If you want to get a bunch of veteran Boy Scout leaders riled up, ask them which of the eight methods of Scouting is the most important. Is it ideals, the patrol method, the outdoor program, advancement, adult association, leadership development, the uniform, or personal growth? The hardcore backpackers will pick the outdoor program. Proponents of Scout-led troops will vote for leadership development. Many Eagle Scouts will argue for advancement.
At various times in my Scouting career, I would have picked several methods as the most important. However, in my recent reading about the state of kids today, I’ve settled on a new favorite: adult association. Why? Because kids today—especially teens—are starving for adult attention. (That’s perhaps one reason why someeasily fall prey to child predators.) In Being Adolescent, Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi and Reed Larson reported that teens spend less than five percent of their time with their parents—and only two percent of their time with other adults. And that book came out in 1986; I can only assume the statistics have gotten even bleaker.
If we as Scouters can give our Scouts the positive attention they crave, we stand a better chance of keeping them around for the outdoor program, advancement, and all the other benefits of Scouting. If we create adversarial or distant relationships, they’ll go somewhere else looking for role models. (I’m thinking here of those Scout leaders I’ve seen criticizing kids for showing up late to a troop meeting after sports practice rather than thanking them for skipping dinner to be there for at least part of the meeting.)
Having said that, it is important to balance adult association with leadership development. We need to give our junior leaders space to lead, but at the same time, we need to offer all our Scouts the positive relationships with adults that many are desperately seeking.
What do you think? How do you make the adult association method work? Or do you even think it’s important? Post your comments below.