./Mrs. Lastname for all other adults. By the same token in group situations, I spoke of the young men as Mr. Lastname also. It is important to teach the young men what is alway correct in every situation and calling adults Mr./Mrs. Lastname is alway correct. They were able to use informal titles when they became registered adults in whatever program they were in. That could be age 18 or 21. But in front the boys, all adults were Mr./Mrs. all of the time.

  33. The Scouts in my units use Honorific & Last Name for all adults. Eagle Scouts may use first names in private conversation.. Leaders are encouraged to also use Honorific & Last Name to address each other in front of the Scouts. There is a terrible problem with youth showing respect to adults in my neighborhood and this helps alleviate that.

  34. It takes getting used to, but in Royal Rangers, adults were addressed as “Commander _______” or Mr. ____, Mrs. _____, or Ms. _____ The problem is in about a year everybody calls you “Commander” and forget what your real name is. I have been out of R.R. for 5 years and the boys (now adults) still refer to me as Commander Kelly or just Commander.

    I will add to this thread because I asked R.R. Commanders this question, “What do your sons call you?” Do they call you “Dad”? Do they call you “Commander”? Do they call you “Mr. ______?” My son called me “Commander Daddy”. I had new leaders and they wondered what was most proper? My responce was that your son is a member of the unit and should call you the same name as everybody esle BUT they are your son and that is something special, so a son of a leader should have the privilege to call you “Commander Daddy.”
    Ultimately, the boys should be refering to adults with respect just the same that the adults should show the kids respect as well. We would refer to the boys as “Sir”, “Ranger ____” or “Patrol Leader ____” or Second Class ______”.

  35. As a Scout Leader, all the boys address me as Mr. Newman. I even require my son to address me that way while other Scouts are present. They all are used to it and don’t guve it a second thought, now. I did have to call them on their transgressions each time to help them understand I was serious. But that lasted only a couple of meetings.

  36. I just remembered an instance where one boy would call all of the male leaders “Commander.” but the female leader by her first name. The lady came up to me and asked me what to do. I told her to ignore the boy if he did not respond to her with respect. The boy came to me complaining that he was being ignored. My response what the Commander Helen went to all of the training that the male leaders went to. They all earned the title “Commander” and you are insulting her by calling her by her first name. Address her as “Commander Helen” and she if she responds. So he did and he got the attention he wanted. He addressed her as such after that incident.

    The boy has issues with women being in authority over him. The father complained about it to me and I told him that his son needs to get used to the idea since there are women that have earned their title and proper respect needs to be given to them. Going against this is the same as rebelling against God. I then asked him who trained your son to be disrespectful to women?

    • I’m a woman scoutmaster for 4 years. Iv do not want formal names but that’s my choice. I have done all the training including wood badge that you can get. I love that you asked who taught him disrespect because unlike me she wanted formal names and her request should have been honored.

  37. Why do all the comments seem to be focusing on the “right” way to do this? As a teacher for more than 30 years (and Scouter for more than 40), I’ve used both systems. Young people don’t “mind” using the honorific; nor do they disrespect an adult who chooses to use their first name. Stop reading motives into what other people do: Letting kids call you by your first name doesn’t mean you want to be their pal, and having them call you Mr. does not mean you’re setting up artificial barriers.

    • So, you start off criticizing those who say their way is right and close by saying your way is … ?

      Many of the traditions and styles of BSA are directly taken from military. While we do not salute the leaders or have ‘ranks’ for adults, calling grown-ups by their proper title sets life boundaries which are sorely lacking in society today.

  38. The answer to this may vary by region. In some areas of the country, it’s more common for youths to address adults with first names than it is in others. In my area (the Northeast) “Mr. West” is the norm. In the South, “Mr. James” is likely more common, but we never hear that up here. Most Scouts call me “Mr. Huber” but I’ve never enforced it. They’ve occasionally called me by my first name (sometimes just to try and push my buttons) or even a nickname, and I allow it. Remember, we are the Scouts’ *friends* and *mentors*, not their teachers, parents, pastors, etc. An honorific greeting may sound respectful, but true respect comes from within, not through a simple title.

    • I agree. There are regional differences in how young people in general address adults. The same regional differences would apply to how Scouts address their leaders.

      When I lived in Texas, most of my Scouts called me Rich, except for the Scouts who were also students of mine, who called me Mr. Wendling or Mr. W, The Scouts in my current Ohio troop all call me Mr. Wendling.

      The key is, “A Scout is courteous.” Whatever is the best way to show mutual respect in a given troop, or between individual Scouts and leaders, is the best answer to this question.

  39. Go with what is appropriate with your scouting environment. I have a very long hypenated last name. I allow the scouts to call me by either one of my last names preceded by Ms., or they can call me Ms. Isabella. Other leaders use their first name only or go by Mr./Ms.

    When I direct scouts to other adults or leaders, I direct them using the Mr./Ms. approach. Go see Mr. / Ms. Smith.

    Growing up in Europe as a child, we addressed all adults over the age of 20 as Mr. or Ms. especially folks that were elderly or in positions of authority. Also living in the southern U.S. states, in was common practice to address your elders as Mr. or Miss followed by their last name and for other people that you knew with their permission as Mr. or Miss / First name, Mr. George or Miss Johnnie-Mae.

  40. Our Cub Scouts typically call their leaders Mr. First Name. When they cross over and become a Boy Scout, they address leaders as Mr. Last Name. This works well in our area

  41. I am not a formal leader. I agree with the one that says..mr is my father’s name. I’m female but I’m goldie to all. Maam or Mrs makes me feel old. And like several said respect is not in a word is in actions. My scouts and their parents totally behind me. We are friends as well as leader/mentor and scouts. You can be both.

  42. I’ve always been a first name fella. I grew up in the South and have always given the proper respect to everyone around me. Mr. Mrs. Etc.. I ask my scouts to call me by my nickname. My father is Mr. Box, and after many years in the Army, I prefer my first name. I still get call Mr. Box, and let it go. But I’ve seen that boys are closer, and communicate better on a first name. They see my not only as their adult leader but as a friend. I’m happy to see them at meetings, campouts, service projects, and that’s what matters..

  43. In our Council NYLT classes the staff and participants are all Mr., Miss, Mrs. or Ms.
    and have been as long as I can remember.

  44. The Scouters in our Troop are always referred to Mr., Ms., Mrs., and their last name by the Scouts and the other Scouters. The Scouts learn how to address the adults by hearing the Scouters address each other. When our Scouts turn 18 and continue to serve with the Troop in a leadership position, they are addressed as Mr. and their last name. We make a point to introduce these former Scouts at our Troop meeting as Mr. Last Name. Another way that this is emphasized to the Scouts, is when they sit for a Board of Review, each adult introduces himself or herself as Mr., Ms., Mrs., Last Name and a hand shake. This teaches respect and isn’t that what Scouting is all about?

  45. I prefer Scouts and Scouters to call me by my first name. I guess its because Im only 22 and just don’t feel that me being a “Mr” seems appropriate. I however sometimes refer to parents or other adults by their last name but that just depends upon what I find is most comfortable to an adult.

    I tell Scouts that however a leader wants to be called is appropriate but until that adult makes you aware of this always use “Mr” or “Mrs” as appropriate.

    Maybe I’m not setting the right example but that is what I prefer and to respect me I ask Scouts to use my first name. I personally was raised to call an adult or authority figure by their last name with the appropriate title in front but for me I have found people calling me by my first name the most comfortable. It really is just to relate and communicate with the boys instead of seeming as the big bad or intimidating Scout Leader. I sit on several council committees and have found that using my first name leaves a better impression

    • THANK YOU so much! I couldn’t have said it better. And I passed 22 about 2 plus times ago….I just turned the dreaded 60, and I do NOT want to be called Mrs. Holzer. That’s my mother-in-law, and perhaps some of my in-laws….NOT ME. And I, like you, think it brings about better communication. Trust and respect is earned.

      Someone said it isn’t. YES it is. The example given was respecting mother and father….true, in most instances. But, I’m sorry, a parent who abuses their child whether it be physical, emotional or sexual deserves NO respect …so I do not give parents a blanket RESPECT honor.

      That doesn’t mean you don’t have to do what teachers, bosses, and parents tell you to do, that’s life…but they do not deserve your respect if they mistreat you. Sorry to disagree with that other person.

      And believe me, just because a child/teen addresses someone with an honorary title DOES NOT mean they respect them. It simply means they are doing what they are required to do…and then laughing behind the adult’s back.

      The boys DO think of my as their friend. They know that there isn’t anything they can say that would embarrass me (I was raised around males – and 90% of my friends growing up and now are male). We sit and talk (just came back from camp) – about everything from girls to music to movies to camping. I do what they do, I don’t sit on the sidelines. If they climb, I climb. If they do water activities, I do as well.

      I’m with a new troop and no longer scoutmaster which suits me fine. I don’t have the stress anymore, I can just enjoy the troop. But whether I was or not, I would not want to be called by a formal name.

    • I was in exactly the same position – when I became an Assistant Scoutmaster, I was 22 and it seemed weird to have Scouts who were only five years younger than me call me “Mr. Brown”. I’m 61 now, but I never got out of the habit. No one calls me “Mr. Brown”, and it just sounds odd to me. In thirty years as a troop leader, I’ve never felt any lack of respect from it.

      The Scouts will adapt to whatever the adult expects – when I was at the troop level we often had “Mike”, “Jerry”, “Mr. Wright” and “Mr. Kostuk” on campouts. Not a problem.

  46. I am the Scoutmaster of Troop 121 in Theodore Alabama. My reply to my Scouts on this issue is always the same: You can call me Mr. Buddy or Mr. Weaver, but my first name is Mr.. The same goes for each of the other adults that work with our units.

    When told by a parent many years ago that they did not require their children to “do that” my response was “they do now!” We also require “thank you and please, yes ma’am and no ma’am.

    My reinforcement is to also use these terms when speaking with my Scouts and Parents.

    In my 34+ years as an adult leader this has never been an issue, If everyone understands the game from the outset.

  47. The boys in the troop are introduced to the adults as “Mr. __” or “Mrs. __” (we have one “Dr. __”) and they just get used to it. Parents in these parts expect that level of decorum. Typically, I address the boys in the same fashion when they a performing a ceremonial role (including giving a weather report). Sometimes I use “Young Mr. __” to distinguish them from their dad.

    The venturers may call me by first name, but very few do. The few that realize that I am allowing it have a tough time making that transition after all those years. Usually, it’s the youth from other crews who freely use my first name. That’s how I prefer to be introduced at most public gatherings.

    My own kids have been welcome to use either “Dad” or “Mr. __”, the first two chose the former, the last one the latter. In fact, at a recent court of honor where he was sergeant-at-arms and I was MC, we used “Mr. __” to address each other, and it surprised a couple of folks who weren’t used to that level of formality between father and son.

  48. I’ve worked with youth as a counselor at church, a public school teacher, and a scout leader. For long term relationships respect is earned by behavior, but youth show a lot more respect to adults in general when they are taught to use titles and last names. I ask them to call me Mr. Deemer. It seemed weird at first, but I soon got over the feeling that that was my Dad’s name. Now that my dad has passed on I’m honored to wear his title.

  49. I’ve been the Scoutmaster since I was 21. I am now 33. I’ve always had the boys use my first name. It all started from the beginning. I ended up being the Scoutmaster over boys I was once SPL with. So it seemed odd for them to call me Mr. Sayre. That’s my dad.

  50. I require all scouts to address all adults as Mr., Mrs., Miss, & Ms. as a show of respect of their elders. I also require them to say yes or no sir or mam. I do the same as I require them to help them remember as most don’t usually get it anywhere else. I will even say yes or no sir to them.

  51. In my troop, it’s true that scouts address adults by Mr. Lastname, but I think some of the reasons here aren’t right.

    See, we lead a boy-led troop. The right thing to do is give the scouts the way forward and let us help when necessary, which is almost never. Treating the scouts like they’re our “students” or children is wrong… because we’re not teachers. Scouts teach scout skills and scouts lead scouts. When you get into “those kids better treat me as their rightful elder,” certainly respect is necessary, but I think it’s easy for the adults to take the wrong approach.

  52. Just finished a week of Cub Scout day camp. I asked my leaders what THEY wish to be called. Personally, I don’t care for Mrs. X. I prefer me first name. I can say that I received no less respect than in previous years when everyone went by Mr or Mrs. What is disrespectful is to insist someone be referred to as Mr or Mrs when they don’t like it.

    Leave it up to the individual. If respect doesn’t come, it’s NOT because of how you’re being addressed.

  53. Being addressed by full title doesn’t signify respect any more than being addressed by first name or nickname shows disrespect. I would bet we all have had bosses who you were expected to address as Mr. Jones, and did you in fact respect all those 😉 So setting that argument aside I think requiring formal names is fine if you consider yourself in a position of power over the Scouts, the same as a parent, teacher, or boss! If you consider yourself a facilitator of program whose job is to guide youth, perhaps having a more friendly way of addressing and being addressed might be more appropriate.

    Quite a few years ago I started taking youth to a Canadian scout camp, and they discovered that addressing a leader as Scouter was the norm when you didn’t know the leaders name. Over the years a number of youth have called me Scouter ever since, and I have several who still do years after graduating from college.

  54. I like the way our Twin Arrows (NYLT) program handles it. Scouts and Scouters address each other with Title/honorific and last name. It says I respect you and you respect me.

  55. i believe it depends on the scout and scouter in question, some scouts have known a leader for 10 years, and by the time they are preparing to age consider that leader as a parent of sorts. as a scout i use formalities in front of younger scouts but when in a meeting with leaders (unless a board of review or something official) I use their first names. in our order of the arrow chapter we are told to only use first names because we are all brothers and no one is more senior then the next.
    on the other hand there are some leader i only use formalities with.

  56. Hi,

    I’m a Scouter in the UK; I run a Troop and have a Commissioner role in the County. The Scouts (of whatever age) tend to call me by my first name most of the time, but occasionaly use ‘sir’ when they sense that its a serious moment, or perhaps they might be in trouble. I think this maybe demonstrates that kids, like adults, are pretty good at judging the moment, and making a choice. As many on this site have said, demanding to be called ‘Mr’ won’t earn respect, and demanding to be called ‘Nick’ won’t make me ‘cool with the kids’ either. Its what you say, and how you act, not what title you assume.

    As an aside, it can backfire. At a County presentation the other day, in front of a couple of hundred Scouts and parents, I was introduced as the ‘important guest’ … only to hear one of the youngest Scouts in my own Troop say rather loudly, and with clear disbelief, ‘that’s not an important guest, that’s Nick’!

    Best to all.

    • Love it. But as to the backfire. I’m assuming you are laughing about it. I would be, too. Although I can see some people, and some in this discussion thread, who would have taken that as an insult. Not knowing your kids, I do know mine, and they would have meant that I was their friend, and not anymore important than they are. I think kids use that ‘important’ term reserved for people who intimidate them.

      There was a couple in our troop that were our ‘go to’ leaders. They knew it all. The boys did not like them at all, but they did respect their knowledge. They never called them by their first names. We had boys who would not even go on campouts if they were going. They did everything right, were incredible in their knowledge, but they did not make day to day living fun. They would jump on the kids for the smallest infraction.

      When I mentioned that to some other scout leaders from other troops, they said ‘we pick and choose our battles – that would not have been one of them. Had the boy broke the chair, we would have told them they would now have to pay for it.’ The boy was rocking back in a folding chair at the church mess hall. Not crazily, just rocking, as boys AND adults do. Poor kid was mortified….and this was a kid who is becoming a preacher….not a juvenile delinquent!

      • Hi again .. re the boy saying ‘that’s not an important guest, that’s Nick’. Yes, I was laughing, it is one of my great Scouting memories.

        Re your knowledgable but unliked Leaders, I would make this observation.

        Its easy to be a martinet, and have the kids jump at every word because they fear you. But how many will stay when they are old enough to make that choice?

        Its easy to be ‘down with the kids’, and let them do and say exactly what they want. But how many will respect you when they are old enough to understand that choice.


        • You are right on both counts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m strict when I need to be. Here’s an example: We had a boy cross over, and he was hell on wheels. An adopted child who was spoiled beyond belief. Foul language (not around me, but I was told), would not do the buddy system, and would not work (as in help cook or put up tents). His parents were dolls.

          We went to a campout at a state park that was on a river. This boy did not swim. After several episodes of having to ‘search’ for him and finding him at the river WITHOUT A BUDDY, I did what the boys have never heard me do. I raised my voice and used language (not foul) that they had never heard me use before. I did not direct it at this one boy, I directed it at the whole troop because I did not want this boy to feel singled out, especially since he was a new crossover.

          Bottom line it was a safety issue. To show how the boys were shocked….one of them said to my grandson…..’what happened to our scoutmaster!’. My grandson laughed and said, she is laid back until you push the wrong buttons, then look out.

          For me, it’s safety. Scouting should be fun, but it can’t be if someone is either endangering themselves or others, as this scout was doing. Plus it put stressors on the group that was totally unnecessary. This boy did not stay in scouting. As his mom put it….he’s not ready. Nope, until he learns to control his mouth (we had a couple of very religious youth in our troop), and listen to safety rules and realize scouting is a TEAM effort and he can’t not be a prima donna…then no, he isn’t ready.

          Like the others said…I pick my battles. Chair rocking is not one of them.

        • mariahwwa,

          I had a pastor’s kid that took off 12 times on me in one day on a camp out. He too was hanging out by the water, would not contribute, but was not mouthy. When we returned from the campout, his parents were told that their child would never go camping again unless mommy and daddy were there to baby sit. So I say “Right on!” for you.

          Dad went on a canoe trip for the next camp out….and had fun as well. So things can change. Pastor’s or other kids need to be treated the same as the rest of the unit, no higher standards or no lower standards either.

  57. I expect to always be called Mister Parker no matter what age the scout is. I am 48 and until his death addressed my scoutmaster as Mister. It shows respect and acknowledges the time the adult invested in you.

    • I understand wanting respect, but like others have said on here….it doesn’t mean respect. It means doing something they are told to do – whether they think you deserve respect or not.

      It should be the preference of each particular adult. The troop I’m prefers Mr/Mrs. I don’t, so they respect that.

      Besides, I’ve been around the boys for so long it would be difficult for them to call me anything other than Goldie. They respect me as a leader, but I think most of them think of me more as a friend than an adult, and I love that…as long as respect goes along with it. I love that that they don’t stop talking when I come around which is the case for a lot of adults. Not so much in our troop, but in many troops.

    • I know a Scoutleader whoi is called Mister by the kids. I also happen to know they can’t stand him. Its not what you ‘expect’ Bob, its what you earn.

  58. Here in the UK Leaders are never called by Mr of Mrs etc. That includes everyone up to UK Chief Commissioner. Beaver adn Cub Leaders have titles such as Akela etc and slme Troops still use “Skipper” for Scout Leader and so on. I’ve been in UK Scouting for 50 years nd it’s always Alan – from youngest Beaver to eldest Scout.

  59. I insist they either call me Ms Rhonda or by my last name. We have a few that will use my first name but I tell them that they can only use that name after they achieve Eagle, if they still want to. 🙂

  60. I used to work in an intensive residential psychiatric facility for adolescents, and it was protocol to use Mr. ___/ Ms. ____. It was a created structure to help establish respect and authority; and a tool for the patients to create power struggles. I worked in this hospital for 15 years, and over time, I began to realize that my authority was not founded in what the patients called me, but in their voice tone and how genuine they were in their interactions. I still ensured, “Mr. ___” was used (theoretically), but I found that I didn’t have to enforce the behavior; the patients self-regulated. The level of structure found in the hospital is 3rd in line behind the military and jail. I was military for 8 years and worked with inmates for over 5 years.

    In Scouts; I am “Mr. Bo.” This was the general “rule” before I got involved. I found it awkward initially, but grew to accept this name. While Scouts have a structure, and mutual respect is necessary for a good working relationship; I have found throughout my life that I prefer respect that comes from the building of positive relationships and not from control and fear.

    If Scouts call me, “Mr. Hunt;” I answer. If they call me, “Mr. Bo,” I answer. If any were to ever call me, “Bo,” I’d answer. The only correction I would ever make is if a Scout were to call me something derogatory. It wouldn’t be a direct confrontation about my name; but a check in with them to see what was going on that they feel name-calling is needed. I would recognize this as an escalated Scout, in most instances, and my intention would be to help the Scout begin to diffuse the situation…. not further instigate.

    What I’m called? As long as it is respectful; then I’m flexible. How I am referred to does not affect the level of respect I am offered by the Scouts. It is my relationship with the Scouts; the gift of trust that the Scouts provide me, and the genuine interactions that create mutual respect. I am comfortable in my skin, and don’t require a “Mr.” to know that I hold the respect of my Scouts.

    The “name-game” is not a power struggle in which I need to engage.

  61. For those of us that stayed in Scouting, and became adult leaders at the age of 18, there was never an “appropriate” time to tell everyone to stop calling me by my first name, when at that beginning, many of the scouts were still my peers, more or less. Staying with the same troop all these years just automatically did not lend itself to a “stopping point”. I know this example is more of an exception than the rule, but it definitely applies to my situation.

  62. In Scouting it is important to make a distinction between Scouts and Scouters. While I don’t have a burning desire to be addressed with title I know that there are some adults that this is important to them … To be honest I am of a generation that was taught that the appropriate use of titles was important. There was a close personal friend of the family that I would at family social gatherings address by his first name. However, when I would encounter him in his work setting or in public I would never consider addressing him without the title of Professor or Doctor. It was a sign of respect. Also to do otherwise would sent the wrong message to those that did not know the Professor socially.

    As our society erodes these social decorum’s Scouting if one of the few places that a youth might learn these expectations. My standing rule is that until a Scout comes of age he or she is to address me and any other adult with the appropriate title. Often I have found that it is not the Scouts that have trouble with this unwritten social decorum but rather adults that are not used to or have never been address by title. It becomes a subtle training issue … No specific correction is made other than set the example by always address other Adult in the public setting with the appropriate title.

    The Scouts in our unit seem to appreciate formality and decorum. And one or two have come back after going off collage and the work force and reported that they were glad that they learned the appropriate use of “Titles” in Scouts as that when they got out in the real world it set them apart from their less formal peers.

  63. I agree with others here that what I am called is not so important among the Troop boys and adults – their respect for me is not determined by my title. Tone and intention are far more important!

    I am fine with them using my first name, but the boys and I do discuss appropriate ways to address those with whom we interact. I address other Scouters as Mr. or Mrs. when in the presence of the boys, modeling the manner in which I feel it is appropriate for the boy to address that person until/unless that person directs the boy to do otherwise.

    Although I am surely not perfect, my belief is that kids are always watching what I do… basing their behaviors more on that observation than upon anything I tell them. With this in mind, I try to fly right for them. My Dad and my grandfather made me understand that kids will rarely remember what you said, but they will forever remember how you behaved and how you made them feel.

    This does NOT mean you worry about make them “feel good” about all they do – on the contrary – you need to let them feel like crap for some of the mistakes they make.. that’s natural. What it DOES mean is that you let a boy know he matters to YOU… that his successes or failures matter to YOU. Then, you won’t need to worry about what he calls you.

  64. One of the problems I find in this world is that we seem to have forgotten that positions of leadership command respect. You do not just show respect for the person, that is earned, but you show respect for the position. You refer to the President of the United States as Mr. President or Mr. Obama, because he is the president. You put your personal bias aside. I think this is a lesson we need to teach scouts. Respect for position and authority is as old as the scouts. I am pretty sure the first scouts did not call him Mr. Baden, he was Lord Baden Powell. He was Lord and a General. Further, I have seen many problems arise when we blur the line between leader and scout. Remember, these boys are not your friends. They are your responsibility. And because, as a leader, you accept that responsibility, you earn respect.

  65. The Scouts get enough of the Mr. and Mrs. stuff at school. Part of growing up is learning to deal with adults as equals and being on a first name basis helps in this way.

  66. Our Scouts call all the Assistants ‘Mr’
    I will begin referring to myself by my first name for the seniors in high school. Many of my previous Scouts call me Mr. well into their 40’s and 50’s, but I’m at the stage where they think I’m their father/grandfather’s generation so their comfortable doing so.

    • Love it! Although my dad is already gone. I feel old enough without anyone calling me MRS anything. Use my first name, or even HEY YOU as long as it isn’t any disrespectful manner. Well, not really on the last thing. But again, respect is earned, and is displayed in the tone and mannerisms of the boys. Calling me Mrs. doesn’t mean anything other than they were told that’s what they had to do.

  67. We joined Scouting fresh from a parenting class that suggested that teaching children to use titles and last names was appropriate. It signifies authority and respect. While we want to be able to have fun with the scouts, we also need for them to understand who is ultimately in charge. The formality of the address is a reinforcement of that message. If it was not, school teachers would have dropped the rule long ago. There are scouts I am very good friends with who, though invited to, have not dropped the Mrs. The name has not affected our ability to become friends.
    One way to develop the “formality habit” is for the adults to refer to one another that way. This helps to reinforce the name use with the scouts.
    It’s okay that there are some things that kids need to do just because they are kids. We don’t need to be so afraid of drawing that line of distinction. I have always been proud of my son when he addresses an elder formally, and the adult is pleased as well. I have felt like the adults who are uncomfortable being called Mr. or Mrs. and brush off that usage are out of line and just need to accept, that as an adult, titles are appropriate. I am not militant about it, but I have on occasion gently said that I would prefer Mrs. I have found instead that if the adults offer this respect to one another (at least in front of the scouts) that it becomes plain what name use is expected.

    • I take offense to you saying that those of us who CHOOSE not to use titles are out of line. YOU choose to use it, I choose to NOT use it. It is inappropriate right there for you to insult others for the choice they make.

      We are not the boys’ parents. Parenting class? What does that have to do with scouting? Did they teach you that your kids should use titles with YOU? I’m assuming they did not. If they did, I have no respect for that class.

      Respect is earned, and cannot be forced. The tone of voice displays the respect, not the words. How many times have kids said the ‘respectful’ words and then if you were to see them right after they say it, you would see their snickers and laughter under their breath. It truly has nothing to do with true respect. It is a trained behavior.

      But bottom line, it is your choice to use titles, it is my choice not to. I don’t condemn you by saying that IS a militant, formal attitude that I, personally, don’t like with the boys. They have that enough in school and other places. So you should not condemn us by saying we are out of line.

      • “Respect is earned, and cannot be forced.” I completely agree. We all had teachers we were disrespectful to, regardless of what we called them. The title, however, just like “Officer,” “Judge,” and “Mr. President,” courteously reminds us who is in charge in the end.

        If a scout’s parent has trained them that it is respectful to call an adult by their title and last name, and they do so, and a leader declares that they don’t want to be addressed that way or don’t think it is necessary or appropriate, do you think that would be confusing to a young person? Why not just accept the title rather than undermine their parental training? As a parent, I have prefaced my training by saying, “Unless the adult declares otherwise.” It just seems a shame to confuse the child unnecessarily for a harmless act of courtesy.

        For the record, saying a behavior is, in my opinion, out of line, is not an insult. It is an opinion. You can choose what you want. I just happen to disagree and thought I was free to voice my opinion here without getting crucified for it. Happy Scouting!

        • I differentiate between cubs and scouts. Cubs usually do address me as Ms. Goldie, but I don’t require it.

          If SCOUTS get confused over this there’s something more at play here.

          You have a right to say what you want, I just didn’t like the inference that we were doing something wrong. Out of line to me means doing something wrong. And we aren’t, plain and simple.

          So I guess its semantics and how you feel about the terminology. I didn’t like the inference so I had to respond.

          This is still America….for the moment….so we all have the right to say what we want. Just pray it stays that way for our kids. Not looking good…but off topic there.

        • I agree with not countering parental training. I have Scouts that call me Mrs. Arcand, even though I personally prefer Mrs. Crystal. They have been taught by their parents this way, and I give and example of a Scout’s respect by respecting their parents. I always tell my Scouts “Mama trumps me!” when it comes to those types of issues.

  68. Like most everything in life, it depends. There is a time and place for everything. In general, with my students or my scouts I have been Mr. or Dr. Hobbs. However, in one on one less formal, when Boy Scouts have made Eagle I am Steve. Unless we’re in front of patients other kids, etc. you have to you do what feels is right to you in your situation. There is no right or wrong.

  69. When I became Scoutmaster I kept the existing troop standard of using the Mr./Mrs., giving leeway on whether to use first name/last name, especially with hard to pronounce names.

    When I started the Venturing Crew I was comfortable using first names so I did not impose a specific rule, so that the scouts from the Troop who are dual-enrolled often use the Mr. while the Venturing-only youth often use first names.

    Another reason for vagueness on the Venturing side is that several of my Venturing youth are Troop adults, and in our Troop adults address each other by first name, so it would be weird to have them address me by first name when they are acting as ASM and as Mr. when acting as Crew President.

  70. I’m 52 years old and I still call my boss Mr. Smith, and anyone else I know like the Deacons at church etc by Mr. Mrs/Miss/Ms are a bit cloudier but even as adults you should call them with the Mr./Ms. until THEY tell you otherwise. Sometimes even if they are younger such as in having a younger boss. He would be Mr.
    Of course there is Dr, Pastor, Professor, etc.

    For those younger, especially kids, there is no first name basis unless you are peers and friends.
    If you are 40 and a kid is 15, you are NOT peers.

    • That’s your decision. It should not be forced on those who don’t agee with you. I do not like the formal names….for ME. Others are free to do as they want.

      No, not peers in age, but peers has many meanings. here are a few:

      1. a person who is the equal of another in abilities, qualifications, age, background, or status.
      2. a person of the same legal status as another.
      3. something of equal worth or quality.

      so an adult scout could, in fact, be a peer according to these rules.

      at any rate, it should be up to the individual leader how they are addressed. I don’t like formal.

  71. I’m 20, so I let people in my troop address me by my first name (both younger and older). Certain adults (in and out of my troop) have given me express permission to address them by first name. I usually do title and last name to anyone older than me, and first name to my peers or younger. This policy translates the same for troop events, crew events (I hold both Silver and a VLA), camporees, OA events, and events I staff.

    Even when I’m teaching as part of the Council Training Committee, anyone older than me is addressed by title and surname until I’m told otherwise.

  72. A scout is courteous.

    Scouts should learn and use courtesy in scouting activities as well as elsewhere.

    Using a title like Mr. or Mrs. is courteous.

    Forcing an adult to use a title is NOT courteous.

    Using titles is no different than saying “please” or “thank you” or “sir” or “ma’am”. If you think saying “please” and “thank you” is something a scout should do, then you should consider using titles. Respect does not need to come into play when discussing this – although it might. This is all about the fifth point of the scout law, not forcing someone to show respect.

  73. When I was involved in Girl Scouts with my daughters, we used camp names – even our kids had to call their parents by camp names, so it put all on an even footing – i.e., you didn’t have a momma or daddy to go to while involved in scout activities . Now GSUSA has changed so much, I don’t know what they do now.

    [By the way, I am male, in spite of my name [Carey] – at this time, M*A*S*H was popular, so I had the name “Radar”, and my wife, a nurse, took the name “Hot Lips”]. I would not have any problems with first names, but I think the practice of camp names would be good.

    That being said, when we have Scoutmaster conferences, Boards of Review, or other formal occasions, Ma’am and Sir are enforced. The main interaction between leaders and scouts should follow a chain of command structure, where, except for instruction, announcements, or such, communication between Scouters and Leaders should go, bidirectionally, between SM and SPL, then down into their respective structures

  74. In our Troop most of the time it is Mr. Last Name. However I am a younger leader (I aged out in 2010) so I am trying to get the scouts to at least use Mr. Ian as it is very strange for the scouts who have been on a first name basis with me since they started to now I’m suddenly Mr. Last Name.

  75. When I became Cubmaster, the new Committee Chair and I agreed that we needed a pack policy on what to call leaders to make it easier on parents. If all the adults are Mr. / Mrs. and last name, that’s easy to remember. In our unit, we have the honorific and a first name.

    Cubs are intended to be more family friendly, a bit less structured (not unstructured) than Boy Scouts, which is why we made that choice. It is clearly not the same thing as talking with a friend, but less formal than with a teacher.

  76. Gee, resurrect an old discussion.
    I guess I will accept some of the blame for this on behalf of us Quakers. Back in the 1650’s, the class distinctions were very clearly defined. Serf, Lord of Manor; plain folk, mayor; nobleman, king. Lower vs higher class. One acknowledged that distinction by doffing your hat to your “social better”, or using “thee” and “thou” to your “social inferior” and “you” (the plural second ) to your “social better”. Master? Mistress? Lord (except the Holy One)? Quakers came to believe that since all were equal in God’s sight, such address was not appropriate. One might be a Miller, or Teacher, or Manor Owner, but that did not mean you were more (or less) important to God’s ken. They came to address all by “thee ” and “thou” and not tipping their hats to anyone. Kept their hat on often even indoors. All this led to Q’s being arrested and thrown in jail, even though there were no laws concerning this. Mister, Misses, Miss? That was a social distinction, too. They came to address each other as “friend” and this equality led to knowing the family name but often only using the first name, since (for instance) there might be more than one “Miller ” in town. “Friend Jones, how are thee today?”
    Such equality of status (student to teacher, citizen to sheriff, children to parents, etc.) leads us to the present discussion. My children once asked me , after going through our First Day School (another discussion about day and month naming) whether they should call me “dad” or “Jim” . I replied what do you think? They chose “dad”, because that is what I was to them.
    I have often marveled at how the “Plain Speech” has been abandoned and modern Quakers , for the most part, no longer set themselves apart by using “thee’ and “thou” but use “you” everywhere, except , perhaps, in official Quaker documents and historic stuff.

    I remember thinking, in first grade, how it was strange all teachers seemed to have the same first name: “Misses”.

  77. In our pack, we have varied salutatory addresses. My den is a Webelos I group who has chosen a patrol method as opposed to a den method. I request that all of my patrol members refer to adults as Mr. or Mrs. (first name) when they are speaking with another scout. They simply use Sir/Ma’am when speaking directly to an adult. After a few scout years of this, the other dens have just picked up the habit.

  78. Our troop uses title and last name. It predates my arrival as scoutmaster but it has always worked, and I believe teaches the boys respect. Most transition well when they turn 18 to calling me by my first name. In turn I usually address them as mr. Last name as a sign of respect back to them, and save using first name for scoutmaster conferences to convey a more personal and comfortable tone.

  79. I think we are all getting hung up on the wrong thing personally. In my mind a title means nothing as far as respect goes. I am sure the majority of us have had a teacher we addressed as Mr. or Mrs. who was rude or burned out and crabby leaving us with little respect for them. Or a Doctor who is a crummy doctor and we lose respect for them. Respect is earned through our actions not through a title we require someone to call us.

  80. The youth that I’ve worked with call me by my first name or variations of my last name. I’m not going to make a rule. As adult leaders or advisors, I believe in being a friend to the Scout, or a big brother. I think they need someone to look up to, but someone who is still reachable. They don’t need another school teacher, or another parent, they need a friend, a mentor, just someone who cares for them and shows it. Using the patrol method, the youth should be mostly in charge, so perhaps the choice really should be determined by them.

  81. As a Cubmaster working with young children I asked them to call me Mr. Eric, when I moved up to Scoutmaster it was Mr. Pullen, and I expect a yes Sir from them. In turn when they ask me, I say yes Sir to them, mutual respect is very important.

  82. I don’t know where to start with my response to this letter. I’m not sure why you chose to hijack a discussion about how scouts should address adults to rant about something unfortunate that happened to you at summer camp. Your conclusion that, because something was stolen from you at camp while the boys were at badge work, “scouts were doing the stealing” is a leap of logic to say the least. Second, your statement that scouting does not exclude criminals is absurd. No organization can completely exclude people who choose to do the wrong thing without doing background checks on everyone who joins, but even if they could, who was talking about criminals in scouting? Way to hijack a conversation! Lastly, maybe you should rethink your involvement in scouting if this is how you view the organization and its members.

  83. As a Girl Scout Troop Leader and a Boy Scout Committee member, I allow the Scouts to call me Mrs. Arcand or Mrs. Crystal according to preference. Where I grew up in east Texas, the honorific with first name was deemed just as respectful (and in many cases, more so) as with the last name. The culture implied a mix of respect and affection in using the first name with the honorific, rather than just respect when using the last name.

  84. When I moved to this small town I had a mother in law, 3 sister in laws, and my husbands late grandmother and late great grandmother all ahead of me with the title Mrs Wright. Therefore I became Mrs Teresa. Now that I teach my students use the school required Mrs Wright in class, but when the final bell rings , my scouts and 4-Hers switch hats with me and change names. Membership allows the student to follow suit. But a title and proper name must be used, respectfully at all times.

  85. I use the Mr. and Mrs or Ms, but with the first name. Mr. Brad or Mr. David. I think it is different for different troops, however. Depends on the background of your Scouts. In our case there is the respect needed, but we are not aloof as all the other adults out there. We are approachable if in trouble and listened to if giving instructions. This has worked for me personally for 25 years.

  86. Even though this article was published 2 years ago, it was just re-shared on FB and stimulated a rejuvenated discussion. This is timely for me, because I am currently taking training to be a COPE instructor, and our trainer encouraged us to go by first names when working with the youth on a COPE course. I’ve always been addressed as Mr in my 10+ years as a scout leader (it was weird for me at first, but now I’m quite accustomed to it).

    I don’t think I’ll have any problems with being addressed by first name on the COPE course, but I do think about the spillover effect — if some of those boys see me in another Scout setting and I’m with boys who only know me as Mr Farrell.

    Anyway, it had me thinking about another honorific: Dr. I am a Ph.D. engineer and work with medical doctors frequently in my day job. I always, always address them as Dr, unless they correct me and ask me to call them by their first name (some do, most don’t). I would never, ever address my own physician as “Mike”; it’s always Dr. Is that any different than this discussion?

    BTW, even though I have a Ph.D., i HATE being called “Dr.” I think it is pretentious for a PhD to go by Dr unless they work in an academic setting. But that’s just my opinion. Or am I being hypocritical?

  87. The comfort of the Adult is what I look to here. We have a leader in our unit who is Mrs. Soandso. We all refer to her as that in front of the Scouts even though as adults and friends we’re all on a first name basis with her. Her Scouts adore her and she does a great job with them. Mrs. Soandso, just happens to be her name.

    I am NOT Mrs. or Ms. I’m of a younger generation and have worked in professions where you interact on a first name basis. My Scouts call me MJ as that is the name I commonly use. If they were to call me Mrs., it would take me a moment to realize they were talking to me. However, I have NO room for disrespect in my meetings. I am in charge. Always. And my Scouts know that. Using an honorific isn’t necessary for maintaining boundaries, it’s just a tool in the toolbox.

    When entering a unit and interacting with Scouts I don’t know as well, I err on the side of using Mr./Mrs. until instructed by the leader to do otherwise. I introduce visitors to our unit using Mr./Mrs. (or more often Officer/Dr.). Being respectful is important and teaching that via modelling it is the best way to go. But with my own Scouts in our meetings? We’re on a first name basis and I am no less the adult in charge because of that.

  88. We must never forget that we are building MEN OF CHARACTER. In our troop, Mr. or Mrs always prefixes our name (first name) so I am “Mr. Paul”. To take it one step farther, any time a Scout seeks my attention, I respond back with YES SIR… treating him like a YOUNG MAN and not a “boy” or a “kid”… and I did so even when we were in Tiger Cubs. Respect is show to each other all the time. It also sends the message that I expect a little bit more out of them simply for being “Scouts”.

  89. My son’s had it both ways. In his old troop, the adults were Mr./Mrs. Last name. His current troop is less formal. It’s title and first name. He respects those grown ups just as much (if not more than) as the ones in his old troop.

  90. W.D. Boyce founded the BSA. That why I wore a patch on my uniforms for 10 years that said I was in the “Founder’s Council”. Never heard of West until this article.

  91. Generally, the adults are addressed as Mr or Mrs. There are a few families that are involved that are personal friends, so the youth grew up calling the friend by his first name.

    I have a camp nickname, from being archery instructor/rangemaster. A ton of kids call me by that name, also.

  92. Most of our leaders, me included, have picked up nicknames over the years. Our Scouts address us as Radar, Rooster, Mama Duck, etc. If they speak to us using our given names, we ask them to use the honorific plus the first name; Radar is, then, Miss Pam. I return the respect, however, usually referring to those elected to leadership posts as “Mr. Senior Patrol Leader,” etc.

  93. Even if the boy is a Cub Scout…. Mr. works for everyone. Its almost like a Midshipmen thing…… I’ve called boys Mr. as long as I can remember. They have no problem with it….. Sometime I will address the SPL “Mr. Senior Patrol Leader…. take charge of your troop”. “Mr Quartermaster will you provide me with a list”…… etc. A new Scout…… might of asked me a question. I might answer “Mr. Smith did you ask your Patrol Leader first”. It always seems to work…. and the respect thing is always there.

  94. I prefer Mr/Mrs as a sign of respect for young Scouts. Once they are adults (18), then first names are fine. Most Scouts call me Mr D though one or two use my first name. In those cases, it’s the environment they come from, so I don’t make a big deal of it. I always refer to other leaders by Mr/Mrs to set the example. I also always say “sir” to every male, no matter the age. My hope is the example will take, but very few pick up on it. Interestingly, one of our new leaders was one of my Eagle Scouts 20+ years ago. He still ALWAYS calls me Mr D even though I ask him to call me by my first name. I overheard him telling a new Scout that I was his Scoutmaster and I will always be Mr D to him. We just hope for the best as we develop leaders.

  95. It’s cultural. Acceptable forms of address used for adults by children varies from place to place, and from subculture to subculture. Your scouts should address you in whatever passes for a respectful manner in your particular culture.

    In these parts, children routinely call adults “Mr. Firstname” or “Miss Firstname”, and that’s how the scouts address the leaders, and how the leaders introduce themselves to the scouts. Personally, I don’t care. If someone’s using a respectful tone and demeanor, it doesn’t matter to me whether they use the label “Sam”, “Mr. Sam”, “Mr. Evans”, “Dr. Evans”, or whatever. I’ll answer to all of those.

    I’ve never bought in to the “Mr. Evans is my dad” idea – perhaps because I’ve almost never been in an environment where senior people are called Mr. Surname, and junior people are called Firstname.

  96. I go by Mr Wilson because that is what I did when I was a scout. To take this one step further, what do you call a former scout who is now 18 or older?

  97. When I crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts in 1984, our scoutmaster was called Jim by everybody in the troop. I called him mr. Grace, until my first camping trip when he said mr. Grace is my father, call me Jim.

    My father was my cub master was mr. McFadden to everyone but me. Now that I’m a cub master, I let the boys call me cubMaster Tom. I am not their teacher, but I do have a level of authority over them, so I do believe a title is appropriate.

    In my son’s troop, most adult leaders are referred to as mr. Or mrs. And last name, that is the truth tradition, and I am slightly uncomfortable with it but I go with it.

    In my daughter’s crew it’s up to the individual how they refer to themselves.

  98. Our Scoutmaster insisted that we call him Morrie. He loved to cook but was also moody. While preparing a meal one day at the jamboree some other Scouts and I (OK, it was basically me) made this observation: when Morrie was cooking he was “Maurice;” when he was moody he was “Morose;” and when he was angry he was “Morass.”

  99. BP himself said that he invented scouting names (skip bosun etc) to remove the formality of using last names but to not be so informal as to use first names

  100. What I’ve seen most around here is the CubDcout using Honary and first name, but they seem to shift to Honary and last name when they enter Boy Scouts.

  101. In the UK the trend seems to be :
    – In Beavers (6-8) adults mostly adopt names derived from the ‘Friends of the Forest’ book.
    – Cubs (8-10 1/2) adults mostly adopt names derived from the ‘Jungle Book’, with the Pack Leader being normally called ‘Akela’.
    – Scouts (10 1/2 -13) Adults have a variety of names. They either use their first name (or a nickname). Troop leaders are often called ‘Skip’. Sea Scout Groups often use names based on roles on a ship – so you might have ‘Bosun’, ‘Coxswain’ and the like.
    – Explorers (14-18) and beyond Adults are generally called by their first names – or by familiar agreed nicknames.

    As with many things there are exceptions – but this is my experience of 30 years.

  102. I am a Beaver Scout Leader in Canada. As the Beaver and Cub Leaders get their names from “The Friends of the Forest” and “The Jungle Book” respectively, Youth and Leaders address each other by those names. The parent address us the same way.
    In our Group, Scouts and Venturers are permitted to use Scouter First Name when addressing us; Group Committee members do the same. The exception would be if any of our Beavers or Cubs happened to be present, for example during a meal period at a Group Camp. I introduce and address any parents assisting with an activity or camp as Mr/Mrs and Last Name. I insist the Youth do the same, even if that person happens to be neighbour or someone else a Youth may be on a first name basis with. The exception of course, is parent’s own child:) Parents often tell me, you can call me First Name. I let them know I am modeling the respectful behaviour that we expect from our Youth 🙂

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