Scouting Forums

Troop Parents as Merit Badge Counselors

I am our troops new Advancement Chair. One of the new leaders in our Troop has become a merit badge counselor for 8 merit badges, one of which is an Eagle required badge.

Some of the other leaders in our troop are concerned with the number of badges this leader has become counselor for, especially since he has been the counselor for multiple badges for both of his boys in the Troop in a few months. I spoke with some leaders from local troops regarding this issue, and some have rules such as a leader/parent for the troop can not be a counselor for an Eagle required badge.

Could anyone share what rules/guidelines they have for their troops in regards to this issue?

Thanks in advance!

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BSA specifically states that troops may not add to or take away from merit badge requirements. No merit badge has the requirement that your MB counselor can’t be your parent. Any troop that has a “rule” about number of badges or parents being counselors is in violation of BSA policy.


This is what the BSA Guide to Advancement says: Counselor Approvals and Limitations

The National Council does not place a limit on the number of merit badges a youth may earn from one counselor. However, in situations where a Scout is earning a large number of badges from just one counselor, the unit leader is permitted to place a limit on the number of merit badges that may be earned from one counselor, as long as the same limit applies to all Scouts in the unit. Approved counselors may work with and pass any member, including their own child, ward, or relative. Nevertheless, we often teach young people the importance of broadening horizons. Scouts meeting with counselors beyond their families and beyond even their own units are doing that. They will benefit from the perspectives of many “teachers” and will learn more as a result. They should be encouraged to reach out.

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I meant to add some of the things Jennifer said. If you can use one who’s not a parent, or at least let someone else observe, it’s usually for the best.

Thank you Jennifer, that is the guidance we were looking for.
In no way do we want to limit our scouts availability of merit badge counselors, however I fully agree with the statement that scouts “will benefit from the perspectives of many “teachers” and will learn more as a result.”

I will share above with our scoutmaster.

And David, thank you for your comments as well.

@JohnWelter - to be honest with you just who are you to limit how many merit badges any adult wants to counsel. Seriously… The more you folks show up the more I am personally disinclined to counsel anynone.


Hi Stephen,
Just looking for some opinions as I am new to this. Not sure what you mean by “disinclined to council anynone” though.
Thanks for commenting.

@JohnWelter - what I mean by disinclined is that if you are going to impose a limit on how many merit badges that I as an individual can be a counselor for then it is game over. It is MY personal choice what I do with my time and resources not yours.

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Personally, I want my parents to sign on as counselors for only the MBs that they are most qualified fo counsel. For some that could be ten badges, but for others it would be only one.

And, yes, from time to time we review who’s counseling which MBs and ask some counselors politely if we can remove them from certain MBs because new counselors are available to them.

@Qwazse - as long as you understand that the MBC role is not a unit position.

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That’s a very important point. We make clear to our counselors that they might work with scouts throughout the district.
Our district is tight with our unit leaders and rely on us to keep track of MBCs affiliated with our units. They will remove any counselor from a badge at our request. This happens with some regularity now that Yoith Protecttion Training has to be current. It will also happen if we give our District Advancement Chair a call and say there are enough other MBCs who are better qualified.
This can cause some unecessary friction, thus the adverb “politely” in my earlier post.

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@Stephen_Hornak I don’t think it’s necessarily a matter of limiting the MBCs to a certain number of MBs to counsel, but a matter of a scout going to mom or dad to get most of his MBs pencil whipped.

With that said, if a new parent to our troop showed up and said “I want to counsel ALL the MBs” I’d give him the side-eye. MBCs are supposed to have some expertise in the fields they’re counseling, not just try to stay a page ahead of the scouts.

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@SteveCagigas - I agree completely

I see the concern but it is not a unit matter at all - MBC is a council position, not a unit position - so the unit has no say.


That was what my point was originally that the unit really cant dictate much on MBC. I do agree that a scout only using mom and dad as the sole mbc source is not a good idea and really defeats the purpose of the MBC program. It is also interesting to find counselors that work every badge. I kept mine to areas that I have an interest and knowledge in. But as Donovan points out the MBC application does not pass through the unit so no control there.

MBC Qualification

The national Merit Badge Counselor Information form 34405 asks:

For each merit badge, list qualification(s) that support your request. Qualifications could include college degrees, formal training certificates, positions held, and specific life experiences.

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@DonovanMcNeil, just because unit leaders cannot push the “delete” button, does not mean they have “no say.” A quick note to my district commissioner removed a MBC. It was on my honor that I had talked to her prior to making that request. There is a very clear understanding that if district key-3 (or the SE if the MBC is in another district) want unit leaders who contribute to roundtables and camporees, they will expedite their polite requests.

Now, in my opinion, there should be very few reasons that an SM/CC should go this route (e.g. MBC’s request, YPT lapses, certification lapses, life experience overstated, signed blue cards of scouts who didn’t complete requirements). Signing on to a large number of MB’s is not one of them per se, but like @SteveCagigas’s “side-eye” suggests, it could reflect other valid reasons to have an over-enthusiastic parent narrow the list of MBs he/she would counsel.

I just had a dad who asked me if he should sign up for a lot of MBs including Family Life. Turned out he had a boat and kayaks lakefront property not too far from the scout house. I told him that the district is rife with Family Life counselors, and we have lifeguards, but we don’t have anyone who can focus on Motorboating or Kayaking outside of camp. He pruned his list, and our scouts will have a fun weekend working on those MBs next month.

Units do the district/council a favor providing parents who are sharing skills in their strongest areas with our scouts.


I am sure you pointed out that Motorboating and Kayaking are both restricted MBCs as they require specialized qualifications and certifications. - GTA


Athough NOT REQUIRED, Our troop uses an “unofficial process” of having another Merit badge councilor countersign completion (so to speak) the Blue Card. (When the parent is the MBC) It makes everyone a little more warm and fuzzy about the process. Being in Scouting, that “trustworthness” shouldn’t be in question, but when it comes to parents doing things for their own children? I do this for any I do with my son to remove any doubt of inappropriate action.

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…“I want to counsel ALL the MBs” I’d give him the side-eye. MBCs are supposed to have some expertise in the fields they’re counseling, not just try to stay a page ahead of the scouts."

I’d agree almost all the time, but in some situations, this may be more appropriate. When we lived in Italy, the next closest unit was about an hour and a half away. The District, rather than being a few counties, like here in Texas, was the entire country of Italy. That limited the Scouts’ ability to find merit badge counselors locally, like here in the USA.

I became a merit badge counselor for almost all merit badges. The key distinction was that I wasn’t going to be able to teach them all. I can’t teach a Scout to play a bugle, but I could definitely verify if the Scout met the requirements. I also had the resources to meet up with a local band director who might work with me if needed. My expertise wasn’t truly being an expert in bugling (or any other badge), but in helping the Scout find the resources to complete the requirements as written.

Swinging the pendulum to the far left, in California (did I mention far left?) the Council limited counselors to 12 merit badges. The District Merit Badge Counselor Coordinator had strict timelines for applying to be a counselor, then he would interview the applicant, then add them to the next quarterly MBC list. After hearing how he grilled an 18-year combat-experienced fighter test pilot for 30+ minutes to see if he was really qualified to counsel Aviation merit badge, a few of our interested MBCs said “forget it,” and never even applied.

Back to Italy: whenever a Scout opened a blue card with the parent as counselor, we got with the parent and asked if they’d counsel multiple Scouts at the same time. Sometimes telling “little Johnnie” that there’s a group working on a particular badge together is enough to get them going. It also encourages the MBC to counsel the group in a consistent manner.