It didn't take much thought to decide to sign my young son up for our local Cub Scout troop. My husband and his brother grew up in an active troop in rural Virginia, sticking with it through childhood and adolescence to eventually become Eagle Scouts. After college, my husband even went back to become a camp counselor for a summer at Raven Knob Scout Reservation, a regional camp for Boy Scouts in the mountains of North Carolina, where he taught canoeing, spelunking (caving) and rappelling to hundreds of boys attending from throughout the South. We were fully aware of the many benefits of Scouting from experience, as it helps build character and strengthen values having fun and adventures along the way.
But it’s not just about tradition and familiarity. The values my husband learned in scouting are ones we want to teach our son as well. The ideals of personal responsibility, independence, character growth, good citizenship, teamwork, service to others and self-confidence are lessons and traits beneficial to all boys. By learning personal responsibility with an emphasis on serving others, they are better prepared to make good decisions, avoid peer pressure and become a leader among their peers.
Developing Skills & Work Ethic
Our son was a little skeptical at first, but as he worked towards milestones in Pack 910, based at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, learning various skills and taking part in a broad array of activities, he grew in self-confidence and developed more of an interest in activities we would not have necessarily attempted were it not for Scouting. By learning skills such as archery, slingshotting (slingshooting?), and even chess, his self-confidence has grown.
One afternoon after checking off another achievement, he said to me, “I think I’m more interesting now.”
My son is motivated by the goal-setting format, working towards and earning badges. He also enjoys the recognition he receives at meetings for his accomplishments. This teaches him that hard work pays off while he is learning new things, making friends and developing new interests.
In this digital era where many kids are addicted to their screen-time, whether video games, television or computer, and other sedentary activities, Scouting offers diverse outdoor and physical activities with friends and caring role models in a safe environment. From hiking, biking, archery and camping outdoors, to star gazing, camp outs at the zoo, and other events to appreciate and develop skills in nature, scouting brings much-needed balance, physical activity and fresh air to an otherwise sedentary and sterile childhood.
Safety SkillsAs a mother, I appreciate the safety instruction my son gains through Scouting. First aid and swimming safety are among many valuable lessons he has learned.
One of their first goals included a discussion about strangers. Though we had taught our children not to go anywhere with a stranger, the points outlined in the guidebook sparked topics that we had not touched on, certainly not with any depth, and it was an important conversation that needed to be had.
Pocketknife safety was another topic he learned early on at camp. While most little boys revel at the opportunity to handle a knife and try his hand at whittling, Pocketknives are not whipped out willy-nilly in Scouting. How to open, close and hand off a pocketknife safely was taught with emphasis. The importance of the concept of the “blood circle” is invaluable – As far as a Scout can reach with his pocketknife in a 360º circle is his “blood circle” and no one should enter that blood circle while the pocketknife is open. If a Scout fails to uphold these practices while using a pocketknife, he can eventually lose the privilege of using one at scouting events for a time. These are guidelines we now use at home both with pocketknives and also kitchen knives.
Positive Role Models
While parents are encouraged to lead and participate in their local troops, Scouting is also important for boys who may not have both parents involved in their lives regularly. Real caring fathers and mothers lead our Scouts, providing them with strong positive role models to lead them and teach them strong values and good citizenship, which some young boys desperately need more of in their lives.