new cub scout leader

New Cub Scout Leader Survival Guide


Step One: Attitude

So, you’re a new Cub Scout leader. Are you ready to have fun? Do you care about providing a great program for the kids in your charge?

You can have the worst day at work, but you’ve got to let all of that go before your Cub Scout meeting. Let the excitement these kids feel infect you. Remember that they’ve been looking forward to the fun they know they’re going to have at your meeting all day, and probably all week. If they were having a bad day at school, they were probably thinking that “at least I’ve got my fun meeting to look forward to tonight!”

Remember, it’s really important to let the kids see you having fun. Let yourself be a big kid, and be the best kind of big kid – be the one setting the great example. Remember that it’s a privilege to get to spend time with these kids as they develop. You get to be a part of their development and make a positive impact there. This isn’t something you have to do – it’s something you get to do.

The right attitude is everything. Come to the meeting with a smile on your face, and you’re already ahead of the game.


Step Two: Know your Resources

When you’re starting out, it can be pretty easy to feel like your plate is overflowing, and that you’re all alone. You’re not. There are a lot of some pretty good resources to help you as a new Cub Scout leader.

First, get the Den Leader Guide for your position. You can go to your local Scout Shop to pick up a paper copy or download the Kindle version from Amazon for Tigers, Bears, Wolves, or Webelos.  This is the program you’ll be doing with the boys. You’ll get a detailed syllabus for each meeting. You don’t have to create the program from scratch. It’s all written out for you. If you follow the plan, you’ll do great.

The Guide to Safe Scouting – what can you do, and what can you not do with scouts at each age level. – where you go to take online training. Start with Youth Protection Training, then go on to the training for your position. Take as much as you can. Make sure you’ve entered your BSA registration number in order to get credit for taking the classes. For a list of all the training courses that are required for you to be considered “trained”, click here.

Get to know your council’s website. There’s good information there about who to call (see below), where you can find your local Scout Shop and a calendar of events. You’ll also be able to find information on Summer Camp, and a whole lot more. Bookmark it.

Your registration as an adult leader comes with a subscription to Scouting Magazine. Read it from time to time, there are some really good ideas in there. Also, check out the Bryan on Scouting blog, which does a really good job clarifying Scouting policies and programs.


Step Three: Find Your Support People

Scouting is inherently a bottom-up operation. Everybody “over” you in the organizational structure is there to support the direct contact leadership – which is to say, the people working with kids all the time.

No matter what position you’re serving in, there’s always someone you can call if you need help. Here’s a quick overview of your support structure.

Your pack is owned and operated by a “chartering organization“, could be a church, Lions Club, Rotary Club, American Legion, or some other group that “shares values” with the Boy Scouts of America. They sign a contract every year with the BSA to provide the Scouting program. The chartering organization has a representative that approves all the leadership in the pack, and they’re the ones who are the ultimate authority in the pack.

Internally, the pack is led by a committee chair, who leads the committee, which is there to support the program leaders in the pack. They’re in charge of making sure all the paperwork gets done, advancements get submitted, fundraising gets done, money gets spent correctly, and that all the dens have trained leaders.

The District and Council

Your pack is part of a District, which again, is there to support your unit in a myriad of ways. They hold a monthly meeting called a “Roundtable” which is where they disseminate information, make announcements, and more importantly, answer your questions. They generally also hold some form of supplemental training. It’s also a great place to meet other Cub Scout leaders in your area, and for you to share ideas.

Your District also has volunteers in charge of making sure trainings are offered and staffed. They have people in charge of helping sure packs with advancement. There are people in charge of running big multi-unit program events, like Camporees, or District-Pinewood Derbies.

You’ve also got volunteers in the district who are there for the specific purpose of helping units succeed and helping them solve their individual problems. These people are called “commissioners”, and your unit should have what is called a “Unit Commissioner.” There is also a professional full-time (sometimes 60 hours a week) person called a District Executive who advises all the volunteers in the District.

Your district is part of a Council. Each of the district positions has a corresponding council position to support the districts.

Don’t be afraid to call your council office for guidance. That’s what they’re there for. Please be patient with them, as they get a lot of calls from people wanting help, just like you.

Step Four: Learn Some New Cub Scout Leader Basics

Use the Scout Sign.

As loud as you can be, you’re probably not going to be able to get louder than a room full of Cub Scouts, and even if you could, it’s not really a good idea. So don’t try to “Out-Loud” them. Start by teaching the boys what it means – use the Akela story of the wolf, and tell them that the lead wolf raises his ears when he sees food, fun, or danger and that you’re going to raise your “ears” for the same reasons. They’ll respond to that if you explain what it means.

cub scout sign photo

The Cub Scout sign is a lifesaver. Photo by m_sabal

Nobody wants to miss out on fun or food, and they do want you to keep them safe.

So, the next time they get loud and you need their attention, just use your scout sign, and do so silently. Never say the words, “signs up”. It defeats the purpose. Just raise your hand, and give your sign, and wait. It may take a few minutes the first time, but they’ll get better with time if you have discipline and don’t give in to the temptation to get loud yourself. Eventually, they’ll start policing themselves.


Learn Names as Fast as Possible

There’s a power for a new Cub Scout leader in learning the kids’ names. For one thing, it makes them accountable if they’re doing something wrong, but more importantly, it shows that you’re taking an interest. If you need name tags, get name tags. If you need to play team building games, play them.

But get to know the kids in your den. Then get to know them as people. What do they like doing? What makes them laugh? How do they like to learn? What are they good at, and what do they struggle with?

Get to know the parents of the kids in your den. These are potential resources to help you. They’re also potential leaders in the future. As with anything, many hands make light work, and it’s going to be much easier for you to ask for help if you’ve built a relationship with these parents, and much easier for them to say yes if they trust you and like you. You’ll find out what the parents in your den are good at, what they’re interested in, and eventually, you can start using those skills to provide a better program for the kids.


Be Patient

Don’t expect your Tiger Den to act like anything other than 6-year-olds. They’re going to be cute, but also crazy-making. They’re going to have short attention spans, and they’re not going to be emotionally mature. There may be tears if they don’t get their way. They’re going to bump into each other, and maybe you, and the furniture. It’s what 6-year-olds do.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t correct this behavior. Just don’t take it personally, and don’t let it drive you nuts. And when they get silly, appreciate it. It’s a good thing.

Meet them at their Level

People tend to talk down to kids, both literally and figuratively. Don’t do either of those things. Don’t speak to them like they’re foolish. They’re not; they’re just small people who haven’t learned what you’ve learned, so speak to them with respect.

And try not to tower over them. If you’re teaching a skill, don’t be afraid to sit on the floor, and look up at them. It changes their perspective and changes the dynamic. It lets them see you as a friend and an equal, rather than someone talking down to them.

Don’t lecture at them. They get enough of that at school. But rather, have conversations with them.


And always Keep it Fun

Have some filler games and activities. Teach them some quick silly songs. Have a smile on your face, and remember that if the boys are having fun, they’ll learn more, and keep coming back to your meetings. And if they’re not having fun, you’re going to lose them.


Most of All, Thank You

It’s people like you, stepping up, giving up your time, and putting in the effort, that we have great programs for our kids. These programs are needed now more than ever. So I thank you for what you’re doing.


Featured Photo by woodleywonderworks

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