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How Parents Can Encourage Scouts

In this section we outline a few ways in which parents can help steer their scouts through the advancement process


Asking Your Scout Questions About Advancement
Counseling with Open Questions
Involve Your Scout in Household Expenses
Encourage Your Scout to Help Plan Summer Vacation
Earn Merit Badges on Summer Vacation
What Motivates Your Scout? The Four Tendencies


Asking Your Scout Questions about Advancement - “What Needs to Happen Next?”

Is your Scout in a merit badge log jam? Is he struggling to move forward on requirements? One tip is to encourage your Scout to examine a badge to look for:

  • A quick win – Which requirement could he get done in the next 20 minutes?

  • The “longest pole in the tent” – Which requirement will likely take the most time, so he could start it now and thus finish this badge sooner?

  • An energy boost – Which requirement looks the most fun and could get him moving?

  • Time-sensitive – Which requirement depends on a specific event and thus it is important to highlight it on the family calendar ASAP? Has he reached out to his counselor to ensure that event will work for the requirement fulfillment?

  • Fun with a friend – For those who get energy from doing tasks with others, what requirement could be done with a buddy?Even if a parent is brimming with ideas on how the Scout could move forward, do your best to keep asking the question “what needs to happen next?” Ask them to find at least one requirement that fits each of these categories.When can you do this? Why not leverage the time when you are going to and from your weekly Scout meeting? There is a lot of science around forming good habits which says that if you pair a new good habit with an activity that is definitely going to happen, the new habit is more likely to happen.


If your Scout cannot answer the question, you could encourage your Scout to schedule a check-in with the merit badge counselor. This meeting can provide the accountability and deadline needed to break a merit badge log jam.



Counseling with Open Questions

Our goal is to encourage Scouts to take the lead, so here’s a tip to help.
As part of the Communications badge, Scouts learn to ask open questions which start with who, what, when, where, why and how – also known as the 5Ws plus how.
What are the benefits of open questions?

  • New perspectives - Scouts often invent new ways of doing things with their beginner's mind.

  • Relevant activities - They are closer in age with their fellow Scouts and they might have just learned that skill themselves.

  • Motivation - Scouts tend to be more motivated and retain ideas better if they generate them.


So how can counselors leverage open questions to help Scouts?

Scenario #1: A Scout says that he is preparing to teach a first-aid skill. What do you think of these counselor responses?

  • Telling > The way you teach this skill is to do XXXX.

  • Closed Question > Can you teach this skill? OR Can you remember how you were taught this skill?

  • Open Question > How could you teach this skill so that you knew the other Scouts understood?

Scenario #2: A Scout says he thinks his patrol could run in a more efficient way. What do you think of these counselor responses?

  • Telling > You should step up and be more of a leader in your patrol.

  • Closed Question > Can you step up and act as a leader in your patrol?

  • Open Question > What could a Scout do if he wanted his patrol to run in a more efficient way? OR What does it look like when a patrol is running in an efficient way?

What is your predominant counseling style?

The next time you meet with a Scout, bring a paper with three columns. Track each time you were telling, asking closed questions or asking open questions. How can you improve those stats with practice?

How do you remember to ask questions when counseling?



Involve Your Scout with Household Expenses

Parents - the next time you sit down to pay your bills, consider showing the bills to your Scout. There are at least three badges where Scouts review household expenses as part of the requirements:

  • Family Life – The Scout participates in a family discussion on many topics, including personal and family finances.

  • Personal Management – The Scout chooses an item that your family might want to purchase that is considered a major expense, and researches the process.

  • Sustainability – The Scout comes up with a plan to reduce water and electricity use. He uses household bills to track the family’s progress.

All of these badges are Eagle-required. Acquainting your Scout with your family’s typical expenses can help him to prepare for these badges – and it might give him a new appreciation for turning off the lights and taking shorter showers!



Encourage Your Scout to Help Plan Summer Vacation

Did you know that your Scout could fulfill merit badge requirements if he takes a leadership role in planning your summer?

  • Family Life merit badge - Requirement 5 involves planning and carrying out a project that involves your family.

  • Personal Management - Requirement 1 involves researching a major expense for your family – so if you have a more expensive vacation idea, this could be the topic.

Wherever you visit, encourage your Scout to research the name of the location and “Boy Scout merit badges.” Many offer special programs or pamphlets to help you earn merit badges.

There is a Scout Ranger program that is part of the National Park Service where you can earn certificates or patches in addition to merit badges - To earn these items, the Scout must participate in at least five or 10 hours of activities in these parks.



Earn Merit Badges on Summer Vacation

What are your summer plans? Maybe your Scout could be earning merit badges along the way!

  • Cultural Festivals – Check on the American Cultures or Citizenship in the World merit badges.

  • Museums – Cultural exhibit? Check the American Cultures badge. Inventions? Check the Inventing badge. Railroads? Check the Railroading merit badge. Aviation? Check out the Aviation badge.

  • Historic Sites or Trails – Check the American Heritage, Archeology or Citizenship in the Nation merit badges. If you enjoy earning badges related to wildlife – such as Bird Study, Insect Study or Mammal Study – take a moment to look for wildlife as you travel to add to your observed species and habitats.

  • Farm or Ranch – The Animal Science merit badge is a great experience, especially for those interested in veterinary sciences.

  • Airport – If you are flying anywhere, look at the Aviation badge!

If your family is planning on doing these activities, encourage your Scout to connect with a merit badge counselor. Get the names of relevant counselors from the Advancement Coordinator. Then you can meet with the counselor, as well as pick up a Blue Card before you do the activity.


What Motivates Your Scout? The Four Tendencies

When you are working on a goal, how do you get motivated? In the book The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin, she puts forward a framework that says there are four ways that people respond to expectations:

  • Upholders like to follow the rules – whether set by others or themselves.

  • Questioners like to follow their own rules but tend to resist expectations set by others.

  • Obligers like to fulfill other people’s expectations but can struggle to set their own internal goals.

  • Rebels resist all expectations and can only be motivated by having many choices.


Which type is your scout? The most common types are Questioners and Obligers.


There is a bias in most systems like school and Scouts towards Upholders. The premise is that Scouts should just read the merit badge requirements and fulfill them. But if Gretchen Rubin’s framework is true, that will only work for a minority of Scouts.


If your Scout is an Upholder, you likely don’t need much advice because he will just follow the program. He will let you know how you can help.


If your Scout is a Questioner, one of the worst things you can do is ask lots of questions. Ironically, Questioners like to question but they do not like to be questioned. Be ready to help when he says he is ready. Infrequently check in about incomplete requirements if he says that he would like you to be his accountability partner.


If your Scout is an Obliger, it can be detrimental to say “why don’t you take more initiative?” That makes your Scout feel like they are being penalized for the times he did exactly what you asked. One of the best ways to support an Obliger is to let him know about merit badge classes. Many Obligers succeed when pursuing goals with others, whether they are introverts or extroverts. After an event like a class or a Merit Badge Academy, set up a calendar of times that you both agree to check in.

If your Scout is a Rebel, he will do Scouting his own way. For example, he might identify as an outdoors enthusiast and only do the badges related to the outdoors. He may not do the whole program. Parents of a Rebel are likely used to this. If he shares an obstacle, point out 2-3 options for ways that obstacle could be handled but do not suggest one is better than the other. Present all options as equally possible.


There is a free quiz to help you determine your type at

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