Difficulties of Webelos to Scouts . . . for Adults

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Frank Maynard is a long-time Troop Committee Chair. He hosts a blog at BlogWhiteBlather.com. Frank focuses on running the troop and the issues that scout leaders have in working with the parents.

One of the major issues at any campout is the new scout leader who just came from Cub Scouts. He tells a story about the common experiences that happen.

In his Soul to Work blog, leadership author Scott Mabry explains this very well. He tells us that the more we hold on to our old expectations, the more anxiety results and the more frustration ensues. It’s because, as leaders, we have become accustomed to being responsible for our portion of the Scouting experience, and we feel that we have failed if things go wrong. Now certainly we can’t just stand back and let a patrol or the troop flail about aimlessly, but neither is it our responsibility to do it for them. Our job goes from providing the program for the Scouts to providing them with the tools to spin their own program. It’s helping them discover for themselves which way to go, not pointing them in the direction we think is right. We have to let go of the way we did things before, as well as the idea that our reputation is staked on whether we have a snappy troop.

What Cub Scout leaders need to know is that, as leaders of Cubs, they are responsible for putting boys in tents, in the outdoors, and in other experiences that are hands-on experiences.  Their job is to assist the Cubs with discovering themselves and their world. Cubs need to know themselves and some basics about the world before they can learn the next step. The Cub leader is the teacher, babysitter, and cat-herder.

What Webelos leaders need to know is that, as leaders of Webelos, they are responsible for putting the boys in tents and in the outdoors as a now-familiar environment.  The surroundings are receding into the background for some aspects of the learning experience. The surroundings strip away the daily distractions of home, video games, and all the normal toys and distractions of home. They are beginning to learn how to interact with their fellow Webelos as equals and as a group. This group which has been the “den” now starts to be treated as a unit of “the patrol system,” in the new Webelos program. Boys are now more responsible for the daily needs of the group. The Webelos leader is heavily involved in helping them work together and managing some of the conflict. The Webelos leader is primarily a mentor. The Webelos experience the problems of the outdoors and the experience are coached on how to resolve the problems they face in an unfamiliar environment.

The change to Scouts is very shocking for the Cub and Webelos leader entering into a Scout troop. The adults should not be in the middle of anything. The new Tenderfoot Scout has an older scout as a teacher and primary mentor. The Scoutmaster as the “Teacher of Scouts” is still present, but his job is not to focus on teaching the Tenderfoot Scout. The Scoutmaster focuses on teaching the Patrol Leaders how to teach the Tenderfoot Scouts. The Scoutmaster monitors the Tenderfoot Scout and anticipates his needs. Wherever possible, the Scoutmaster seeks to help the Patrol Leader see the Tenderfoot Scout’s needs, so that the Patrol Leader can resolve it. This means that the Scoutmaster sometimes allows conflict to foment so that the Patrol Leader can learn how to manage his patrol and the patrol members learn how to work as a follower in a group.

A Cub leader or Webelos leader who is used to preventing problems and teaching solutions prior to problems arising tends to get very anxious at a Troop outing. Many new Scout Troop parents begin getting frustrated because a Scoutmaster may choose to leave the boys alone as the boys struggle. Veteran Scouters commend this silence because they know from years of experience the maturity and personal growth that this hands-off approach encourages. Webelos leaders only see increased chaos around the corner.

Cub leaders should know now that what they see today is part of a larger system that changes very dramatically from ages 6 to 11. Patience with the scouting progression is well worth waiting for. Cub leaders should fully invest in Cub Scouts as a discovery process that is important for the lessons that await. A Cub Scout Leader is going to get their Cubs outside year-round, in tents as much as possible (BSA rules and weather permitting), and in camp-like experiences where camping is impractical. An evening cook out around a campfire does not have to wait for a campout. A hike in the woods does not have to be hours from home. Take them to Holliday Park or Marott Park in Washington Township, Eagle Creek Park in Pike Township, or Starkey Nature Park in Zionsville. Have them hike a couple of miles in the woods near home.

Give Cubs something different from school in the outdoors. Prepare for a changing program as your child ages. You will be amazed at the transformation that happens when you follow the Scouting process.