When Mister Man was in kindergarten, he announced he wanted to do Boy Scouts. Actually, he didn’t just say he was interested in it, he explained that he wanted to become an Eagle Scout and shared what he wanted his Eagle Scout project to be. I had dated someone a long time ago who was an Eagle Scout and extolled the benefits from Boy Scouts, so I was thrilled to hear that Mister Man was that excited.
He’s now going into sixth grade and still excited to go to every one of his meetings. It’s changed a lot for him from his first meetings to the ones he goes to now, but he’s learned and done so much. I can’t say enough about Scouts and the benefits from Boy Scouts that he’s gained.
As a child with autism, there are so many challenges he already faces. Mister Man is very high functioning, but it’s been an uphill battle to get him to where he is today. That isn’t to say that every day is sunshine and roses – we had a long lecture to both kids about sneaking candy from the Fourth of July parade yesterday – but he’s made so much progress and is really a great kid. A lot of that is just who he is, but I also thing that a big piece has to do with the benefits from Boy Scouts.
I have no worry whatsoever that he will be ready to live as an adult when he goes off to college. He will have so many life skills – and he already knows how to do so many more things that so many of his peers. Not only does he have those skills, but as he sees himself improving and learning new things, it’s been a boon to his confidence which is often lacking because he’s so often told no or corrected at home and school when he doesn’t make the best choices.
9 Benefits from Boy Scouts
Respect for himself and others. The values of Boy Scouts fit in so well with our own from character development to ethical decisionmaking to community service and more. With so many tweens, I’m hearing abut the attitude they throw and the disrespect they show their elders. Mister Man is personally affronted when he sees litter sitting on the ground – and then he picks it up and throws it away. He wouldn’t dream of littering, but it’s so much more than that, as well. When I ask him to do something, I don’t get the rolling of the eyes and the “Why do I have to…” that I so often hear from others. In Boy Scouts, everyone pitches in to get things done. It’s simply the ethos within the organization, and it’s seeped into my child.
At the Fourth of July parade this past year, his new troop didn’t march (they have in the past) as they were the honor guard for the Memorial Day parade instead. I was so impressed by how well all the boys did preparing the cemetery for the arrival of the veterans and other observers and maintaining their silence during the solemn presentation.
Watching the Fourth of July parade as a spectator for the first time in years, Mister Man and the rest of the friends we were with were focused on gathering as much candy as they could. As soon as Mister Man saw the first veteran, he snapped to attention. All his focus on the candy was instantly transferred, and he stayed in that position until they had all passed, even while the others continued their search for candy. Seriously a Proud Mom Moment.
Bonding time with family. Now that Mister Man is in Boy Scouts, this is a little less the case, but in Cub Scouts, Mister Man and my husband spent more time together than they would have otherwise, both at meetings and events. They learned how to set up a tent together and slept long nights often in cold, wet conditions (because the weather was always the worst when they were away, thank you Murphy). The drives to and from camping, the fishing derbies, the Raingutter Regatta, archery lessons, and more. It was all time they spent together, both learning and having fun.
As a Boy Scout now, we drop him off at meetings that the boys plan themselves instead of my husband being involved each week. He no longer goes on the campouts with Mister Man (after the first one this spring to verify he wouldn’t be homesick or have any other issues). As Mister Man continue with Scouts, however, he’ll once again have some amazing opportunities to bond with my husband (or me – I may insist on going!) when he will have the opportunity to go on some amazing adventures from sailing in the Caribbean to canoe treks in Minnesota or Canada with one of us in tow. Seeing those challenges through and being there together creates an amazing bond, as I’ve heard from so many other older Scouting parents, not just between the families but amongst the Scouts themselves who make lifelong friendships.
Good role models. Especially with Mister Man in Boy Scouts, he has exposure to older boys – not just the 5th graders but all the way through high school – who develop and run the meetings and activities. They take it seriously, and this is one of the most important benefits from Boy Scouts that I’ve seen.
When Mister Man was at his first solo campout, the Souts participated in a flag retirement ceremony. Not only did they learn the importance and significance of the ceremony, but they understand the appropriate respect that you show in such a situation. Mister Man told me how some of the middle school Scouts were not paying attention and goofing around during the ceremony that involved not just their own troop but also a few others who were camping at the same time. As soon as the ceremony ended and they went back to their campsite, the older boys in their troop pulled the offenders aside and apparently lit into them about their behavior.
The boys were chastised, and it came from older kids they respect. This isn’t just another parent or teacher lecturing them, and it had a much greater impact. The next campout apparently went off without a hitch, and the boys who had been messing around were amongst the most helpful that time. They have good role models who will call them out when they don’t behave as they should, and that’s a benefit that will never disappear.
Beyond that, the Boy Scouts can also be involved in being role models for Cub Scouts. Even though Mister Man is one of the younger Boy Scouts, he is still expected to assist with the Pinewood Derby and run it. He becomes someone the Cub Scouts look up to, and that creates such a sense of pride.
A sense of independence. As Cub Scouts, the boys were always expected to assist with campouts and other activities. They learned how to set up tents, how to build a fire, how to safely use a knife and more. All the badges they earned, they had to actually earn. Nothing was handed to them, and not every boy earned the same badges because they didn’t all do the same work.
At Mister Man’s second campout, each patrol within his troop cooked for themselves. There was a silver spoon competition Saturday night where the boys had to agree on a menu, determine how much food to bring, and make it themselves. Just getting the boys to agree to a menu they all wanted to eat was a challenge. They had to figure out what encompassed a meal without an adult telling them, which is a skill not many kids have these days.
Mister Man’s patrol didn’t win the silver spoon competition – even with their homemade salsa and chips, bbq chicken, carrot sticks, and chocolate covered strawberries (yes, the boys made all that – they can!). As disappointed as Mister Man was, he saw what the other patrols did and learned from it. Next time, they’ll be better, and they still did it all themselves.
The boys in his patrol learned a good lesson, too. One of them merely thought they had to plan the menu. He was in charge of breakfast Saturday morning, but he brought no food, simply assuming it would be there. With each patrol in charge of their own food, the boys had to scramble. Mister Man fortunately brought a gallon of milk, so he was able to share much of that. They scrounged through their other supplies and cobbled together a breakfast, but they ended up a little hungry by Sunday morning because they had eaten everything. Being a little hungry isn’t a big deal. Learning that you have to follow instructions and that there are consequences for not doing what you should is a lesson I’d much rather my children learn at a young age when the consequences are small than when they’re 25 and are much more life changing. One of the benefits from Boy Scouts? You bet! You know no one in his patrol will every forget to bring food or other items they plan again.
There’s a troop for everyone. In Cub Scouts, you generally join the pack that is at your school. Once you graduate to Boy Scouts in fifth grade, it’s a whole new ballgame. The troops aren’t associated so much with schools anymore. They develop their own personalities and areas of focus. Each troop is not like the one down the road, which is great because every kid is different.
This past fall and into the winter, local troops hosted a variety of activities to showcase their troops. It’s sort of like fraternity rush, but way healthier. The troops that were STEM focused provided STEM activities. The ones focused on outdoor activities provided some of those, though not a full campout. The ones that do more fun experiments had nights with balloon launching, and so forth. Each troop showed its personality, and Cub Scouts are invited to any or all of the events they want to attend so they can choose the best fit for them. Many of the try out events were open to the whole family, too, which allows us to see how the troop works and see how our children fit into each troop.
Mister Man knew he wanted to continue in Scouting, but he has a wide range of interests. He wanted to find a troop that was very active, which would allow him to earn more badges. He also looked for a troop with a high number of Eagle Scouts, knowing that this would be a troop more likely to give him compatriots as he goes through the rigorous process of earning his Eagle Scout honors. Lastly, his favorite part of Scouts is camping. He found a troop that camps and does a variety of outdoor activities all the time. It’s a great fit for him, even though it isn’t the closest one to us.
Kids have to be self starters. Mister Man wants to be an Eagle Scout. He’s determined and convinced that this is the path he wants to go down, and that’s wonderful. But there won’t be an adult telling him that this assignment is due on this day like in school. Instead, he has to decide what he will do to get there and how quickly he wants to earn it. If he doesn’t get it done, it won’t happen.
There were kids in Cub Scouts who were amazingly motivated and earned badges left and right outside of the official troop activities. All kids have that opportunity, but not all will take it. And that’s fine, too. There isn’t pressure for the kids to earn a certain number of badges, so if there’s something else going on, the kids aren’t made to feel as though they aren’t doing what they should.
At the Boy Scout level, the boys plan and run the meetings. They have to determine the activities each meeting and make them happen. That is where the true self starter is required. Boys aren’t thrown into the deep end; as younger Scouts, the older Scouts lead the way, and there are always adults on hand for guidance, but the boys are the ones who have to make the time and effort to ensure the meeting run smoothly and are of interest to the group as a whole.
Learning new loves. One of the early badges Mister Man earned was for swimming. He’s always been a good swimmer, and the activities required were easy for him. They weren’t for every boy, but they all worked through it and earned the badge. When it came to sports badges later, Mister Man pushed back against trying some of them. He declared he simply wasn’t good at sports. He had to do some of them, and this is where he first discovered basketball.
I had tried for years to convince him to try basketball or another team sport, and he always resisted. When he was pushed into it, he discovered that he enjoyed. A fifth grader who’s never picked up a ball isn’t going to be good right away, but that isn’t the point. He asked to attend basketball skills sessions and played basketball this winter. He’s gotten much better – not a star, but he’s really improved – and he wants to keep playing. Without Boy Scouts pushing him to try this and other activities, he would never have discovered how much he loves the sport.
Persistence and tenacity. I love the Pinewood Derby. It’s one of Mister Man’s favorite parts of Cub Scouts, and he’s sad that as a Boy Scout, he won’t be eligible to participate anymore. This is one of those activities that requires kids to be creative and thoughtful – and persistent. Mister Man every year has gone for the design award rather than just speed. I love that Boy Scouts gives a nod to the fact that things don’t just have to be fast to be spectacular.
While many families have the parents design and build the cars, we’ve always gone another route. He chooses what he wants to make – and it’s been everything from a LEGO guy riding in a gold car with fire shooting from the back to an RV to a model Pinewood Derby track to an aircraft carrier this year. They’ve never been fast, but he quickly figured out that’s not his strength (another of the benefits of Boy Scouts – with so many ways to succeed, you’re always finding where your strengths lie).
He’s incredibly creative, and he’s used that to his advantage. When he didn’t place in his first Pinewood Derby, he was upset and sad, but he channeled that and did better the next year. He has chosen paint colors and painted his cars only to get all the way done and make a mistake that requires him to redo a section. He could give up, but he knows the reward he’ll have when he looks at his gorgeous Pinewood Derby car. Instead, he just went back to work each time and improved on his work.
Giving up has always been something we’ve struggled with. The first time going gets tough, he wants to quit in frustration. Sometimes I can’t blame him, but life doesn’t let you quit. He’s taken his lessons from building his Pinewood Derby cars (which have placed in the regional competition, awesome!) and putting up tents that want to fall down and building fires that don’t want to light and used it elsewhere. Getting his math homework done even when it’s hard has become less challenging, and his persistence in sticking with basketball and tae kwon do when they haven’t provided him the immediate results and improvement he wants come from the lessons he’s learning as a Scout.
Boys create friendships with others like them. Mister Man is a unique kid (aren’t they all?), and he doesn’t always fit in perfectly with the boys at school who are more interested in messing around and football. The love of basketball he discovered thanks to Boy Scouts has helped him bond with many of the boys he sees in class on a daily basis, and that’s been huge.
In addition, the kids who are in Boy Scouts with him are becoming his friends. They have Scouts in common, and they all chose the same troop because they have a love of the outdoors and camping. Because the troop pulls from a variety of geographic areas and not just the school Mister Man attends, he’s meeting and making friends with boys he otherwise wouldn’t have met, not only because they go to different schools but because they’re different ages, too. They get along beautifully and complement each other so well. These are deep friendships that will last long after they’ve all graduated and moved on simply because of the experiences they’ve shared together.