Top 3 Tips for Maintaining Your Sanity While Leading a Girl Scout Troop

Here are some ideas to successfully run your troop and still have a life!

Becoming a Girl Scout leader is a very important decision.  No matter what level of girl scouting you begin you position, there will be times when it can seem overwhelming.  Even if you have been a leader for many years, unexpected situations crop up that will test your patience.  There are also times when a persistent situation makes you want to hang up your vest because you just have had enough.

I can honestly say that I love my position as a Girl Scout leader.  Not that it has not had its moments…it has. Even so, here are some tips so you can enjoy your position as much as I do.

Here are my top 3 tips for maintaining your sanity while leading your Girl Scout troop.

Photo from Pixabay

Girl Scout Leader Tip #1

Remember That You Are a Volunteer

This should go without saying, but being a Girl Scout leader is an unpaid position.  You should be getting props from parents-not complaints. You decided to be in charge and give their daughters the Girl Scout experience, not them.

Organizing a meeting takes extra time from your personal life. The parents of your girls may not realize, or even care, that as a leader you must:

  • Create each meetings lesson plan
  • Buy the materials for each meeting
  • Stay in contact with the parents
  • Attend monthly leader meetings
  • Organize field trips
  • Keep track of paperwork
  • Spend dues wisely
  • Be in charge of QSP sales, cookie sales and other fundraisers
  • Buy patches and badges
  • Take necessary training for each level

There may be parents who will complain to you about meeting times, activities or how you run your troop.  If this should happen to you, here are some replies to keep in the back of your mind:

“Since you didn’t care for this activity, how about planning the next meeting?”

“If this meeting time does not work for you, why not start a new Girl Scout troop?  There are lots of girls waiting to be placed in one!”

“I see you have an opinion on how I do things.  How about becoming a co-leader and helping out each week?  Perhaps you’d like to be the Cookie Mom.”

Don’t be surprised if you do not hear another word from them again!

Leader Tip #2

Parents Have to Take Responsibility

Many girls are involved in a multitude of activities.  From competitive dance and cheer to travel sports, many children have much busier lives than we ever had.  One of the biggest frustrations for Girl Scout leaders is that scouting often falls to the bottom of the list.

How many of you have hounded parents in person or via email for forms and checks?  Do you think they would do that to the dance teacher who is in charge of the competition or the coach who makes the starting line up? But somehow, when it comes to Girl Scouts, this sense of urgency is lost on parents.

As the leader, you do not want any of your girls to miss the field trip, Girl Scout event or community service project that you spent hours planning.

In order to maintain your sanity, you have to let it go.

Girl Scout leaders have to let things go if they want to enjoy the leadership experience.

Photo from Pixabay

After your initial contact, send only one other one close to the due date and state that it is your final contact about the event.  If a girl misses it and is upset, it is not your fault, it is the fault of her parents. Of course, there can be extenuating circumstances, but more than likely you already know about them and can help the family out with an extra reminder.

Parents who use the “I am so busy” excuse cannot be mad or upset with you, as you completed your end of the bargain with a reminder email or note.  Let the forgetful parents deal with their daughter who did not get to on the hayride, visit Build-a-Bear, or play Bingo with the senior citizens at the assisted living facility.

Chances are, they will be the first to hand in their money for the next trip!

Leader Tip #3

Ask for Help When Needed

You need to ask for help, it is just good management.  If you try to do it all, you will get burnt out and lose the motivation you had when you first signed up to be a leader. Do you do it all while you are on the job? Of course not! You delegate tasks to accomplish your goal.

If you are doing a really difficult craft, recruit some extra moms or dads or even an older troop of Cadettes, Seniors or Ambassadors.  Parents need to volunteer to go on field trips (and their daughters love to have them there, too!) or perhaps coordinate one for you.  Your co-leader can take turns with you attending the monthly meetings.

I always asked for help, especially when my troop was younger. I also did not sell cookies or do QSP simply because I would have had to do it since no one else wanted to take on the job. When I asked for help and did not get it, then that activity did not take place. There was only so much I was willing and able to do (see tip #1).

If you want some more support on this topic, you can read my blog post on how Girl Scout leaders make their lives more difficult than they need to be.

Do you have any tips to offer other leaders?

 

What Are Your Girl Scout Troop Goals?

*This post contains affiliate links.

In my last blog post, I shared with you six things that leaders need to do in order to get ready for Back to Troop (you can read it here if you missed it).

There is one more item that I want to add to the list-setting troop goals.

Troop leaders need to have goals for each year so that the girls know that they are working towards something.

When you start a Daisy troop, you probably have only one goal-surviving the year and learning how to be a good leader. As the girls get older, they have to take over more responsibilities, and they need to help set goals. Of course, you have to make sure they are realistic (a field trip to Disney is not an achievable goal, but one to Build-A-Bear is). With my troop entering eighth grade, they have a lot more say in the matter.

When our troop started in 2008, we did not sell cookies and it was not my job to be the camping leader, so we focused on earning badges and lots and lots of community service. I feel that if you teach children when they are young to give, they will continue to do so as they get older, as it is a natural part of their lives. I am proud of what we have accomplished and continue to accomplish.

When I stepped down as the main leader, the girls did sell cookies and went camping, yet we still continue to do service projects as a part of who we are. That is a central part of being in our troop and is always a part of our troop goals and mission.

Some leaders have goals of earning as many badges as possible-to the point where a vest or sash no longer has room for any more. Other focus on the quality of the experience before a fun patch is issued. Which one is your goal? Is a patch necessary for every single experience or should they revolve around what your troop’s main mission is? A Girl Scout vest or sash in many ways, tells a story. How many are service related, camping related, and field trip related?

Of course, there is always goal setting when girls are selling cookies. They want to earn money for a special trip, so they are motivated. But what about the rest of the scouting year?

Asking your girls what they want from Girl Scouts and talking about goals should be a part of your first meeting of the year, as it will shape all of your planning.  You can always check back to see if what you are doing is accomplishing you set out to do. Goals can be monitored and adjusted as needed. A clear vision of what your troop is about will help you create a smoother scouting year.

What are your troop goals for this year?

4 Things Girl Scout Leaders Needs to Do Over the Summer

Don’t be alarmed by the post title! This is all about YOU and finding ways to make next year’s troop meetings go even more smoothly. Whether you are a troop that has summer meetings or one that will get together again in September, here are some things to get yourself ready for your best and most productive year ever.

Before you end your troop year, you may want to survey your girls and ask them what they want to do. This will assist in your planning and give them a vested interest in next year’s activities. Also, they should not complain since you made the plans based on their suggestions!

Doing these 4 things over the summer should help Girl Scout leaders start the new scouting year on the right foot. Even if you do only one or two, you will be ahead of the game when your troop begins meeting again.

Photo from Pixabay

  1. Take a few weeks off and do not think about Girl Scouts!  As a teacher, I know firsthand the magic of summer break. Even though in my younger years I worked in the summer, it was a different job and it used my brain in a different way. Once mid-August came around, I was recharged and excited for a new school year to begin. I still feel this way and look forward to the start of September refreshed, relaxed and renewed.

Girl Scout leaders need to take time over the summer to relax. You deserve it!

Photo from Pixabay

You need time to not think about a meeting, planning an event, or pinning that perfect craft project. You deserve it!

2. When you are ready, start planning!  Maybe inspiration strikes you during the post July 4th sales that you see in craft stores. Perhaps there is a pin on Pinterest that you save to one of your boards. You will know when you are ready to think about your girls again.

Planning is essential to having a successful scouting year. Having a month to month outline and meeting plan will not leave you frazzled with last minute shopping and running around. You have a life outside of Girl Scouts, and if you are not stressing about how to combine the two, you will enjoy your meetings more.

PLanning your Girl Scout year will make everything easier for you. Pencil in dates, plan activities and trips and then fill it in with more details. No last minute running around is necessary!

Photo from Pixabay

Begin by looking at next year’s calendar and penciling in all of your meeting dates. You can plan badges, service projects and trips based on the season. For example, we already have our camping weekend planned for October and the girls are excited! That means our September meeting will be devoted to planning and preparing for our first two night trip. In December we do a service project, typically for the same organization.  January’s meeting centers around cookies. Four months done already!

Your first meeting should be devoted to troop building skills and “getting to know you” activities if you have new girls joining the other girls. Making them comfortable is key.

Then you need to see what direction you are heading. Are you planning the Bronze Award? Do you need to complete a Journey? (remember, they are not required until the girls are Juniors and IF they want to earn the Bronze).

What badges would work for your girls? Do you want to do one from the old program? Now would be the time to search for the badges on private Facebook groups. You know the interests of your girls, so plan your meetings around them.

3. Talk to your co-leader. Having a positive relationship with your co-leader is another essential element to having a great leader experience. Schedule a meeting with her to have her help you plan the year’s activities. Be sure to delegate tasks so that you are not responsible for doing everything. After your meeting, send an email to her reviewing what you both agreed to do.

4. Do Not Stress Over Registration  I am a firm believer that parents need to be the ones who register their daughters for Girl Scouts and pay for it. They pay for other things like dance costumes, cheer uniforms and cleats for sports, as well as the registration fees for these activities. Why do we enable them with Girl Scouts? While I realize that you want to know how many girls are returning, it really does not matter except for the first meeting or two whether you are planning for 10 girls or 12. The activities will be the same. Girls are still considered Scouts until September 30th.

Do not stress over whether girls register or not. It is their parents job to do that. If they want to return, they will.

Photo from Pixabay

In the past, I would send a reminder email at the end of summer along with our first meeting date. I also told parents the girls would not be able to join us after September 30th unless they were registered.

They all managed to register before the deadline.

These four key things that Girl Scout leaders should do over the summer will have you starting the new troop year on the right foot.

Girl Scout Leader Resources

Taking responsibility for a Girl Scout troop, no matter what age you lead, is a big job. I have been leading my girls since October 2008, and I still have to do a lot of prep work before each and every meeting. As a teacher for the past 28 years, lesson planning comes naturally to me, and I truly enjoy putting all of the elements together to create a meaningful learning experience. I find it a personal challenge to come up with the right activities for our badges, and make sure they are fun and engaging. My younger daughter, whose troop I lead, likes to help me get things together. I just have to make her promise not to tell her friends in school about what we are doing!

Over the years, I have developed a list of resources that I use to plan my meetings. There are books I use and websites I go to whenever I need to jumpstart my brain and find an activity, and I am going to share them with you.

A listing of online Girl Scout leader resources for planning your meetings and activities

Photo from Pixabay

Girl Scout Leader Resources-Books

Books are a hands-on way to get focused and organized for your meeting. They answer many questions that you have about planning and what activities are needed to earn a required badge. They are a resource that you can keep in your Girl Scout leader bag or when you are waiting for practice to end. Keep a pen and sticky notes handy for ideas that come to mind as you are reading.

Daisy Girl Scout Leader-Tips for Running a Successful Troop from Amazon

I updated this book in June 2013 with new chapters and information for those who are beginning their journey as a Girl Scout leader. After receiving numerous emails over the years from Daisy leaders, I wrote this book to help brand new leaders get off on the right foot. From your initial parent contact to starting your first meeting, this guide will start you on your way. It does not discuss the Journeys program.

Games for Girl Scouts

Games for Girl Scouts from Amazon

This is a must have book for all leaders. It has games for girls at all levels of scouting, so it is an investment. You can use it every year.  Mine has been in my leader bag for seven years!

Girl Scout Leader Resources-Websites

The internet has really changed the face of everything, including Girl Scouts. Information is easily shared on the information highway. Here are some of the websites I have used over the years that have helped me a great deal.

All links have been tested and these sites are up and running!

 What Girl Scout resources do you use?

What is the Biggest Mistake Girl Scout Leaders Make?

Photo from pixabay.com
Photo from pixabay.com

I am sitting in a different position this year than I have been for the past six years.  Last May, I stepped down as my daughter’s Girl Scout leader and stepped into the position of active co-leader. The troop’s new leader can ask me anything and ask for help and it will be given.  I am more than a warm body but I am no longer responsible for the core planning of our troop’s activities.

But I am still highly interested in the Girl Scouting experience that my daughter will be having, and I intend to make it as memorable as I can. So I still read Girl Scout forums to stay current and see if there is any new information I can share with you.

One theme that runs through so many of the forum threads reminds me of the biggest mistake Girl Scout leaders make.

The mistake is forgetting that we are VOLUNTEERS!

Now some of you reading this post are at a different stage of life than I am. I have already been around the mommy block before, as I have a daughter who is nineteen and a college sophomore.  I have also recently had a milestone birthday-the big 5-0.  With age and experience comes wisdom, and I can see things much more clearly than I could a decade or more ago.  If you are younger and this is your oldest child, I can see where you want to be nice and not make waves.

In the forums that I frequent, there are complaints about Service Units and what they demand from the leaders who are in their Council. (DEMAND? Are they forgetting that everyone who attends a meeting is a volunteer?) While there is a five girl minimum to be considered a troop, some Councils are demanding that minimum sizes be twelve or more to that troops be multi-level or that leaders have to abandon their troops and not move up with them, but take on an entirely new set of girls.

Photo from pixabay.com
Photo from pixabay.com

Leaders, I understand that you want to make it work because you stepped up and you want to do this for your daughter.  However, the more you permit the powers that be to tell you what you have to do, the more ownership of your troop you lose.  I once refused to take on new girls when I first started out. My troop was all of six girls, and when the Service Unit Treasurer asked me if I would accept more girls, I told her no.

She said “What if two girls don’t show up and you only have four at the meeting?”

I replied, “Then I guess I will hold a very small meeting.”

Leaders, you are forgetting that YOU are in charge. Yes, there are rules from the GSA that we must follow, but that is not what I am talking about.

You do not have to do anything you do not want to do.  As a volunteer you can walk away.  

That’s right…tell them if they do not stop with the demands, then you will walk away from being a leader.  You should never forget that they need YOU more than you need them. Without you, how many girls would now be without a leader?

I honestly do not mean to sound harsh.  If I did not believe in the benefits of being a Girl Scout, I would have left long ago.  I have been encouraging my daughter to stay active in scouting.

What I am trying to do is empower you. The stress I read in the Girl Scout forums from leaders under duress is unnecessary.  Issues with parents and girls need to be worked out and are inevitable, whether the issues are big or small.  But the people who run the ship should not be creating more waves for you.  When leaders stand up for themselves, then you will be heard.  You cannot feel guilty about the choices you make. Remember, you picked up the ball.  You signed up to be the leader.  Councils and Service Units should be helping and encouraging you, not creating unnecessary stress.

What do you think?  Have you ever been tempted to just stop and walk away?  Why didn’t you?