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  • Scoutmaster's Conference Delimma

    I'm preparing for a Come to Jesus meeting with one of my First Class Scouts. Here is his record of achievement over the past year:
    • He defines insolence. He flatly refuses even simple requests from youth and adult leaders alike. On a recently backpacking trip he refused the PLs request for him to get the stove he was carrying and get water boiling for a meal. He was too busy repacking his personal gear to help.
    • During a service project on another campout he went back to the campsite for a nap instead of participating on the project. When the SPL tracked him down and asked him to help out he refused to return to the service project.
    • He's a bully. He is mostly responsible for at least one Scout leaving the troop.
    • Last year one Scout in the troop gave a rather impassioned speech asking the boys to please be more considerate of one of the new Scouts who was having a hard time adjusting to summer camp. This kid made jokes through the entire talk including a rather loud comment "you should have seen what we did to (the scout who left the troop.)
    • On another trip he and a buddy were making pests of themselves throwing a ball back and forth across the campfire. After his PL repeatedly asked them to stop, this kid "threw the ball in his tent", but some how "missed" the tent and hit another kid in the crotch.
    • He has done a poor job with his POR as Troop Guide. Of the two campouts since becoming TG, he has been in attendance four hours and yet to spend a night. He supervised the new Scouts cooking one meal and spent most of that time sitting on the picnic table with his back to the boys who were doing the cooking. I'm interested to hear how he has four months of service in the POR which began March 1.
    Generally the boy is very immature compared to his peers and is extremely self-centered. Everything is all about him.

    Clearly, I'm not going to sign-off on his Scout spirit requirement and probably not on his POR.

    So my question is how does this conversation go? I can pretty clearly document his failings, but I'm not sure that will be beneficial. (For one, I'm sure he will try to explain away each of them.) But I don't really think he will get the big-picture message that he needs to start considering there are people in the world besides himself. How do you explain compassion and empathy to someone who has none?

  • #2
    His POR problems should have been dealt with when he wasn't doing his job. He doesn't respect the troop leadership because he knows they hold nothing over him. Machiavellian rules take precedence when everyone is selfish. When the SPL sends him home because he can't act like a scout then he'll likely start listening.

    As for the discussion, he won't change unless he wants to. If he wants to he'll listen to what you have to say. He'll listen if he respects you. and there is some other pressure on him to change from, say, the scouts. (BTW, If his PL and SPL gave him the bad news then you could be the good guy and he might listen to you. But that's water under the bridge.) Why is this kid so insecure? Does he like scouts? Is he there because his parents want him there? Offer to tell his parents he shouldn't be in scouts and see what he says. If he doesn't want to be there then you can help him figure out a solution. Maybe it's something at home or school or the troop. If he does want to be there then maybe it would be good to let him know how he comes across to others. Get quotes from the SPL, PL, new scout patrol, and read them to him. Don't judge him, just tell him how others see him and ask him what he'd like to do about it.

    Comment


    • #3
      Well, you could read him "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" ... deadpan ... Just like Edwards did. Or you could tell him what you like to see in a First Class scout (the concept not the patch) ... "Would you be able to demonstrate that kind of character over the next couple of months?" Refer to our discussion of scout spirit. Look, we have bad kids in our troop, but until they at least apologize for and fix the messes they create, they ain't advancing. Don't waste words. Speeches are for the enthusiastic.

      Comment


      • #4
        How in the world did this scout get to this point without multiple SMC's already? I'm thinking if it took the adults a full year to figure this out, it's going to be a long uphill battle with this boy. Each one of the issues mentioned to get to this point should have been a SMC in and of itself. Now all it does is sound like everyone's ganging up on him.

        I really hate it when people bring up unresolved issues from ancient history to be dealt with with a whole plateful already at hand.

        Sounds like either this boy slipped through the cracks (not really, it's obvious he's been on the adult radar since day one), or the adults didn't really do much if anything to help this boy find success in Scouting. Boys who seek attention will seek negative attention if positive attention is not present.

        Troop Guide???? SERIOUSLY? Now there's some adult's idea of how to set up a boy to fail. Which adult's responsible for this stroke of futile brilliance?

        Right now the whole troop focuses it's attention around this one boy, it's exactly what he's aiming for.

        My advice? For what it's worth, I would quit catering to his need for attention.

        "He flatly refuses even simple requests from youth and adult leaders alike. On a recently backpacking trip he refused the PLs request for him to get the stove he was carrying and get water boiling for a meal." And so why is everyone wasting their time asking him????? They already know the answer they are going to get and he knows the negative attention he's going to get, too. Double win for the boy.

        "During a service project on another campout he went back to the campsite for a nap instead of participating on the project. When the SPL tracked him down and asked him to help out he refused to return to the service project." So why is the SPL looking for the boy? I'm sure the SPL found him in the first place he looked.... 99% of the boys that don't want to do any work are usually in their tents.

        "He's a bully. He is mostly responsible for at least one Scout leaving the troop." I'm surprised only one has left. And what does "mostly responsible" mean? Sounds like he's not the only issue with this boy. Maybe the straw that broke the camel's back, but that's pretty small potatoes for a major problem already brewing. Don't know, wasn't there. But it deserves a more careful look.

        In all seriousness I would start my SMC at this point with an apology for failing to help him be a good/better scout, followed up by suggestions from him as to what one might be able to do to change that. After all the negative attention garnered already, I don't think he'll trust well enough to honestly open up right away. But by working on a trust relationship, one might be able to get to the root of this boy's concerns. Boys don't act this way without a reason. At this point, as SM, one has no idea what that is. It might bode well to find out.

        "So my question is how does this conversation go? I can pretty clearly document his failings, but I'm not sure that will be beneficial."

        A litany of wrong doings does nothing more than reinforce the idea that the only time one interacts with this boy is in a negative relationship. You are right, that wouldn't be beneficial.

        "(For one, I'm sure he will try to explain away each of them.)" That's obvious, and pretty much a waste of time.

        "But I don't really think he will get the big-picture message that he needs to start considering there are people in the world besides himself. How do you explain compassion and empathy to someone who has none?" Lead by example.

        Stosh

        Comment


        • #5
          I do think he enjoys Scouts -- but perhaps for the wrong reason. I think we provide him an audience and/or new set of victims for his crap and a perfect environment for his Eddie Haskel modus operandi. But the past few months being troop guide has exposed his behaving one way with his patrol and another with adults around. We keep the new Scout patrols adjacent to the adult camp instead of the 300+ feet for the other patrols. Consequently, I've had more time to observe his behavior (considering his lack of attendance on campouts.)

          I think it is a typical assumption that he has a lot of underlying insecurities, but don't know. This kid has every advantage in life -- fairly intelligent, outgoing, good looking, doting affluent parents who think he hung the moon.... But the bottom line is he's a jerk. Very immature and incredibly narcissistic.

          Q I like your thought of explaining what I want to see in a First Class Scout. The focus will be on servant leadership, helping other people at all times and the three-quarters of the Scout Law he doesn't get.

          And no, he's not going to listen. I do think declining his advancement could get his attention. It may be the first time anyone has ever told the boy no.

          Comment


          • #6
            He needs to be held up, show remorse, and make amends. I'd give him a stop. Very bad choice for a Troop Guide--running boys off could get you asked to leave in our Troop...

            Comment


            • #7
              Your first mistake was not asking for earlier SMCs to deal with his discipline issues. A SMC is NOT only for advancement, and can be called at any time, by either party. Actually, your first mistake is not having properly trained PL and SPL to deal with some of this boy to boy to begin with. And who decided that he would make a good TG? That particular position is way too important to be given to a kid like that. AT this point, I would deny him sign-off on POR and Scout Spirit, and probably think about having a conversation with his parents about how you need their help to turn him around, and make sure that they know exactly what he has been up to, why you won't sign the book, and what he needs to do to remedy the situation.

              Comment


              • #8
                The 4.2.3.4.5 of the GTA is pretty clear on the POR time served. Looks like he is three weeks short of 4 months so an immediate suspension of the POR and setting clear expectations would be in order. We have a Troop Guide, while not a agitator, has done absolutely nothing and it just burns my butt the SM has done absolutely nothing about it. I sat on his Star and Life BOR and my hands were tied.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Why were your hands tied? A BOR can refuse an advancement. A BOR Member can lead the Board to refuse an advancement.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I empathize, TCD. I have a Scout with similar problems. Always walks around with something in one hand so he "can't help" with things like carrying canoes to the lake. The Scouts don't like him - he almost ended up without a Patrol last Fall until the SPL stepped in and enabled him, which had predictable results for that Patrol (and hopefully a learning experience for the SPL). He has only a nodding acquaintance with the Oath & Law. I've told both the Scout and his parents I'm not sure this is the right program for him. It appears to me the parents have equal parts denial and hope about this kid. I've denied him advancement (last advancement was 15 months ago), tried friendly advice, stern talking-tos, etc. As mentioned above, I'm just not sure he wants to be in Scouts and might be there only because dad wants it.

                    On the other hand, I have several other Scouts with varying degrees of squirrelishness (firebugs, overly aggressive, disrespectful, etc) who have reacted positively to things like being on a rank advancement hiatus for a while. But if the kid doesn't care about it, it's not effective to take it away.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Twocubdad View Post
                      I do think he enjoys Scouts -- but perhaps for the wrong reason. I think we provide him an audience and/or new set of victims for his crap and a perfect environment for his Eddie Haskel modus operandi.
                      Yep, even negative attention is better than no attention. He's the focus of attention, what better stage to act out on?

                      Originally posted by Twocubdad View Post
                      But the past few months being troop guide has exposed his behaving one way with his patrol and another with adults around. We keep the new Scout patrols adjacent to the adult camp instead of the 300+ feet for the other patrols. Consequently, I've had more time to observe his behavior (considering his lack of attendance on campouts.)
                      But observing him and helping him are two different animals.

                      Originally posted by Twocubdad View Post
                      I think it is a typical assumption that he has a lot of underlying insecurities, but don't know. This kid has every advantage in life -- fairly intelligent, outgoing, good looking, doting affluent parents who think he hung the moon.... But the bottom line is he's a jerk. Very immature and incredibly narcissistic.
                      Without asking, I'm sure assumptions and insufficient information will rule the day. Ever consider asking him what's up?

                      Originally posted by Twocubdad View Post
                      Q I like your thought of explaining what I want to see in a First Class Scout. The focus will be on servant leadership, helping other people at all times and the three-quarters of the Scout Law he doesn't get.
                      Has anyone given any training on Servant Leadership? Or is it assumed to simply soak in over time?

                      Originally posted by Twocubdad View Post
                      And no, he's not going to listen. I do think declining his advancement could get his attention. It may be the first time anyone has ever told the boy no.
                      But will you listen even if he doesn't. Punishing a boy for getting away with bad behavior isn't any incentive whatsoever. (Refer back to my first comment.)

                      While declining advancement might be the first time anyone ever told the boy no, it sounds like the troop has been pussy-footing around it all along. When was the last time anyone said anything positive to the boy and/or ignored his poor behavior. Ignoring his poor behavior???? If one were to do that, bet it might be the first time anyone ever did it as well.

                      Rule #1 in a situation like this: Don't play the boy's game. Instead make up new rules that he doesn't know how to react to. That will catch his attention the fastest.

                      Can't make the outing with the NSP boys? No problem, we'll just make Johnny over here the TG and when you have more time you can be TG again. No confrontation, no haggling, no excuses, no punishment, simply leave a void in his advancement. When his BOR comes up and he is short on his POR, ask him what he wants to do to fulfill that requirement. Leave the onus on him to perform up to the requirement HE says he will do. Otherwise if he wishes to leave a hole in his advancement, that's his choice, too. It doesn't sound like he has been given any ownership in his advancement up to this point. Here are the requirements and everyone just gets pushed through. He has a "Participant Trophy" to prove it. Need service project hours? You napped through them. Maybe you should take the lead on organizing another service project so that you get credit for it. Otherwise you have to wait until the next opportunity. You say he's narcissistic, but you never play to his selfishness. Is he selfish enough to take ownership of his advancement and start worrying about it or is that something that's expected to be handed to him without any effort on his part?

                      Without getting commitments out of this boy, all one has done is set themselves up to have to deal with this situation. How does one get a commitment out of a non-committal boy? JUST ASK and when he says, "I dunno." Just let him know that when he figures it out, be sure to let you know so you can help him with it. Until then, IGNORE him as best you can, he'll hate that the most. As one waits for him to figure it out, a few praises for any minutia he might do on a positive note, would go well to confuse him even more. He may eventually get to liking the praise idea better than the yelling and switch gears for you. I've seen it done many times working with kids of this age.

                      Stosh
                      Last edited by jblake47; 06-06-2014, 10:48 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by scoutergipper View Post
                        Why were your hands tied? A BOR can refuse an advancement. A BOR Member can lead the Board to refuse an advancement.
                        They were tied by the GTA. The SM approved his non service, did not set clear expectations, did not hold the Scout to any expectations period. Sure I could have refused to sign but I would have been overruled on appeal to district/council or the committee would have just held another BOR without me. This is a high speed, low drag troop. I use "Troop" loosely, it is Tiger Cubs VI. The term "finish Scouts" is used frequently by the parents. The SM "finished his two year term" and we have a new SM. If things continue I will pull my son. I tried to convince him to move last fall but he made the decision to stay.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          How fast can this work, you ask?

                          It wasn't in scouting, but I was a Confirmation teacher in a church and all the way through the grades the teachers were always complaining about this one hellion of a boy. They unanimously said they were relieved when their year with him was up.

                          So he gets to Confirmation and I inherit him. I announced to the class there would be a seating arrangement so I would learn their names quickly. They were to sit boy/girl/boy/girl around the table. I needed a boy next to me to start and I non-nonchalantly picked this hellion boy to sit next to me. I didn't really care where anyone else sat, but it appeared to be a random thing to everyone in the room.

                          I did my lesson and every time the boy started to interject or act up, I simply reached over and touched his arm. I didn't change my tone of voice and I didn't shift my focus away from the lesson to deal with him. I never said a word to him, but he always quieted down because he didn't know how to react to it.

                          I did this maybe 2-3 times the first meeting and at the end of class he came up and said to me, "I like you, I'm gonna be nice to you." And he did. Never had a problem with him through the 3 years of confirmation with him. Sadly, the Sunday School teachers could never figure out why he still was a problem with them.

                          Stosh

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                          • #14
                            Oh we've had multiple "conferences" over the past year or two. The bullying (which would take volumes to drill into) resulted in several conferences with him, his running mates and all the parents. The result was the three mates were split up into three patrols. (Which has had marvelous results for for one of the three.) When he told me he couldn't attend the second of the two campouts as Troop Guide, I did tell him I we would find a permanent replacement. That resulted in his dad driving two hours to bring him to the campout, staying a total of four hours then dad driving home shortly after dinner. During the service project he was off doing his own thing. I suggested instead of working on his own stuff, he lead by example and help the rest of the scouts with the actual service project. This resulted in him wandering back to his campsite for a nap.

                            It's not that his behavior has gone unnoticed or uncorrected, rather there have been no serious consequences involved.

                            OBTW, the kid is a great athlete but I've had other parents tell me he behaves exactly the same on sports teams and shows the same disrespect to coaches and other players. And his parents are just as oblivious there, too.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Easy there Torchwood. Twocub isn't looking for a critique, he's looking for advice on how to proceed. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but not what's needed here.

                              There's lots of great advice in this thread, and clearly you're trying to help this young man become a better person, or you would have taken the easy route some while ago, and sent him packing. I suggest you stay very aware of the damage this young man can cause.

                              You apparently have had heart to heart talks, and they have not worked. Time to put it on the line, by all means do refuse to sign off on scout spirit, and explain why. I would also discuss his failure to perform, and poor performance with the SPL, who should recommend that the PLC remove him from office. Let him know he'll have to earn the respect of his fellow scouts to gain another office, and he needs office to advance. I'm sorry to put it this way, but it sounds like the troop exists to facilitate advancement (I'm very happy that you realize advancement isn't the purpose of scouting, and only one method), put the brakes on him.

                              It should like you have lots of work to do with the unit, I hope you have a some scout leaders to help you put the troop on track. If things are as bad as they sound, and there isn't enough support to turn the "eagle machine" back into a Boy Scout Troop, you might consider speaking with the Charter Org about pulling the plug, and starting over elsewhere.

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