Do you ever find yourself saying things like “When I was in middle school…”? Do you often bemoan the fact that Scouts today don’t act like Scouts did a generation ago? Do you try to emulate your own Scoutmaster—yet find yourself being much less successful than he or she was?
Although many have been slow to recognize it, the adolescent landscape has altered drastically in recent years. Kids are entering adolescence earlier and leaving it much later—often years beyond high school. Many feel used, abused, or simply abandoned by adults. Today’s kids have a world view that is markedly different than that of their parents, and we as Scout leaders need to understand that world view in order to engage them more effectively. This is especially a challenge for Scouters who are working with kids older than their own; if you only have an 11-year-old, the 16-year-olds in your troop might as well be an alien species!
Two fairly recent books can help you navigate the changing adolescent landscape. The first book is Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers by Chap Clark. Clark is a seminary professor who spent a year in the high-school environment, interviewing students about their lives; he discovered that high-schoolers, in the face of adult abandonment have created an alternate culture he calls the world beneath.
The other book is The Hurried Child by David Elkind, which came out in a 25th anniversary edition a few years back. In his book, Elkind describes how “we force our kids to grow up too fast, to mimic adult sophistication while secretly yearning for innocence.”
Neither of these books relates directly to Scouting. Each, however, could radically alter the way you interact with the young men in your troop.