Dealing with interference from opinionated parents
Edited by Robert Peterson
Scouter J.L.R. wondered how to react to outspoken parents who interfere with a leader's ability to run the program. Readers agreed on one tactic: Ask the critics to become involved as registered leaders.
Our troop deals with this issue simply by telling the parents: "I understand your concerns. We would like you to be active on the troop committee and voice your concerns. Here is a BSA application."
It is our philosophy that no one can complain unless he or she is an active, paid-up member of the troop. All adults who pay their dues have a vote on the troop committee. This gives the parent two optionsstop complaining or register. Once they have registered, they begin to understand why things operate the way they do.
It is critical that parents work together and communicate well on the troop committee because Scouts learn leadership skills from their leaders.
First, J.L.R. should resign himself to the fact that some parents will complain about something even if no one else sees any grounds for it. It's just their nature, and he's not going to change that. Second, maybe the complainer has a point. So, consider the source, but also consider the complaint.
Third, J.L.R. should ask the complainerand other adults who are not in leadership rolesto fill out a Troop Resource Survey. The results may reveal talents and experience that will be useful to the troop and perhaps silence the complainer by giving him a stake in the troop's success.
Assistant Scoutmaster L.J.
Some parents put on the act of a know-it-all out of their own insecurities. Since they were Scouts many years ago, they "know" how the program should work. The way to reduce their impact is to get them involvedactively involvedin the program.
Put them on the committee and send them to training. Place them in charge of something, a camping trip, special project, or the new Scout patrol. Tell them you need their expertise. This will result in their "putting up or shutting up."
As leaders, we should get that parent involved. If they wish to "over-involve" themselves without stepping up, then we as leaders should get them involved in the den or pack program.
If parents have specific complaints, then those should be addressed.
As a Cubmaster for the last four years, I look forward to hearing parents' complaints because I look at all complainers as "volunteers." If they don't like how something is running, then they are more than welcome to run it themselves. At one pinewood derby, I announced that anyone who had a problem with the rules could be pinewood derby chairman the next year. As expected, there were no complaints.
When you are confronted, listen to the complaints carefully and then ask the person to be in charge of fixing the problem. Remind him or her to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Always remain tactful, concerned, and courteous. You don't want to turn a person off to Scouting. Two things can happen: the complaining ends, or the passion for complaining is turned into a passion for serving the boys.
November-December 2001 Table of Contents
Copyright © 2001 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.