Parenting Through the Scout Laws
I have gone through scouting with all three of my boys. Even though not all of them stuck with it I have enjoyed every moment. I myself went all the way through Tiger scouts all the way to become an Eagle scout. And through the years of scouting, the scout laws are etched in my life and my daily habits. I feel I am a better person and a better father because of the Scout Laws. Here are some ways to use the scout laws to help guide our children and help better themselves.
A Scout is…
When I was younger, I didn’t see the big deal with lying. I was just doing it to impress people or to hide the fact that I had no idea what I was doing. But as I got older (and hopefully wiser) I realized that lying just lead to telling more lies and always came back to bite you.
But being trustworthy as a parent is so much more than telling the truth. Being trustworthy means that your kids trust you. 100%. Why does this matter? Just think of the last time you let your kids go with someone that you didn’t trust 100%. Did it make you feel uneasy? Did you worry the whole time they were gone? Were you happy when they got home safe? Now imagine your child feels that same way with you. They expect that you are always going to be there for them. They expect that if they fall and get hurt that you are going to pick them up and comfort them. They look forward to coming home with what is the greatest news ever and telling you all about it.
But what happens when you don’t react the right way? You lose trust. Imagine your child took a test that day and they were so nervous about it. But when they got the results it was an A+. They are so excited they can hardly contain it. They cannot wait until they get home to share the good news. But you had a bad day at work and all you are thinking about is how you are going to deal with tomorrow. Now when they share this good news how do you react to build trust? Give them your full attention. Then share in their excitement. Because if you just blow it off and ignore them you have lost their trust. Then the next time they have news they might not consider sharing it. They just might not tell you.
The same goes when your child is explaining something that happened to them. As parents, we have a tendency to not be bothered or think that our kids don’t know what they are talking about. But listen and have empathy towards them. The more trustworthy you are the more they will share. Then as they get older you don’t have to wonder what they are thinking. They will share with you when something is bothering them.
Dogs are loyal creatures. You can scold them or step on their paw and hurt them but a few minutes later they will run up and lay in your lap. Humans do the exact opposite. When we get hurt by another human we typically run as far away as possible. But that is not what we were born to do. We were born to love and forgive.
Our children are going to hurt us. They are going to have those days where you are going to be the last person on earth they want to talk to. And it gets frustrating and tiresome. But you have to be the adult and stay loyal to them. Even when you are right, stay humble and love them. Even when they don’t want you anywhere near them, sit outside their door and let them know that you are still there when they are ready to talk.
I can remember when I was younger, I hurt my family by making some poor choices and moving away. I was young and dumb and thought I was doing the right thing. Right before Christmas, everything fell apart, so I called my mom. She said to come back home that everything was going to be alright. While we were opening presents that Christmas, I fully expected nothing. After all, I had felt like I lost all credibility with my mom and dad. Then my mom gave me a box to open. It was a beautiful suede winter jacket. Something I had wanted my entire life. The loyalty my mom and dad showed me that Christmas was something I would never forget.
My boys are old enough that they both have a chore list. Each one has age-appropriate activities that if done without asking results in a monetary bonus. But sometimes I will do their chores for them especially if they have had a good week or are busy with a friend.
Helping your kids is not enabling. There is a leadership method called servant leadership. Jesus was one of the finest examples of this. He led by serving others and washing the feet of his disciples. We see this in our Scout leadership, the ones that are called leaders are the ones that are serving food, or helping the scouts do a project. They are more like Scout servants than leaders but that is what makes them so special and so needed. The kids look at that and see by example what it means to be helpful.
As parents, help your kids when they need it. Now, this doesn’t mean that you pick up every dirty dish or tie their shoes every day. It just means when they are struggling step in and ask, “How can I help?”. Letting them struggle a little bit is a good learning exercise. But don’t let the struggles lead to frustration and anger.
Helping your neighbors or friends is also a great way to lead by example. If you have a neighbor who needs help raking some leaves, grabs your kids and some rakes and go rake your neighbor’s yard.
Volunteering and involving your kids is another way to show your kids how to help their community.
I have been accused of not being friendly. I am not sure why I get labeled that because I feel like I am friendly and open. I think because I am quiet when I first meet people and I observe them and feel them out I get labeled as unfriendly. Once I get to know you and feel comfortable you will probably wish I would just be quiet. But the scout laws tell us to be friendly and it is an area I need to work on more.
With our kids, we can seem more like an adversary than a friend. We get short with them when they annoy us. Or we snap at them when they have an accident or knock something over. Parents forget that kids seek attention, they crave friendship and relationships. This goes with the trust factor, if we can’t be their friends then they won’t trust us. But you must balance being a parent and being a friend. When they do something wrong you have to be the parent and administer the correct punishment or correction. But when they need love because they are hurting or have been betrayed, they need you to be a friend and an ear that will listen.
Being friendly to everyone you meet will also have a positive influence in your children’s lives. If you are just ugly and push strangers away, your kids will pick that up and follow suit. It doesn’t take much to be friendly, just give a stranger a smile, hold a door open for someone at the store, or just compliment someone you don’t know.
Simple manners seem to be a lost art with the general population. Saying “please” and “thank you” are just brushed aside and not used by most people. I was taught manners at an early age and it was pounded into my vocabulary. You didn’t ask for anything without saying please. If you forgot, you were constantly reminded to watch your manners.
One of the best ways to teach your children good manners is to practice them yourselves. When you are at a restaurant and asking for a refill, start with “May I please have a refill?”. You can do what my mom would always do and remind them every time they ask for something. But teaching by example works wonders.
Another area that most kids struggle with is interrupting adults. I meet a lot of adults now that I can tell they were not taught to be courteous and wait their turn when talking. They butt right into the conversation and don’t wait for someone to finish. When a child comes in and starts talking just stop them quickly and politely and remind them it isn’t courteous to interrupt, and they need to wait until the adults are done talking. And when they do wait give them some praise for being polite and waiting for their turn.
Kindness is one of the biggest scout laws that I want my kids to display. If I teach my kids one thing, it is to be kind to everyone they meet. Even if someone is ugly and treats them with disrespect, I want them to be kind in return. And if the person doesn’t return that kindness back then they can move on and not deal with them.
Kindness is contagious. If someone is apprehensive towards you and doesn’t want to deal with you, just show them some kindness and watch their demeanor change in almost an instant. Showing kindness to our children should require no thought, but when they say things to hurt you just remember to show them kindness to change their feelings.
Being kind to a stranger isn’t much of a challenge, especially if you haven’t had a bad experience with them. But to really show your kids how to be kind do it to someone that offended you or is giving you a hard time. Say you are eating out and the server has ignored you all night and even had an attitude. Our first inclination is to mention it to a manager or maybe not tip the server at all, but instead leave them a large tip and explain to your kids why you are doing it. Maybe the server lost someone important to them and isn’t dealing with it well. They probably are not making good tips from their other tables. By showing your kindness and pointing it out to your kids you are demonstrating that being kind can change someone’s day in a hurry. That server may be so blown away that every one after you gets unbelievable service.
Every parent wants their child to be obedient. But so few are able to achieve this. Kids are born with rebellion in their spirit. As soon as they can speak and move on their own, they try to be independent and this starts the disobedience.
Teaching our children to be obedient doesn’t have to be difficult. We can instruct them and offer correction when they rebel and don’t follow our instructions. But as adults, we must show them how to be obedient. This doesn’t seem like a hard task but adults practice disobedience every day. When you get in a hurry and speed, you are being disobedient to the traffic laws. Your wife asks you to take out the trash and you disregard her, you are being disobedient to your wife. Our kids pay attention to this, especially as they get older. I don’t know how many times my kids would get on me for driving too fast when they see the speed limit sign and see how fast I am going. When your kids are around be obedient and watch the difference in their lives.
Kids are naturally cheerful. Left to their own they will always have a smile and be happy as long as their basic needs are met. As we grow older, life has a way of kicking us in the gut and taking away some of that happiness. But as a parent, you have to find joy in everything and bring that to your kids.
Having joy about everything you do will definitely reflect well on your children. If you are working with them on homework and they are struggling, don’t show your frustration. Put a smile on and think about the problem in a different light and make them smile. This way they don’t associate schoolwork with frustration and start to hate the work even more. The same goes for struggles in our life. As parents, we try to shield our children from our struggles but sometimes they manifest as bad moods. I am the worst at this as I let my negative emotions spill out into family time. But as the dad (or mom) you need to put the smile on and keep things positive and cheerful.
As parents, we think that our kids deserve to have a better life than we did when we were growing up. While this is true it doesn’t mean that we have to spend all of our money on the most expensive items to prove our love to them. By being thrifty ourselves we can show our kids the most efficient way to spend their money.
In scouts, we do all sorts of craft activities. Show your kids that homemade crafts are a great way to show love when gifting for holidays or birthdays. A special handmade gift means so much more than a store-bought gift.
Also, in scouts, we teach them skills of cooking on a campfire. In the haste of life, we forget to slow down and enjoy a home-cooked meal. We want to run out and grab whatever fast food we can. But cooking at home not only is better for your health. But it is great for saving money. Eating out can eat into your budget quickly. Explain to your children why it is better and thrifty to eat at home. And you can involve them in the cooking process to teach them life skills and have more family time.
I don’t think a single one of my kids when they were younger enjoyed taking a bath. I am not sure what it is about being younger and enjoying the idea of being dirty. But staying clean is not just a personal hygiene issue as it is staying healthy. Brushing their teeth will help prevent cavities and help reduce trips to the dentist. And as they get older no one wants to smell the body odor of a 14-year-old boy. Make them use deodorant when they get older and explain to them why they need to put the deodorant on.
Being clean doesn’t stop at personal hygiene. Keeping your house clean is something we should be teaching all of our scouts. A messy house is unavoidable but by having your kids be involved in keeping the house clean it gives them a sense of ownership. It also prepares them for when they eventually get a job, typically their first job is going to be in the service industry. Cleaning is almost always a part of those first jobs young adults get and by knowing how to clean it puts them at an advantage.
Bravery is a hard concept to define. It is one of those concepts that you just know when you see it. And this one is hard to show kids because you don’t have a lot of opportunities to demonstrate it.
For our scouts, we can show them how to be brave in a few ways. When they are young most kids don’t like to get shots. Even as an adult I don’t like going to the doctor or getting shots. When you are even just talking about going to the doctor don’t downplay it. Act bravely and state how you are doing your duty to get your flu shot to help others from getting sick. Dentists are another place that most adults don’t enjoy. Instead of talking about how painful it will be to visit the dentist talk about how going to the dentist is helping you avoid future problems with your teeth and you are so glad the dentist is going to help you.
Bullying is another spot you can help your scouts be brave. Talk to them about standing up to bullies. If they have a friend that is being bullied tell them to stand up and confront the bully. Not physically, but typically when more than one kid stands up to the bully, they back down pretty quick. And if they don’t tell them to be brave enough to report it to a teacher or another adult.
When I was younger, I didn’t fully understand the power, love, and mercy of Jesus Christ in my life. I was always in church and I believed in God and knew about Jesus, but it wasn’t until I was older, I fully grasped what He had done for me.
Attend church. If possible, attend church as a family. I know it can be hard and some people have to work on Sundays but it doesn’t have to be Sunday morning. Most churches have multiple services so just get them to at least one. And maybe if you can’t make it you can find friends or family that they can go with.
When you are at church show reverence at all times. I see people all the time that come to church and they are talking during the sermon about something that happened to them that week. All this does is teaches our kids that it is OK to be disruptive in church. Stay off your phone during church unless you are using the bible app to look up scripture. And if you can’t resist the temptation to look at email or social media then bring a physical bible and turn off your phone.
Pray before meals and at bedtime. When praying involve the kids and let them say the prayers. Show them to pray for others and to thank God for providing the things in their lives.
The scout laws are excellent guidelines for not only scouts but for parents. When you teach your kids the scout laws sit down and take time to think about what these words mean to you. Are you practicing the scout laws in your own life? Your kids are watching you more closely than you think. They mimic our actions and behaviors. They can be a reflection of our lives, so what will you see in your reflection? If you don’t like what you see in them maybe it is time to examine how you lead. Good or bad they are following after your direction.
Have any additional tips on how to use the scout laws in your lives leave us a comment on our Facebook page.