By Annaleis Smith
Mar 22, 2016

Cub Scout Purposes—Family Understanding

In a continuing series, we are taking a look at the Purposes of Cub Scouting and some of the reasons WHY Cub Scouting is important and relevant as well as HOW we achieve those purposes in the BSA’s Cub Scout program. This week’s article will talk about Family Understanding.  (Click on links below to read the other articles)

1. Character Development  6. Respectful Relationships
2. Spiritual Growth 7. Personal Achievement
3. Good Citizenship 8. Friendly Service
4. Sportsmanship and Fitness 9. Fun and Adventure
5. Family Understanding 10. Preparation for Boy Scouts

So, what exactly does “Family Understanding” mean anyway? Well, to me it means that Cub Scouting is a family program and families should be involved in Cub Scouting. The BSA believes that families are important—It wouldn’t be one of the purposes of Cub Scouting if they weren’t. The Cub Scouting program involves the family much more than the older boy programs. So HOW does Cub Scouting involve the family?


A Family at the BSA Philmont Training Center together.

First of all there are the pack meetings—a meeting that the entire family is invited to. I remember one of my very first pack meetings as a Cubmaster back in 2003. The theme for that month was something about rockets and space. I built a paper rocket with the different parts labeled—fuselage, nose cone, cockpit, fins etc.—and we talked about how each part was needed for the rocket to fulfill its intended purpose. Then I asked all the members of the pack to stand.  First it was just the boys and leaders, so I repeated the request… some of the parents stood, then finally all of them. But I repeated my request again until even the brothers and sisters were standing.  I emphasized the fact that Cub Scouting is a family program and that every member of the family is a member of our pack. I talked about our pack and how just like the rocket, our pack needed all the parts (boys, leaders, parents, siblings) to function properly.

Proud Scout ParentYes, the boys are usually the only ones standing up in a pack meeting getting the actual awards, but there is SO much a family can do together to help him achieve. Then again, why not give awards to the family members for accomplishments too.  No where does it say you are not allowed to make up awards that could be awarded to them.  Awards for service, attendance, “helping hand” etc…  Be sure when planning pack meeting activities that there is something for everyone. I once attended a pack meeting where there was a craft for the Cub Scouts only and my other kids just had to sit there and watch—not good!  If you are running relay races, let all the kids play and parents should be playing too.  Pack meeting is not just for the Cub Scouts, nor just for the kids; it’s for the whole family.

There is lots of fun and learning available for all members of the family in the new adventures in the boys’ handbooks as well.  The new Cub Scout program has even more opportunities than before.  Many of the requirements in the old program specifically said “with your den…” but with the new program almost every adventure includes “with your family or den”.  I think it’s easier for parents now to know what they can do together as a family to help with the Cub Scout’s advancement. In fact, if you search for “famil” (so that you catch both the word family and families) in the Cub Scout requirements doc available here you will find that it is found 148 times in just 43 pages.  That’s an average of 3.4 times per page. That’s a lot of mention. That’s a lot a family can do together. And while there is a lot they CAN do at home, there are a couple of specific things that SHOULD (dare I say MUST) be done at home.

Family 2

Family Camping can be FUN!

Most of the cooking and meal prep requirements might be easily done at home but are possible to do as a den also. However, if your pack is an LDS-sponsored pack, any camping done will be done with the family instead of the den or pack. Another example is the new Duty to God adventures (one is required for each rank). It is recommended that these adventures be completed at home so that parents can help pass on their own beliefs and ideas about religion, faith, duty, and God. There is also the requirement for each rank that says “With your parent or guardian, complete the exercises in the pamphlet How to Protect Your Children From Child Abuse: A Parent’s Guide, and earn the Cyber Chip award for your age.”  This isn’t really something a den leader should be doing. It should be done with the parents so that they can have those discussions about child abuse and about their specific family rules and expectations when it comes to the use of technology. It’s so sad when a boy is ready to advance and the only thing holding him back from that rank is the parent’s lack of follow through/help with these requirements.

So, that’s a little of HOW; now let’s talk a little bit about WHY.  For this let’s turn it around and look at this purpose backwards—”Understanding Family.”  That helps me look at it different way. What is it we want young boys to learn or understand about families?

My 13 yr old son happens to be working on the Family Life Merit Badge as a Boy Scout right now and the very first requirement for that Merit Badge is to discuss what a family is, why it is important to individuals and to society, and how actions of one member can affect the others. These sound like very good things for Cub Scouts to know/understand as well.  So, here is what is written in the Family Life Merit badge pamphlet under the section heading of “What is a Family”:

The family is the basic unit of society and is important to both individuals and communities.  The world we live in is rapidly changing, making today’s society much more complex than ever before.  As you earn this merit badge you will realize why it is important to know more about family life and how to strengthen our families.

Strong families are the foundation of strong communities.  You know that a strong foundation is needed to construct a sturdy building.  Think of society as the building, the family as the foundation of that building, and individuals and the community as pieces of building material. All the parts are important and none can be left out, but it all starts with a strong foundation.  Just as these parts are necessary to have a strong building, your basic understanding about families and how to strengthen them will help you, your family, your community and society, now and in the future.Family Life MB

Learning begins in the family, where basic physical and material needs are met, training takes place and character and lifelong behaviors develop.  Family is the foundation for physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and moral development.  Families feed, clothe, and provide love, nurturing, and protection from harm.  People learn to speak, think, trust, and to feel and express emotions from being a part of a family.  Mature family members teach the younger ones important skills like how to get along with others and how to know right from wrong.

Family life will always have it’s ups and downs as family members go through both good times and unpleasant ones.  But in most strong families, people give support and show concern and loyalty to one another when needed.  Communities and society care about families too, by creating laws and providing services to help families.

Many families also share faith and religious activities with one another.  As a Scout, part of your duty is to do your best to make your family strong and help your family thrive.  By doing this you are helping to lay the foundation for a stronger community and society.   (Taken from Pg 7-9 of the 2008 printing of the BSA’s Family Life Merit Badge Pamphlet)

Scout Family

Now that’s a Scouting family!

Isn’t that a great explanation?  And that’s from just 3 of the 33 pages of the Family Life pamphlet.  Just think of all the great things the boys can learn and understand about why they are important and where they as an individual fit in.  It may be from Boy Scout literature, but children are never too young to understand the how and why of family life.

Scouting believes in the importance of the family to individuals, to communities and to the world.  When an organization’s three main aims are character development, citizenship and fitness… I can see many ways “Family Understanding” fits in with those aims and why it is one of the Purposes of Cub Scouting.  I hope you can too.

AnnaleisAuthor: Annaleis Smith is a “stay at home” mom of 5 (3 boys). She has been a Cub Scout leader (Cubmaster, Den Leader, Roundtable Staff & more) for over 12 years. She is currently a Cubmaster (2nd time), a Unit Commissioner and Assistant Council Commissioner for Cub Scouting in Utah National Parks Council.


** I’ve been thinking about this topic lately because of my son’s Family Life Merit Badge but what really made me write about this Cub Scout purpose next was a comment on my previous article about Fun and Adventure that said in part  “…remember to include the parents and the siblings, very important. Remember, younger brothers will be Cub Scouts someday and if they see their older brother having fun and excited about Cub Scouts, he can’t wait for his turn. We try and develop our Pack meeting activity around the family and include everyone…” – Thanks Doug!

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