Congratulations! Your son is ready to begin working on his Eagle Scout Service Project (ESSP). If you are like most parents, you probably have at least some anxiety about your role in the process. Let’s clear that up!
It is important to keep in mind that your son’s ESSP is just that – his project. As Baden Powell famously said, “Never do for a boy what he can do for himself.” The ESSP is the most important opportunity for the Scout to show off his leadership skills. There is no better opportunity for you, as a parent, to take a “step back” than as your son works toward the rank of Eagle Scout. By this point in his Scouting career, your son should be able to operate pretty much independently.
Keep in Mind: This is your son’s project to plan and execute. Please resist the urge to step in – especially when you identify opportunities to do something for him. If there is ever a point where you feel like you should step in – pause for a moment, think about it, and consciously step back.
But I want to help? You absolutely can help your son. Here are a few things you can do:
One of the most important things you can do is to provide encouragement. Many young men get discouraged, while others get distracted. They may feel pressure from their peers that Scouting isn’t “cool.” You can encourage him and remind him that earning the Eagle Scout rank will have more long-term significance throughout his life than almost anything else he does as a boy. He must make the decision to reach for this accomplishment, but your support and encouragement often makes the biggest difference. Help him set deadlines, timelines, goals, and waypoints so that he does not run out of time to complete the process..
Finding A Project
When your son is ready to find a project, help him to evaluate ideas in light of his skills and interests. Whatever he chooses to do, he will have to lead a group of youth to carry out the project. If he has worked with tools all his life, a construction project might be a good choice. If he is a computer expert, he might consider using those skills. If he has a green thumb, a landscaping project might be the best choice. Suggest he talk to other Eagle Scouts and with his Scout leaders.
Learning The Skills Needed To Carry Out The Project
Your son may need to learn new skills. You can help your son find people who can help him learn these skills. Remember that he will need to understand these skills well enough to teach others while leading the project. You may have skills and information that he needs. Other Scout leaders or parents may be able to help him out. In some cases your son may need to contact a professional for help. The library is always a good source of information, from basic construction to landscaping and horticulture to designing events for younger children.
Writing The Proposal And Plan
Once your son has decided on a project, and learned the skills to plan, develop, and lead the project, he needs to write up the project in the Workbook. He needs to write this. Writing up the details is an important step in the planning, and demonstrating to himself and others that he is ready to lead the project. You can help with proofreading, spelling, formatting, and editing. Make sure he follows the instructions carefully.
Reviewing The Proposal And Plan
Your son should be able to tell to you, step by step, what the Scouts working on the project will be doing. He will be leading the project. The Scouts working with him probably will know much less about how to carry out the project than he does. You can take him through the project step-by-step. Ask questions such as: “On the first day of your project you are at your site, you have a pile of materials and tools, and a group of boys ready to work. What do you tell them to do?” “How should they do it (remember these are Scouts, not skilled craftsmen)?” “What next?” And so forth through the entire project to completion. Ask, “when you go to buy the materials, exactly what materials, types, sizes, and quantities will you buy?” All these details should be laid out fully in the Workbook Project Final Plan. This detail planning is the most valuable preparation to guarantee that he will be successful in leading the project.
Carrying Out The Project
You and other adults in the Troop should have very little to do while your son is actually carrying out the project. Scout policies require two adults to be present during a Scouting event. Be careful not to take over running the project. You may need to be involved with transportation. Only adults can operate power tools and machinery. Beyond these few specific activities, the most helpful thing you can do is to bring a lawn chair and a good book. Stay close enough that you can be reached in an emergency, but far enough away that he (and his workers) will not be tempted to turn to you with questions that he needs to answer.
Writing The Report
Here again, you can help with encouragement, review, and ideas for improvement. Help him to be sure he has covered all the sections listed in the Workbook under “Project Report”. It should be the kind of report he would turn in at school for a yearlong project with the expectation of receiving an A+ grade. For most of the Board of Review members, this is the only exposure they have to his project – and the basis for approving the project he has carried out.