Years ago, as a new Eagle Coach, I began coaching a young man who was six months shy of his 18th birthday. He had not started his Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project, and still needed a few merit badges. He had all but given up hope when I appeared.
He was grateful as we met for the first time. I asked him what might get in his way as he tackled the difficult, but not impossible task of completing his service project in six months.
“Oh, Mr. Hunt, I am a real procrastinator,” he quickly answered.
I replied, “And what do you think you could do about that?”
He was silent for a moment and said to me (and I am not making this up!), “I need a kick in the butt… but it can’t be my mom!”
I answered, “It sounds like you are asking me to kick your butt.”
“I guess I am.”
“If we planned out a schedule together, would you agree to stick by it, and be accountable to me?”
I love this story because it so perfectly depicts the struggle that human beings face as adolescents. The need to prove ourselves. The growing need to be independent of parents, but nevertheless, nervous about doing it all alone. And most of all, the absolute need for a mentor. Someone, not our parents, who will accept us for who we are and listen to us seriously without judgment. Almost everyone of us can name someone that took an interest in us when we were young and made a huge impact on our lives. A mentor can be a grandparent, an aunt, a neighbor, a teacher, an athletic coach, or of course, a Boy Scout leader.
As your son works his way toward Eagle Scout rank, please encourage him to interact with mentors. Even if you have been a Scout leader for many years, purposefully avoid counseling your own son whenever possible. Send him elsewhere. As an example, in the troop in which I am involved, parents are not allowed to tent with their sons on outings. It interrupts the patrol method as well as the mentorship process. Parents are expected to be mentors to all the other boys.
In Scouts, there are many volunteers. Scoutmasters and their assistants, merit badge counselors, committee members, Eagle coaches – all are interested in helping young people. The more your son is exposed to this village of concerned mentors, the faster he will grow in wisdom and maturity.
When I compliment parents on their hardworking or courteous son, I sometimes get a reply that questions whether we are talking about the same boy! This usually has nothing to do with their parenting, and everything to do with the fact that my relationship with their son is a mentoring one. This is one reason that Scouting is a great way to help your son grow, whether he becomes an Eagle Scout or not. If he stays with the program, he will basically have caring adult mentors for his entire adolescence.
(And what happened to the boy who uttered this memorable quote? As we neared his 18th birthday, the timing was so close that my wife asked me, after he had left our house one day, whether he was actually going to make it. I told her one of two things was going to happen, both of them good. He would either become an Eagle Scout, or he would have a life-long lesson about procrastination that he would never forget! He became an Eagle Scout.)