Here is some information we try to give parents on their first campout with BSA Troop 990.
Camping is the heart of Boy Scouting, so please take a few minutes to read this sheet. Boy Scouting is absolutely different from Cub Scouting or Webelos! And while parents (and some siblings) often accompany the Scouts on campouts, the Scouts camp with their patrol and not with their parents and family members.
Here is a summary of our troop (and BSA) policies, followed by the reasoning for the policies. There are exceptions, but these policies are in effect on most outings.
Scout Tenting & Meals—Scouts tent with their patrol in a patrol site separate from the other patrols. Patrols plan their own menus, and cook and eat together as a team. In general, adults do not eat or tent with a scout patrol.
Adult Tenting & Meals—Adults tent with the adult patrol in an adult site separate from the other scout patrols. Our adult Grubmaster will plan our own menu, and cook and eat together as a team. In general, adults do not eat or tent with a scout patrol.
Adult/Boy Tenting—BSA youth protection policies forbid an adult and a boy sharing the same tent. While youth protection policies may not apply to a father and son tenting together, it is strongly suggested that scouts tent with scouts and adults with adults. If a father tents with his son, it has been our experience that the boy will lose out on many opportunities to make decisions and be part of the patrol team!
If a parent goes on a campout, you are an automatic member of our Scouters (adult) patrol. This patrol has several purposes—good food and camaraderie, but more important is providing an example the boy patrols can follow without our telling them what to do (we teach by example).
Since a patrol should camp as a group, we expect the adults to do so also; that way, adults don't tent in or right next to a boy patrol where your mere presence could disrupt the learning process.
Follow the Campout Plan- Many of our campouts and events require adults to drive or accompany the scouts. It is important not to change the agenda, meeting place or time. The Troop 990 Scoutmaster along with the Senior Patrol Leader and Troop Committee have carefully planned the campout taking into account a myriad of “moving parts”. Taking a side trip or engaging in an unplanned activity must be avoided unless it is approved by the Scoutmaster.
Smoking/Drinking—Drivers may not smoke while Scouts are in the car. Adults may not smoke or use tobacco products, nor drink alcoholic beverages during a Scout activity. Adults who must smoke or chew must do so discretely out of sight of the Scouts.
Boy Leadership—Adults should not interfere with the functioning of boy leaders, even if they make mistakes (we all learn best from our mistakes). Step in only if it is a matter of immediate safety or if the mistake will be immediately costly. If possible, involve the Senior Patrol Leader or a uniformed adult leader first.
Boy Growth—Never do anything for a boy that he can do himself. Let him make decisions without adult interference, and let him make non-costly mistakes. Always direct him to his patrol leader or senior patrol leader for answers to questions.
Adult Training & Resources—The Boy Scouts of America provides an outstanding handbook for adults, and an excellent training course to help us understand the goals of Scouting and how to attain them. The adult manual is called the Scoutmaster Handbook, and it's worth your time to read it. The training is called Basic Adult Training, and is found at www.bsacac.org/training/adult_basic .Once a registered adult, additional training can be found at www.myscouting.org.
Multiple Parents Attending High Adventure Excursions Policy—It shall be the policy of Troop 990 to limit the number of parents of a Scout who wish to attend any BSA High Adventure Camp (Philmont, Sea Base (Florida), Northern Tier, Summit Bechtol, etc) or any other 990 trip, activity or campout that has limited attendance availability to one parent per family per trip. Any family who wishes to have a second parent attend such activity may submit a request to the Committee either in person or in writing with whatever reasons or explanation they would like. The Committee, after consulting the trip organizer and/or campmaster may vote to allow the second parent to attend.
Protecting Scouts—All T990 committee members, scoutmasters, assistance scout masters and merit badge counselors must take and complete BSA Youth Protection Training found at https://my.scouting.org and Ethics and Integrity in Ministry Training found at www.austindiocese.org
Rationale for Scout Lead Troop—Boy Scout camping activities center on the patrol, where boys learn teamwork, leadership, and camping skills. It is important that adults not be in the middle of patrol activities such as site selection, tent pitching, meal preparation, and anything else where boys get to practice decision-making.
A key difference between Boy Scouting and Cub Scouting/Webelos is leadership. Look for the word "leader" in a job title, and you will begin to appreciate the difference. The responsible person for a Cub/Webelos den is the adult Den Leader. The responsible person for a Boy Scout patrol is the Patrol Leader and the Senior Patrol Leader. This isn't token leadership a Patrol Leader has real authority and genuine responsibilities. Much of the success, safety, and happiness of six to ten other boys depends directly on him.
Boy Scouting teaches leadership. And boys learn leadership by practicing it, not by watching adults lead.
So Now What do adults do? — Now that we've surrendered so much direct authority to boys? Here are our troop's guidelines on the indirect, advisory role you now enjoy (you should enjoy watching your son and other scouts take progressively more mature and significant responsibilities as he advances in rank and zooms toward adulthood).
The underlying principle is never do anything for a boy that he can do himself. We allow boys to grow by practicing leadership and by learning from their mistakes. And while Scout skills are an important part of the program, what ultimately matters when our Scouts become adults is not whether they can use a map & compass, but whether they can offer leadership to others in tough situations; and can live by a code that centers on honest, honorable, and ethical behavior.
Boys need to learn to make decisions without adult intervention (except when it's a matter of immediate safety). Boys are in a patrol so they can learn leadership and teamwork without adult interference.
Quite simply, our troop policy requires adults to cook, eat, and tent separately from the Scouts (even dads & sons). We are safely nearby, but not smothering close. Sure, go ahead and visit the patrol sites (not just your son's), talk to your son (and the other Scouts), ask what's going on or how things are going. But give the guys room to grow while you enjoy the view. Show a Scout how to do something, but don't do it for him. Avoid the temptation to give advice, and don't jump in just to prevent a mistake from happening (unless it's serious). We all learn best from our mistakes. And let the patrol leader lead.
Your job is tough, challenging, and ultimately rewarding, because your son will be a man seemingly overnight.