Parents' and New Leaders Guide to a Boy-Led Troop
Welcome! Whether you have just crossed over with your son from Cub Scouts or
just joined Boy Scouts, we appreciate your enthusiasm and encourage your participation
in the troop. The three aims of Boy Scouting are character development, citizenship
training, and mental and physical fitness. To accomplish these aims, Scouting employs
eight methods: the ideals, the patrol method, the outdoors, advancement, association
with adults, personal growth, leadership development, and the uniform. We encourage
you to take the Boy Scout training offered on-line and by the District to find out
what we are trying to accomplish and how you can help.
One of the major differences between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts is the very
important method, leadership development. In order to teach leadership, you have to
let the boys lead. In fact, one of the more vigorous debates you can have in Scouting is
over the feasibility of a boy-led troop. Some adult leaders will argue that while a boy-led
troop is the BSA ideal, it's not possible in their particular troop for any or all of the following
reasons: the boys are too young, too lazy, too irresponsible, or just not interested.
A boy-led troop is more work for the adult leadership, and therein is the problem, and
our need for your cooperation and help. It is so much easier for the adults to just take
charge themselves than to teach the necessary leadership skills to the boys.
All Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters are taught the basics of a boy-led
troop and patrol in Scoutmaster Specifics. However putting that training into practice is
often difficult without a mentor in the troop. This guide will hopefully bridge the gap between
theory and practice. It covers some of the common pitfalls and offers suggestions
for getting a working boy-led troop. The importance of a boy-led troop and patrol
is emphasized in two chapters of the Scoutmaster's Handbook; chapter 3 “The Boy-Led
Troop” starts with this strong statement:
“Empowering boys to be leaders is the core of Scouting.
Scouts learn by doing, and what they do is lead their patrols
and their troop. The boys themselves develop a troop program,
then take responsibility for figuring out how they will
achieve the goals. One of our most important challenges is
to train boy leaders to run the troop by providing direction,
coaching and support. The boys will make mistakes now and
then and will rely upon the adult leaders to guide them. But
only through real hands-on experience as leaders can boys
learn to lead.”
As mentioned before, perhaps the most common reason for the existence of
adult-led troops is that it is easier for the experienced adult leaders to run things; teaching
leadership to boys is not easy. A second common reason is that the adult leaders
may be afraid of failure; they want a smooth running troop. A boy-led project will occasionally
falter, and adults may feel it necessary to take over to ensure success. A third
is that the troop may have adult leaders that do not delegate well, and do not wish to
give up control. In fact, many consider that the main barriers to a boy-led troop come
from the attitudes within the adult leadership.
Adults are there for the Boys
The adults need to keep in mind that we are here for the Scouts. In Scouting
parents will meet others with similar values and goals for their children. Parents will
build good friendships with the others and they can provide support and parenting suggestions.
Scouting is a way to become a better parent through association with and the
help of like-minded adults. However, adults should keep in mind that they are there for
the boys and should try to not let socializing dominate.
The Scoutmaster is in charge of the Troop
All parents should understand the structure of the troop. There is a “chain of
command” within the youth leadership and also within the adult leadership. The Scoutmaster
has to have a final say as the ultimate leader of the troop. He needs to work together
with the parents and the other leaders toward the boy-led goal. The boys should
understand that they have only as much authority as allowed by the adults, especially
the Scoutmaster, and need to show the appropriate respect for the adults in their lives.
The Parent Involvement
Parent support and involvement is essential. Unlike the full parent involvement in
Cub Scouts, parents are asked to become much less involved with their own child and
more within the structure of the troop as a committee member or assistant Scoutmaster.
But few parents come in to Scouting with a good understanding of the program. To get
all the parents on the same page and working toward the goals of Scouting, ask them to
take the on-line Fast Start training. Parents coming on outings should work through
the on-line Youth Protection training to understand the behavior that BSA asks of all
adults. Committee members should take the on-line Troop Committee Challenge. It
is useful for the Scoutmaster to occasionally meet with ALL parents to share his vision
for a successful troop and to involve the parents in accomplishing the troop’s goals.
The Troop Committee
From Fast Start: “If you haven't been involved in Scouting, you may think that the
whole organization is the Scoutmaster and the youth members. The truth is, the success
of the troop depends on a lot of adult volunteers who work behind the scenes to
make it all happen. The troop committee is like a steering committee—volunteers who
actually handle the business end of running the troop.” From the Scoutmaster Handbook:
“The most important responsibility of a troop committee is recruiting qualified adult
leaders for the troop.” “The Scoutmaster should be able to turn to the committee at any
time for assistance, support, and encouragement.” The troop committee must then step
back and not try to run the troop. That is for the Scoutmaster to train the boys to do.
Adult-led symptoms and impacts
Adults loudly asserting authority
! Adults yelling at the boys in front of the troop is one characteristic of an adult-led
troop where the adults have not transferred authority to the youth. Yelling at the boys
has a toxic effect on the supportive atmosphere we want to nurture in a troop. Scouting
is a put-down free zone. We use the Scout hand sign as a silent way to bring the troop
to order for this very reason.
Also, the boys never learn to lead if the adults dominate. The only time an adult
should step in is if there is an immediate safety threat. Otherwise, there is time to work
through the youth leadership chain of command. The only way for boys to learn leadership
is to actually hand them the reins of power, with plenty of instruction of course.
Adults jumping in with more enthusiasm than patience
! Volunteers who take charge are usually a good thing except when they preempt
the boys' responsibilities. It is hard to wait for a boy to do something that you could do
better in much less time. However if you do something for someone, they will not learn
the skill. Adults already know how; boys still need to learn. Scout meetings and outings
should provide a hassle-free environment in which to learn leadership.
Adults operating in Cub Pack mode
! Parents crossing over with their boys can often feel more comfortable modifying
slightly the structure they know from Cub Scouts than to adopt the changes demanded
by a boy-led Boy Scout program. They continue the parent-child authority structure and
don't hand power over to the boys. This leads to an extension of the parent-child relationship
into the teen years when the youth should be transitioning to independence.
Adults enabling codependency
! Parents of scouting age boys are often comfortable with the roles they have established
with their young children. They organize the program and the boys follow
along. But the boys remain in a dependent role. Very young Scouts may be comfortable
with a dependent role for a while. Adults feel useful and boys don't have to put out
much effort. The troop operates like an adult-run outing club. But as the boys grow
older, their lack of control of the program begins to chafe.
Adults contributing to older boy attrition
! Boys can stay dependents only so long before they rebel from imposed adult
authority. Adults giving the boys more control over outings can help solve an older boy
attrition problem. Venture patrols or similar older boy patrols allow them to plan high
adventure outings that increase retention.
! Scouting trains boys in life skills. Removing “boy-led” from the program removes
an extremely important aspect of Scouting: leadership and teamwork. Boys need to
practice team leadership in the safe environment that Scouting provides. Without this
practice, they are less prepared to enter the workforce, where mistakes have significant
Boys learn critical planning skills
! Adults should involve the boys in the process of planning an outing. Boys need
to learn how to set achievable goals. For example, planning a canoe trip can start with
“Safety Afloat” as an outline to make them aware of safety concerns. Including the boys
in the process allows the adults to teach the logistics of planning: setting goals and objectives;
breaking the project into smaller tasks and determine deadlines when they
need to get done; assigning responsibilities to individual team members; putting the
plan into action and tracking progress; evaluating the outcome and modifying the plan.
There is always the need to check in with others on the project to see if all is going well.
Boys learn to lead in a safe environment.
! Leadership is not only knowing what you need to do to succeed but also knowing
what to do if things go wrong. Before each boy-led activity, an adult leader should sit
down with the boy leadership and go over their plan, to make sure that the boys are not
set up to fail. The adult leaders are responsible for maintaining a non-confrontational
environment by letting the boys know the adults support them, and will be available if
needed. Adults minimize the fear of failure by maintaining a supportive environment.
Boys learn from mistakes
! It is hard to watch a process get done poorly, but if a boy-led troop meeting does
not go as planned, there is no great loss. If a meal on a camp-out does not work out, it
becomes a learning experience, a teachable moment to show how one responds to mistakes
and still shows respect for others. It is very important to meet after each activity
with the boy leadership to help them conduct a Start, Stop, Continue evaluation (SPL
Handbook p. 97). How could this activity have been done better? Good judgement
comes from experience, and experience comes from learning from your mistakes.
Boys learn to lead others and work in teams.
! Working well with others is perhaps the most important life skill that youth can
learn. Boys gain confidence by being entrusted with power and in leading their peers.
Section Six in the Senior Patrol Leader's Handbook talks about leadership styles and
developing your team. The youth leader learns that their leadership style needs to
change from Explaining, to Demonstrating, to Guiding, and finally to Enabling as the
group develops into a working team (the Leading EDGE in SPL Handbook page 88-89).
Boys learn respect when treated with respect
! Adults should show respect by not interrupting or criticizing the youth leadership
during a troop meeting, no matter how badly things may be going. Instead, the adults
should praise youth leaders in public when they do well, which helps boost both their
confidence and the troop's faith in them. If the troop believes in their Senior Patrol
Leader, they will treat him with respect and listen to him more readily, which in turn
makes the troop run more smoothly. The time for critique is after the meeting, in private.
Sadly, it is much more difficult to build up confidence in others than to tear it down. The
adults will earn the respect of the boys by their actions and example, not by demand.
Role of the Adult Leaders in a Boy-led Troop
Follow the lead of the Scoutmaster
! Just as the Scouts need to know that their SPL is in charge, the adults need to
know that the Scoutmaster is in charge! Scouts will follow the example of the adults,
good or bad. Please criticize only when you can give a suggestion to correct the problem,
otherwise it is nothing more than whining. This is crucial for the adults to follow as
well as the Scouts.
Train patrol leader and assistant
! This is especially necessary if the troop does not participate in district or council
youth training. The boys need to know what is expected of them. Often a troop will do
BSA's Troop Leadership Training (BSA publication #34306A) which has four sections.
First is a section on how the Scoutmaster should train the senior patrol leader. Then
Scoutmaster and the senior patrol leader jointly train the rest of the boy leadership in
! Module One - Introduction to Troop Leadership (Know). The boy-led troop and
boy-led patrol chapters in the Scoutmaster Handbook is discussed. The troop organization
and overview of each position is next.
! Module Two - How to Do Your Job (Be). The Scoutmaster shares his vision of
success. This is followed by a discussion of the teaching EDGE (Explain, Demonstrate,
Guide, and Enable) as the method used for teaching skills. Finally a troop progress discussion
is held using the Start, Stop, Continue assessment tool.
! Module Three - What is Expected of me (Do). This section focusses first on the
position descriptions and expectations. The Scoutmaster then leads a discussion on
servant leadership. It closes with defining success in your position and a Scoutmaster
Mentor the patrol leader and assistant
! Leadership mentoring must continue beyond the initial training. An important rule
to remember is to praise publicly and criticize privately. It is best to start with simple
leadership tasks first, so the boys are not set up to fail. An adult should always meet
with the Patrol Leader before the activity to go over preparation. The youth leadership
should be able to rely on the adults to provide the skills and resources for them to succeed.
The Senior Patrol Leader Handbook and the Patrol Leader Handbook are excellent
resources. Robert Baden-Powell in the Scoutmaster Handbook said, “Training boy
leaders to run their troop is the Scoutmaster's most important job.”
Back up youth authority
! Your youth leaders will have to learn how to deal with problem people (SPL
Handbook p. 95-96). Managing conflict is an extremely valuable skill for both youth
and adults to master, that is why it is included in both National Youth Leadership Training
and Wood Badge. If the Patrol Leader can't resolve the issue then it goes to the Assistant
Senior Patrol Leader and the Senior Patrol Leader. In a well-run boy-led troop, if
the disciplinary problem has to be brought to the adult leadership, some feel that it is
serious enough that the offending boy should go home.
! All things are taught best by example. Just as there is a chain of command in the
Scouts, there is a chain of command with adults. The better we follow this chain of
command, the better example the boys have to follow. We can not expect the boys to
follow a chain of command if what they witness with adults is chaotic and controversial.
The adult chain of command should be similar to the Scout chain of command. This is
why it is crucial that the Senior Patrol Leader be the leader of the youth and the Scoutmaster
be the leader of the adults.
Step back and delegate
! Often an adult will get asked a question from a boy in a patrol because the adult
is viewed as the authority. It is best if the adult does not give the answer. One of the
most important things a Patrol Advisor can say is "Did you ask your patrol leader?" By
respecting the chain of command, you build the authority of your boy leaders. Some
relevant quotes from Robert Baden-Powell in the Scoutmaster Handbook are, “Train
Scouts to do a job, then let them do it.” and “Never do anything a boy can do.”
Set the supportive tone
! Adults should not be yelling at kids, except in safety emergencies. A major part
of creating a supportive environment is training the adults how to respond to the youth
with patience and respect. The boys need to know that they will not be yelled at if they
fail. Notice one way we set the tone is by silently raising the Scout sign and patiently
waiting when we want order, rather than losing our patience and yelling for them to ?shut
up.' Adult behavior should follow the Scout Oath and Law: teach good behavior by example.
The adults need to know how to operate within themselves before they can
function with the Scouts. Any adult should refer back to the Scout chain of command
whenever possible. If the adults do not know how to operate within their own chain of
command, they will not know how to respond to the boys appropriately.
Encourage the patrol method
! The Scoutmaster Handbook states, “Patrols are the building blocks of a Boy
Scout troop.” It quotes Robert Baden-Powell: “The patrol method is not a way to operate
a Boy Scout troop, it is the only way. Unless the patrol method is in operation you
don't really have a Boy Scout troop.” The patrol is the team that you train your patrol
leader to build. This may be that Patrol Leader's first leadership experience, so he will
need plenty of training and coaching. Patrol spirit, respect, and cooperation will help
build that team.
Make sure the rules and regulations are followed
! Safety is the primary adult responsibility. Adult leaders are responsible for the
troop following the rules found in the Guide to Safe Scouting and in the Youth Protection
training. The adult leadership trains the youth leadership to stay within the boundaries
set by BSA, and is ultimately responsible to see the rules are followed. The better the
youth understand the reasons for BSA's safety rules the more likely they are to cooperate
and comply. Explain that the safety rules apply to everyone, boys and adults alike.
Transitioning to a Boy-Led Troop
Get adult buy-in first
! The cooperation of the adults can make or break the troop. The scoutmaster
needs to have all the adults on board with what he is trying to accomplish. The safe,
nurturing environment that the Scouting hopes will be established in a troop can be ruined
by one cranky adult. One take-charge adult can strip the boy leadership of the
opportunity to lead. Basically, the boys can't lead if the adults are treating them as if
they have no power. Even if your Senior Patrol Leader is fully trained, he cannot be effective
with the boys unless he is empowered by the adult leadership. Any leader who
is denied any actual power is set up to be ignored and eventually fail.
Train the adult leadership
! Adults need to see the “big picture” of Scouting and there is no better way to do
this than by taking more training. Your troop level adult leader training can be as simple
as a small group working through the Scoutmaster Handbook. A simple start, stop,
continue assessment can compare the troop to the ideals set in the Scoutmaster Handbook.
If it has been a while since your adult leaders have taken New Leader Essentials
and Scoutmaster Specifics, maybe it would be a good for them to sit through this
one day training again. Also our Council does the University of Scouting Arts annually
that covers many areas of Scouting. By far the best Scout training available is
Wood Badge, which merges some of the best corporate leadership training with Scouting.
If possible the Scoutmaster should be Wood Badge trained.
Train the boy leadership
! This can be as simple as BSA's Troop Level Training. One of the best boy leader
training is NYLT, National Youth Leadership Training. It is essentially a Wood Badge
course for youth. If possible your Senior Patrol Leader should be NYLT trained. However
you do training, realize that youth leader training is a continual process. Often they
will not succeed the first time they try to lead. The adult leadership may need to continually
encourage and remind them until good leadership habits form. This continuing
training may take quite a while, so the adult leader must have patience with the process.
Get the adults out of the Patrol Leader's Council
! “Patrol leaders' council, not the adult leaders, is responsible for planning troop
activities.” - Fast Start: Boy Scouting. The PLC, Patrol Leader's Council, is run by the
Senior Patrol Leader and not the adult leadership. If your PLC has kibitzing adults, try
to have a separate meeting for them at the same time, so that the boys can lead their
own meeting independent of adult interference. If there are behavior problems, the
presence of just one or two adult leaders should be enough to remind the boys that their
Senior Patrol Leader is in charge, and is backed up by the adult leadership. In a nutshell,
the only adult that should attend the PLC is the Scoutmaster or his designate!
Check that the boy leaders are prepared.
! It is very important that your Senior Patrol Leader make up an agenda for each
activity. The Scoutmaster should meet before the PLC and the troop meeting to go over
the agenda and make sure the youth leaders are prepared. The Scoutmaster handbook
says, “The senior patrol leader is in charge of every troop meeting. Help him plan
ahead, coach him along the way, but stay in the background and let him be the leader.”
Don't expect rapid change!
It may take years before a fully functional boy-led troop is operating. There will always
be boy leader turnover and new boys coming in. Every troop election requires a new
set of boy leaders to be trained. One cannot allow setbacks to trigger a reversion to an
adult-led troop. Good patrol leaders should be encouraged to move up to troop level
leadership as Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (ASPL). The Assistant Senior Patrol
Leader can be be a training position for Senior Patrol Leader, that way each SPL has
had 6 months of troop-level leader training as ASPL before taking office. The speed of
the change to a fully boy-led troop greatly depends on how fast the adults can change
to a Scoutmaster lead organization! Without this, the boys do not have a proper example
Treat your Senior Patrol Leader very well
! The Senior Patrol Leader is the leader of a boy-led troop, and you want other boys
in the troop to really want that position because it carries status and power. You want
the troop to respect and work hard for your SPL. The SPL has the best job in the troop!
The adult leadership showing respect for the SPL and his decisions and input reinforces
his status. If possible defer to your SPL.
Allow failure to be a learning experience
! Within the bounds of a safe scouting experience, the adult leadership should allow
the boy leadership to make, and learn from their mistakes. If the SPL shows up unprepared
for the troop meeting, he will have to wing it and do the best he can. The adults
should not bail him out by taking over and running the meeting themselves. Adult-led
is not plan B. A teachable moment becomes plan B. Keep other adult leaders from
interrupting the troop meeting, no matter how badly they think it is going; it is the SPL's
show, not theirs. The Scoutmaster should talk with the boy leadership after the activity
to evaluate what they can learn from the experience. Keep these meetings short and to
the point. Set an encouraging tone if something did not go well, and keep the boys
place from blaming anyone. Failure can be a better teacher than success.
Encourage Patrol Activities
! The only way the Patrol Leader will get experience is if the patrol actually does
something that requires his leadership. There should be a patrol meeting within the
troop meeting. Patrol activities should be planned within troop outings also. Patrols can
even plan outings independent of the troop. (See Chapter 4 “The Boy-Led Patrol” in the
Ideas for Mentoring Leadership
Use The Senior Patrol Leader Handbook
! The Senior Patrol Leader Handbook should be read by not only your SPL and
ASPL but also by the adult leadership. This new handbook incorporates important new
material from National Youth Leadership Training (and by derivation from Wood Badge).
Leadership Tips to Get You Started (excerpted from SPL Handbook page 20-21)
Keep your word. Don't make promises you can't keep.
Be fair to all. A good leader shows no favorites.
Communicate. A good leader knows how to get and give information so that
Be flexible. Meetings, campouts, and other patrol events will not always go as
Be organized. Time spent preparing for troop meetings and events will be repaid
many times over.
Delegate. Among the greatest strengths of a good leader is the willingness to
empower others to accomplish all they can.
Set the example. Whatever you do, Scouts in the troop are likely to do the
Be consistent. When the troop members know what to expect from you, they
will be more likely to respond positively to your leadership.
Give Praise. Offer honest complements whenever you can.
Ask for help. Do not be embarrassed to draw on the many resources available
Criticize in private. Pull the Scout aside and quietly explain what he is doing
wrong. Add a suggestion on how it should have been done correctly.
Have Fun. Most of all, have fun learning to be a leader. Your joy and enthusiasm
will spread to other Scouts and will help energize the troop.
! First aid courses like Wilderness First Responder spend a lot of time in running
scenarios in addition to lectures. Boy Scouts uses scenarios to teach youth protection.
This is primarily because people learn by doing. Leadership can also be taught that
way. The National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience at Philmont uses scenarios
like search and rescue to teach leadership. Closer to home, the SPL Handbook
has five example scenarios (page 90-91) but any seasoned adult leader probably has
many more real-life examples to use. Consider taking time with your boy leadership to
work through known challenges, so that they will feel prepared if a similar situation
arises. Discussing alternatives ahead of time with an adult leader will help build a
youth's confidence that their responses would be correct. Scenarios can also allow the
Scoutmaster to train the adult leadership in the proper responses to boy-led challenges.
! Like many things, working on a functional boy-led troop is a journey to be enjoyed
and not necessarily a destination that will be achieved. Troop turnover guarantees
that it will always be a work in progress. Working toward a boy-led troop will give
you a platform to teach leadership and the satisfaction of watching boys mature into
In print from BSA:
! Senior Patrol Leader's Handbook
! Patrol Leader's Handbook
! Scoutmaster's Handbook
! Troop Leadership Training
! The Boy Scout Handbook
! Guide to Safe Scouting
Other books and magazines:
! Scouting Magazine
! “The Scoutmaster's Other Handbook” by Mark A. Ray
! BSA web training:
! Fast Start: Boy Scouting - an excellent overview of the Scouting program
! Troop Committee Challenge
! Youth Protection Training
! New Leader Essentials - is designed for all new adult leaders entering Scouting.
! District roundtable
! University of Scouting Arts
! Wood Badge
Boy-Led Wiki on the web:
Scouting Magazine articles available on the web
! ! http://www.scoutingmagazine.org/
! ! Jan-Feb 2009 “Let Your Scouts Lead”
! ! Mar-Apr 2004 “Strictly for Scoutmasters”
! ! Sept 2003 “Front Line Stuff” “How can a large troop be boy-led?”
! ! Nov-Dec 2000 “Front Line Stuff” !“some strategies for realizing the
! ! ! important goal of boy-led troop leadership”
Attached reprint from the web
! “Lessons and Suggestions on Boy-Run Troops”
! ! by Barry Runnels, ed. by Chuck Boblitz
Additional handout attached from Col. Red Dog Maynard
! Boy-led model - stairway to a full boy-led unit
! I would like to thank Col. Red Dog Maynard for giving me material to get started
on this project and Mike Labarre, Scoutmaster Troop 50, for reading the draft and making
suggestions. I would also like to recognize contributions from my son Matthew, who
served twice on NYLT staff, as an SPL for his troop, and is an Eagle Scout.
Written as a University of Scouting Arts Ph.D. Thesis by Paul H. Scudder Troop 50 Sarasota, Florida 2009
Lessons and Suggestions on Boy-Run troops
(Excerpts from "Boy Run Troops Part II" by Barry Runnels, edited by Chuck Boblitz)
Lessons and Suggestions on Boy-Run troops http://bsaroundtable.org/boyruntroop.html
While scouting is for boys, it is under the guidance of adults. The adult's
control 100% of the direction of the Troop, and it is their responsibility to develop
a boy-run program. This may seem complicated but it really isn't.
Guidance, Vigilance from a distance, Patience, Understanding the boys
point of view, Trust in your skills as a trained leader, Trust in the Boy Scout
program as it was designed by the BSA, and Trust in the boys themselves, are
the 7 keys for adults helping to foster a Boy Run Troop.
Here are some habits that help a troop grow towards a boy run program.
• No matter what his age or experience; the SPL runs the troop meetings.
Adults should, ideally, be outside the room. Several times adults of new troops
have told me they will wait until the scouts are mature enough to take responsibility
to run meetings before they let the SPL plan and run it. But all scouts
to some degree can run a meeting. The sooner your program starts developing
the habits of a boy run program, the faster everyone learns how to make
changes towards a boy run program.
• It's not the job of the adults to take the responsibility for the scouts, but
to guide the scouts in their responsibilities. The more the adults take responsibility
for troop management, the harder it becomes for them to hand
that responsibility back to the scouts, and it takes all that much longer for the
scouts become accustomed to shouldering this responsibility.
• The PLC and SM must look at troop activities, situations, and meetings
and ask, "If the adults weren't here, could this part of the program still
run with only the scouts?". When you say no, it's time for the SM to work
with the PLC to develop habits that would bring the troop to that point. It's a
slow process--solid boy-run programs take months and years to develop, not
days or weeks.
• The SPL runs the Troop, so there is no reason for an adult to assume the
role for any reason. Any concerns by adults should be addressed through
the SM and SPL. Adults are allowed to guide, to suggest, to coach--but not to
do scouts' jobs for them. It's very difficult for adults to keep from helping
scouts (out of a sincere desire to be helpful and friendly).
• All behaviors, good and bad, are the scout's responsibility. Most boy-run
programs have very few behavior problems where adults need to get involved.
That's because each scout is held responsible by all the other scouts.
Until safety becomes an issue, the PLC should be held responsible for taking
care of bad behavior. The PLC should also report misbehavior to the SM so he
can talk with the scout if needed. That is one of the Scoutmaster's jobs. Bad
behavior should be seen as an indicator of a scout needing guidance. Too
many adults see bad behavior as an embarrassment of their program, rather
than a part of the program--but if scouts were perfect, why would we need the
Oath & Law? Adults must be passive in their guidance, but fearless in their
• Adults should never lead a group of scouts. I am always amazed watching
adults lead their troop around at summer camps and camporees.
Scouts are the leaders, let them lead. I can't imagine anytime where the adults
should take the lead. If you can't trust the scouts, then something needs to
change. The adults' place is well behind the scouts. (I am also amazed at
summer camp when I see troops that don't trust their scouts to get to merit
badge classes without adult guidance).
There are some clear signs of when adults are over-involved in running
• All scouts are dressed perfectly. While I am sure there are some good boy
run Troops with all the scouts in perfect uniform, I have not met one yet. I am
using the uniform as an example here, but it can be anything where adults
force the scouts to conform as a group when the scouts don't understand. From
the adult's perspective, a boy run program is where each scout is guided individually,
not as a group. What we adults need to understand is that every boy
growing up questions the logic of many things that don't make since to him,
especially at this age. A scout may rebel against the norm to force some kind
of response because they he doesn't know any other way. Adults in boy run
programs should not force a scout back to the norm, but instead guide his understanding
of the situation so that he voluntarily changes. Usually when we
understand a logical purpose for anything, we voluntarily conform to it. If the
reason for the situation is not logical, then maybe it's time for the adults to
consider change. I have always challenged my PLC's that if I can't identify
how a part of our program helps build better habits and character, I will throw
it out. Only pride could get in the way of making changes. It's the scouts program;
they should be allowed to ask questions. The troop should be a safe
place to do that.
• Adults who stand with scouts or in front of scouts during activities are
usually a sign of a more adult run Troop. The Boy run program works well
because the struggle of leading, planning and managing the Troop naturally
motivates a scout to seek out knowledge to stop the struggle or failure. For
that to work, adults must stand out of the way of the scouts. Let the scout
make the mistakes, take the wrong trails, cook food wrong and so on. Some of
the worst examples of adult run that I have seen in our Troop are High Adven-
ture Treks. An inexperienced adult often thinks he knows more than the inexperienced
• A troop focuses on advancement, to the exclusion of other elements of
the program. Adults are afraid to fail, afraid to get hurt. They are also protective
by nature against their children's suffering. Because of these reasons,
adults sometimes tend to push advancement within a troop program, because
it's safe. Earning patches is a relatively low-risk way to achieve selfconfidence
and stature. But without real challenges and real risk of failure,
awards lose their meaning.
• A troop focuses on outings, to the exclusion of advancement and leadership.
Here too, adults are afraid to fail, afraid to get hurt. They are also protective
by nature against their children's suffering the loss of FUN time. Because
of these reasons, adults sometimes tend to push for outings only within a troop
program, because it's fun. Having the adults Plan and execute the outings is a
relatively low-risk way to achieve full control by the adults since they become
the center of attention for all of the fun stuff. This is great for Adult Egos but
not the Boys Egos. Without the true challenge presented by having the boys
plan and execute the events, and the real risk of failure, troop outings lose
their meaning. When the scouts are not provided the opportunity to plan and
work their own advancement trail with guidance from troop members and
adult Scouters, the feelings of achievement, and success are lost too.
• Watch for these other signs of adults taking over the program:
Who sets the time to wake up or lights out, adults or scouts?
Who picks the places to set up the tents, tarps and eating area?
Who sets up the times to eat, and program activities?
Who loads the Troop trailer, and who says when it's time to go?
Who counts the scouts in the cars to make sure everyone is there?
Who decides what kind of camping gear the troop should buy?
Who decides when it's time to go home from the campout?
Having a boy-run program is simply giving boys trust to manage their activities
and actions in the troop. Imagine everything you the scouts to do without
them standing in the room. That could be as little as just saying the pledge of
allegiance, or as much as letting the SPL run the whole Troop meeting. Imagine
a circle defining that area of trust. That circle is your boy run program.
The area outside the circle is the area where the scouts grow in their struggle,
and we adults grow in our trust that the scouts can manage their actions without