For many troop leaders, one of the primary reasons for volunteering is to spend quality time with their daughter. Maybe you fall into this camp too—you look forward to bonding with your kid as you both try new things, meet new friends, and make the world a better place. Sign me up!
The experience of leading your daughter’s troop can be incredibly gratifying, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that juggling the role of parent and troop leader can also be tricky. You want to be there for your daughter—but also for the other girls in the troop. You want to make sure she’s responsible for what she says and does—without making it seem like you’re singling her out for her behavior. You want your daughter to do her fair share—without her feeling like she’s doing more than the other girls. Here are four strategies you can use to strike the perfect balance in your parent-troop leader role.
Explain Your Role
If this is your first year as a troop leader, it may also be your daughter’s first time seeing you outside your role as her parent. She may wonder, “If these are the rules at home, then why wouldn’t it be that way at troop meetings?” Explain that we all wear many hats—just like when she’s at school she wears a student hat and is expected to follow directions, turn in assignments, and raise her hand in class, but when she’s at soccer, she wears her goalkeeper hat and is expected to work together as a team and run drills. Explain that during troop meetings, you’ll be wearing your troop leader hat. Then, detail what that means (“I know that when I’m at home, and I’m wearing my parenting hat, I can focus just on you. But when I wear my troop leader hat, I’ll be dividing my attention among all the girls in the troop. This way, I can make sure I’m being fair to everyone.”)
Lean on Your Co-Leader
This scenario will probably sound familiar: a grandparent, aunt, or babysitter asks your daughter to clean out her backpack, walk the dog, or put away the laundry, and she promptly follows through. But when you make the same request, it’s like pulling teeth. It should come as no surprise that kids’ behavior changes based on the dynamics of specific relationships. Use this to your advantage by stepping back and asking your co-leader to be the point-person for your daughter during troop meetings and outings. In a troop setting, getting directions, reminders, and gentle discipline from someone other than you, their parent, can be easier for your girl to handle.
Avoid Conflicts of Interest
Make use of a kaper chart not just to divvy up jobs that need to be done (like cleaning up and passing out snack), but also more fun responsibilities (like who gets to be the song leader or fire builder). Randomly assigning these roles can lessen the feeling that you’re playing favorites or always saddling your daughter with the unenjoyable tasks. In the same vein, try not to hold your daughter to different standards than the other girls in the troop. Sometimes this might mean giving her some slack to cut loose during troop meetings.
Surprise and Delight
As the troop leader, there will be times that you bring work home with you—prepping for troop meetings, buying badges and supplies, or registering for events. If your girl wants to help out with these responsibilities, great! But try to keep some aspects a surprise so that your daughter can experience the same excitement that the other girls in the troop do when they arrive at the meeting.
Finding your footing in your roles as parent and troop leader can be a challenge, but with challenge comes opportunity. You’ll have the chance to see your daughter take risks in the safety of an all-girl environment, and she’ll see you stepping up to lead her troop on many new adventures. It may take some fine-tuning to get there, but when you do, it will be a win-win for everyone involved!
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Brownie troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (and rescue dog, Neil!).