Sunday, January 02, 2011


My boy is a pretty good Boy Scout.  He does what he's told and doesn't cause trouble. He's enthusiastic and helpful, I hear.  He's advanced appropriately and has been given responsibility as a leader of a patrol (a group of boys within a troop).  So he does pretty well.

But he's not what you call a self-starter.  He's at the point now where he gets to pick the badges he wants to earn, and start working on them. No one is pushing him to do any particular work; it's up to him to earn the badges he needs to advance in rank.  He reached this point early last fall, but he hasn't started working on any badges yet.  This isn't because there aren't any badges he's interested in; there are many.  He settled on two a few months ago.  Now he just can't get started.

So every week or so I ask him what he's doing.  The answer, of course, is nothing, which causes me to get frustrated and start to wonder what is wrong with this kid?  I ask him if he's not interested in advancing in Scouts; no, it's not that. I ask if he's done with Scouts (while praying he is not) and he looks at me as if I have two heads and no, of course not (with the silent but implied you idiot on the end). 

Then I coach him on the next steps.  Who to talk to at the next Scout meeting.  Who to call.  He still needs help sometimes with phone calls.   So far we haven't made much progress, though. One merit badge counselor said he'd be at a meeting, but wasn't.  Another hasn't responded yet to email.  Now this boy is content to wait, forever if necessary, for them to respond to him.  He feels that their turn now. Which  technically it may be, but he's the one who wants the badge, so he's got to be the one in charge.  He can't be passive.

He prefers to be passive.  It is in his nature to be passive, to let events flow over him and carry him along.  Not to make events happen.

I struggle mightily with this characteristic of his.   

Throughout all this I'm thinking about it, a lot.  Should I stop pushing him?  Should I let him succeed or fail on his own, and stop getting involved?  I don't want him to drop out of Scouts, and I'm afraid he'll do that if he stops working on rank advancement.  But, what good is it if I'm always pushing him?  I can't push him forever.  One day he is going to have to get along without his mommy telling him what to do. But is he ready for that?

Sometimes I wonder if this is a homeschool thing.  Schoolkids have their teachers telling them what they need to do, and when, and from what I gather, most (not all) parents pretty much stay out of it.  (I don't mean they are not involved, but they aren't the ones pushing the kids to get things done.  That's my impression from conversations with other mothers, not the result of scientific research on the topic.)  So why shouldn't I stay out of Scouts?   Why am I always pushing, reminding, nagging?

We are always pushing our kid to do things that, it seems, other kids don't do.  For example, if he is going to miss a Scout meeting, we make him call the guys just above and below him in the leadership hierarchy.  He used to hate making those calls, but now that he is a leader he sees the value in it.  As a leader, he finds it's helpful to know if someone is going to be absent.  Almost every week someone just doesn't show up.  I don't understand why the parents don't have their kids make that call.  Maybe they just stay out of the kids' Scout business.

Anyway, I spend time thinking about these things. 

Last week, after I helped him email the badge counselor to get started on the "Pets" badge (a no-brainer for our family), I asked him what he wanted me to do.  Keep pushing, or shut up?

He thought for a minute and said "Mom.  Remember that year I hated making phone calls so much I almost missed a campout?"  (Oh yes I do. He needed a piece of information from one of the adult leaders. He was so afraid of making that call he tried to convince me - and himself - that he really didn't want to go on this campout after all.  Once I forced him to make the call, his desire to camp came back.)  "Now, I don't mind calling people I know.  But I still hate calling people I don't know.  And you know I'm forgetful.  So..."  deep breath here; is he about to cry? "Yeah, can you help me a little longer?"

So we made a deal.  One  more rank advancement, and then he's on his own.  Can he do it?  We'll find out in about 6 months, I think.


SmallWorld at Home said...

I completely understand where you are coming from. There are often times when I have pushed because someone HAD to, and everyone was happy in the long run. I can say that at nearly 18, my son really does all the pushing himself. I might sometimes have to give a reminder or two, but Phew!

Sandy said...

I'm right there with you. The pushing makes me crazy, though, so I handed it off to my husband. I do what he asks me to do, but otherwise stay out of it. I'll show up at the awards ceremony and look proud.

DADvocate said...

I love many aspects of Scouts but being Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) was the most negative experience in Scouts for my son. The SPLs are elected by the other Scouts in the patrols which turns into a popularity/status contest.

In my son's troop, the adult leaders expected the SPL to do a lot of telling the other kids what to do and pushed him hard. Yet at times when he prepared for an activity, the adults would take over without giving him a chance.

One example was when the troop was going on a canoe trip. My son spent several hours on the Internet researching about canoe paddling techniques. He brought a paddle to the troop meeting to demonstrate the techniques. But when the meeting started, an adult took over immediately and didn't seem to have a clue why my son brought a paddle to the meeting.

I'd push, but not too hard. Your kids are obviously smart and talented. There are a lot of other opportunities for them. Frankly, I would recommend that after this, he take a less of a leadership role. It seemed to me that many of the kids who became Eagles did less leadership and focused on rank advancement. Kinda sad but true.

wayside wanderer said...

Well, this all sounds very familiar. There is comfort in knowing that this seems to be a normal sort of struggle. That is sweet of your son to recognize he needs your help and to say so.