5 Ways You Are Making Your Life as a Girl Scout Leader More Difficult Than it Needs to Be

I read about it in all of the Girl Scout groups and forums that I visit. It isn’t even cookie season yet and leaders are stressed and up in arms about girls have have not yet registered, parents who have not paid dues, parents asking for siblings to join the troop on trips, and the every day stress that goes along with planning meetings that you want to make both fun and meaningful.

I have been there, done that, and am so over it! Leaders, some of the stress is avoidable. Here is how.

Here are 5 things that Girl Scout leaders do that make their volunteer positions more difficult than it needs to be. Find out how to correct them so you can enjoy it more!

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  1. Stressing Over Parental Responsibilities

The deadline for Girl Scout registration has come and gone. If a girl’s parents have not registered her yet, then let it go.  Do not take their lack of interest personally; scouting is not for all girls. The time you are meeting might not work out for her with the other activities she is in. Money may be an issue and parents are too proud to ask for help. Whatever the reason, you do not own it.

2. You Are a Softie 

You are not firm with the rules. You need to establish guidelines from the very first meeting or else you are setting yourself for future problems. To avoid stress in the upcoming years, you need to establish rules about:

  • Tagalongs I understand that finding babysitters for siblings can be tough, but the fact is that there is liability involved if you permit Scout siblings along on your trips and at your meetings. They are also a distraction at your meeting. Don’t feel like you have to be “nice” on this issue. Do you want to be sued?

Some leaders permit families to attend family outings, and that is your judgement call. However, they have to pay for their own fees and those of their other children. Outings that are just for Girl Scouts, like camping, should not have anyone who is not a scout or registered adult.

  • Dues  Make your life easy…collect dues at the beginning of the year and be done with it. Use this money for things that all the girls will use during the year. Do not buy uniforms or pay for registration with this money. If a girl does not return, you are out the money. Keep in mind that every activity does not require a fun patch (badges are different) so do not go wild just because you see leaders in Girl Scout Facebook groups showing photos of their daughters’ overfilled vests. It is not a contest.
  • RSVPing to Events  Another issue for leaders is stressing over parents who do not respond by deadlines. BE FIRM! You are wasting your precious energy chasing for money and permission slips. Have a deadline and if it is missed, too bad for the child. Why are you spending this much energy on a child whose own mother and father cannot be bothered to give you the common courtesy of an answer? Establish your rules for responding to requests and stick by them. Have them in writing for parents and post it on each event flyer/email you send all year long. You are not to blame if a girl misses something. Her parents are.

3. You Are Not Asking for Help

Follow these guidelines to avoid Girl Scout leader burnout.

Photo from Pixabay

The fastest way to get burnt out of this volunteer position is to do it all yourself. In the beginning of my leadership, I had a parent volunteer to run each meeting. The second year I had parents also help at meetings since twelve Daisy Scouts needed a lot of help! Initially, my co-leader was helpful but over time that became less and less, despite my requests for her help. By the beginning of my sixth year of leadership (second year Juniors), I knew that I had had enough. I emailed the parents in the fall that this would more than likely be my last year and that someone needed to step up (and someone did). I have been co-leading since then, and I love it. I plan the community service projects and organize them, giving the main leader a break. How I would have loved that! Ask for help when you need it. If you do not get it, then your daughter can always be a Juliette.

4. You Do More Than You Are Comfortable With

Repeat after me. “No, I can’t do that.” “No, my troop is full.” “No, I cannot watch your daughter at the booth sale.” Whatever it is that you do not want to do, you do not have to do it! I realize that some Councils are keeping troops under a certain number as “open”, but you can close the door by leaving and having your daughter be a Juliette. You are a volunteer and never forget that.

5. Too Much Pinterest Pinterest is a great tool for leaders. Remember to take it easy and only do things that are valuable to your troop.

Photo from Pixabay

Are you spending hours pinning adorable ideas that will take even more hours of your time to implement? Keep it simple, sister! Here is one example that I see a lot…Presenting badges and patches to girls. Leaders make such a big deal of presenting things in such a crafty manner…does it matter? Yes, they look adorable and there is an initial “Wow” factor, but now you are expected to do this every. single. time.  Would Juliette Gordon Low be spending time and energy on that or would she be planning a great skill meeting or adventure for her girls?

For the record, my girls received their earned badges and fun patches in envelopes at the end of a meeting. I awarded them as they were earned, since the girls love to wear them on their vests and sashes.

Take control of your time and how you run your troop.

5 thoughts on “5 Ways You Are Making Your Life as a Girl Scout Leader More Difficult Than it Needs to Be”

    1. I feel that too many leaders try to be everything to everyone. If Juliette Gordon Low would not do it, why should you? Thanks for reading!

  1. Some of this isn’t stressful. It feels right to do some of this. This makes me feel like I am doing everything wrong and I can’t keep more than a couple girls in my troop with an attitude like this and makes it sound like you don’t really want to be a leader, or go the extra mile for your troops girls. I mean dang it is for the girls not their parents. Should the girl you should have some sort of caring relationship with really have to pay for her parents lack of respect? Or come up with dues they honestly don’t have or there wouldn’t be a need for the promise fund. Gentle pushing on RSVPs, being a little understanding about lack of a sitter, personally on that point I feel like there should be a waiver for the “being sued issue” that explains tagalongs are not allowed and if brought they need to be supervised by the parent at all times, and GS is not liable for any mishaps. I am sure someone could create one for us to use. If the tagalongs caused distractions then dealt with.

    There are so many simple “cute” ideas on the internet or the ease of purchasing ready to make craft kits may be the way to go if it bothers you to put them together. It does get stressful. The typical non response to event rsvp s can be frustrating but, parents lives are so busy sometimes I think they don’t know till the last minute if they can go or what they can bring. Idk I guess I have been doing it all wrong for my 5 years as leader and ? As adult/coleader time. I love bring the morals and character the books pass along. Although sometimes they don’t always fit the exact thoughts we target locally or stray out of needed info. It is all part of being a leader of Girl Scouts. Not all of us mind every little effort. Our troops campfires is our meeting together.

    Our going on adventures to the places we go our fun and or learning opportunities. I have yet to collect the first due. I have begun just last year to have parents pay their own entryway into adventures. I love to see the fun patches on the back of the girls vests the represent all the fun and learning activities the girls have had and she can look back at each one and remember her times as a girl scout. There is a reason the fall product and cookie sale have reward patches its about goals and with the best financial managing the money from those sales, when honestly being participated in by all parents should carry the troops basic needs. I do not hate putting some money when there isn’t any in the budget for a few items. It should just be a set amount that you can afford. Wouldn’t you donate to girl scouts either way. There are donation opportunities on just about every form we use and what better way to use your donation than on your troop. Idk I am sorry it all can be stressful but I think MOST of the time worth it. Oh yeah, we love to camp too.

    1. Valerie-

      Thank you for your response. First of all, I love being a leader or else I would not have been doing this for nine years. Nowhere in my post do I state that you or any other leader is running her troop incorrectly. I keep current on all issues related to Girl Scouting be reading articles, reading comments in Facebook groups and also on Girl Scout forums. I base much of what I write on my own experiences and those of leaders who voice them in before mentioned online outlets. The five points I made have been repeated over and over and over. As women, we try to please everyone, even if it means doing things we do not want to do in order to “be nice”. I am trying to empower leaders by reminding them that they are volunteers and they do not have to be accommodating at their own personal expense.

      I do not know how old you are, but I am 52 and this is my second time around the mommy block (my oldest is a college senior). I have seen and experienced a lot. Parents would never disrespect a coach or dance teacher the way many Girl Scout leaders are disrespected. Miss a required practice? You don’t play. Miss a required class? You do not get to be in the dance competition. In your comments, you are suggesting that Girl Scout leaders bend over backwards for parents who do not RSVP in time to events, register their girls on time or want their other children to attend meetings and disrupt what you are doing with your troop. Yes, it is for the girls, but by the same token, coaches do the same thing for free and are not given the runaround leaders get. I have had the occasional tagalong at a meeting when the girls were much younger, but that was an exception for the parent volunteer. My girls are no longer interested in getting patches for everything and would rather spend the money on outings or helping others. Patches are fun, but not every troop wants them or a vest full of them.

      Nowhere did I mention girls being left out for not paying dues. Leaders make their lives harder by collecting per meeting. Just do it once and be done. I have had girls who could not pay the full amount…no one ever knew, it was my secret to keep. They participated just like the others.

      I have also spent plenty of my own money for the troop over the years, not to mention hours and hours of time that I could have been working for pay (like the two hours I just spent prepping for our community service meeting tomorrow).

      I am glad you love to camp…I do not. The head leader is the camping one and I join them for the day and go home when it is late afternoon.

      I hope to continue with my girls until they graduate high school. My relationship with my them and their mothers is tight…we have been together a long time.

      Again, you are not doing it wrong, you are running your troop your way and I am running my troop my way. That is the beauty of being a Girl Scout leader.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *