It’s a known fact that less than 4% of all Scouts will attain the rank of Eagle. Wikipedia says that only 2% of all Scouts over the past 100 years have earned the award.

I suppose that’s no surprise given that for many, Scouting represents 5 years of Cub Scouts and another 5-7 years in Boy Scouts just to get that far. And while it’s possible to earn the Eagle rank as young as 12, many Scouts are struggling to get their boards done a week before they turn 18 up to 12 years after they have started.

There are many reasons – sports, music, cars, girls… “The boys just lost interest…” “Some boys just aren’t interested in advancement but just like to camp with their friends.”

I have heard over & over that the boys who do make it – their PARENTS pushed them or paved the way for them – as if it were an insult that Mom & Dad showed an interest in helping their son achieve their dreams. “Well, of course he got Eagle – his dad is the Scoutmaster!”

It seems that with less than 1 in 25 boys earning this honor we might be missing the mark just a little.

I have two wonderful sons. They’re both high achievers! As of writing, one is a Tiger, the other a new Boy Scout. I’m a Scouter only because they are Scouts. It’s an important realization to make as it grounds me and helps me keep going when I otherwise might spend my time & efforts elsewhere.

My Scout earned a ton of awards in Cub Scouting. If it could be done – he would do it! Our den met pretty much every week around the boys other schedules, even if only to play a board game, and we earned more beltloops, beads, arrowheads and pins than you can imagine. He has a red vest that can’t hold half of the patches he has in reserve, including his Super Achiever for earning every Webelos pin. He remains an A student, played football, baseball, basketball, soccer, took up music lessons, drama, robotics and joined the swim team. Scouting has been the universal thread in every extracurricular he has done.

All summer he asked me about earning the historic merit badges, and when his den leader said the boys were ready to move up to Boy Scouts he began making plans, reading the books and printing out the worksheets. He managed 3 of the 4 – only failing to earn Signaling. If he had another week, he would have earned that as well. It’s great now that he has email – I’ve been able to point him toward his Scoutmaster & other adults in the Troop, and he will continue to achieve & advance now. HE is driven to succeed! If the resources are there, he will use them.

Last year, my little guy couldn’t wait to become a Cub Scout! He tagged along to everything. He loved TigerMania, and showed up to every Pack event he could. Like his brother, he is tremendously excited to be a Scout!

When my older son joined, 27 other boys joined that year as well. My youngest is only one of 4 Tigers in our Pack.

My Tiger has only had a few den meetings this year. There are scheduling conflicts. Adults are always tired with work, holidays and much to do. For several months he asked almost every day – WHEN is my next den meeting?!

I’m sad because he doesn’t ask about den meetings any more. The same love & joy of Scouting has failed to find purchase, because he just doesn’t get the opportunities the same way and hasn’t had the same kind of achievement & recognition. I’m afraid as a leader that to charge in and “try to make things right” will upset his den leader or scare away other adults from helping out. His den leader is a great guy, but has many responsibilities elsewhere that Scouting becomes one more thing on his plate to deal with. As Cubmaster, my responsibility is to help the den leaders do the best job they can do to serve the boys. And if the boys aren’t being served, then I’m not doing my job well. Right now I feel like I’m not doing as well as I need to be.

It comes down to “Nature vs. Nurture” I suppose. I sincerely believe that the achievement and desire is in BOTH of my boys’ hearts! And I would bet that from every boy that enters our Cub Scout program most of them walk in with the potential to become an Eagle as well. Ask any young Scout if he wants to be an Eagle someday, and I bet more often than not he will say YES without hesitation! It is in their Nature, their DNA, to be the best they can be!

Yet we often fail to provide the right environment for them to succeed. We don’t nurture every Scout and every family to support those Scouts. Only 4% of Scouts will go on to achieve their Eagle. Somewhere, something goes wrong. And I’m pretty sure it isn’t with the child – and it’s not any of the things we like to blame – sports, school, music…

Tomorrow is my Scout’s 11th Birthday. It’s an amazing transition, watching your children grow. At this new age he & I can have serious, involved discussions and he’s very reflective. We recently talked about him achieving so much – and that other parents have “accused” me of paving the way for him. We came to a great peace with this idea: it has taken both of us to get him where he wanted to be ~ I could not have forced him to do all of the things that he has done, and without my help he would not have access to what he wanted to do.

When I meet with the moms & dads at our new parent meeting I explain to them that this is more than a time commitment ~ it is a way to be very involved with your son’s life. You will know their friends. You will know what they like & dislike. There is no owner’s manual that comes with your son; most of us are learning the rules along the way. The Boy Scouts of America can provide you with a program proven for over a century to raise the best that humanity has to offer.

It’s not an hour a week you give to Scouting, its every waking breath you give to your child wanting them to grow up to be the best men they can be. Provide that nurturing environment every chance you get. Encourage your sons to achieve, and recognize their efforts, even when they’re not always 100% successful. Encourage him to try again! Find a path that he wants to follow.

Let’s raise some more Eagles!