Tuesday Talkback: When parents see Cub Scouts as low-cost babysitting

Tuesday-Talkback“The pack meeting lasts 90 minutes, so that’s plenty of time to do some shopping, grab a bite and maybe even catch a quick nap.”

It’s crazy but true: A few parents out there see Cub Scouting (and Boy Scouting) as a low-cost babysitting option for their son. They’ll drop their son off for meetings or outings and go catch a movie or swing by Home Depot while their child experiences Scouting without them.

While it’s true that Scouting is a more enriching, engaging and affordable alternative to leaving a child at home to watch movies with the next-door neighbor, remember that BSA doesn’t stand for Baby Sitters of America.

Families get the most out of Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting when everyone is involved. But what’s a Cub Scouter to do when parents peels out of the parking lot before you can ask them to help out at the next blue and gold?

That’s today’s Tuesday Talkback question: How do you get parents more involved in Cub Scouting? How do you remind them that you and other dedicated Scouters aren’t babysitters? Is this a problem in your pack? Share your thoughts and experiences below.

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  1. As we all have, I have seen this happen. Most of the time it appears to me that those boys are the ones that need scouting the most, and if you can keep them happy, active and interested, Scouting can change their life for the better. So while its always better to have the parents involved, please don’t exclude boys who have drop off parents.

    • We have to remember that it is for the boys that we are giving our 1 hour a week! Bravo for pointing it out that we are here for the boys!

      • A few here have the boys in mind but many others are doing nothing but whining how busy YOUR lives are. My husband goes to every scout meeting yet it is so out of control he comes home with barely any information on upcoming events. This is due to people bringing ALL of their kids, non scouts to the meetings because they don’t have babysitters I’m guessing. We are raising our grandson and trying to give him the best, stress free life possible however these trips to the meetings is anything BUT stress free and non informative. When I was a Brownie as a child, my parents did NOT attend meetings. I don’t understand why more people than those in leading roles need to be present. The more people, the more confusion. Kids talking over kids, adults talking over adults, adults talking over kids and vice versa. At this rate, I do not feel we will be allowing him to finish out his first year, too much whining from grown adults wanting more whining adults present for every meeting because you can’t handle your packs. Scouting is NOT what it use to be 40 years ago.

    • I have been scouting for almost 7 years. Five years as a den leader and 3 as Cubmaster. From my experience, kids that stay in the program are ones who’s parents are engaged. Parents that drop and run can put leaders at risk since they are not there if something happens and we have had situations where everyone was leaving and we have had to wait for a parent to pick up their kid. There are some situations where I could be ok with it (ie single parent having to work or run multiple kids around) but for most families we want a parent at meetings. Cub Scouting is a family activity and we always try to encourage family participation.

    • i volunteer with a small but mighty pack. and it been a small group of us parents. keeping things goin. well after may there are gonna be five positions openvin our pack. i really hope that the newer parnet swill step up and do right by teh pack. im remaing to move up with wolves. thru bears. after that i dont know. my husband has been teh webolosleader. but our son has pretty much been on his own boyscouts this year. and has suffered becaseuof it. which is why hes stepping down from webelos leader. so that he can be at the scout meetings with my son. there afew new parents that are stepping up i jsut hope we cang et more on board. fingers crossed.

      • I am a single mom of twin 7 year olds (with no assiance from their father).. Boy/girl… Who are both in scouts, both in soccer, both in basketball, we are involved with church, personal friends, I take care of my grandpa, just graduated with my master’s degree, looking for full-time employment..and the list goes on… We all have crazy busy lives!

        But I still am able to make time to volunteer for cub scouts and girl scouts. I am our pack committee chair (and also doing the Secretary position, the membership position, and popcorn kernel)

        I am stretched so thinly… But I do it for my kids because I want them to have the best experiences possible because that’s what they deserve. I also want them to become well-rounded, productive, socially responsible members of society.

        I feel like I am getting close to a breaking point however. I just don’t understand why other parents won’t commit to their children.

        If everyone volunteered a measly 5 hours a month of their time, I think our program could run flawlessly. Instead we have 3 people planning/implementing the entire program. (We have den leaders of course who are awesome! But I can’t in good conscious ask them to volunteer for anymore)

        I just don’t know what else to say to get parents involved… Tomorrow is our first pack meeting of the school year and I am going to push for volunteering on the spot. But if I can’t get these open positions filled, what am I supposed to do? Hold the scouting program hostage? I love my son so much but I signed-up for way more than I asked for.

  2. My husband is a den leader, and I volunteered to be a den leader for summer day camp last year. My son was the only cub scout (wolf) from our pack. and my older scout son was the den chief. I had another leader from another pack and we had 10 boys all together. I totally felt like a very low cost baby sitter. Basically, my son and I each volunteered 35 hours of our time for free (and we still had to pay for my cub to go to camp like everyone else.) A couple of the parents were very appreciative, However, from several of the others I really got the vibe they were just glad to get rid of their child from 9-4 every day. A couple of the kids did not behave very well at all and it was frustrating. I really hope my cub scout son does not want to go this year, because I really do not want to volunteer again. I know that sounds like a bad attitude, but I don’t like being treated like a nearly free babysitter for very ill-behaved children. In our own den, I do not feel like that at all. At least the parents are there and put a stop to any bad behavior.

      • That exact thing happened to me at our district’s day camp for 2 years even after asking/recommending suggestions to CHG. If 1 parent has to volunteer for every 5 attendees then why do we have this problem? I didn’t even offer it to my child the last 2 years because it was so bad. This year we went to camp akela which totally needs a parent in attendance and last year we attended a different council’s day camp to see if any better. It was better since pack was grouped together vs grouped as ranks. Pack leadership knew problem children and could require those children to have an adult attend and they knew cub’s quirks and could nip in bud vs a stranger trying to cope, reign and discipline the child they don’t know.

    • Wendy, I know exactly how you feel. I am a cub master for a pack of 15 scouts. 10 of which are ill-behaved, parents, charter and council that are not very active. I put in more hours then a full time job each week not to mention the money that has come out of my pocket so that these scouts get to do stuff and get awards. It’s extremely trying and hard. To be honest if it wasn’t for two other parents and the scouts I would have given up. All I can do is my best and hope I can reach at least one scout to make the stars that will make it all worth it.

    • I feel your pain. I have 8 children, 6 boys (two Eagles, two boy scouts, two cub scouts), a Venture daughter and a 5 year old daughter. Yes, we’re all busy with our lives in some way, and I can’t claim to know how busy everyone is, BUT if I hear “oh, I can’t volunteer for cub scouts; I have a baby and a 5 year old daughter and they keep me SOOOO busy”, I will have to work very hard to force my eyes not to roll into the back of my head. One time a lady said something similar to me and when I responded “yes I know, my 8 kids keep my husband, the cubmaster, and I, the wolf den leader and committee chair, very busy, so the boys and I would appreciate if you could help out with just one thing this year”, she actually took the clip board and signed up!

      We need to not be afraid to speak up to these families who drop off and don’t participate. We’ve all heard “many hands make light work”, and we need to pass that on to them. The first time a parent complains about how a meeting was run, or how she didn’t like this or that, I take that opportunity to ask the parent to volunteer to help lighten the load. Parents need to be reminded that each individual den is run by volunteers who have busy lives themselves. Once I (the committee chair and webelos den leader) and my husband (cubmaster) started reminding (gently) the new parents that we are all volunteers, we did get more volunteers. There is only one parent who continues to complain and refuses my offer to be on the committee to help make decisions, but we’ve chosen to ignore the bad attitude and put our focus where it should be, ON THE BOYS!

  3. Fortunately we only experienced this with a limited few parents. I think one of the secrets to our success was we always engaged the parents at every meeting. We had a separate area specified for parents to gather and as Cubmaster I made it a point to go and speak with them weekly. I used this time to build a relationship and talk about upcoming events and draft the help the Pack would need. It also never hurt that at round-up I always made it a very big point that scouting is a family affair. I told them that the Pack would work with their sons on activities based on the monthly character value but rank advancement was accomplished 90% at home, with the family.

  4. On the Boy Scout level, it’s not an issue. There seems to be a mutual understanding that the Scout and parent need that time apart. 🙂

    As for Cubs, one way that we combat it is by having the parent there to present the awards. If they drop and dash, well, they get to answer to their Scout why mom or dad wasn’t there to give him his awards.

    On the same note, parents that can’t give us the courtesy to stick around for the meeting and maybe learn about upcoming events, will get not-timely responses in emails, and will be directed to view the unit website for any information.

    • Wow, I have to say that this is probably the wrong attitude on many levels.”….a mutual understanding that the (boy)scout and parent need that time apart”? Are you kidding?! Boy Scouts is the time for the parents to REALLY stay involved with their son, to be a part of the journey and many adventures along the way! Our Troop makes a real effort to involve both parents (mom & dad) to be a part of our Troop. We even encourage female siblings to be a part of our Troop family (great leads for growing our Venturing Program). There’s a place and a role for everyone from being a part of the Troop Committee to merit badge counselors, Eagle Scout Candidate mentors to fundraising, etc, etc… Definitely a missed opportunity for all!

      • Dawn – Going by the smiley face, I think Shawn’s comment about Boy Scouts and parents needing time apart was a little tongue-in-cheek.

        Meanwhile, I’ve been feeling frustrated that one of my AoL kids and his single-mom seem to think Cub Scouts is just a Kid’s Club; that I pick him up, entertain him for an hour, and he’ll get a badge for it.

        • Dawn: If the boys are with their parents/siblings all the time, that is Family Camping. Boy Scouts is about getting the boys out on their own camping, out in the woods and learning to be on their own in the enviroment. You cannot be there for them all the time. Scouts gives them the skills, tools and character development that they cannot or not able to get while with the whole family. It’s also learning to talk to other adults other than teachers and family members. That is what Shawn is talking about.

          Having family involvement at the Troop Committee (and yes SM/ASM) level is good. It’s behind the scenes work that helps the Troop go.

      • I’d make a distinction between weekly troop meetings and other scouting activities. As a Scoutmaster I truly appreciate the adults who volunteer to help with activities and outings, but I also like to let the boys run their own troop meetings without too much “help” from the parents (myself included).

      • Hi Dawn,
        I am a scoutmaster, and the hardest thing for a troop to do is make the patrol the central group for the boys to participate in. This is the Patrol Method. For this to work, the boys have to be left alone to do the things scouts do, and do it as a peer group (patrol) together. At the boy scout age, boys are starting to separate from the parents little by little, and this is a safe place for them to do it. I have had parents who broke in to the group to fix this or that, do the cooking, do the son’s chores, and would not leave the scouts to their own adventure. I think this is a carry over from the cub scout days when adults have to lead everything. Parents are welcome to watch, but must do so at a distance for the Patrol Method to work. Otherwise you just have a version of Webelos III. Even parents who join as committee members need to have a hands off approach while the boys are at scout meetings, and especially on camp outs. It is just the nature of the program.

      • No, I am not kidding, for the reasons that my fellow leaders stated below. The original post was about Cub Scouting, and by parents seeing Cub Scouts as a babysitting service.

        To the point that you feel that my comments were off base, whether intentional or not, adults in troop meetings, and yes, even the SM, has a negative effect on the troop meeting, and working the patrol method. I have trained and trust my youth leaders to do what they need to do to have a successful troop meeting, and it’s not for me to gauge how that meeting went. I or any one of the other adults can think that it’s mass chaos or a complete failure. That’s not what matters…

        What matters is not the flag ceremony was awful, it matters that the Scouts did it.

        What matters is not the food was burnt, but the Scouts cooked it.

        What matters is not that the Scout learned a new skill, but that another Scout taught him that skill.

        What I can also glean from my fellow leaders that posted subsequently on this topic, is that too many parents involved, in things that they shouldn’t be, devolves the unit into Webelos III or just another family get together.

      • No, this is not the wrong attitude on any level, Mom. Boy Scouts is _NOT_ a family activity. It is the opposite. You are thinking of Cub Scouts. Boy Scouts is based on the patrol method. The patrol is a gang of boys who are self-led without adult supervision within the troop. The Scoutmaster provides the youth leaders guidance and mentoring, but they do the heavy lifting.

        Parents in the meeting really ruins it. My troop has the parents go to a separate room if they want to hang out with the troop committee. Everyone who goes in there is volunteered for the committee and not allowed in the troop meetings. The boys meeting in the main hall together with only SM and ASM’s in attendance. We only allow two ASM’s.

      • spit my coffee all over the table when I read your response dawn…..talk about having no understanding of the boy scout program.

      • Oh that troop sounds great! Ours is more pro-women than the last one we were in, but when we offered to volunteer when our son joined we were told, “we’re good, we have everything covered.” It was very frustrating as iwe wanted son to find another oalce but he had friends in the troop and liked it from the get go. In the past few years when needs have arisen because folks have left positions, we will not volunteer becaise of said leadership’s stmt to us upon joining. That has left a bad taste for us and we are just struggling to get our son to eagle (he’s soooo close) so we can move on to another troop for next son who is about to move into a troop unless leadership changes.

  5. I so wish this was only a issue at the cub level (no offense intended to any cub leaders here – been there, done that – you have my utmost respect) but we have the same issue at the troop level. Seems parents in my troop want to do the same thing, they think their only responsbility is to drop off and pick up once a week and write a check once a month for a campout.

    I’ve got about 42 active boys and somehow that = only about 12 active adults. After numerous requests in general and targeted to specific adults to help still nothing changes, it probably the worst unit for parental involvemnet I’ve seen in 18 years.

    I’ll be watching this post closely and I’m sure some cub leaders have ideas we can incorporate at troop level.

  6. As a former Cub Master, now Scout Master. On recruitment night, I told the parents on day one. This is not a baby sitting service. I have also had to remind some parents about that during the year, who just wanted to go to the store down the street to get something and not show up until long after the meeting was over. I may have lost a scout or two doing that but had no issues with being alone with a child.

  7. When I was a Den Leader, I laid out the themes from the old “program helps” booklet on the table at signup night. I asked each family to pick a theme the could help with. I let them know I would run the meeting but I needed help with the theme. It worked very well because families picked out different themes and really helped to diversify the program that year and bring more perspective than we den leaders could provide. We had a mom that was a chemist and did the science theme, a dad who played guitar took the music theme, etc. it was all about identifying that comfort zone for each family. I assured all that they were not responsible for “running” the meeting, but rather, bringing their talent to share with the scouts. It helped with engagement for sure!

  8. When I served as Cubmaster for our Pack, I saw this happening more and more. I even saw it happening with our troop. The parents have to understand that they are part of the Scouting experience as well. More at Cub Scout level, but parental involvement is also needed at the Boy Scout level. Even if it is as a committee member, leader, etc.. We definitely do not exclude scouts. The parents have to understand though that the small group of leaders that are there probably have the same errands to run, the same need for a moment of peace, but they have made the choice to be there with their son. If it happens too much, the leaders get burned out, which then leads to an unhealthy troop environment. I saw a troop fold because the folks who were the leaders had been doing it for years. They hit a wall.

  9. We try to set the expectations at Join Scouts Night and round up events… it takes the whole Pack to make the program live up to its potential. While there are often times when a parent needs to do something at that scheduled time, if they are perceiving it as childcare they are really missing the best part – contributing and watching their son(s) grow and improve.

  10. I don’t know about the pack level, but in my unit, we have an information packet that every new family receives. One item it includes is a description of all of the adult roles for the unit and the commitment each one requires. At the back is an adult survey that asks about their skills, experience, etc. Lastly, there is a form which we collect that asks them what role they will take with the unit.

    Note, not all roles are official unit positions. For example, one role we have is campout driver. For that, one parent commits to driving (and attending) at least 2 campouts a year. It helps ensure we have the vehicle space for every boy who wants to attend. It also offers a way to be involved for those families who cannot commit to a committee or SM/ASM type position.

  11. The key is education. A new parent orientation, without the Scouts, is an essential part of every year’s program. This is an opportunity to explain to parents their vital role in their son’s Scouting experience. The boy’s name may be on the application, but the whole family has joined the pack. Our council has a family involvement program, called Mission: Family, which includes an online training for the parents. We encourage every family to view that training.

  12. As a den leader I follow BSA guidelines, parents with tigers, and after that, unless we are working with tools or on a go see it, I am fine with me and the assistant den leader. If a parent fails to be prompt in picking up a child, I will not give them a pass. First offense, Cubmaster is involved, and the parent is told s/he must be on time, and second offense the parent must accompany the boy to the meeting. I can’t allow a parent to punish my child by forcing us to stay afterwards and wait. Our parents are required to attend the pack meetings and are not allowed to drop off to either pack meetings or den meetings (the boys must be escorted in), we really don’t have any problems with feeling taken advantage of, but by making the parents aware of their expectation of involvement, we get virtually no boys leaving the pack, but we get lots of parental involvement since they are there to see what it takes to run a pack.

    I think this topic had the potential to finally push the 12 year old Eagle thread to the side!

  13. Setting the expectation is key. When my son first joined Scouts, I’d had no previous experience and honestly didn’t know that parents were expected to hang out. The troop at the time also did not communicate well with parents who weren’t in leadership roles so it was 2 years before we were invited to a committee meeting or asked to help with a campout. So if you’re having trouble, my first piece of advice is to specifically ask people to help with specific jobs. Standing up and asking a group is one thing but specifically asking a person to do a specific item usually won’t get rejected.

    We do the same as Jack on an annual basis during recharter time and ask each adult to fill out a survey. We use this form: http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/34437.pdf
    I believe there’s a Pack-specific form as well.

    We encourage every parent to attend the committee meetings (which is why we hold them during a regular Troop meeting). And otherwise we encourage them to hang out and socialize.

    The biggest issue I’ve run into in the past couple of years is actually parents who want to fulfill roles that simply don’t suit them. How do you politely say that you think someone else would be better suited to fulfill the role (even worse when you don’t have a suitable replacement)?

  14. Parents are often at a loss as to how they can help. In Cub Scouts I would break the requirements down into 10-15 minute hands-on lessons. Parents would receive a script and teaching materials when they arrived and take a corner of the meeting room. The Den was then broken down into small groups and the Cub Scouts would rotate around the room from station to station. This kept the Cub Scouts interested and the parents involved. Lots of homework and prep time for me but at the meeting I could mostly sit back and supervise.

  15. We make it very, very clear during Recruitment that we are not Baby Sitters of America, but that scouting is truly a FAMILY ADVENTURE! We point out that their boys actually WANT them to be there with them. I draw the comparison with sports, for example. I tell them that scouting isn’t run by hired “professional leaders”, like let’s say the Karate instructor, but by US, parents, that have decided to step up. I remind them that our Pack can only be as good as WE all decide to invest in it.

    To prove our point that we see this as a family adventure, we ALWAYS invite siblings along to den and Pack meetings (which many moms have been very grateful for) and include those siblings in the activities. So far, people have taken us up on our invitation, and we’ve even had grandparents, uncles, and cousins join our family camp-outs!

    I make sure during my communications throughout the year to address them as our “scouting family”, “pack family”, etc…to continue this feeling of belonging.

    I agree that it does help to approach specific people for specific jobs as you get to know your families better. I have found that hardly anyone will turn you down if you just ask directly!

  16. I don’t know about the Boy Scout level, but as a den leader I tell all my parents (multiple times) that their son will never earn their rank badge if they don’t help and participate. Being a traditional until we “make” the cubs do the Duty to God portions at home. That combined with “do X with your family” means that if things aren’t getting done at home theres no badge. There’s nothing worse then seeing the disappointment in your son’s face as he watches the other boys in the den (and Pack) earn their Wolf, Bear, etc while he gets a bead…..maybe. It seems a bit cruel, but it’s a motivator.

    Once they’re used to that, it’s easier to get them helping around the den/pack. “Hey, would you mind doing X for me? It’ll only take a few minutes and it would be a huge help for me.”

    Plus our Pack has the policy that if your son is too much an issue, too many times you’ll be asked to leave the pack. Thankfully it’s never come up, but it’s not fair at all to everyone else to have to deal with that kind of disruption all the time.

  17. 1) If you (as a parent) don’t have the connection with your boy by the time he’s 12, you won’t have that connection when he’s 18. Make that connection NOW, with scissors and construction paper and flags.
    2) If you leave your boy with me, I will do my best to raise him and train him as if he were my boy. I hope my example is the same as yours. Maybe better?
    3) This is not soccer. You do not have the privilege of dropping off and coming back. 4) Whether you realize it or not, your boy is following your example. Disruptive? Not attentive? Not cooperative? If it’s not “nature” (ADHD, etc.) then it is “nurture”.
    5) Is your “job” , your “career” an end? Or the means to an end? If you cannot find the desire to help your family (your boy/girl) and take the time from your job to do so, check your priorities. Does your boss understand WHY you work for him/her? Maybe there needs to be an adjustment there.

    I was doing “nature” pavilion at CSDC. I sent the boys out to pick up “whatever God didn’t put there” (trash and detritus collection). For the next ten minutes, one lady talked on her cell about how she didn’t know HOW she would make up the missed work on monday, couldn’t understand why SHE had to be the Den Walker, weren’t there people without jobs (?)who could do this, etc. etc. It was sad to hear.

    I make sure that the adults that DO come out and spend that time , with theirs and others ‘ boys get a thank you from me.

  18. The is a church nearby that runs a cub scout program along side a girls scout program. Either the BSA or GSA tags the parents to help out in both programs. I don’t think the parents get the choice of just dropping off the kids. I believe they are told right off from the beginning that they are expected to be a supporting parent and if they are not on board with the programs, to not do them to begin with. They see other parents helping out, so they join in.

  19. You come right out and say as much: “We’re not offering baby sitting services here, we’re a Scouting unit. If you need a baby sitter, I can certainly recommend a few but at this short time, I am doubtful you will reach them. Cub Scouting is a family program.”

    A letter to all of the families twice a year is also helpful, reminding them that Cub Scouting is not “Child Sitting” but a real program for both parent and child.

    Unfortunately, once the die has been cast, you’ll still end up with a few “child sitting” members.

  20. When I was a Pack Committee Chair, I put it like this: “Your son will grow up, with you or without you. This may be your ONE chance to be with your son instead of just watching, when he’s doing something he loves. Are you going to miss that? How do you want both of you to remember his childhood?”

    Now that I’m a Scoutmaster, I’m glad I’ve always had a chance to be involved in my kids’ lives.

  21. At Back to School recruiting nights, I have a sign up sheet of every Pack or Troop position with an Assistant to every job. Every parent is required to sign up for SOMETHING . I start my recruitment night with the statement, ” BSA does not stand for “Baby Sitters of America” and if you want your son to get the most out of Scouting, you have to be a dedicated and active partner in this program. I also mention that my own son made Eagle in 1993 and I am still here to give the same Scouting experience to your son. Seems to work. I have had parents tell me at their son’s Eagle Court, that they remember what I said the night they signed up for Cub Scouts. So it does work.

  22. Yeah we see this at the Boy Scout level too. Many drop and run and have no clue what’s going on in the troop meetings. But then, many of the parents come to the first few troop meetings and say how burned out they are from Cub Scouts and how nice it is they don’t have to do anything for a change. We tell them we have plenty of opportunities for them to participate in running the behind the scenes stuff… that’s when they usually say: “Oh no, I’m going to take a year off, maybe later I will do something.” And then… they come to meetings and sit around and gab loudly for the whole time with the other adults who are doing nothing to help out, or bury their head in a book or magazine. One hour a week (90 minutes actually)… could be better spent.

  23. We have one boy that doesn’t want his father at any Scouting function. Drop me off and disappear. Fortunately, Dad doesn’t listen. We (the adults) catch up on Troop business, work, sympathy cards for relatives who have passed (two in the last two weeks; Scout’s grandmothers). We don’t sit and complain about what we could be doing instead.

    Sometimes, the issue is a split family.

    Last night we had a guest, an Eagle from the past, visit. I bumped into him at a local shopping mall. He was in transit from one military posting to another and just happened to be home on the meeting night. He held the Scouts’ attention for a good 40 minutes. It was good to catch up with him. His family is a member of the Chartered Org.

  24. Way back in the weird old 1960’s we had a traveling trophy. Each pack meeting the dens, through their dinner that month, announced to everyone in the room a ratio, how many cubs to how many adults. Or maybe it was how many adults there were out of how many there should be. I was 8, what tayra want from me? I remember being told the numbers by the den leader, so I never had to come up with the right numbers myself.

    End of the night the den with the highest parent to den member ratio got the trophy. The one that got it the most for the year got some recognition that was probably worth pennies, but the kids would fight to get mom or dad to come and stay so that when the den leader counted they’d have them there so the den would get the award.

    But then again, we sat by dens with our den flags with our parents in rows behind us instead of wandering around on their cell phones. But an effective cubmaster could do that’s, still. True, someone smarter than me would have to get it organized and set the rules– we count parents, not and parents or big brothers, erc., etc. but it’s an easy fix to make the kids make the parents come without pleading to them. Too many units plead for things instead of just finding creative ways to get it done,

  25. Wow, I didn’t think this was a universal problem! I don’t have a solution but the parents really are missing out and so are their sons.

    In our troop, the drop-off kids don’t seem to advance as fast as those that have an involved parent. Usually the boy is not the child in the family getting his parents attention. There is usually an older sister or younger siblings that are getting his parents energy. It is sad because we try to help the scout but it’s a two-way street that we can’t do ( and shouldn’t do) to advance the scout.

    We even have parents that drop their son off at Courts of Honor and have no clue their son is receiving an award. I have stood up on stage as a stand-in parent numerous occasions just so the boy isn’t by himself while other scouts have his parent(s) standing up with him.
    I started emailing the parents personally to ask that they specifically show up for their son.

    I look forward to reading the solutions everyone has found successful.

  26. The solution is simple but the execution is hard. Give parents a reason to stay, and they will. I have den leaders who like to do everything themselves. We have no active parent volunteers from those dens. The den leaders that involve the parents have given us parent volunteers on the pack level. Not every parent responds, but IME those that don’t usually have extenuating life circumstances.

  27. I know of a den leader who asked for help from parents because I guess she was overwhelmed with stuff. A single mom stepped up to help by planning a couple of outings that would meet requirements for webelos pins. In the back and forth emails between this mom and the leader, it was noted by the mom that a couple of kids who were not in the den were attending, and the final list, did NOT include the den leader (although her 2 sons WERE going- one younger). The mom who was ‘in charge’ confronted the leader about her absence from the outing even though her boys were attending. The leader actually said to her face that she was looking forward to a night without the kids! What to do about this?
    This “leader” is probably in desperate need of training and the mom in question is considering other packs so her son can get his arrow of light.

  28. We were on the verge of closing our Cub scout doors when we decided to give it one more effort. Part of what we decided to do was put in place a policy that does not allow patents to drop off, they are required to stay for the entire meeting, den and pack meetings. We are now one of the largest packs in town with close to a 100 cub scouts. We are very honest and upfront with the parents about what it takes to run a pack and how we need their help to get it done. It’s made fora much stronger pack and a very strong program.

  29. My son’s den (and pack as far as I can tell) doesn’t have much of a problem with parents dropping the kid off and leaving, probably because the meetings are too short (about 1 hr.) to go very far.
    A problem with volunteering is the perception (and, often, the reality) that people in the positions are not willing to give them up until their son ages out (or, want them to go to their friends).

  30. My cub scout is the oldest of my 5 kids. It is more disruptive for us to have to stay than to allow him the time to do his own activity. That being said, I have tried to volunteer and get involved. Every attempt I have made has been shot down and offers to volunteer have been ignored completely. I would love for it to be more of a family activity, but not every pack is as open to that as others. I am currently searching for a new pack that would welcome our son and our offers to be involved.

  31. Can I chime in here on behalf of parents? My cub scout is also the oldest of my three children – and every year, the rest of the group selects Monday nights as our meeting night. My husband has a standard 2 hour meeting every Monday that – you guessed it – overlaps exactly with the scout meeting. So my options are to either drop my son off at the meetings, or to drag my 2 other children (5 and 3) into a long meeting that goes past their bedtime, and then spend 90 minutes trying to “bond” with my son while simultaneously managing two very young and very exhausted children. I’ve opted to drop my son off, but I have gotten guilt for it from both the den leader and the troop leaders, which pisses me off. I am not using the meetings as free babysitting – I am opting not to be there because I have TWO OTHER SMALL CHILDREN TO CARE FOR. You know what I go home and do? I go home and bathe my two other kids, get them ready for bed, read them a few books, and then turn around and drive right back to cub scouts to pick up my kid. The weekly cub scouts are in no way free babysitting for me – they’re actually a huge inconvenience – but I do it because my son loves it, and because I want him to have the positive scouting experience.

    I understand that in a perfect utopian society, every dad would accompany his kid to every single cub scout event. But how on earth, in 21st century America, is that a reasonable expectation? There are single moms. There are parents who do shift work. There are (GASP!) cub scouts who are not the only children in their family. Before all you cub scout leaders chime in with your complaints about all the derelict parents who dare to drop their kids off and not sit through every meeting, maybe consider that some of these parents are inconveniencing themselves mightily in order to provide their son with a valuable experience, and that just because they can’t attend a nearly 2-hour meeting every week is not a sign that they’re lazy slackers who are sneaking off to the movies.

  32. Also – what most of you are saying is a direct contradiction to what scouting.org posts in answer to the question ‘may parents attend meetings?’

    Here’s the link:

    And here’s the BSA response to that question, copied and pasted:
    Cub Scout den meetings are intended to be an activity for the individual boys. They are not a family activity, and the presence of parents can be a distraction. However, parental involvement is not forbidden and all meetings should be open to your participation. If you would like to be present at a den meeting, ask the den leader in advance so that the leader can plan a way for you to observe or participate in an unobtrusive manner

  33. I like it when the parents are not at the meetings I have webelos and I do not always want the parents sicking around and putting in there two cents. I love it when they show up and put there heads in there phones and keep quiet. but on the same note I love it when they are there when little Johny does something wrong. Now Pack Meetings that is a different story i want the parents to help and see there little Johny get awards.

  34. Keeping the Pack and Den meetings at a max of one hour might cut down on some of the parents leaving. Giving parents a part of the meeting also helps keep them involved.

  35. I have the opposite problem! I want to be involved in my son’s den and pack, but his leaders never invite parents to help. They just say they can do everything themselves. I have offered to stay and help with projects and activities, offered to teach a den meeting or part of one, offered to bring supplies, offered to be a second, substitute leader if one is gone (I have youth protection training), etc. Before I leave my son with his leaders, I always ask if there’s anything they need, or if they need an extra set of hands. NOT ONCE have I been taken up on any of my offers. This unit is seriously missing the boat, and it shows. The older dens are decimated and the younger scouts fall out after about 6 months. So, if you’re a leader who doesn’t think they need any help, then you may find that your scouting families won’t end up as committed to scouting as they might be if you involved them.

  36. In my Pack, den meetings parents don’t have to be right next to their scout. If the den leader needs their involvement then they will inform the parents. But parents will stay in the building of where the den meetings are held….. Pack Meetings parents also stay during the meeting………. On occasion den or pack leaders will allow a parent leave if absolutely necessary, but they must ask another parent (not leader) to supervise their child. Cases like this would be for example: i have a parent that has scouts in 2 different dens, both meet on the same day but in different locations that are 5-10 minutes apart but 1 meets at 6 and the other meets at 630… she will drop of first son, then take the other son to his meeting stay for a bit, then go back to the first meeting to pick up first kid then back to pick up second kid. Or a parent that also has an older kid that needs to be picked up from band, sport or whatever during a scout meeting. Other than that, all parents stay at meetings, because as it was stated, this is not “Baby Sitters of America”

  37. The problem that my wife and I have ran into is that the Cubmaster of our son’s pack fosters an environment of babysitting. In our first meeting, a pack meeting mind you. The there was no type of opening or greeting to start the meeting. The Cubmaster just broke the boys up by ranks, had them go to separate rooms at our charter organization location and had them color for an hour. We found out after the fact that the other dens had no adult leadership with them only older boys which happened to be the cubmaster’s son’s. We have had a talk with the COR and paperwork had been filled out to make us leaders.

  38. Been in scouting for 40+ years. When I was a cubmaster working with Tigers and parents I always had my yellow legal pad. I was very clear… Parents are expected to participate in our unit with their child. I kept a running list of jobs and allowed parents to pick one or more. I did have a few who left with their child to go to other units. But by setting the expectation early, giving them a job that is not overwhelming, and celebrating success you can get the parents on board.

  39. I am reading through this and see a lot of complaining and only a few solutions. Not the scouting way folks!

    This is a systemic issue we see in our district more and more, disengaged parents. So I started asking the questions directly to the disengaged parents and starting asking the units that have a lot of engagement what they do differently.

    Parents responses are:
    They don’t need me/didn’t know that was expected
    When I try and help, they make me feel like I am doing it wrong
    I don’t know what to do/scared I will mess it up
    Seems like a club for the adults and I am not welcome

    Unfortunately, as leaders, we do this without realizing it. Change your approach. You may very well be giving off these vibes without even knowing it.

    Here’s some new approaches to try:
    Set the expectation when they join that this is a family activity and it is important to be engaged and available to your scout. This helps to ensure his success. It is your chance to coach your son during the short window of time he wants to be coached by YOU and not be a stadium seat parent. Siblings are welcome.

    Many hands make light work. Explain that we are all volunteers and we need everyone’s help especially when it doesn’t look like we need it.

    Be sure and have something for them to do when they ask to help. Be ready with tasks for them. This could be as simple as bringing cups and napkins to the next pack meeting.

    Train your parents at the unit level. This is not hard to do. Coordinate with your district training chair and communicate training offered at the council.

    Put parents in a rotation to attend district roundtables. This helps them to connect and hear from other pack leaders and offers some training. Have them attend the committee meeting to share what went on.

    There is more than one way to skin a bobcat.. Let people do the task their way. If you taught them or if they are trained it is no biggie if it isn’t YOUR way.

    Recognize the adults that help. It keeps them helping and encourages others. This can be a simple certificate to gift cards at the Blue and Gold. Budget for it. This shows it is a priority.

    Get out of the way. Plan for succession. Communicate with parents. Ask your unit commissioner, district commissioner or district executive to help with those conversations to the unit.

  40. Your use of the term “crazy pills” is insulting. I cannot believe that a Scouting magazine let that slide through. I’m sorry, but I do not want my sons learning to mock people with mental illness.

  41. Parents in the boys in our pack come to meetings, but sit to the side or in the back and let the leaders run the show. We have everyone fill out the “Family Talent Sheet” but once it comes to calling on people for help, they’re too busy. I know – at least for my den – the parents are active with their child at home and keeping up with the “homework assignments” (things that can’t or shouldn’t be done in a den meeting), but when it comes time for den or pack meetings, they sit in the back on their phones or talk to each other. Our new Cubmaster is trying to change that though.

  42. Being a troop leader is a thankless job. I am grateful for those parents who step up to do this! I was a girl scout troop leader, and one of the moms decided she didn’t like me or my daughter, and she got several other parents to pull out of our troop. I never found out what the issue was, as she refused to speak to me anymore. I continued to lead the troop with the remaining kids that year, but I would not volunteer for this again. Most parents fail to appreciate the hard work that goes into leading a scout troop. Please take some time to say “thank you” to a scout troop leader.

  43. This post hits close to home. It feels like my husband and I are the glue that is holding our pack together, and there is little appreciation.But lots of parents playing in their phones. I was told by one of the parents I need to get a sitter for my youngest son so that I can continue to volunteer to be a den leader. I was shocked. I took on the role because no one else wanted to do it. And now I am being told that in order to babysit her child for free, I have to pay to have someone watch mine.

    It felt like a slap, after all I have done this year for the all the boys in the pack, The do nothing parents are killing us. We don’t have enough help, we have 2 den leaders and 1 cub master and between the 3 of us we have 20 kids and 4 dens. And it seems none of the parents want to help us.

    I just don’t know how to get them to step up to help.

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