Here is some information for the parents of new Scouts that recently joined our troop. A key difference between Boy Scouting and Cub Scouting/Webelos is leadership. The responsible person for a Cub/Webelos den is the adult Den Leader. The responsible person for a Boy Scout patrol is the boy Patrol Leader. A Boy Scout Patrol Leader has real authority and genuine responsibilities. Much of the success, safety, and happiness of six to ten other boys in the Patrol depends directly on him. Boy Scouting teaches leadership. And boys learn leadership by practicing it, not by watching adults lead. So sit back and enjoy watching your son take progressively more significant responsibilities as he matures toward adulthood.
The underlying principle is never do anything for a Scout that he can do himself. We allow Scouts to grow by practicing leadership and by learning from their mistakes. And while Scout skills are an important part of the program, what ultimately matters when our Scouts become adults is not whether they can use a map & compass, but whether they can offer leadership to others in tough situations; and can live by a code that centers on honest, honorable, and ethical behavior. Boys need to learn to make decisions without adult intervention (except when it’s a matter of immediate safety). Boys are in a patrol so they can learn leadership and teamwork without adult interference. Being an adult adviser is a difficult role, especially when we are advising kids (even worse, our own sons). Throughout the year, the Boy Scouts of America offers special training on how to do this, which we expect our uniformed adults to take. And any adult is welcome—and encouraged—to take the training.
Camping – Boy Scout camping activities center on the patrol, where Scouts learn teamwork, leadership, and most camping skills. It is important that adults not be in the middle of patrol activities such as site selection, tent pitching, meal preparation, and anything else where boys get to practice decision-making. And while some parents often accompany the Scouts on camp-outs, the Scouts camp with their patrol and not with their parents. Patrols plan their own menus, and cook and eat together as a team. In general, adults do not tent with a boy patrol. Adults tent with the adult patrol, and either cook our own meals or mooch off the masterful cooking of our Scout patrols. BSA youth protection policies forbid an adult and a boy sharing the same tent. While youth protection policies may not apply to a father and son tenting together, it is Troop 385 policy that boys tent with boys and adults with adults, so that the boys do not lose out on the opportunity to function as a Patrol.
Smoking/Drinking – Adults should not smoke or use tobacco products, nor drink alcoholic beverages during a Scout activity. This is a BSA policy.
Boy Leadership – Adults should not interfere with the functioning of boy leaders, even if they make mistakes (we all learn best from our mistakes). Step in only if it is a matter of immediate safety or if the mistake will be immediately costly. If possible, involve a uniformed adult leader first.
Sure, go ahead and visit the patrol camp sites, talk to your son (and the other Scouts), ask what’s going on or how things are going. But give the guys room to grow while you enjoy the view. Show a Scout how to do something, but don’t do it for him. Avoid the temptation to give advice, and don’t jump in just to prevent a mistake from happening (unless it’s serious). We all learn best from our mistakes. So let the Patrol Leader lead.