Parent Orientation and Education
One of the responsibilities of the unit advancement coordinator is to instruct parents, guardians, unit leadership, and committee members on appropriate methods to encourage advancement (Guide To Advancement, topic 184.108.40.206). An ideal time to accomplish this would be during one or more of the unit’s parent meetings that are required to meet the Journey to Excellence gold level. Since new Scout parents will be involved, the first of these meetings each year may need to be the most comprehensive, with those later used to “refresh” everyone’s understanding.
The topics for a first meeting might include the following—some of which are best covered by the unit leader and committee chair, and some by the advancement coordinator:
What Scouting is all about: After citing the aims of Scouting, it is a good idea to use terms that parents will understand. Remind them that their wild and wooly six- or eleven-year olds running around in the next room will be the fathers of their grandchildren in not too many years! Though our common goal is for these boys to become men who live their lives by the Scout Oath and Law, we all need to remember that from the boy’s point of view, Scouting has to be fun.
Who the leaders of the unit are: Parents want to know who is involved, so they know where to get help when they volunteer. At a minimum, the unit leader and committee chair should reintroduce themselves and quickly outline how they work together, particularly on advancement matters. At a troop’s parent meeting, the Scoutmaster should introduce the senior patrol leader and let him describe his role.
The language of Scouting: New parents may not be familiar with the terms, “pack,” “den,” “troop,” and “patrol,” much less the relationships between them. Parents need to understand how the pack is organized, or how the troop is boy-run. This is also the time to explain the uniform policy, pointing out how the different badges their sons will earn will reflect their accomplishments.
What is advancement? The unit advancement coordinator should explain the mechanics of advancement. Cub Scout parents should be informed about the key role they play in encouraging their boys, signing off certain requirements, and attending pack meetings to cheer their Cub Scouts on. Boy Scout parents should learn they now have a new role. They no longer sign off requirements, but their continued interest in their son’s progress is no less critical than it was in Cub Scouting. Finally, leaders and parents alike, should be reminded that advancement is a tool we use to make Scouting fun. It is not an end in itself and each boy should advance at his own pace.
Keeping parents informed invites them to become more involved in pack or troop management, which in turn, will keep boys in Scouting longer, giving us more chance to influence their character. Isn’t that what we’re all about?
This article appears on Page 5 of the BSA’s November/December 2014 issue of Advancement News.