What’s the difference between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts?

This goes way beyond blue vs. khaki.

The difference between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts encompasses critical categories like unit structure, leadership, parental involvement, advancement and camping.

Both programs are built on Scouting’s time-tested values. And beginning in May 2015, both programs will use the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

Beyond that, though, you’ll find more differences than similarities — for good reason. You wouldn’t teach a third-grader the same way you’d teach a ninth-grader. That same logic tells us your approach to Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting shouldn’t be the same.

So, gathered from several Scout leaders in the know, here’s a rundown of the ways in which Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts differ.

Unit structure

Cub Scouts: Boys are in dens, which are part of a pack. Their den is made up of other boys of the same Cub Scout rank. Dens usually meet weekly or biweekly; packs meet monthly.

Boy Scouts: Boys are in patrols, which are part of a troop. Some troops prefer mixed-age patrols (in which an 11-year-old and a 17-year-old could be in the same patrol), while others prefer to keep boys of similar ages together. Troops meet weekly. Patrol meetings are part of the weekly troop meeting, typically, though patrols are welcome to meet on their own.

Leadership

It’s pretty simple: Cub Scouting is led by adults; Boy Scouting is led by the boys.

Cub Scouts: Adults plan and conduct the meetings and promote advancement, teamwork, fun and character-building.

Boy Scouts: The boys plan and conduct meetings and outings. Adults step in when asked for help and model good behavior. “We’re striving for boy-led,” in Boy Scouting, says Illinois Scoutmaster Dale Machacek. It’s “not always as organized or successful as if adults were running things, but kids learn from their mistakes.”

Leadership roles: This Scouter’s unofficial blog shows Cub Scouting positions and the equivalent position in Boy Scouting in this handy chart:

Cub Scouts Boy Scouts
Den Leader Patrol Leader
Cubmaster Senior Patrol Leader
Unit Committee (planning functions) Patrol Leaders Council
None Scoutmaster
Unit committee (administrative functions) Unit Committee

As you can see, adults hold all of the Cub Scout positions, while boys occupy most of the Boy Scout roles.

Why is there no Cub Scout equivalent to Scoutmaster? Because Scoutmasters, unlike Cubmasters, are mentors who sit on the sidelines. “The way to think of Scoutmaster is as ‘chief adult guide’ and the assistant scoutmasters as ‘adult guides,'” the author explains.

In this letter to parents, New York Scoutmaster Richard Buzzard explains that things might get hectic in Boy Scouting, but that’s the point.

When you see Scouts struggling a bit, or not doing a job as well as you know that YOU could do it, resist the temptation to do it for them. A little help is always welcome. But let the successes be theirs as much as possible, as well as the learning which comes from those temporary setbacks.

Parental involvement

Parents are a critical part of both Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting. This chart from Niles, Ill., Troop 175 offers this comparison:

Cub Scouts: The parents are expected to assist the pack with planning or helping with at least one activity or event annually. They may also take a leadership role in the pack or den. Parents are usually required to accompany their son on overnight campouts.

Boy Scouts: The parents are expected to continuously assist the troop by supporting the boys and participating in those tasks that the boys can not do. This may include: transportation to an activity, shopping for a trip or chaperoning a trip. It also may include assisting with fundraisers (finances and organization) and coordinating special events. It is expected that each family take an active role in the troop. Unlike Cub Scouts, parents aren’t required to camp with their sons. They’re encouraged to do so, however.

Advancement

Cub Scouts progress through the ranks to earn the Arrow of Light. Boy Scouts progress through the ranks to earn the Eagle Scout Award.

The Troop 175 chart offers these extra details:

Cub Scouts: Cub Scouts rely on their den leaders, den chiefs and parents to plan and assist with all advancement activities. Achievements/books are signed by either the den leader or parent. Ranks are based only on age or grade. Even if a boy did not earn the rank for his age, he moves to the next one as his den moves. The levels are: Tiger, Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, Webelos and Arrow of Light.

Boy Scouts: Parents can guide, but advancement is planned and assisted by patrol leaders and adults. Unlike in Cub Scouts, advancement is individual, not by patrol. A Scout works at his own pace, meaning a 13-year-old in the Dragon Patrol might be a Life Scout while a 15-year-old in the Dragon Patrol is still a Star Scout. A Scout cannot advance to the next level until all activities are completed in the lower rank. The ranks are Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle. (Eagle Palms may also be earned after Eagle.)

Camping

Again, from the Troop 175 chart.

Cub Scouts: Limited to Scout and parent weekend or day trips. May have some camping in tents or cabins. Summer camp is limited to two or three nights, usually. Campouts usually have a very structured schedule.

Boy Scouts: Monthly or bimonthly camping trips as well as additional outdoor day activities. Much of the program involves activities that can only be done in the outdoors (nature, ecology, pioneering, orienteering, conservation etc.) Also available to the Scout is at least a week of camping each summer. Not every minute of the campout is scheduled. Free time is important. Boys normally get a couple of hours of free time to hang with friends, walk in the woods, work on advancement, sleep, play sports, or do nothing at all. This is “one of the hardest concepts for Cub parents to grasp,” Machacek says.

Chain of command

Where do Scouts go with a problem or question?

Cub Scouts: They’ll ask their parent, den leader or Cubmaster.

Boy Scouts: They’ll follow the “chain of command.” Boy Scouts are taught to go to their patrol leader, then their senior patrol leader and finally the adults. Where safety or health is an issue, though, Boy Scouts may go straight to the adult.

Other differences

What differences weren’t covered? Share your wisdom by leaving a comment below.

70 Comments

  1. One thing that is very different is that in Cub Scouts, the standard is “Do your best”; in Boy Scouts, the standard is mastery.

    • Don’t know why the thumbs down as that IS the standard for Boy Scouts since its inception. “The badge represents what the Scout can do, not what he has done” has been repeatedly used in Guide to Advancement through the years,and the phrase :master the skills” has been in various editions of the BSHB over the years.

      Let’s face it, if you got a crew on a HA trip and something was to happen, wouldn’t you expect the First Class Scouts and above to be able to do basic first aid and deal with the situation? Would’t you expect Scouts with FA MB to be able to do first aid properly? Would you expect the Second Class and above scouts to be able to build a travois using lashing to transport someone out?

    • It really isn’t different because mastery is subjective. While the current Scoutmaster Handbook states “A Scout wanting to complete an advancement requirement must demonstrate to his leader that he has fully mastered a skill at the level expected.” The last part of the sentence is key “a the level expected” for example, a first year scout may be able to show you he can tie a bowline and have his handbook signed off, but he may forget how to tie it in a few weeks time. Is he a master? Yes he was “master” once but he may not have actual mastery of the skill without using it often which is why programming is key.

      As well from the Scoutmaster Handbook, Step 2 in Four Steps to Advancement, it states “Completing a requirement is often more a checkoff process than a formal examination.” The key point here is “often more a checkoff process” because a well run troop provides opportunities for the scout to eventually become a master but if he had to master of all requirements before advancing there would be far less scouts in beyond Tenderfoot.

      • “a first year scout may be able to show you he can tie a bowline and have his handbook signed off, but he may forget how to tie it in a few weeks time. Is he a master? Yes he was “master” once but he may not have actual mastery of the skill without using it often which is why programming is key.”

        Agree 100%. Once he is tested for mastery and passes, he passes. The reinforcement and leadership you describe is essesntial. What I was pointing out is that at some point, he must actually “do” the thing, not just try his best. If, in your example, he tries and fails to tie a bowline, he gets to keep trying until he gets it, unlike Cub Scouts where he did his best.

        • One thing I tell scouts is thst I will teach them a skill, but in order to get signed of I want to see them relatedly demonstrate the skill. A key thing to remember: Eagle Scout is an earned rank, not a give away handout. It’s perfectly alright to only be a first class scout. It is up to the boy to chose to be an Eagle Scout…and to live like it.

      • From the GTA, “The badge represents what the Scout can do, not what he has done.” If he can’t tie the bowline consistently, he should not have the badge.

        “One and Done” is not the way to go. You short change the Scout, you short change the program, and you can shortchange those who expect a Scout to be able to do those skills, when needed. There’s a reason why the HA bases have FC as a requirement, there is an expectation that the Scout has mastered the basic skills, and if an emergency arose, he and his group could handle the situation, even without the adults around.

        A FC Scout who had mastered those skills saved my life when I had hypothermia on a canoeing expedition. And it was the Scouts in a local troop a few years back that saved their SM from a heart attack by doing first aid learned in Scouting on the AT.

        One reason why I liked the pre-1989 time requirements at the T-2-1 level, gave a Scout a time to truly “master the skills” as required by the BSHB.

        As to First Class, First Year, I said it back then, and I’ll say it now: I’m willing to bet a Dutch oven pizza that the data used to say that Scouts that advance to FC in a year stay longer did not look at data regarding troop program. Even under the old rules with time requirements for T-2-1, it was very doable to get FC in a year if you had an active troop that was hiking and/or camping every month.

        • There are 21 merit badges needed for eagle. Expecting a scout to be a master at all of that isn’t realistic. They need to have mastered it at some point to pass the requirement, but you can’t expect them to continually practice every skill in order to maintain being a master. It would be a challenge for any scout going for Eagle to have to demonstrate mastery of their first merit badge that they earned several years prior.

          I learned the bowline in scouts as part of lifesaving. I was pretty good while I was a lifeguard. However, I haven’t tied that knot in years and would need a refresher to master that task again. That certainly doesn’t mean I didn’t pass the requirements earlier.

        • I don;t beleive we are talking about demonstrating mastery years down the road. That would be nice, but I (and I read the other comments to agree) am talking about mastery at the tinme you sign off. Can you do x, y, and z? Yes, fine, sign the book. If you can do x, and kind of y, and z with help; time to study and come back later. Once you have the signature in the book, now it’s your turn to teach the skill so you stay fresh and practice your leadership.

  2. “When you see Scouts struggling a bit, or not doing a job as well as you know that YOU could do it, resist the temptation to do it for them. A little help is always welcome. But let the successes be theirs as much as possible, as well as the learning which comes from those temporary setbacks.”

    One of the toughest lessons for the adults when their kids transition from Cubs to Boy Scouts. As we liked to tell them, nobody ever starved eating a burnt pancake. Scouts have to be allowed to struggle and even fail on occasion. We don’t let our kids do that enough anymore.

    One of my favorite teachable moments was a meeting before an outing when the SPL let the troop go without preparing their equipment and we finally reminded him of it after the troop had left. He had fun coordinating a mid-week meet up to load the trailer; finding a time when adults could be there, the church was open and he could get enough scouts to do what should have been done at the meeting. A bit painful for the adult leaders but a wonderful teachable moment.

    • But that teachable moment has to come with something to teach. My boy’s troop goes on what they call their “camp in” every winter. They have outdoor activities but sleep and usually eat inside. There are no electronic devices allowed and if they wish to play any type of game it must be cards or some type of board game. It’s great for “un-plugging” them.

      At one such event several years ago the place had a large kitchen with many things the boys didn’t know how to work. One patrol was given the task of preparing dinner. Part of the menu was vegetable soup. They were mostly young boys and had no idea how to cook veggie soup unless it came from a can. At first they were left to their own devices, simply wandering around in the kitchen trying to figure out what to do with raw potatoes. A couple of us parents stepped in, explained the process, and helped them get it set up and work the appliances. The Scoutmaster was very angry at us for helping. She felt that if the boys didn’t know how to do it they should figure it out on their own.

      The boys did the work, peeling and cutting the potatoes, putting them in the pot, figuring what of the supplies needed to go in, etc. We simply explained what they needed to do and how. Once they got rolling they did everything else. They did use some of the veggies that were intended for another meal but that was their decision as the helping parents didn’t know the weekend menu and they used what they wanted.

      Camping, knot tying, first aid, all of the other things have example and teaching by showing. I felt that the boys needed to be shown first and then let them proceed from there.

      • I apologies Sam’s mom but I am afraid I must disagree with you. The lesson that should have been learned is to only plan to serve what you know how to cook or be sure to learn how to prepare something in advance. The scouts themselves plan their menu so should not be planing on having soup unless they know how to cook it. I an afraid the right thing to do there was to let them realism their mistake and go soupless.

        • That may have been part of the problem. I’m not sure they fully realized that they were going to have to do everything to do with fixing it. I think some of them thought “how hard can it be” and some thought they knew how when they really didn’t. These were all young scouts and didn’t have any older scouts in their patrol to guide them so they made an uninformed decision in the first place. Perhaps if some of the older Scouts had talked to the boys about it when they were planning the menu it could have been taken care of then.

          The boys are usually left to their cooking and usually they do pretty well. (The microwave bacon that burnt because it was put in the oven to bake is another story however.) I’m not sure why such a young patrol was left with no older Scouts to guide them but after that camp in the patrols were changed around a bit so they got some older boys to help.

        • It’s okay for scouts to make mistakes and learn from them, but we, as adults, can’t let them drown. We need to provide them with proper guidance for their development. Use the EDGE method, not just give them a task and watch them fail.

          I’ve seen too many scouts get hurt, or simply leave the program, because they were just thrown in the deep end and expected to swim. Adults had that same attitude – they’ll learn from their mistakes and go hungry. That’s not a great example, nor a good recipe for retention.

        • DS,

          Older Scouts should be doing the teaching and peer-to-peer mentoring. IT DOES WORK!

          One of the things I am seeing with a troop that uses a NSP and “expereinced” patrol, not enough older scouts yet to form a venture patrol, is that the “experienced” Scouts do not want to do ANYTHING at all with the younger ones. No sense of servant leadership.

        • Sid: I would have preferred it if the older boys had helped also but it was just not happening. Perhaps the younger boys asked and the older refused to help or the younger boys felt that they couldn’t ask, I don’t know. I have seen what Nahila spoke of and some older boys really do miss out on the concept of leading by example and working with the younger boys.

  3. When the parents cross over I tell them that one of the hardest things they will have to overcome is that in Cub Scouts you didn’t want the boys to fail, everything was measured by degrees of success, whereas is Boy Scouts failure is more than an option, it’s a huge teaching tool and it will happen and it’s ok, in fact from time to time needed. We use a 1st year patrol to help the transition, and to slowly move them away from Cub program style to Boy Scout method so they don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed, but still it’s one of those things that is difficult to watch as a boy struggles and fails and we don’t sweep in to save the day. That being said the learning experience that comes with the failure is often a joy to watch as suddenly it “clicks” and they are able to use the failure as a catalyst to move forward by leaps and bounds. Every thing else in this blog holds true, but learning to fail and to allow failure, and to mentor through failure is by far the biggest mental shift I think the parents and adult leaders have to overcome in moving over.

    • I’ve found that the parents who volunteered as Cub Scout leaders can have the hardest time transitioning to becoming a Boy Scout parent (and/or leader) when their sons cross over to a Troop. As my son’s Den Leader (and Pack Committee Chair) for my son’s tenure in Cub Scouts, I knew it would be difficult for me. I took a break when he crossed over and became a chauffeur and cheerleader. The plan was to wait at least six months, but I waited until he completed First Class which was about 18 months. I think it made a big difference in my son’s development in the troop, and it definitely helped me as an incoming adult in the troop understand the idea of “guided discovery” where it is okay to allow a boy to not get it perfect the first time.

      • Completely agree. I’m the troop committee chairman and I’m going through that now with several parents who were leaders in Cubs. They are looking for a similar structure and adult-led action. It is an ongoing education effort that seems to be getting harder every year as more parents become “helicopter” parents and don’t understand allowing their son the freedom to fail (in a safe environment). I, too, was very involved in Pack leadership and also went through the transition process. Fortunately, we had a seasoned scoutmaster who provided gentle guidance to help me.

  4. To expand on chain of command:

    – To interact with the scouts, except in matters of health/safety, or when an adult is teaching specific skills, the Committee Members/Committee Chair/ASMs/other registered parents should explain what is needed to the Scoutmaster, and if he concurs, he requests the SPL to find a way to make it happen [in the words of Captain Jean Luc Picard, “Make it so.”]. The SPL is then give leeway to determine how he gets the PLs to get their patrols to get accomplished what needs to be accomplished. And even when teaching special skills, it is probably more effective to bring a scout up to speed, and let him teach the special skill/

    – “Helicopter” parents or leaders for that matter should be intercepted, and have this idea of chain of command drilled into them.

    It is exciting to see what boys can accomplish on their own, and when the boys themselves realize it, it excites them as well.

  5. Can you do a compare/contrast article like this on Boy Scouts / Varsity Scouts / Venturing.

    I have a group of 16-year-old boys who want to do higher adventure stuff. Not sure if we should form a Venture Patrol within our troop, a Varsity Team focused on high adventure, or a Venturing Crew. What are the pros and cons of each?

    • Venture Patrols can be considered “easiest” from a logistical / startup standpoint. You already have an established Troop, you are essentially just adding an additional patrol. No new uniforms are needed, no additional charters, etc. If you have existing adult leadership to cover then there’s no additional leadership or leadership training requirements either.

      Varsity Teams and Venturing Crews require new charters even if with the same Chartered Organization, which could mean additional leadership needs. Every member will have to complete an additional membership application, etc. it also requires a different set of training for the adults and youth in the unit (Varsity Leader Specific, Venturing Advisor Specific, Venture Crew Committee Challenge, Introduction to Leadership Skills for Teams / Crews, possibly Kodiak and Powderhorn as well).

      Varsity Teams would use the same tan/green uniforms as the Troop with a change in shoulder loops (blaze orange instead of olive green) and the addition of the Varsity insignia on the uniform shirt. Venturing has its own uniform (as determined by the Crew which could be the Green/Grey field uniforms) that would be in addition to the Troop.

      Varsity Teams and Venturing Crews have their own set of awards and recognition (not rank) that youth can work towards.

      Venturing Crews can be co-ed which can increase your draw beyond just a group of boys in your existing troop who want to do more high adventure activities. But it also means additional requirements for dealing with a co-ed environment for facilities, sleeping arrangements and leadership at events.

      Venturing Crews also put far more of the responsibilities of planning and following through with those plans on the youth. Technically it should be that ALL of those responsibilities are on the youth. They are expected to make their own reservations, keep track of their own treasury, hold their own Boards of Review, etc. Basically the majority of jobs that a Troop’s unit committee will handle are expected to be done by the youth with key adults as consultants and advisors.

      I agree with the other sentiments that the differences between a Troop, a Team and a Crew or Ship would make a great future article.

        • You would need to start a Venturing Crew (or Sea Scout Ship) to have a co-ed environment. That is currently the only BSA program of their offerings (Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts and Venturing / Sea Scouts) that is open to both male and female youth (age 14 or 13 and completed with 8th grade until their 21st birthday). Boy Scout Troops and Varsity Scout Teams are only open to male youth through their 18th birthday.

    • Here’s my decision matrix:
      – If these 16 year old boys are all in the same troop, and have been doing a bang-up job helping the youngn’s become first class scouts (the concept, not the patch). Encourage them to form a venture patrol within their troop.

      – If they not already in a troop, and their interest involves competitive activity, and there are a couple of adults who will coach them, then they should consider forming a varsity team.

      – If they are from different troops, maybe non-scouts. But would like to hang together for a special interest (hiking, climbing, shooting, underwater basketry …), and they seem to be “self-starters” then a venturing crew is the way to go. This is especially true if the non-scouts are sisters/girlfriends wanting to do similar activities and you have male and female adult leaders to advise them.

      It sound’s like for you, the venture patrol is the best fit for now. And, later on, if you hear that sisters and girlfriends want in, you can hunt down a couple of adults who might be suited to be their advisors and start a crew.

    • Kyp: Ask the boys. “Senior Patrol” is one thing. “Venture Crew ” or Team requires another Charter. Provide maps, contact info on parks and forests in your area, suggestions and then step back. Philmont? Northern Tier? Lenhoksin? Katahdin? Bike the C&O canal and the Allegheny Trail? What do they want to do? They can do it as a Venture Crew AWAY from the rest of the Troop, and come back as examples for the younger boys. Give’m pizza and soda and step back from the table.

  6. +1 for Venturing. I have so many Scout leaders tell me they don’t understand us “Green Shirts…” Bryan, maybe you can do a blog on Venture versus Venturing… That always trips people up! Thank you!

  7. “”Beyond that, though, you’ll find more differences than similarities — for good reason. You wouldn’t teach a third-grader the same way you’d teach a ninth-grader. That same logic tells us your approach to Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting shouldn’t be the same.””

    Then WHY change the Cub Promise and Law of the Pack? I still am of the opinion that the Cub will need a lot of growing to grasp the enormity of the BScout Promise and Law. The gradation of the Cub Promise/LotP to the BSP and SL was an appropriate one.

  8. Here’s another slant, apart from impending changes. What’s the difference between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts? One way I like to look at it is: In Cub Scouts boys might use sticks and string to make a little model of a bridge, and in Boy Scouts, young men can learn how to use rope and spars and build a real one. In my opinion, through glimpses, proximity, and exposure to an awesome program, Cub Scouts should be INSPIRED to become Boy Scouts.

    Here’s a link to some more sentiment and Norman Rockwell’s painting featuring a Den Chief, which still inspires me over a half century later: http://scoutpioneering.com/2014/11/20/the-den-chief/

  9. “On my honor, I will DO MY BEST to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people at all times. To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” It is pretty clear that to DO MY BEST is the Boys Scout way too.

  10. True, but that is not the way the requirements are worded (Guide to Advancement). In Cub Scouts, the standard is explicit that as long as a Cub did his very best, it is considered achieved. In Boy Scouts, he must actually do the thing, improve, etc.

  11. The differences are fairly obvious for people involved in Scouting, but those that are new to it, it may be not. So thanks for posting it.

    I didn’t know however that beginning in May 2015, both programs will use the Scout Oath and Scout Law. Makes sense, but I’m curious what precipitated that?

  12. I have never heard of a Cubmaster being compared to an SPL. Interesting take on positions and “equivalent” ranks. Comparing the two side by side like that is like apples to oranges.

    • VT,

      While I will agree it is apples to oranges to those in the know, for someone who doesn’t know better, I can see how they can make the comparison. SPLs and CMs both run their respective meetings, work with the den/patrol leaders, organize activities, etc.

      But what some do forget is that in addition to the duties that an SPL does on the Boy Scout level, the CM has the additional duties that corresponds to an SM.

      My understanding of this chart is to give parents an idea of how a troop is different than a pack.

  13. I can’t believe no one is speaking of the glaring issue on this post… The fact that they don’t understand how important a role the Cubmaster plays. To publicly state a Cubmaster is inferior to a Scoutmaster, when I have Scoutmaster admit they would never want to do it or do it again because of the time and planning it takes. BSA you just proves again those at the top are completely out of touch… Congratulations on ticking off the Cubmasters and showing what we all knew, we are second class citizens. It’s proven at all the training, and every roundtable… By the way, if you haven’t figured it out, without a strong focus on Cubs the BSA is sunk. A little respect is in order. We are teachers, mentors, planner, recruiters, trainers, and stand in dad’s to name a few…

    • I am not getting that impression at all, although I’ve met a lot of Boy Scouters who look at me funny when I say being a Den Leader is the toughest volunteer position I’ve ever had. 🙂

      Yes, CMs are ‘teachers, mentors, planner, recruiters, trainers, and stand in dad’s,” just like SMs, but from a programming perspective, CMs have the ADDED responsibility of organizing pack meetings and activities, giving out awards, etc that correspond to the duties of an SPL.

      Me personally, I think think changing the CM Award to the CM Key, and using the same medal and knot as the other Keys, shows that national does place an equal importance on CMs as other top unit leaders and commissioners.

      • Thank you for understanding the point and comments on Cubmasters. The comments are generally that it should be both. I personally spend 6 to 10 hours a week mentoring Den leaders,Scouts or parents each week. In a bad week, I mentor other Cubmasters as well… it’s a general feeling in Cubscouts of belittling what we do. Thank you again for understanding, and helping expand on my point.

    • I didn’t, and wouldn’t, say a Cubmaster is inferior to a Scoutmaster. To compare the two is pointless. Both play essential, but distinctly different, roles.

      And yes, Cub Scouting is a wonderful program, and without it, the BSA as we know it wouldn’t work.

  14. I prefer to think of the role normally carried out by SM and ASMs in the troop is one of advisor, mentor, coach. Adults should coach troop and patrol leaders in advance and work to help the young people succeed. I know of few troops, and I’ve been around a lot of good ones, in which the SM sits on the sideline and never comments or is engaged unless the SPL specifically asks for help. The mentoring and coaching goes on constantly and the (usually) inexperienced boy leader seems to appreciate the adult caring enough to mentor him and avoid any major problems when the youth is leading.

  15. Boy scout troops are supposed to be boy-led. But very often, the adults are reluctant to step back. One of the common problems in scouting is that there are way too many adults who sign up for their power trip. We really need to “educate” the adults on that.

  16. The biggest problem in Boy Scouting right now is the idea that a First Class Scout is ALWAYS a FCS. The “Once and Done” idea is true. No retesting, but…. Once the Scout shows he can use an ax, he has his Totin’ Chip. Doesn’t mean he is an ax expert. I was at CSDC and asked my Scout assistants; who had their Totin’ Chip? Hands went up. I said, come with me, here’s a hatchet, I need twelve tent stakes for the flag poles… I tell you true, the three Scouts in front of me needed my coaching to use those hatchets . No one knew how to do the Impact Method. No one knew how to put a point on a peg. Had they “passed” the TC? They all said yes, and one had his card with him. The problem was not only what they “knew” but when had they ever “practiced” it?
    If you teach the tautline hitch , when will they use it and KEEP that training with them? Tents nowadays have elastic guylines, and plastic thingies for adjustment. If you have to make practice sessions, do it. Have Patrol Competitions. Get outside experts to show and tell. Hey, here’s an idea! Cut the elastic off the tents!

    • James,

      With all due respect, have you looked at the current edition of the BSHB? There is a lot of information left out of it compared to William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt’s BSHB that us old fogies used back in the day. I admit it’s been a while since I looked at the current edition, but if memory serves the wood tools section is one that we had to use hand outs for at IOLS because of the lack of information in the current BSHB. One reason why I still use my 9th edition still.

      So maybe it’s not because they didn’t remember it, it’s probably because it was never taught by whomever taught them TC because they themselves never learned it.

      And your tautline hitch and tents’ plastic thingies reminded me of a story one of my Eagles told me. He was stationed in Iraq and his unit had to use tents. The plastic thingy on his tent broke, so he tied a tauntline hitch. His Gunny saw what was going on, and then proceded to have him teach his entire platoon how to tie the tauntline hitch for when the rest of the platoon’s plastic thingies broke.

  17. “organized chaos” is what I teach new scout parents and in scout leader specific training what is to be expected in a scouting unit. It works if you’ll let them fail, learn, and try again. Not as efficiently as we could do it, but we can’t learn for them.

    And I’ve seen Boy Scout units run like Cub Scouts…it’s sad!!!! There is no real leadership growth there for the boys, and only big heads for the adults.

  18. I have not seen it yet but Helicopter parents are considered “Vigo” from Ghostbusters 2, and are asked not to attend any outings or meetings with their kids.

    Besides sucking up all of the air in the room, all of the parents sit there for hours on end explaining every step that everyone takes, and I wind up spending more time with them as a Scoutmaster than I do my regular job.

    We stopped that in that we find out they are helicopter parents, and ask them to drop off and pick up.

    I don’t have the time to explain stuff to them, I don’t have the time to answer every accusation and complaint that they have, and I sure don’t have time to be told that I throw their kid under the bus every time their kid acts up and I correct their behavior. I no longer put up with them, nor deal with them.

    So I send them to the troop where most of the kids are bullies on the other side of town.

  19. You actually ask parents not to be a part of their child’s Scouting experience? I can understand not having time to answer every little question but they shouldn’t be shut out. You don’t send them to another troop, you force them out, and maybe out of Scouting for good. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  20. Sams Mom – You don’t get it. Helicopter parents are Obsessive Compulsive, and if the troop is not under their control – you will get 80 hours of complaints and clarifications. There are, in some cases, times when you do not want that cancer in your troop, as the one will run off the many. So while you have your opinion, the fact of the matter is that in a healthy troop – you can not tolerate someone trying to go behind the scenes and turning all of the other parents against the leadership in the troop.

    That is a Cardinal and Mortal sin for ANY parent to do, and it should not be tolerated from the highest point.

    The parents, NOT the leadership, are hurting the boy.

    • While I can understand your point I still don’t believe that the parent should be shoved out that way. I have seen one or two parents like that and it became a matter of the parents dealing with it, not so much the Scoutmaster. The most recent was a mother that believed she controlled everyone on the Committee. She was mistakenly made Chairman as one was needed at that time. She began to tell all of the parents, and sometimes even the Scoutmaster what to do. She rather ran things as though it was her own private troop.

      But the parents knew how to deal with it. They went along on some things that were not major, fixed some things after she messed them up, and did other things that needed done before she knew or had time to screw it up. Discussion was held about people who would be on the committee at re-charter. She missed that meeting because of work and, at the request of our District Chairman, the troop asked another parent to step in as Committee Chair. It was not pretty but the parents dealt with the problem with little issue from the Scoutmaster.

      She was not told to leave. She was actually told by our District Chair about the problems she was causing. She backed off, we have a different Committee chair, and her boy is still in Scouting. She is not around much. At any rate, it was, for the most part, the parents who took care of the problem.

  21. As a former Cub Scout and Boy Scout I find this conversation appalling. It seems that most people here do not realize what scouting should be about. It has nothing to do with parents thinking they are better leaders but, helping our kids become better leaders. Give them some space to figure it out. Help teach them skills and responsibility. The end of this message thread is so focused on parents and their actions about other parents. Leaders should be there to guide and help, not mold into their own image. I remember raising money to do community service projects, not just asking for free stuff. ( I have actually had an Eagle Scout wannabe call my corporate office to get a better discount/free items because his parents told him he would be able to get more) needless to say I offered a 50% discount and a aluminum can drive trash can that needed to be picked up once a week ( would have been about three bags full) and his parents got mad at me and even cursed because I was not doing enough to help their son. I thought it was about your son helping people. I learned a lot from scouting and it made me a better person. The only times it fails is when the adults can’t figure out its about all of the kids and just not their own.

    • Certainly Jason it should be but it doesn’t always turn out that way. As you said, the parents expected you to do something. When my oldest was working on his Eagle he was given suggestions of places to go to apply for funds. Many businesses make regular donations to these types of things. When he went to several of those places they said they would give supplies at reduced rates and some for free. He didn’t always get money from his sponsors. He was thrilled that those places helped no matter how. Those parents should have be thrilled as well. Therein lies the problem.

      Some parents really do have to be dealt with the get them to back off so the boy CAN learn. Having a parent there to try to control things doesn’t let the boy stand on his own two feet and learn on his own.

  22. When new leaders come into a Troop with their new Boy Scouts, they don’t always understand what BOY LED means. Even when it’s explained to them, they STILL want to try to run their new Troop like a Pack, even when they KNOW that they are not supposed to do so. This and some other terrible things that supposedly trained adult leaders shouldn’t do led to a lot of Scouts (including my son) to depart from this Troop or quit Scouting altogether. What’s worse is that when this and the other terrible things that happened to some of the Scouts was brought to the Chartering Organization AND to Council, it fell on deaf ears. ?

  23. I totally believe that Boy Scout troops should be boy lead and in full uniform . When scouting first started this is how they were set up. Ours is both boy lead and full uniform. To me there is nothing worse then seeing a scout in a class A shirt with Nike shorts on and tennis shoes. What’s the point.
    When We are teaching our scouts outdoor skills , first aid, or anything in the scouts handbook, we want them to learn it not only to the point that they can use it, but to the point that they can teach it to other scouts in the troop. This is where they can become masters of the skills that they are learning.
    As far as the chain of command go’s , our scouts are taught to bring any questions to their patrol leaders. If it can’t be fixed at that level it goes to the SPL, and lastly to the Scout Master to receive advice on how to deal with most anything. We actually have an assistant scout master assigned to each patrol to help out if asked.
    Our scouts are learning to take care of themselves, make their own decisions, and if things don’t work out seek some advice on how to adjust their game plan. Their not given one solution, but various options to choose from, but in the end it’s their choice. Trial and error.
    Our patrol leaders have the responsibility for their patrol from setting up tents, planning grub, and making sure their scouts know what they are responsible for inside of their own patrol. Lead by example, help wherever you can. Help build confidence in your scouts, work as a team for the good of all.
    I myself prefer that after the first 6 months in Boy Scouts the parents should be limited to a couple campouts a year. This lets the scout start to make it on his own without interference. It also helps with the scouts that aren’t as independent. Plenty of times I have seen a scout that is a little homesick struggle a little more when someone else’s parent is on the trip. It seems like they grow confidence in themselves quicker when the parents aren’t around.
    We have a great bunch of scouts, and parents too ! I believe everyone has a role to play in developing these young men, be it in the field, or back home at the committee level.
    Scouting is a great thing!!!!

  24. As both a den leader and an assistant scoutmaster there is a question I am often asked, ‘What is the difference between working with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts?’

    My response is simple; yet, the deeper meaning takes some time and understanding. Generally I tell them, ‘In Cub Scouts, we spend our time teaching the boys what to do and how to do it properly, both with words and by example. In a youth-lead Boy Scout troop, we spend our energies expanding on that basic knowledge imparted as Cubs, as well as teaching them what not to do and Why.’

    I have always lived by the motto, ‘I won’t ask anyone to do something I am not willing to do or have not done personally in the past.’

    With the Cubs, I believe it is our responsibility to give them a core knowledge of outdoors survival, stewardship of the planet, volunteerism/community service, duty to God, and a sense of family/belonging to something greater than themselves. We do this by following the Scouting trail and showing them the meaning of the Scouting Oath and Law.

    As they progress into the Boy Scout program, it becomes our responsibility to expand that knowledge and instill a sense of humility and pride for one’s own actions and words. We have an obligation to explain the meanings behind what we teach-as most should be mature enough at this point to understand the implications of ‘why’ and ‘how’-and foster a thirst for self-improvement. It is my goal to teach problem solving skills and the ability to apply what is learned to new experiences, allowing them to grow as scouts, as young adults, and good citizens.

    It is our duty to give advice and explain that advice in a manner that is clear when we observe actions or deeds that do not reflect the ideals of Scouting, as well as give praise when actions are taken that exemplify the Law and Oath.

    As adult Scouters, we are the toll-bridge allowing these young men access to knowledge and understanding of what it means to better the community, the world, and themselves as future adults.
    We must always remember it is about them and their journey, and to allow them to be young and have fun, to make mistakes-hopefully not too many-and learn from them, while preparing them for the world they are about to enter.

    So, what is the difference between working with the Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting programs? It is being aware of the maturity and abilities those we are charged with teaching and guiding, and doing so accordingly.
    But, that’s just my thoughts.

  25. The biggest difference to me is:

    Cub Scouts enter as boys and leave as boys.
    Boy Scouts enter as boys but leave as young men.

  26. Great article, but I think you made a huge mistake by indirectly “endorsing” the idea that “some patrols mix boys of different ages”. That is NOT the BSA way. Patrols are supposed to be made up of boys of “similar age, interest, and abilities”. 17 year old boys do not talk about the same thing as 12 year old boys, and some high adventure activities DO have age limits, meaning that troops that have mixed-age patrols can face situations where parts of a patrol can’t participate in a “patrol outing”.

    Whenever possible, we have to be PROMOTING actual BSA policy and push back against “those units” who try to make up their over version of Scouting.

    • Paul: I was raised in a patrol made up of older and younger, experienced and less experienced Scouts. What a WONDERFUL experience! The experienced guys helped, exampled, and instructed us younger guys, and it was an unparalleled opportunity to participate in joint activities with bigger people who we could look up to and learn from. A big plus, was each patrol could “compete” against one another on equal grounds, because we all had an equal mix of newer and older Scouts. This was 55 years ago, and I feel it’s still is a wonderful opportunity today. Of course, all this presumes the older Scouts are well-motivated, positive young men who will properly lead and inspire!

    • @Paul,

      You do realize that up until 1989, mixed aged patrols were the norm? So for the first 79 years of existence, BSA promoted Mixed aged patrols.

      While some troops have made New Scout Patrols and aged based patrols work, in my 31 years as a Boy Scout and Scouter, I HAVE NEVER SEEN A NEW SCOUT PATROL WORK OUT! (caps for emphasis). When my troop growing up the first time tried the NSP for a year, it was a complete and total failure. We went back to Traditional, mixed aged patrols. When a brand new troop of 10 Scouts was started, and my troop was helping them out, we essentially had them as a NSP. Again it didn’t work out. That troop merged with ours, and the NSP was divvied up amoung our traditional patrols. My current troop has tried the NSP. and once again it didn’t work out, and are now back to traditional patrols.

      • Ironically enough, this was also a time when First Class was intended to be the penultimate rank in scouting, while Life and Star were actually reversed in order (credit to the book “Four Percent”).

        However, both methods work under different circumstances. Given enough time, (and a fair amount of course-correcting guidance) NSP can work if the boys come to be able to handle it. This usually requires a dedicated Troop Guide to show new boys how a patrol SHOULD work. In my troop, we ran with NSP as it was easier to appoint someone who wanted a position, but never really got elected, and who needed the service position for rank advancement to do this task (rather than completely reorganize patrols that had already made a system that worked). They usually became some of the most compassionate people in our troop. This also allowed the older scouts to keep the themes they had invented for flags, names, emblems, etc. while giving the younger scouts a chance to make their own name in the troop.

        In your case, that may not have been possible (I was never there, so I don’t know what did/didn’t go down). In those cases, the method must be determined by an agreement amongst the boys (with a couple adult nudges, so as to conform to BSA standards). My point is that no 2 troops are the same. You wouldn’t expect Troop 595 out of Green Bay to use the exact same for cooking as Troop 39 out of New Orleans, would you? That is what makes the BSA so much more special than any military academy in the world. INDIVIDUALITY. The ability to go to meetings, have a genuine good time with other boys that (occasionally) share interests, and feel safe to engage in self-expression through a semi-structured program is part of what attracts thousands of boys each year.

        Do what works for you, and if each troop organizes in its own (appropriate) way, the BSA will thrive in it’s mission to transform youth into enterprising young men.

  27. A me sembra riassumere troppo semplicisticamente la differenza tra cub scout e boy scouts; la realtà e che non basterebbe un convegno di più giorni per trarre veramente dei tratti di differenza; ogni organizzazione, ogni continente, ogni nazione vive lo scautismo in modo differente e in ogni nazione vi sono varie forme di scautismo con i loro credo e le loro regole; qiondi una discussione che va ben oltre le poche righe lette in questo articolo.

  28. In CS, a boy is always shown, but in BS (no, not the element of doubt, I learned from my Eagle Project to rarely use shorthand, although I am just too exhausted to care at the moment) a boy is eventually expected to DO the showing using the EDGE method. In BS, a boy is also eventually left to his own devices, with a mentor that will usually set him straight- but only after letting him do it all completely wrong first (I had to redo my paperwork repeatedly- but I sure learned how to properly correct documents in the process). While a boy may or may not remember his CS experiences perfectly, he will reflect upon his experiences with his troop as some of the greatest experiences in his life.

    • Merit badges are reserved for Boy Scouts. Venturers and Sea Scouts who have earned First Class as a Boy Scout can also earn merit badges.
      There is nothing to keep a Cub Scout from doing the work for a merit badge particularly if they are related to an older scout who is working on it. They just do not get credit for the Boy Scout requirements. Once a scout becomes a Boy Scout he can earn the merit badge based on work done after becoming a Boy Scout.

  29. The way I explain it to my parents and new leaders is:
    As cub scouts we take them camping and make sure they have a good breakfast.
    When they are Webelos we teach them how to cook their breakfast.
    As Boy Scouts if the burn their breakfast they have burnt breakfast.
    Boy Scouts do not master anything. They are taught enough to develop an interest and be well rounded.
    Navigation is one of the subjects I enjoy teaching. Over more than 40 years I have traveled several million miles over 4 continents on foot in a wide variety of land vehicles, boats and airplanes in every condition imaginable. I would consider myself an expert, hardly a master. Scouts who finish the orienteering merit badge have demonstrated basic skills in map and compass work. They have years of learning and experience to go before they even become proficient.

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