Don’t get me started….
Over the years I’ve seen all kinds of BBYO parents, from the very good to… oh well. A recent comment by Samantha, the advisor for Shore BBG, inspired me to visit this topic.
Like Samantha, I am astonished by the level of disengagement of many parents. Many really don’t seem to have a clue as to what their sons and daughters are doing or are going through. What’s funny is that this can express itself two different ways. Some parents see BBYO as a baby-sitting service. They pay little or no attention to events, and barely seem to care when their kid gets home. Other parents constantly complain about what’s going on to the advisor or staff – anything to avoid actually talking to their son or daughter! Amazing!
Curiously enough, the latter group is the easiest to deal with. When a parent comes to me with a chapter issue, the first thing I do is bring the appropriate chapter members into the conversation. It’s good practice for them to engage directly with parents – there is no better way for them to understand their responsibility to the parents and community. And it’s good for the parents in that it helps them see the chapter as youth led. I remember one time a parent came up to me at a PIT to complain about something he found in the chapter paper. I called over the Aleph Sopher responsible for the paper so they could discuss it. Turned out the Sopher was his own son! Now that’s engagement!
I could whine about awful parents all day. But I’d rather tell you about the good ones. Here are some observations I’ve made about parents.

  • Look at a successful chapter leader, and you can almost always find good supportive parents behind him or her.
  • Find yourself using certain houses for events more than others? Those are the parents worth knowing.
  • The members who aren’t coming to you with their problems may be shy, or may not trust you, but it’s also very possible that they are going to their own parents with their problems – which is great to see.
  • When a parent complains, my response is often to invite them to staff events and see what’s going on for themselves. If a chapter is conducting itself in such a manner that they are truly unwilling to have a parent chaperone, the chapter is probably deserving of the complaints it’s getting.
  • If you’re doing your job right (as an advisor), you may find yourself being thanked by the parents more often than the members (who have known to be occasionally forgetful on that score).

And the most important thing to know as an advisor (courtesy of my first regional director):
They don’t pay us enough to deal with bothersome parents. If a parent has a problem or question that you don’t want to deal with, pass the buck to the regional director. They also may not be paid enough to deal with it, but it’s definitely their job. An advisor’s job is to always be an advocate for the members and the chapter.
I’ve been very fortunate over the years – many of the parents I’ve known have not only been supportive of their sons and the chapter, but also of my work. They have opened their homes and staffed trips. With some of them I’ve forged friendships that continue now, long after their sons have left the chapter. They probably have the hardest job in the world (sure harder than mine), and if it drives some of them a bit nuts, I can’t say I blame them. And as for the others… ah well, that’s another story for another time.