Tuesday Talkback: When youth leaders aren’t allowed to make decisions

Tuesday-TalkbackFather (or Mother) knows best?

Maybe, but that’s not how a Scout troop, Varsity team or Venturing crew is supposed to work.

Scouting is a youth-led, youth-run organization. Your responsibility as an adult leader is to train the young men and women, provide direction, coach and empower. Then you step aside.

That means you’re observing from the back of the room, not barking out orders from the front of it. Scouts and Venturers are free to make mistakes; that’s where real learning happens.

For today’s Tuesday Talkback, tell me this: Do youth leaders make the critical decisions in your unit? If so, how do you prevent adults from taking too big a role? How do you resist the urge to step in? If adults are the leaders in your unit, how can you change that?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts, and let’s have a discussion about the best way to handle this important issue. 

13 years ago…

Read what Scouting magazine readers said in response to a similar question in 2000.

Photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by stepol


  1. Over the past few years, the adult leadership in my troop have made a concerted effort to change from an “adult-led” to a “youth-led” troop. We’ve made sure that we send at least one, if not more, scouts to NYLT and other training programs available. We have definitely seen the transformation. Now, mind you, it’s not perfect. We allow them to learn from their mistakes. If something doesn’t happen, because of poor planning, it doesn’t happen. The boys understand that. However, we just kicked off a new year two weeks ago. The first meeting in a new meeting place and you could tell that it was going to be an issue. Our new youth leaders were struggling to even get the troops attention. I raised my voice, asking the group to pay attention to their leaders. Later on, I received a comment from our Scoutmaster, asking me to refrain. I feel that there are times that you have to let them lead, but there are also times that if you see someone floundering, you need to step in and give them a hand. Should I feel justified in my decision or should I keep out of it and watch chaos ensue?

    • I think it depends on the timing. The scouts should be given the opportunity to overcome the obstacle, but at some point you need to give them a leg-up so that they can move on to the next challenge. Think of it in terms of EDGE. While they’re still getting on their feet as leaders, they may require a little demonstration and guidance, but your goal should be enabling them to do it on their own.

    • You were wrong and set the SPL back in his leadership growth. The Scoutmaster guides the SPL and helps him to work towards running an effective troop. Then when the next SPL is elected, you’ll start from scratch.

    • @ CG…exactly what I was thinking; my actions were fully well-intended.
      @ Joe…The SPL and his ASPL’s were all struggling to gain the attention of the group, even with the tools we had already given them. The scouts were completely ignoring them. I struggle to see how you can say that I was wrong and hindered his growth. For the most part, I agree with our SM, but there are times when the “learn from their mistakes” process can be more detrimental to the cause.

      • I wouldn’t say you were wrong, it’s difficult to sit back and watch that situation and do nothing to help. And I don’t agree that you set the SPL back in his leadership growth. But it might have been more helpful to tell the new SPL (after the meeting) that when he feels he’s lost control and doesn’t know what to do, that he can turn to the adult leadership for assistance. And if there is a next time (and I’m sure there will be) you could go to him and quietly ask if he needs help rather than jump in.

        • Katie, I think you are spot on. Bob needs to go the the SPL and see if he needs any help. If the SPL say yes, then help. Another option, not as good, is to tell the Patrol leaders to get control of their patrol if the SPL is not available. SPL and PL are the ones in charge of the boys and adults should not interrupt.

    • Your Scoutmaster was correct. You should not have stepped in. Gaining control of the room is hard for anybody that is new in a leadership role regardless of age, but more so for youth who are leading peers that lack an adult level of maturity. You will wee the same thing occur over and over again with each new set of leaders and within their term. It will seam as though just as these leaders finally get it figured out, a new set get elected and it starts all over again. Very frustrating for adults, but this program isn’t about adult comfort levels or it would be very different.

      When we step in, we tell all of the Scouts in the room that the real person in charge is an adult, not the SPL. When you let the SPL continue to flounder, you’re actually mentoring them in ways that don’t work, allowing him to work through it and to figur out what will work for him. The SM should pick up on that topic in ongoing discussions with your SPL after each meeting. the SM should ask what worked and what didn’t and let the SPL answer from his own point of view. They often see things very different than we do. Offer suggestions of other things he could try. Don’t instruct him on how to gain control. What works best for you may not be what works best for him. Mentoring the youth leadership as THEY run the Troop is the SM’s main role.

      If a meeting is complete chaos, it gives the boys an opportunity to own the problem and own the fix. Otherwise it’s not really their Troop.

      If this approach concerns you, I would suggest that during the meeting, you follow the lead of the SM and then ask him about your concerns at an appropriate time afterwards. Delivering the program is ultimately his responsibility.

    • Too be honest, both keeping quiet and speaking out are appropriate depending on details of the situation that you haven’t described. If there was current or future safety concerns then stepping in is required. If the failure of this meeting will impact future events and meetings in a way that could not be recovered than your actions were probably not out of line. The manner in which you got the scouts attention also influences if your response was appropriate. Was it a “signs-up” or a one line lecture?

      Regardless of the action taken the key will be the after action response. Both for the adult leaders and the youth leaders. Adults need to ask how much they contributed to the problem (both in training, meeting set-up and leading by example (adult small talk shows a lack of respect that travels) and what alternatives were open to them. Youth leaders need to address not only the short coming of the youth leaders of the meeting but also the leaders in the ranks. How could they have facilitated the leadership of the meeting.

      For me, this might have been an opportunity to teach leading from behind. Could you have had one of the youth leaders on the floor to step up and lead by example (assuming that you could get there attention and relay your thoughts to them). Could they have been the one to raise there voice from the floor.

    • Bob,
      I think that an adult leader needs to step in when there is a situation where a boy leader needs support. Not doing so will leave a boy feel unsupported and for a youth to have his first or early leadership position not supported may cause a great deal of harm later on. You state “giving a hand” and not “doing it” for them. Being a SM or ASM means that you mentor and guide. I would have backed you on telling the boys to listen to their leaders. I don’t think you took over anything. It would be cruel to stand by an do nothing.
      I believe that one of the greatest leadership developers is patrol lead camp outs. I was 12 when I planned my first patrol camp out. I wanted to rank up as well as my patrol members. We ran an adult lead troop at the time which plainly stated “sucked”. We as scouts started to take over as we rightly should of.
      Boy leaders – yes they can screw things up, sometimes, but most of the time they get it right and do a very good job at running things.

    • Hi Bob. First of all, congratulations on your troop working to be boy led by training the youth in NYLT and adults in Wood Badge. Your question was were you justified or keep out of it. My answer is neither. Its the Scoutmaster’s job to guide the SPL. I would let him do that. I suspect the boys would have got things together at some point in the meeting. I would have gotten the other ASMs together with the SM at the end if the meeting and voice your concern and see how the others felt, what the SM was thinking and come to a consensus fir the future

  2. My troop is a young one and when I became Scoutmaster 2 years ago there was little to work with. I am now transitioning them to “Scout Led” and they are starting to “storm.” I am taking Wood Badge so that I may be a better resource to help them through it. I pray that I am not too late.

  3. This came up just last week at our committee meeting. The scouts had voted for their choice for next year’s summer camp earlier in the week, and some of the committee members took exception to the overwhelmingly-victorious camp for reasons ranging from “it’ll be too hot” to “it breaks the tradition of going to a summer camp in the mountains” to “it doesn’t conform to the criteria established by the PLC in 2005.” The conversation among half of the committee was getting dangerously close to overruling the scouts’ decision when I pointed out that this is supposed to be a boy-led troop and that we shouldn’t overrule their decision unless safety is an issue. The looks on faces told me that the simple reminder was sufficient, and the conversation turned to making the scouts’ choice work. The one hold-out was offered the compromise of being able to make his case to the PLC, who will then decide whether or not to re-open the election.

    • I am all for tradition except when it gets into “well that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Interests and expectations change as the boys change. And it leads right back to the adults making all the decisions and the PLC becoming a figure head only.

      When I came into the current troop there were several “rowdies” who constantly disrupted the meeting. A couple of the older boys had become “the enforcers” trying to get these boys under control. Long and short of it, it didn’t work. Then I found out why.

      The boys had no vested interest in the troop. The adults made all the plans for campouts (when to go, where to go, what to do) and even made all the decision on what badges were presented at meetings. Once we started turning that around, peer pressure for the other Scouts got them more under control or they left and went to another troop (or quit altogether) because “it’s no longer fun”. But for the boys who stayed it finally became fun.

      I’m not saying we’re perfect. But we’ve come a long way. We still have a long way to go yet. And it’s a journey that always has a new destination. The learning curve is steeper for some than others but it’s a skill that must be learned.

  4. Boy scouts run our unit. Our scoutmaster opens the troop meeting and then comes to another room where the adults meet. The key is having adult scouters who keep the boy led tradition alive – if you don’t have such, ask for help from your district or council to get you help in the short term and train your adult leaders correctly for the longer term. As far as avoiding the urge to step in, my son’s scoutmaster spends much of his time keeping the adults away from the boys, calling in a boy scout to help if a younger scout needs help while moving the younger scout’s dad back to the adult side of camp.

  5. We try to use flyby coaching to prevent hovering and adult takeover. Adult leaders are asked to quickly assess and give brief advice to the youth leaders and then move away and onto something else. This allows the adult to give insight but empowers our scouts to decide what they want to ultimately do. Sometimes they fail, and that’s alright (as long as health and safety aren’t compromised).

  6. We are finally youth lead. It takes a strong SPL and 1 or 2 others that are NYLT trained as well. Making sure the SPL is trained and mature enough to garner respect is the key. Love it. Won’t go back to before my time.

    p.s. Getting adult leader trained at Woodbadge is very beneficial as well so they know what to expect and how to coach and mentor and not take over.

  7. I’ve seen Troops where the Scouts led it, but the Scout parents had issues-this is the worst scenario for the Scouts! I’ve also seen SM led Troops-second worst scenario. I think it should be Scout run, but adults need to educate and guide the Scouts. After all, if a Scout wasn’t educated through Great Expectations or Great Medicine, how can you expect him to know how to lead? The adults should give the Scouts everything they need to succeed and only then let the Scouts learn from their mistakes. As an adult, I feel I need to lead by example. If the Troop has a Troop committee, I would discuss it there with the SM present.

    • IMO this is how it should be. We are trying to educate our Scouts in leadership, but we’re going counter to a sense of entitlement that has been passed down by a number of Scouts who are no longer in our Troop.

  8. Our troop is in the midst of a large controversy. 40 years ago the local Civic League donated 100 acres to our local troop, and it became our Camp Richard. Now, our regional Council decided, without discussing it with our troop leaders or our scouts, to sell this land to a developer. When I volunteer troop leaders stood up to the council, they kicked them out of scouting and sued them personally and now, instead of our scouts making decisions about troop leadership, we’re waiting for a judge to do it! (read more here, and help us out by signing our petition: http://tinyurl.com/kidsnotgreed)

  9. We are nominally a Scout-led Troop, and our Scoutmaster is pushing it hard. However, we have one mom (our Troop Committee Chair) who rules with an iron fist and won’t let go. She will overrule our SPL at the drop of a hat (and get angry at Scouts who tell her that they’re following the SPL’s directions), won’t allow “critical” decisions (by her definition) to be made in the Troop Committee meeting unless she’s present, etc.I’m thinking about leading a coup…

    • Sounds like she doesn’t get it…might be time for your COR to step in and have a discussion with the CC on how scouts work and if she doesn’t get in the canoe with the program she can get off at the next island.

    • Training, Training, Training

      CC is not a youth-facing position, it’s an adult-facing position. She needs to understand her role in the workings of the troop.

      Sometimes a painful change is the only choice. However: as the Scoutmaster / Asst. Crew Advisor of a new troop, I advise not leading a coup unless you’re truly ready to walk. It may come to that.

    • It’s really simple. The SM & ASMs work primarily with the Scouts. The CC herds the “cats” or the other adults in the Troop. The Committee should have little interaction with the Troops at a regular Scout meeting except in specific circumstances: BORs, the Chaplain with the Chaplain’s Aide, the Scout QM with the adult QM, etc. The CC SHOULD NOT be telling the SPL what to do. The Committee provides the support to the program designed & executed by a well-run Boy Led Troop.

    • There was a coup in our troop before we arrived. We had no idea when we joined what was going on eith the leadership. The new regime was incredibly controlling and defensive because they were used to the combat with the ladt prior they ousted. If you lead a coup, just be careful not to create another problem. we are still suffering 6 years later.

  10. We are nominally a Scout-led Troop, and both our current Scoutmaster (and his heir-apparent) are trying to move farther in that direction, to counter a long-time trend of Scoutmasters using the SPL as a mouthpiece.

    However, our Troop Committee chair is attempting to hold on with an iron fist. She overrules the SPL and senior Scouts at the drop of a hat when they attempt to demonstrate leadership and initiative (then gets angry at them for “talking back”), won’t allow “critical” decisions (by her definition) to be made at the Troop Meeting, etc.

    Any thoughts on how to counter?

    • We have the same situation of an iron fisted Troop Committee chair who has berated scouts and their families for “Boy-Led” initiatives. He nearly drove my now Eagle Scout son out of scouting for it. Can’t seem to understand the need to move ahead and let go of the ways of the past. So sad.

  11. It is a constant struggle to keep well meaning adults from taking over the program, especially from new parents. I have watched new youth leadership struggle through troop meetings and/or campouts. Great learning experiences each and every time. The program can stagnant without some direction and prodding from adult leadership, but these decisions must be made by the youth. I have seen some incredible program run by adults – the only lesson the boys learn? Let the adults run it and we will have a lot of fun.

  12. Was my post removed or did I forget to hit “post?” I hope it was the latter. One way to find out…

    Our troop is in the midst of a major crisis. The local Civic League donated 100 ac to our troop 40 yrs ago; and Camp Richard was founded. Now our troop falls under the leadership of a regional Council that has never participated in the upkeep of the Camp or supported it. And the leadership, without talking to our kids or our leaders, decided to sell this land to a developer! When our troop spoke out against this, they banned them, changed the locks and sued our volunteer adult leaders.

    This is what passes for leadership in our area. Read more here: http://tinyurl.com/kidsnotgreed.

  13. The three best ways to really have a youth run unit is for one to go strictly off of the NYLT ciriculum on one end and also take after the example of Venture Crews on the other(in terms of charing outings and administrative functions). But most important of all, as adults(parents and scouters), we shouldn’t give in to the temptation of running the unit ourselvs just because it seems easier or because we think we know better. Instead, lets use that energy to ADVISE our youth and let THEM run the troop. How can we teach our youth to fish if were not willing to give them the fishing rod?

  14. Funny our family was crucified for using the term we need to let our troop be a BOY-LED troop! My oldest, now an eagle scout was crucified at his Eagle Board of Review for discussing the need for the adults to step back and let the boys lead the boys and find out what failure meant. I mean crucified to the point that he left the Board of Review in frustration and tears and not wanting anything to do with adults who had a tunnel vision. He has always been a scout and an individual who walked to the beat of a different drummer and saw the activities and the leadership capabilities of troops his friends were in. He was NYLT trained and came up against stone walls when he tried to introduce new ideas into the troop for activities and guidelines. The adult leaders have to let our youth scouts step up to the plate and take responsibility. How else will these young men become valuable citizens who develop a can do attitude. Fast forward a year later: Eagle Court of honor for my oldest was done HIS way and the old guard of the troop had issues, yet his court of honor was extremely meaningful to him and our family. Youngest scout in the family is a Star scout and has introduced a new concept of Venture Patrol to the troop to keep our older scouts interested and develop scout and leadership skills that can disseminate down to the younger scouts. He had to jump through hoops and make the Patrol Leaders Council listen, but they did. We are counting this a step in the right direction for becoming more boy-led and driven. Maybe the tide is turning as our older stalwart committee members let their grip loosen some and allow the boys to experiment. It is so important that our troop re-establish the boy led mentality so the boys may feel they are important contributors to the program that serves them, their families, and our community so well.

    • Sorry to hear this. This is always one of the questions we ask at our Eagle boards – what can be done to improve scout leadership in our troop? Sometimes we have Scouts who say, “nothing,” other times it’s “let us fail once in awhile.”

  15. It took me 2 years to get our unit boy lead after 17 years of adult lead. It wasn’t easy but I was determined to have a model scouting unit.

    1) I taught them position by position what was needed. Without the training they are just floundering. Now the boys teach the next group what they need to do.
    2) I sent boys to NYLT. It’s now part of our unit that if you’re going to be SPL that you’re promising to go to NYLT as soon as possible. This was a HUGE step for us and I can’t recommend it enough.
    3) I changed my standard answer to be, “What did your patrol leader or Senior Patrol Leader have to say about that?” or “ask your patrol leader”. The only person I give answers to any more is the SPL.

    It didn’t happen over night, but quickly the boys took ownership of the unit and learned that we would respect their decisions even it they weren’t the ones we’d of picked. They know that part of being a leader is making mistakes and figuring out ways to either not make them again or how to get out of them.

    As to what keeps me from stepping in every time I see something coming? I love my role as Scoutmaster to much! I have truly the best job in scouting because my job is now to deal with individuals in my scoutmaster conferences, and in guidance…oh and I keep the fire going when they are out of the campsite. I tell new parents I’ll ban them if they start getting into the boys business.

  16. Out troop is 18 months old. Started with 6 new Scouts and 6 that just completed their first year in a troop that was not Boy run. We are now about 22 active Scouts and 30 registered. What is difficult about Boy Run is the lack of skill and experience that the boys have. Training on the process only is getting us so far, they just don’t know what they don’t know. The scouts are 13 and under, and still lack the “research” skills or desire to go find the answers to get them to the next level.

    We have a PLC meeting, scouts are tasked with at least leading the process, finding an adult who can teach a skill to them (then we try and have the scouts that get it teach those who struggle at the next camp). Boys find an adult to task with researching camping opportunities outside their limited experience. So while we are not totally boy lead, at least we have a lot of boy run.

    It is my prediction that it will take at least a year or 2 more of this interaction before we can back the adults nearly out of the process. The big stuff still is lost on the boys and many of the adults … Backpacking, canoe trips, etc still are a pipe dream that most can’t wrap their minds around, yet.

    Boy Lead Boy run, easy to say, not so easy to get going … but like most things, focus, plans and effort will get us there.

    Boy lead B

    • Bryan: Hang in there. As the Scoutmaster and Asst. Crew Advisor of a troop and crew that combined is roughly that same size, I’d say you’re doing fine.

      One thing I have done is to have a meeting with the PLC before a meeting where we will be teaching something new (knots, cooking, firebuilding, etc) and gone over it with the scout who will be teaching so they have a clue what to teach. They know they can always ask the adult for help, but having the adult teach one or two scouts ahead of time so those scouts can teach the rest helped us.

    • I provided our SPL a list of 50 camping places in Kansas & Missouri along with possible activities that can be done at them as I was seeing a repeat of the same activities from last year to this year w/o any new ideas. There was also a lack of planning more than 2 months in advance. Since I am on District Staff & serve on a Council Committee, I am Scouting almost every weekend of the month. I need more than 6 weeks notice about the next campout to be one of the adults that goes as I like to have at least 4 adults on every activity. I didn’t tell the SPL what to do or give him any guidance other than providing the “tools”.

      At the very next meeting after the PLC, he rattled off the next 4 campout dates, locations, activities, along with what they were going to do in the meetings leading up to each one. While it is not 6 months in advance as I would like, it is definitely an improvement on what was happening before.

      The execution has left something to be desired, but at least the campouts are going on the date scheduled instead of being rescheduled to a different date at the last minute.

  17. I would like to get some perspective from other Scouters about how this relates to organizing activities for the troop. I just became the Activities person for my son’s troop. The troop voted and planned next year’s activities. But they chose places that are familiar to them. I think scouting is about having a mix of new and familiar experiences

    What are your thought about my changing the place where we go do the activity they chose? For instance: We still do a Kayak and Camp weekend. But we do it at a new place.

    • I agree with you about trying new places, however I don’t think you should change a location without the troop’s knowledge. Present them with the idea and suggest other locations and see what they say.

    • What we did at our last PLC was have the boys whiteboard it on butcher paper. Anything they wanted to do as a Troop. We got, “Go to Mars” and “Go to the Moon,” but also a lot of other ideas. Our Scoutmaster plans to take that paper back to the PLC and the Troop and ask them to choose their activities – preferrably new stuff (or new campsites) and go from there.

      That’s just how we’re trying to do it.

      • Doug, this is basically what I just went through. I sat down with all the scouts and asked what activities/MB/etc they wanted to do this year. The next week we discussed places they wanted to go. Between the two lists the PLC (with some coaching, not telling) put them together and came up with a good swing at the troop calendar. After some minor tweaks it became cast in really hard mud.

      • Great to get the boys’ feedback and ideas! Just make sure you follow through on some of them so the boys trust their leadership to listen and believe in them. It is empowering to them when their ideas become reality. If some are far-fetched, rather than saying “no” or laughing at the idea, figure out how to say, “Interesting! Are you interested in a space-related activity?” At least they will know you are listening and paying attention to their requests with real thought.

    • Before your unit’s Annual Planning Conference, the Scoutmaster is supposed to meet with the troop committee to review the calendar and potential troop goals. This would be the appropriate time for you to bring up potential new locations. He in turn will present your suggestions to the SPL who in turn will get patrol input via the Patrol Leaders at the Annual Planning Conference.

      • That’s if your troop is doing an annual planning conference. It seems our Troop does a 1-2 hour sporadic PLC to plan 3 months out. They also have a short PLC after each troop meeting to see if they are on course. The SM & at least 2/5 ASMs are Wood Badge trained. One of the ASMs is a former District Commissioner so they all should know how things should work.

        I asked about the Annual Planning Conference & a 12-month camping plan & got “that’s too far out for us to plan” from the most junior ASM, the only one of the 6 SM/ASMs that still has a son in the troop. While the SM/ASMs not having sons in the troop (most of their sons are in college) demonstrates a commitment to Scouting, I think they may have lost a little perspective that parents have other commitments including other children competing for their time & knowing a camping schedule 6-12 months out would be wonderful for them to begin planning.

  18. I have seen a truly boy led troop. I have also seen a troop in which the adult leaders plan the calendars, the SPL regurgitates the plans to the troop, and the troop considers itself boy led. Does the truly boy-led troop make mistakes sometimes? Sure they do, and that is when the adult leaders step in and guide the youth leaders.
    I would like to know if others have encountered a troop that calls itself boy led but in truth is not, and would welcome suggestions for adjusting the attitudes of the SM and ASMs.

    • Sadly, you need to get the “adults” out of the way, and get their egos on the sidelines. Too often the problem is that the SM or ASM is trying to re-live their own Scouting days, or they have never had a position of authority or leadership, and don’t know how to handle the responsibility any better than the young men they are trying to lead. Try to get the SM and ASM to let the boys do their own thing, while they watch from a safe distance. If you have a parent or committee member who is a trained educator (particularly if they know anything about a theory called constructivism, and have their YP training) let them take charge for a meeting. You may be surprised at what a difference it can make.

      • It doesn’t have to be a trained educator. Someone with a military background where they have taught leadership could be of great benefit. I helped educate, teach, train over 400 college students commissioned into the Army. We allowed our Seniors to run the ROTC program from planning to executing. The Cadre provided the logistical support and coordination (firing ranges, campsites, etc.) for what was planned by those Seniors. During the weekend training exercises & during leadership labs, we never stepped in unless the older Cadets were teaching something wrong or there was a safety issue.

        There are many parallels between what the military does to train its junior leadership and what we are trying to impart in leadership training to our Scouts. Sadly, the SM/ASM corps in our Troop is a closed group since many of them have been doing it 10 years with only 1/6 still having a Scout in the Troop. Thus, I am relegated to the sidelines as a Committee Member who tries to avoid interaction with the Scouts so the SM/ASMs can actually do their jobs.

  19. Scouts should make most of the decisions in the troop…where to camp out (within reason)…if they plan a camping trip to a unviable location, something too dangerous, etc., the SM should ask questions to get them to rethink their decision.

    Safety is 1 reason that this principle should be violated. If the boys want to have a hike, and thunderstorms are imminent, then the SM should step in

    The focus should be getting them to think about the decisions they are making. Example – if they plan a campout where the planners can afford it, but there are issues with all the scouts being able to afford it, the the SM needs to skillfully lead them into a discussion so that they can accomodate everyone – might be nice to camp in Hawaii if you are from Texas, but only a few would be able to afford to get there.

    All parents should be indoctrinated (yes, I did say indoctrinated) into the chain of command – if a parent sees something that he thinks should be done, it should be communicated to the SM, who then has the opportunity to consider it and communicate it to the SPL if appropriate. The SPL can then communicate it to the PLs, and so forth. Parents, even ASM’s should be encouraged to communicate with the boys through the SM. This is in our troop manual that we share with all new scout parents (although some “seasoned” parents sometimes need remedial courses in it)

    At campouts, we even require the boys to request permission before entering the adult campsite. We also show them the reciprocal courtesy of requesting permission to enter their campsite. This permission is always given, but reinforces the control they should be expected to have.

    That having been said, if a meeting has gone out of control, the SM or one of the parents can do a “signs up” to quiet them down. However, the SM should get with the SPL or whomever was conducting the meeting, and use it as a teaching opportunity on how to handle it the next time.

  20. Our troop was started 17 months ago with a den of Webelos Scouts who were rejected by the local troop (yes, there IS politics in Scouting). In our first year we grew from 8 to 18 and have all of the qualities of a healthy troop except for older boys to teach our young Scouts. We are struggling and progress is slow, but we are working at it and seeing results, small as they are. The SM has years of experience, is wood badge trained, and truly understands the program. Our biggest challenge is with the assistant scoutmasters who do not have scouting experience. They constantly want to control and correct, stepping in too often and certainly too soon, and resort to raising their voices and giving lectures on behavior and respect. First, this does not work, and second, several of the boys have shared at their Boards of Review that the worst part of the troop is the arguing among scouts and the yelling from adults. Yes, these ASMs have gone through training and yes, we’ve spoken to them but it isn’t easy to change personalities. To answer the question of the day, we cannot wait till our Scouts are old enough and skilled enough to run their troop; it will be wonderful to step aside and see what they can do.

  21. There has to be a balance between scouts and leaders, we have had boys who were elected to positions bf popularity and not ability and the result was a mess. The “popular” boys did not want to put in the time needed and eventually the troop was out of control. The SM was not one to step in and take control. I believe it should be be the boys, BUT with the SM and ASM standing up when things are not going well. the boys also need to know they can and will be removed from office and replaced by a better candidate if they are ineffective.

  22. Bryan, For me the answer is clear. “TRAINING” If an adult leader really wants to have a youth led troop, team or crew then he or she needs to get as much training as possible. Start with your Position Specific Training. Take Wood Badge. Go to the Philmont Leadership Challenge. Take the Mentoring Workshop. I would also suggest staffing a National Youth Leadership Training to learn the same concept your youth will learn as participants.
    The next step is to get your youth trained. Use Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops, Crews and Ships. Venturing Crews can use Venturing Crew Officer Orientation. Send your youth to NYLT National Youth Leadership Training. Do a Kodiak Challenge. Send youth to NAYLE National Youth Leadership Experience.
    All of the training programs I have mentioned are great tools, but the most important training is the individual training an adult leader can have with a youth leader. There is no manual for this training. It is done on an as needed basis. The goal is to prepare that youth in every possible way to be a success. It is reviewing agendas for a PLC, or providing the resources needed for troop meetings. It is discussing the needs of individual unit members and working out plans to fulfill those needs. It is reviewing an activity and helping that youth to do it better next time.
    If I am not mistaken this sounds like what a SERVANT LEADER would do.

  23. The analogy I like regarding boy-led troops is the one of the Scoutmaster as a football coach. The coach (SM) can do anything he wants with the Quarterback (SPL) during the week. In fact, it is the most important time to coach. When the game (troop meeting) begins however, the coach (SM) is strictly on the sidelines. He can call a timeout and bring the QB (SPL) to the sideline for a short, quiet conversation but at no time can he go out on the field and run a play. The QB (SPL) can also huddle with his team leaders (ASPL, PL, etc.) and get them more involved but the only time the coach (SM) is allowed to address the team (troop) is at halftime (Scoutmaster’s Minute). After the game is over, the serious coaching begins. This also applies to troop overnights and especially at summer camp. Those are game time situations. At no time during the game can adults be heard barking our orders.

  24. I completely agree with boy-led troops, however there seems to be a trend pushing that too far. How much is to much “boy-led”? We see troops here that pride themselves on letting the chaos ensue and the boys will figure it out- but they don’t because there is little to no guidance and teaching. Boy led does not mean no adult guidance. There needs to be that presence to say no, the troop probably shouldn’t take a boating campout in January, or to look at things like logistics when planning events (cost, support, etc.). The boys want to have fun and including them on these decisions is crucial, but letting them make all decisions is not teaching or guiding them properly.

    • This guidance should come during the yearly program planning leading up to and immediately after the Annual Planning Conference. The PLC should be making all decisions regarding the program; proper input from the Scoutmaster and troop committee during this process will enable them to make the right decisions.

      • Guidance is an ongoing necessity. Yes, there is guidance at the Planning Conference but what about at other times. A game at a meeting didn’t go well. The SPL likes high adventure only which leaves out the new boys because of rank and/or age and/or skills. The PLC wants only backpacking but the boys want cycling.

        Guidance does not mean the adults take over. “After action” discussions allow the boys to see what went right, what was challenging, and what might have been done differently. And, yes, there has to be the new SPL finding his way as a leader, especially if he hasn’t been SPL before. They do need to be able to “control” troop but when it becomes obvious that the SPL needs help, is over his head in a particular situation, adult guidance has to step in.

        • “when it becomes obvious that the SPL needs help, is over his head in a particular situation, adult guidance has to step in”

          While I agree I also have to say that HOW you step in is just as important as WHEN you step in. Take the example of Bob above, who raised his voice to get the scouts to listen to their leaders. In the same situation, I’ve taken my SPL aside for 30 seconds, given him a couple of pointers on how to get their attention himself, and then sent him back into the fray. I work hard to only step into a situation when safety is involved.

          My SPL, who is also my foster son, spent the two months leading up to our first meeting asking “Why Scouts? Why are you so behind this program? Couldn’t we just do this on our own?” By the third meeting that had changed to him discussing chain of command with the scouts and complaining that they were coming to me with questions (which I sent back to the PL and SPL). I’ve refrained from pointing out to him: “That’s why”.

  25. When I came back from Wood Badge, I realized I was working too hard. I took my PLC group on a retreat and had them plan out the entire year on one of those big desk-top calendars. First I took the SPL aside and told him he was running the meeting today. I took the other adult leaders aside and told them they were to sit in back and listen. We first played a couple of team building games and then got to work.I was surprised how quickly the SPL caught on and the PLC took over. I took their plan to the troop committee, they bought into it, we published our troop calendar and the year was set! Outings soon became a two-part camp-out. The adults on one side and the troop on the other side. Another SM friend of mine told me that after he sent a couple of his green bar boys to leadership training, they came back and told him “we got this now.” I just works if you let them do it. The old saying “plan your work then work your plan” applies here.

  26. Send all 13-year-old Scouts and especially Youth Leaders to National Youth Leadership Trainining (NYLT) and adults to Wood Badge. Both youth and adult leaders need to know what is a youth-led Scout unit. B-P guidelines are very specific about the values of the Scouting method created and tested at Brownsea. Compare and contrast youth leadership with other troops, crews, etc. and with other countries. Scouting is more than meetings and camping. It is the best experiential education method for youth leaders to make the changes the world needs. (@ScoutmasterJose)

    • I agree! If only NYLT wasn’t so expensive I’d be sending every scout over the age of 13 there. Unfortunately, as a new unit of 20+ youth, many of which are low income, our funds are lacking. Council will only sponsor one major outing/year, which puts these youth in a position of choosing “summer camp” or “NYLT”, when really I need them at BOTH 🙁

  27. We work hard at being youth led. Last night, as the meeting got to a chaotic phase (they had done a cooking demo, and were eating …) the new adult I was chatting with asked me if I needed to go get them back on track. I said no, but I’d check with my SPL and Crew President. They said it was under control, and I trusted them.

    Sure enough, about 5 minutes later, everyone was done munching on the “tacos in a bag” that they had made and was ready for the next activity: Inventorying patrol boxes and cleaning out the closet (the QM had demanded this activity since the closet was looking much worse for wear after 2 outings). They then moved on to a Scout Law word association game.

    It’s possible. Give the youth the reins and let them ride. They’ll rise to the occasion and impress you!

  28. While yes the intent is to be boy-led, far too often the adult leaders (particularly the SM in our case) feel that they must be in charge of every aspect of everything that the troop does. they set the agenda for the PLC meetings, decide what, when and where of activities, and generally criticize the SPL when they don’t do things his way. What’s more disconcerting is that the SM has been to Wood Badge, and completed his ticket! Yet, he still doesn’t get it.

    Empowering and enabling boys to make good (and bad) decisions is part of their development as leaders. So long as their decisions do not put themselves or anyone else at risk, then allow them to fail. Far too often, we as leaders think that if they fail at something, or if it doesn’t go perfectly, that it is a reflection on us. It isn’t, and it can’t be.

    We all learn more through failure than we do from success. If we never experience failure, then we can never know of we really did get ti right, or it if was just luck or coincidence. I hearken to what Tomas Edison said after he created the incandescent light bulb after more than 1,000 attempts. Asked if he was frustrated with failing so many times, he replied that he had simply found 1,000 that did not work.

    We need to let boys discover their leadership potential by providing them with the proper scaffolding and support to allow them to be successful, but while allowing THEM to do the work.

  29. I have been a Scoutmaster now for 4 years, and I am a strong proponent of a Boy run Troop. Lately though I have been running into a new kind of problem with my SPL’s. Our troop has been blessed with a string of great SPL’s. They have all aged out and the Scouts who have come up behind them have gotten used to them doing all the work. Now they are in leadership positions and are basically just going through the motions without actually doing the follow up and work that is required to run the Troop. I am very concerned that now that we are into our 2nd SPL like this that the younger scouts will lose interest and start looking for something other than scouting to spend their time doing. I am thinking of getting the scouts into NYLT but in our council it is an expensive undertaking, the cost is similar to Summer camp costs. I am doing everything I can think of to motivate them but it’s very difficult at times.

    • There’s no rule that says they can’t go to another council’s NYLT if that is feasible. I know our NYLT is going to be <$20.

      • Our week-long NYLT is $250, and in other councils in Michigan it is $200. How does your council do it for less than $20? Which council are you in, JC Caron?

        • It’s definitely overpriced in most councils who use it as a profit center even though everyone working the training is a volunteer and usually pay for their handouts and stuff out of pocket.

    • NYLT is basically free labor for setting up our councils summer camps. Several SM’s have complained about the quality of the training.

      I have nothing to base a comparison too, so I have to take their word.

      • In my Council, the camp preparation is usually performed as a Lodge event. There are usually 2 NYLT sessions, 1 before and 1 after the summer camp season. Unfortunately, I personally cannot obligate the necessary time to NYLT &/or Woodbadge staffing, so I do not know the fine points of the NYLT course.

      • I thought that was what the OA Ordeal did? That seems to be the purpose of them in my current council and in my council as a youth.

    • This may sound a bit harsh but you really need to start with leadership traning for troops. The guidelines are easy to google and NYLT should be reserved for those scouts truly interested in future leadership roles.
      NYLT should be affordable and I agree that if they somehow manage to do it for $20, there are probly issues. Maybe it will be ok, but I. Doubt the quality. We are sending youth out of council because we do not have the trained youth to put on. Camperships get our cost down. Our cooks are no charge and much of the meals are donated through gifts in kind. It does still cost to provide adequate facilities.

      I strongly suggest NYLT, and your adults need Woodbadge. Mainly, make your expectations clear., and occasionally review them with your troops youth leadership.

  30. Unless you have a brand new Troop or are in the midst of a complete overhaul due to some kind of mass Scout exodus, why would you even consider the adults running the Troop? I have never understood Troops that attempt to micromanage their Scouts. That is antithetic to the very reason why you enter your son into Scouting. Scouts become self reliant by doing. Going somewhere else to have yet another adult tell them how to do things is NOT attractive. Do new Scouts need training? Sure, thats what old Scouts are there to do. Scoutmaster Conferences are where the effectiveness of those efforts are measured. Do I supervise my Scouts? Well, heck yes. We hold leadership development sessions, too. Theyre informal and open to all of them. I require my Scouts who wish to be SPL to attend NYLT. I have not yet had one tell me that he wanted to go, but couldn’t afford it. I admit that we are in an area where the economics work out well. My Scouts (and their parents) know that if it was a problem, they can come tell me and the Troop will find a way to get it done. I have been blessed with Scouts who want to have a good time and understand that competent leadership on their part is the MOST VITAL component of doing that. Because my Scouts do a good job of leading — setting camp, deciding program, running meetings — I dont need to be on them about those things.

    So, to those of you in the 2 situations which I descibed at first — I hear you now — What do I do? You start by taking your Scouts and teaching them basic campcraft. Each time you camp, you try to step back a little bit. Get your PLC to develop a list of tasks that have to be completed to set camp. Discuss with them how to improve their list. Point out the good things and praise them on them. Show them the hiccup points and how to eliminate them. When you go to Camporee or Webelos Woods or Summer or Winter Camp, talk to them about the Troops around you — which ones have things that they like and why? Things that they dislike and why? Who does some of the same things that you do and how does it look from the outside? Ask your PLC if they want to change things or try something different.

    I have been active with my sons’ Troop for 13 years now and been Scoutmaster for 8. Our Troop took top honors at Camporees and District event before I came and will after I’m gone. We were a Troop of about 60 just before I moved up with my oldest son and we shrunk to a tight group of 10 about 7 years ago. We garnered awards in both situations. It’s not my doing from the standpoint of managing it. All that my Assistant and I did was exactly what we did with our own sons. We expected that excellence and expected that our Scouts would be willing and able to provide it.

    Dont sell your youth so short. They will rise to exactly the level that you set for them.

    • I believe that, in general, adult run scout groups are symptomatic of over emphasizing the importance of a successful event or activity badge seeking. I often see adults stepping in, to the detriment of the youth, because they think they can do the event or activity better. They fail to realize that events and are not the focal point…the youth are. I also believe the message is conveyed to the boys that they are not as important as the event…also a very incorrect message to be sending.

    • Have you figured out the reason for the 87.5% decline in membership? The Troop my son is in has declined from 3 patrols to 2 patrols with about 15 active Scouts. If it continues in such a downward spiral, I am going to have to get the Committee involved to see if we can reverse the trend. I think I might know a couple of the reasons, but since I’ve only been there 6 months I am still considered an outsider.

      • On the subject of declining membership: I believe one of the Scoutmaster’s most important jobs is recruiting. I spend a lot of time working with Webelos and their leaders to make sure we get a good number of Troop visits every year. We have a fall campout which we invite Webelos to attend, and our District has a December event which we offer to host them to attend with us for a weekend of camping and Scout skills. All right in time for February crossovers.

        • Before I took over as SM of our Troop we had several bad recruiting years and the program had become a merit badge factory to the point that my then 11 year old son was working on merit badges before he was TF. The SM that took over before me got the program back on track but we were holding our own at best, he was SM for 2 years. I took over 4 years ago and my main job for the next 3 years was to recruit. I worked with cub packs and my charter org to pull in new Scouts. We had several good recruiting years and stabilized and grew the troop. Our last low recruiting year Scout will age out this school year. We had 2 years where we only got 2 younger brothers into the troop.

          I’m happy to say we’re now at 33 Scouts, up from low 20’s, and the unit is much more active. We picked up a Pack that needed a home and it is now growing nicely at our Charter Org and is feeding us 3 or 4 Scouts a year. Our Venture Crew is active with about 25 males and females. They took two Crews to Philmont and sent a number of youth and adults with the council contingent to the Jambo. Our Troop sent a full crew to Sea Base for a SCUBA live aboard this past summer.

          One of our challenges is we have one unit a mile away with ~120 Scouts and huge Pack. They’ll regularly bridge 25 Scouts a year from the Pack. I work to show prospective parents that bigger isn’t necessarily better. With 125 Scouts they are very limited where they can go as a Troop on outings. They never canoe and rarely backpack nor mountain bike or road ride. Their camping trips all tend to be “flop and drops” at Scout camps. We’ve had several Scouts start with them and transfer over to us when they see what we’re doing outings wise.

  31. I think it depends on the type of unit. For instance, in the regular boy scouts I’ve seen good leaders take charge and adults taking a mentoring role. I’ve also seen ones where you wonder what in the world are these boys thinking of. I guess that’s true also in venturing. My sons moved from regular boy scouts to Sea Scouts – and my ship is based on and train the scouts based on the foundation and meaning of what Admiral Powell wanted done. Our leaders in National haven’t got the foggiest clue as to the real purpose of Sea Scouts. I also teach in high schools and meet a lot of students who want what our ship does and realizes the importance of getting ahead. Both boys and girls who want a future in the Navy and want experience before they go in. The unfortunate part about this is the fact that they have little knowledge or even true knowledge of a life at sea. So it takes our adult leaders, who are military veterans, to teach them. My oldest son who went through JROTC is now our training officer and teaches them military protocol. Because we teach them this protocol we’ve been requested by at least 2 cities to provide color guard at major events. We’ve also been recently asked to set up a medical tent for a city’s 125th anniversary. Because of what we have taught them our ship is getting local recognition and local support from two local cities now. However, we do leave it to our boatswain to lead the ship – ideas for training, where to go for the training, fundraisers and recruitment. We work as a team and that’s what scouting is suppose to be- the elders passing down their knowledge to make better scouts and scouts taking the lead to get things done on a timely basis.

  32. Very timely and good topic. We just had a similar discussion going on in our troop.

    Google “Scoutmaster Whisper” and you will find a very good essay by Steve Roberts, (SM Troop 495) on his thoughts on the Scout run troop.

    If the adults are calling the shots you do NOT have a Scout troop, plain and simple. The scouts CAN do it and will surprise you if you let them. They will stumble, they will fall, they will fail…..THAT is where you come in, to help them get it right the next time, not to do it for them.

    The worst part of scouting sometimes are the adults who don’t “get it”.

  33. I believe that a scout troop/team/crew, should be ran by the boys. BUT they must sell their plan to the support members of the unit, the parents. Without the support of the parents they don’t go on campout weekends. That’s why a good Patrol Leaders Council with well trained leaders should have no problem with “THE SELL”. It shows that they planned out all the logistics. Also a good leader takes/shows how to do it to the up and coming leaders. It should never be a secret how to be a good leader. Yes, capitalize on all the youth training feasible. Some unit in our district, actually run their own YLT. They keep passing on the information.

  34. We have had similar problems with adults when we run our low COPE programs, the adults want to give advice to the scouts on how to solve a problem, The way we solve the problem is to take the adults aside and ask them to let the boys do it, if that does not work we give them a neckerchief to tie around their face below the nose to sort of act as a gag. They get it every time.

  35. Letting the Scouts run the troop is a basic tenet of Scouting; always has been. But you can’t just drop boys into a leadership role. Even if you have older Scouts who attend meetings and activities regularly, if they were trained by “dropping them in it,” they have little more clue than the young Scouts as to how to lead and proceed.
    Leaders MUST spend time GUIDING the PLC, in the PLC meetings as well as in the troop meetings and activities. They must review the agenda with the SPL/ASPL before the meetings start, and they can remind or suggest that something, but they should not have to stand up in front of the troop to say the SPL/ASPL forgot something (in any way). It’s OK for Scouts to try and fail and learn, but that has to be based on good training and guidance. Without those, the Scouts will try, fail, and bail because nothing good is happening. If the troop is disorganized and does not follow the meeting plans to a large degree, it’s likely the PLC is not getting the help they need from the leaders.

    • Mitch, our PLC is pretty much just the Scoutmaster and Scouts, every once in a while an ASM or other leader if we have a big activity or event coming up the scouts may need a hand with planning. Even at the PLC the Scouts run the show. At our regular meetings, no one interacts with Scouts but the SM or ASM, sometimes another leader if teaching something specific or the Advancement Coordinator, that’s it. It is the Scouts show, and we guide…whispering in ears often, but they do everything.

      I am curious, do you conduct Troop Leadership Training with your Scouts? Ours is pretty good, and we really go over leadership and all of the positions and follow the training program. This keeps you from “just dropping” Scouts into leadership roles. I highly recommend it.

      • Yes, PABill, we do conduct TLT, but in a fashion that does not necessarily give each new leader the specifics of his duties, let alone the day-to-day guidance I perceive they need. I understand what you’re saying; I just think there is a level of “hands-off” that exceeds the need of the Scouts.

  36. BSA needs to return to encouraging independent patrol overnights (without adults). The more parents know that the goal is to get boys functioning successfully on their own for 24+ hours straight, the more they will set goals for themselves in terms of stepping back.

    • While I doubt rather strongly that that’ll ever happen (due to all of the nasty little things that could happen that would end in lawsuits) I do agree that encouraging independent patrol funtions such as hikes, cookouts and even patrol meetings away and independent of troop meetings was a major factor in developing independence and leadership among the young scouts in our troop.
      Part of the problem stems from all of the youth protection we now have to follow. I’m not saying that Youtyh Protection is unnecessary or at fault! It’s how it is interpreted by adults, especially considering this entire “we must protect our precious children from any possible harm” society we now seem to have! Independent patrol meetings or hikes were a given when I was going through scouting in the early 70’s but we also rode our bikes to school, were told to “be home by dinner” and generally were pretty much unsupervised. Nowadays, schools are clogged each morning and afternoon by parents bringing their children to school. Very few bikes are in evidence. If a child leaves the house, we want to know where they are going, how long they will be gone and if any change in schedule, that they call us from their cell phone! Call it peace of mind in a fear crazed world but we as a society are giving up the very notion of independent action and are drilling it into ourselves bit by bit. Is it any wonder that we tend to want to try and “guide” our precious children since we “obviously” know better and can “protect” them from themselves?
      I would like to see patrols doing things independently of the troop. Otherwise, what you have is a seating arrangement with a flag at troop meetings.
      I really do believe it’s as simple as that! We have become so ingrained with the “nanny state” mentality that we don’t even recognize when we do it to our own children! That’s the real tragedy, what once was done as a natural couse of events now has to be taught, re-taught, and sometimes it still isn’t enough!

    • As a Patrol Leader in the late ’50s, we took several day hikes without adult involvement (streetcar to edge of town park, climbing and exploring, wood fire and cooked lunch, more activity and some scout skill work, and public transit home with dirt covered skin, shoes and uniforms). A mostly impromptu Scout bicycle “20-mile” adventure was less successful when several of the bicycles did not prove up to the task.
      After doing this without asking beyond informing the Patrol member’s parents (what are written permission slips? travel permit?) and not consulting the Scoutmaster (never heard of PLC), this was viewed as good leadership and initiative — though honestly I never heard of this being done as day-long activity by other Patrols or Troops.
      The downside was that little counted for advancement because this required signature of SM or ASM.
      We talked about developing a camp site and camping for several nights in the summer at a deserted area (no idea of property ownership or needing permission) along a local river bank, but nothing was done.
      Overnight camping and camporees involved at least one adult for the Troop.

      • One_Old_Scout,

        Oh my, you went camping by yourselves? With no cell phones or other forms of instant communication? And you did not have any electronics with you to entertain yourselves. What did you do with yourselves? You mean the adults actually thought you could take care of yourselves unattended? Be …T.T.T.T….Trustworthy? Be R.R.R.R….Responsible? What was wrong with them? They must have been out of their minds!

        On district or council camporees, the adults in my old troop would attend Cracker Barrel meetings and leave us all alone. Other adult leaders thought they were crazy for doing this. Their response was, “That is what board of reviews are for?” Sometime they would be gone for 3-4 hours. Our scouts knew that if you screwed up and found not to be trustworthy, you were not allowed to attend troop activities…Period!

        Everybody behaved and were good scouts. It is still the same today – if you allow the scouts to be scouts.

  37. Helping youth leaders make well informed decisions is our primary task. But not every decision is one that a youth can or should make. Could youth decide to stop having a flag ceremony, or decide to adopt a different uniform? Should they chose campouts without first ensuring that they have enough adults willing and able to provide transportation and supervision? Should they be able to choose an all-pop-tart menu for a campout? Could they choose to do an activity that violates the GTSS or youth protection?

    If your knee-jerk reaction is that boy-lead means they can choose anything they want, then I suppose you’d have to say yes to all these. I think that adults should help set the plaything field for the youth leadership so that they understand the available choices and then choose among them. Adult leadership may look passive, if done right, but it is anything but.

    • It is important to define the brand, so no, Boy Scouts have no room to shirk on citizenship.

      Obviously, if a boy is not a first class scout (in the true sense of the word, not one who accidentally has the patch due to a misguided “1st Class 1st Year” heresy), he does not qualify to take his patrol hiking and camping. The point of advancement is to identify the youth who are qualified to make responsible decisions. If it’s taken them four years to become first class scouts, you will have a good gauge on who those youth are.

      When young men and women who have a track record of trustworthiness come to me with a good plan for an independent overnight, I’ve encourage them. (Sometimes I’ve given them the keys to the car.)

      I may be a sample of 1, but multiply that my however many there are like me, you likely have millions of youth across America are doing this. It’s a pity they have to be outside of BSA to do it.

  38. For Cub Scouts I think it is implausible to think you can let the youth have free reign over event, activity, hiking, or camping decisions or financial decisions. Youth protection is not just about protecting them from abuse, it is about protecting them from themselves. Sometimes youth do not realize financial responsibilities, insurance responsibilities, two-deep, trained leadership requirements, the list could go on and on.

    At a Cub Scout-level, the Pack Committee should make the majority of decisions but in conjunction with parents and youth input. At a Boy Scout-level, the majority of decisions and suggestions can be made and should be made by the Patrol Leaders Council, however if your unit does not have an effective PLC or you don’t have enough members for one, or you don’t have the experienced Scouts, then the Troop Committee with the Scoutmaster should help guide and teach the boys, teaching them how to start having more and more input, understanding risks and requirements to outings. The same goes for Explorer or Venturing units, a combined dialogue and cooperative effort from the youth and adults can go a long way to make sure everyone has a fun, safe, time.

    • In other countries the equivalent of cub scouting is lead by den chiefs, and the equivalent of cub master is probably the age of an older venturer. Those youth leaders answer to one scoutmaster, perhaps the only older adult in the unit.

      We have set up an organization that pushes capable youth completely out of the picture. I bet if our den chiefs were tasked to put together a program for the little ones, most of them would do a bang-up job.

      Now, I love adults who put in all this time in ensuring awesome programs for our kids. But, we really shouldn’t presume that a massive committee is needed to manage our youth. Adults *should* step in when discipline or safety is an issue, but those times should be rare in a healthy unit.

  39. We have had a series of very good SPLs who both ran the program successfully and considered advice from adults when making decisions. We as adults did a pretty good job of letting them make those decisions and when necessary letting them learn from mistakes. Now we have an SPL who takes “boy-led” to mean that he can do whatever he wants without reference to Troop budget, tradition, or policy. He seems to be ignoring all adult input. Weekly attendance has fallen and some parents have indicated they are ready to find another troop. We are at a loss as to how to handle the situation.

  40. If a youth does not know how to do the job, someone must teach him. Ideally it’s the older youth who preceded them in the job, but sometimes that is not possible, such as when there are no more experienced scouts still present. The adults should be prepared to teach those youth to lead and then allow them to do so, and allow them to make errors. There are times when the youth need to be corrected, quietly and consistently, when policy is disregarded. They must be held accountable for their actions since those actions impact many others.
    Adults do ‘run’ the troop. They oversee the finances (youth don’t write the checks), the transportation, the reservations and permits, the training. The youth should lead it.

  41. Scout lead is all well and good and it’s great to be concerned about the upper ranking scouts learning leadership skils but one must also be considerate that there is a room full of scouts and parents expecting the program to be delivered at an reasonable and constant level of quality.

  42. I’m transitioning from Pack Committee Chair to Troop Committee Chair and I’m struggling with this concept of ‘Scout Run’. I have watched too many meetings where the Scout leader had nothing planned, and after 10 minutes of idle chatter, they adjourn to the playground next door to goof off for the remainder of the 90 minute meeting. The troop makes almost no progress toward advancement outside of summer camp – if a boy doesn’t got to camp he’s basically lost the year. We’ve lost several good kids because of weak scout leadership. I have been stepping in on a more regular basis to mentor the leadership and show them how to run an organization, but I’ve taken some criticism from parents for being to assertive. I’m not sure where the happy medium is.

  43. WOOD BADGE & NYLT…… Summer Camp is a good place to start. As we disembarked from the bus… Staffers came running up to me. “You can get your tents… you can get your lanterns… you can get …. you can get …. I said “Hold it”! “Their not mine, to get, there theirs….” and I pointed to the SPL and Quartermaster… and said ” Their running the show”! Just point me to the our Troops campsite…. When the Troop arrived… Scouts came up to me asking me what to do….and what time is it. I answered Did you look at the Sun?…”Did you ask your Patrol Leader? Did you ask your Senior Patrol Leader? Did you ask your Quartermaster? They caught on real quick!!! After a while I yell out to the SPL…”Let me know when your taking YOUR TROOP to dinner, because I’m getting hungry”! It was boy led from then on… we had a great week. TRAINING, TRAINING, TRAINING!

  44. Adult leaders who don’t think Scouts capable of making the right decisions and leading their unit should volunteer to staff an NYLT course. Having the youth staff lead the course (and therefore the course’s troop) with very minimal mentoring from the adults assigned to staff will prove how effective youth leadership is!

  45. Ultimately, the Scoutmaster is correct. First, he is the chief mentor for the SPL. As a Scoutmaster, the other leaders and parents talk to me, and I talk to the SPL. The SPL communicates to the Troop. If a Scout has a question, he must go to to the youth leaders. “Ask your SPL or PL” is a frequent response in our Troop.

    As SM, I ASK the SPL for permission to talk to the Troop. I am often told (jokingly) , “you have 1 minute, Sir”. The empowers the youth to take ownership.

    The only real exception is in the case of health, safety, or imminent danger. As Scoutmaster, if that occurs, I am obligated to step in.

    As an adult leader, you report to the Scoutmaster. For you, that decision is final. No leader should step in if contrary to the SM. Even if you believe the Troop is not progressing as you would like.

    While your actions were understandable, the SM is correct in this situation.

  46. All the focus on the “youth-led troop” often ignores the rest of what constitutes the Patrol Method, such as boys primarily experiencing Scouting in the context of the patrol. “Troop, troop, troop” drowns the Patrol Method. BSA training for SMs does not even have as a learning objective that the participant should know what constitutes the Patrol Method (Check p. 20.). The Patrol Method has been largely mislaid.

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