Building Resilience in Your Youth Leaders



I decided long ago that the biggest challenge most Scout leaders face happens to be the biggest challenge most parents face: namely, dealing with that alien, vaguely humanoid species called the American teenager. And it’s especially challenging the first time around because kids morph into teenagers far faster than we can adapt. I think that’s why many Scout leaders who have followed their sons through Cub Scouting into Boy Scouting struggle when those boys hit their teen years; suddenly, the strategies that used to work are ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst.

With that background in mind, I was excited recently to get a review copy the new book Crazy-Stressed: Saving Today’s Overwhelmed Teens with Love, Laughter, and the Science of Resilience by family counselor Michael J. Bradley, Ed.D. I’ll be interviewing Dr. Bradley soon for a Scouting magazine parenting article, but there’s plenty in the book that I know won’t fit into the article.

As the subtitle indicates, the book talks a lot about resilience, an essential skill for any functioning adult. And a big factor in developing resilience is having the opportunity to make decisions and control your own destiny.

When you think about it, that’s what Boy Scouting’s youth leadership method is designed to do. Every time we empower our patrol leaders’ councils to make decisions–and support those decisions even if they’re different than we would have made–we help our youth leaders develop resilience. Every time we sandbag them, overrule them, or make decisions by fiat, we cripple them in small ways. (The obvious exceptions, of course, involve health, safety, and potential violations of BSA policy.)

In his book, Dr. Bradley offers a quote I think every Scouter working with youth leaders ought to commit to memory: “The bad decision made well teaches far more than the good decision made poorly.”

To translate that into Scouting terms, “The bad decision made by the PLC teaches far more than the good decision made by the adults.” When you help your youth leaders make decisions well–even if those decisions are bad–you help them build their resilience muscles in ways that will benefit them–and your troop–for a long time to come.


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