Balancing Your Role as Girl Scout Troop Leader and Parent
It’s a family affair: your daughter wants to be a Girl Scout, and you want to be her troop leader! Filling this role can be an amazing bonding experience for you both as well as an engaging way to get to know her friends and peers.
But you know that your girl isn’t a troop of one, and she’ll have to share your attention with her fellow troop members—which might be tough if she’s younger. So how can you strike a balance between your roles as Girl Scout troop leader and parent?
Talk to Her Before the Troop Year Begins
Explaining your role as a troop leader is especially important for younger girls, according to several of our volunteer experts. If you know you’ll be leading your daughter’s troop in the fall, make time before the school year begins to talk about expectations. “I explained that we would all become friends and that at Girl Scouts, I had to share my attention with all the girls,” shares Stephanie Kwiatkowski of Girl Scouts of San Diego. “I also shared with her that I was so happy to be able to be a leader for other girls and what it means to me. In that way, she understood that this is my journey too. We also talked about her role as the leader’s daughter and that I expected her to treat me with respect just like all the other girls, even though she knows me best.”
Although you might not need to touch base as frequently with your older girl, your younger girl may find more frequent check-ins reassuring. “I try to take some one-on-one time with my girl throughout the year to reinforce our relationship and check in with her,” adds Stephanie. “Now that she’s in middle school, she lets me know when she needs extra time with me, because that’s the norm we’ve established. I love that she knows how to advocate for herself in that way, and I think Girl Scouts has taught her that too.”
Lay Down the (Girl Scout) Law
The Girl Scout Law—to be honest, fair, and responsible for what we say and do—is not only paramount to who we are as Girl Scouts but also levels the playing field; everyone from troop leaders to troop members follows the Girl Scout Law. When you reinforce that everyone in the troop, including you, follows the Girl Scout Law, your girl is more likely to view you as a fair, equitable leader.
“When the girls were younger, conflict often arose around sharing or equally distributing snacks, troop jobs, or who starts the friendship squeeze,” remembers Stephanie. “We’d stop and talk about what was fair and considerate or how can we be a sister to every Girl Scout. We developed ways to take turns as a group. As our girls have grown, this way of thinking and working through conflict has become part of the fabric of our troop, and some Girl Scouts even use it instinctively to resolve their own issues. Witnessing those moments are some of my favorite Girl Scouting moments.”
Need a regular reminder for your troop? Have your girls make a decorative poster featuring the Girl Scout Promise and Law, and bring it to every troop meeting.
Team Up with Your Co-Leader
If you’re fortunate enough to work with a co-leader, you already have one of the best strategies for managing your role as a parent and at Girl Scouts!
“When my daughter was younger, my co-leader and I decided that we each would keep the other’s child in line,” recounts Lara Cordeiro from Girl Scouts of Western Ohio. “This would prevent both of us from being too hard or too lenient on our own child. As my daughter got older, it was easier to treat her as one of the group. She also was fine with sharing her mom with others—in fact, she preferred that I back off so she could take more of the lead on her own.”
Hold the Girls Accountable
It’s part of what being girl-led is all about! Your daughter might bristle when you call her out for breaking the rules, but she may be more likely to straighten out when her peers hold her accountable. “Each year we had the girls make their troop rules, which we posted at the meetings” says Lara. “We also came up with consequences. When one girl was misbehaving, we just had to refer to the rule number that they were not adhering to, and that was usually enough to get the girls back in line.”
Assigning troop tasks fairly is another method troop leaders use to hold girls accountable to one another. “One way that I made sure that my daughters were not the ‘leaders’ of the troop was through a Kaper Chart,” explains Laura Flanagan of Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. “At the start of the school year, the troop would make their chart. ‘Jobs’ included snack-bringer and snack-helper, attendance-taker, clean-up girls, supply-organizer, and badge leaders. The girl in charge of each area of the meeting changed each meeting, so it didn’t feel to any girl that I was being impartial to anyone. Everyone got their chance to do each job, and it wasn’t just my daughter bringing snacks or in charge of badges each meeting.”
Remember Your Role Outside of Troop Meetings
Just as you’d want your daughter to be fair to her fellow Girl Scout sisters, remember that you should play fair outside of troop meetings. “As a busy troop leader for a Junior/Cadette troop, planning and preparing for our meetings and events is a big challenge and time commitment for me,” admits Stephanie. “I find it’s hard not to over involve my own Girl Scout in this process. She’s right here with me at home—and so easily available—but it’s not fair to expect her to help more than her sister Girl Scouts. That means I have to plan ahead more and involve the troop and the other parents.”
Being a troop leader and parent is definitely a delicate balancing act, but it’s one that’s important for your daughter to see; she’ll appreciate the efforts that go into both roles even more!