If there is one thing everybody knows about the Boy Scouts of America it is that they earn badges. As members of the church one could (if they were so inclined) make all sorts of arguments that perhaps badges aren’t really that great of an idea. One could say that it conditions boys and young men to be hungry for honor and accolades. One might be able to make such arguments, but they would ultimately have to shrug their shoulders and admit that we don’t control the BSA, so we’ll have to live with the badges as long as we use their program.
Another thing that everyone (in the church knows) is that the Activity Days program for girls is what the girls do instead of cub scouts. When I was that age we had the Merrie Miss program, and one of the things I remember about that program is, that as we met goals outlined in the booklet, we earned pearls to add to our embroidered wall hanging. I don’t know where mine is, but I did it. My oldest sister had a bandolo, and earned pins as she met her goals. My sister in law who is currently 16, did the activity day program and earned gems to glue to a chart.*
A few weeks ago I was called to be the activity days leader in my ward, and as far as I know the girls currently are given no official intermediary awards. They work on the program for four years and receive a necklace at the end of it all.
I have wondered if the lack of awards in the current program is intentional. It could be due to expense, but I suspect that it would be due to idealogical reasons. We don’t want to teach the anyone to be hungry for awards, and accolades. Simply living the gospel should be it’s own reward. Since, unlike the BSA, we run the girls program ourselves and we are able to make it align with our ideals. And so the girls don’t get patches, or pins, or pearls, or gems.
Here’s the thing though, the other thing I remember about being a teen and pre-teen was my seething jealousy of the boys. Not only did they do more frequent, bigger, more fun activities, they had big dinners to celebrate their accomplishments, and they earned all sorts of neat badges, pins, and beads. While I was constantly assured verbally that boys weren’t more important, or better, or anything like that, the things that I saw communicated to me that boys deserved more time, attention, and praise than the girls.
We can’t expect young girls to have the sort of maturity to look at that disparity and say “well the boys might be doing [insert activity here] but I’m learning to avoid pride and develop satisfaction in learning and giving service for it’s own sake.” The more likely result is to learn to feel like the church, their leaders, and ultimately God think that girls don’t deserve the same sort of time, attention, and praise as boys. In short we may hoping to teach girls a more complete sort of christian humility but are inadvertently teaching them that God loves them less.
I intend to work out some sort of intermediary award of my own. I’ve been racking my brain for something that would both be inexpensive enough to fit within the official budget, yet appeal to the girls in a meaningful way. Any ideas?
If anyone in the church really has a problem with badges as reinforcing a hunger for acknowledgment, then I would hope that taking it to the next level with all the ceremonies and dinners is seen for the hypocrisy that it is. The badges COULD be left as a simple personal reminder for all the work they put into getting them, and leave it at that. Is it church wide that there are no badge equivalents for girls anymore?
The disparity is really appalling, and I know this isn’t the first time that’s been pointed out, but I’m kinda angry that for the short time I was in activity days a few years ago, I didn’t notice this.
And as far as the nature of rewarding goes, life IS a system of rewards, and I actually think most are quite instant. Sure, they are still of the elusive quality such as pride in oneself, or sense of accomplishment, or just good old inner peace for doing right by someone, but those are the badges of life. Girls (and boys) will eventually learn this, so I don’t think there is any harm in a small reward system for good deeds and accomplishments to teach them through symbolism. Maybe even connect the dots for them at some point so that they see what those small materialistic rewards are a representation of.
As far as a practical suggestion for what to give the girls, I have no clue. I know I liked the idea of forming a collection of something when I was that age, but I don’t pretend to know what girls that age like or want yet. Maybe charms or something they can wear or use? Maybe let them choose within reason? Maybe badges themselves? I still wish we had something that resembled girl scouts a bit more.
This last Sunday, the bishop called up his 12 year old daughter to the pulpit, where he announced he did a formal interview and was ready to move her into YW. He also mentioned she had earned her “Faith in God Award,” but that they didn’t have any certificates, but he would get one for her later.
As she sat down, I told my husband, who is the stake Cub Scout pack leader, that this is all the recognition this girl gets. There’s no private ordination, there’s no Cub Scout or Blazer Scout advancement ceremony for her, and there never was for her all along the way (we’re always trying to think of cool advancement ceremonies for the boys in our stake – they happen frequently). My husband said, “Doesn’t she earn an award or anything?” And I said, “Yes, they just gave it to her. They forgot the certificate or anything to represent it. They said they’ll get it to her later.” At the very least, she should have gone to New Beginnings, so thank goodness for that.
As far as what girls could earn, charms are a great idea, but that was because I liked jewelry back then. Or postcards, ribbons, or pins. I only was jealous of badges because the boys have them, but I don’t think they would have had any special appeal to me.
If your girls are interested in charms/charm bracelets there are some available at charmingldsgifts.com. I just did a google search for “achievement day recognition”. I remember being able to find several different ideas just by doing a simple search when I did that calling. Try to figure out what your group of girls will appreciate based on what their interests are.
If your ward is anything like the one I served in, you’ve only got $8 per girl to get you through the whole year. Good luck!
When I was a girl we earned pieces from a nativity set as we achieved our goals in the Valiant Miss program. When I left the church as a young adult, I discarded the pendants I had acquired in YW, but I kept my nativity set.
Each year as I put it out, I remember the work that went into each piece. I’m grateful for my leaders who taught me that as I set and obtain goals that I can incorporate Christ into my life. The symbol was powerful for me, more so than a pendant, badges, or beads.
A former professor of mine was fond of saying that “badges are the medals of mediocrity.”
So is it too telling to say that I still prefer badges?? 🙂
I think in our Merrie Miss program we once collectively earned a sleepover at our leader’s house. She made french fries and stayed up till one a.m. Totally the thrill of my young life. Though I’m not sure they’d allow such a thing now. Still, maybe they could earn a trip to a water park or some other fun and relatively inexpensive place…
In our ward, the girls get a charm bracelet when they turn eight, and then a charm for each thing they pass off, plus a certificate. It doesn’t have the stamp of official approval, but it seems like a lovely homegrown alternative.
If only the church would design and provide Sillybandz in a different color and shape for each area, the program’s rewards would seem a lot cooler to girls of that age.
PS – LOVE the nativity set idea…!!
In our ward, we have a great activity day leader who is planning a recognition evening for the girls and their families. There will be a potluck dinner and a program to spotlight the accomplishments of these hard working kids.
I was just released as primary president. One of the accomplishments that I feel really good about is that I petitioned for and got the activity day budget doubled. Now it is almost half of what the cub scouts get for the same amount of kids. It is sad that I feel it is a victory of some kind.
This exact topic has been on my mind. I remember how motivating those little pins and beads and patches were for me. I had no interest in the scouting activities for their own sake, but those little baubles gave me something tangible to work toward. I’m considering just doing Cub Scouts with my daughter when she gets to that age. She’s 5 now, so that means I’ve got a couple years to see if I can get a few other parents with young daughters to join us.
I love the nativity set idea as well. I might still have my YW jewelry, but it’ll never be worn again. Something that they will want to keep and use into adulthood (like the nativity) is best. Otherwise you’re just adding to the clutter they’ll carry around with them for a while.
I’m pretty sure the church can afford to do the gems or charms or whatever, what with eight of my family members giving over $10,000 a month in donations. (That’s just shy of a million a year among my own small clan.)
It’s just standard church operation to screw over the girls. I was another girl that grew up going to the same disgusting boys camp with holey tents and outhouses while I watched the boys take a trip to Zion or Yellowstone or Yosemite. We went on lame mile hikes while the boys got to backpack through river-carved canyons or white water raft.
To add insult to injury, my mother always told me that the eagle scout program was way harder than the girls personal progess so i better not think I had accomplished anything.
If we ever want this to change this disturbing male mindset, we can’t only be buying stuff out of our own pockets. We need to write the people in charge–make some noise. It’s one thing to get screwed, it’s another to just sit there and take it.
The problem is that the church puts so much attention on the scouting program, when it actually has nothing to do with the church’s youth programs. Girls have Young Womens, boys have Young Mens. And then there is scouts. So that is the reason why boys have all the badges, pins, belt loops, etc. If there was no scouts, they would only have the Young Men program, which is just as lame as the YWs, and just as lacking in “awards”.
Also, the cub scouts have day camp, which is *expensive*, so I know almost 2/3 of the cub scout budget goes directly to that. So next to Activity Days for the girls, they ‘need’ more money. Again, that is out of the church’s control, because the scouting program is the one who arranges all the cool camp stuff and activities. If there weren’t any scouts, the boys would just be playing dodge ball in the gym every week.
I absolutely hated YWs and Merrie Miss as a girl. I was SO jealous of the boys and all their cool trips and activities. I was furious that we couldn’t even do a sleep over, or go out of town unless the men ‘allowed’ it. I remember SO many times that our cool activities and trips got canceled because no men would volunteer to go with us.
I sort of like the Nativity set idea, but then again, I don’t. EVERYTHING about the YWs program is already to ‘prepare’ you to be an adult. It seems like you get NOTHING for yourself. So I’d rather the girls get something they can really use NOW, even if when they are an adult they wouldn’t really use it anymore. What good is something thats only purpose is to be put away in a ‘hope chest’ for her future family and home?! She should get something pretty/cool to her now, she’s just a kid! She shouldn’t be having to think about storing items for her future like that.
When I was in this calling we gave charm bracelets to each of the girls at the start of the program and every value/goal they passed off earned them a charm and it was presented to them during big activity nights once a month. They loved it- and it was worth it in the budget to encourage them like that.
I like the charm bracelets…we pretty much do nothing here. Where are these being purchased? Are you paying for them out of pocket?
I used to get ripping mad when they would tell the girls they couldn’t go horseback riding at girls camp do to insurance but the boys could climb the side of the mountain at Philmont or go white water rafting.
Our bishop stood at the front of the pulpit and made fun of girls camp after they returned due to the fact they had a big hall with fans in it and a roof (we are in Florida). I went up afterwards (one of the only times in my life) and told him it was not cool. That those girls worked hard all week long and that’s all the recognition they got. He pretty much blew me off.
I also like the Nativity.
I had and have NO desire to be anything like BSA–their badges are dumb, as far as I’m concerned. I also do not like the recent revamp of the YW PP program that has infused lots of little rewards for doing the program. Why have parity with a stupid program like BSA?
BUT, I do think that those silly little trinkets now in YW would be significantly more developmentally appropriate for Achievement Days Girls than for YW, so go for it. Charms are a nice little thing. Or what about a good strong girl book for each little thing (sorry–I am not familiar with the program)?
I had a nativity set as a child though I can’t remember who gave it to me. Each figure was only about a half-inch tall, and baby Jesus even smaller. I adored it. I still have that set tucked away in my jewelery box.
When I was Merry Miss 1 my leaders gave each incoming girl a ribbon necklace with a pink, girl-shaped piece of wood with our name on one side and “Merry Miss” on the other side. For each goal we accomplished we received a pony-bead of a certain color, and when we received all the pony beads for a certain section we received a heart-shaped bead of the same color. It wasn’t a pretty necklace, but it was nice to have a physical representation of my minor accomplishments.
Similarly, at many girls camps I attended, we had beads that we collected for each task we accomplished. (Those were also helpful so you could find someone with a knot-tying bead and ask for help.)
I still have all those necklaces because of the good times the represent even if I can’t recall what I did to earn each bead.
Sorry I’m so late to the conversation, but we just did a “reward” thing for a youth conference that might work for you. We gave the kids lanyards ($1.50, maybe) and then they earned 1 inch buttons at various activities during youth conference. I had the buttons made by a local etsy shop. I designed the buttons and she turned the art I put together in a jpeg file into the well-made buttons.
You can clip stuff to the bottom of the lanyard too: a name badge, sharpies, whistles… you could get really creative with that part of it, too. For example, every year that goes by they earn some kind of bigger doo-dad to clip to the end of the lanyard. There’s a link below for some pictures.
Incidentally, I absolutely loathe scouts, but I have three sons. I voice my disgust whenever I get a chance, but it feels rather futile. Mostly I try to supplement the lame, vapid activities the scouts do (nothing cool like Yellowstone or backpacking) with the spiritual lessons and growth that can truly change lives.
PS: Those buttons were super cheap. I think they were like .20 each when all was said and done.
I remember the Merrie Miss nativity. I have been on the hunt for one for some time now!
As a recently released primary president I can tell you we were told to invite the activity day girls to the Blue and Gold Banquet. I can not remember where that direction came from, but it was at least regional, but again, this was optional. And even if you did have the girls come to the banquet, they would not have awards unless you made them. We made certificates with a small treat or inexpensive goody attached to it. We did this because we had a leader who took the initiative. We have had times in our ward when the girls barely met a few times in the summer, and that breaks my heart. we tried to have a dinner and display what the girls had worked on for parents to view, but it didn’t always happen. Thank goodness our girls have amazing leaders in our ward, I think the disparity bothers the leaders, but the girls don’t seem to mind at all, and seem very happy with their leaders.
[…] Even the consolation/participation prize of a certificate* with a blue ribbon stapled to it is more than my girls get after completing their Faith in God booklet in four […]
Oh, finally, people who think the girls in the church get a raw deal. I always felt less special or important becasue I was a girl. and yes, the amount of time and money you spend on something or someone does show how much you value them, insultingly patronizing word to the contrary notwithstanding.
As for rewards, of course you deserve rewards and feedback for a job well done. No one in the history of the world ever bothered to do anything they didn’t get feedback for.
I personally have a love/hate relationship with the BSA. On the one hand I love the skills and values that the program teaches. On the other hand I hate the massive amounts of money that are spent on the program. Besides the focus of the BSA organization has shifted from teaching boys to be men to making money and having “professional scouters”. As my Dad says (sarcastically), “Scouting would be great if it weren’t for these darn kids.” I was so hoping the church would jettison the BSA with the announcement of gays being allowed in the troops. I’m actually rather shocked that the church, which I thought I could trust, is caving on a basic moral issue.
I was just made the activity days leader in my ward so I was searching for an awards system or a way to make the church’s stupid little booklet into a full program for the girls. I’ve done this calling before but I vowed if I ever did it again it would be a full on program for the girls who deserve to be treated with equal consideration to the boys. I think I like to meet every week like the cubs too.