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Help! Can you have a toxic scout?

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  • Help! Can you have a toxic scout?

    I really need some input here.

    Including cubs I have been a Scouter 8 years. I bet I have worked with 100+ boys over that time. I have had my share of "problem children", whiners, mischef makers, and hot headed boys quick to anger. But I got one that is new to me. 12 years old, with the face of a choir boy, a sweet smile, and not even a tenderfoot. He appears to be a master manipulator--all the adults think he is charming and a growing group of boys say he says nasty things to the other boys, sets them against each other, and instigates fights though he never touches anyone.

    I have heard about it from my sons (who rarely agree on anything but are very truthful)and asked around a number of the other boys who confirmed everything. I then kept myself closer in earshot. He charms boys (like an SPL), whips up scapegoats, and says some pretty nasty things. This is what I have personally heard:

    "Tim you repeated a grade because you are retarded. Retarded people cannot be anything. Retarded people belong in a retarded Troop. You are still 1st Class because you are stupid"

    "Fred, you never do anything right. No one likes you because you act like a girl. We all hate you. You need to get out of the Patrol and the Troop"

    "You are the worst grubmaster ever. This food sucks. I say as punishment we don't let him have any food the entire weekend"

    He says all these things with a sweet smile on his face and very calmly. If you were an adult you would not think there was a problem.

    I pulled him aside and told him that a scout was kind, etc, etc. Scout spirit and all that. That I had an eye on him. His reply (in a low voice and smiling): ("Mr Turtle you need to calm down, you don't want to have a heart attack.")

    It was like a scene from the Omen or something.

    A couple days later he does this stuff again--the kid is cruel--and I talk to him. He lies so sweetly to my face and I start to get mad. He smiles some more and I realize that he realized that he knows how to push my button.

    I was talking to my wife (she does Sunday School youth programs) and I realize that this is the kind of kid that could set you up ala "It Could Happen to You". I mean you try to stay 2-deep but sometimes someone leaves and you are alone. This kid scares me.

    I love most of my boys and usually try to see the good in them. But this one...can you have a toxix scout? And if he is good at manipulating adults what do you do. Beyond the "keep an eye on that one" what do you do?

    None of the other adults see much of this.

  • #2
    I've seen several scouts like this. I don't have any magical advice other than to work thru it. But I would love to hear some good advice.


    • #3
      I discuss what I've witnessed with his parents and find out what their plan is to deal with the behavior so I can support them. Having someone bring it into the open is all it took when it happened here. I don't know if it changed the scout's inner workings, but the outward behavior changed.


      • #4
        Bring it up with his parents, but they either already know or they are snowed. Get the other adults on the same page. Most importantly, be extremely careful about YPT around this boy. He knows now that you have his number, so you are no longer his mark, but now you are a threat.

        Have you explicitly talked to the other adult leaders about this kid? They may be more aware than you know, and are keeping it to themselves.


        • #5
          What I would do since he made so may remarks to the other scouts that were very hurtful and he was not even close to apologetic:

          1st offense - council scout as you did, but also meet with his parents to discuss his insolent behavior to other scouts and lack of respect for his leader. Advise both scout and parent that if he cannot change his behavior, he will not be allowed to remain in the troop. Notify committee of the youth/parent meeting so they are informed.

          2nd offense - boot him from the troop. By this time, the parents have been made aware and warned about his behavior and what actions would happen if he continued.

          If a scout made one remark to another scout, not as sharp as you described, and was apologetic, I would add another parent/scout meeting and make the 3rd offense the booting from the troop.

          Do not let one apple spoil the whole bushel. If this type of behavior is allowed to continue past a 2nd offense, you may lose other scouts because of it.


          • #6
            I know that kid, I swear. He was the cause of many younger guys leaving my son's former troop (although very few would say so, outright - most of it was rumor or stories told way after the fact - and so, the troop chose to ignore it for several years). I believe he took after his parents, although they were less subtle than he was. What was particularly galling is that the parents frequently tried to say that their little darling was the misunderstood VICTIM and tried to turn the people on the receiving ends of his actions into the alleged perpetrators. This is the only boy about whom I have ever advocated for sending home from events based on behavior, and suspension or expulsion from a troop, and that was under some pretty extreme circumstances.

            Supposing that the adult leadership of your troop is of one mind and not intent upon ignoring the boy's behavior, I'd recommend a few things.

            1. Tag team. Have 3 or 4 adults whose responsibility it is to help keep an eye on him, and on each others' reactions to him. As you note, boys like this are excellent at manipulating people and it might not take much for some adults to lose their calm and grab him by the arm, scream at him, etc. That's why you need adults to watch/help/spell each other with him, too. Might want to include your SPL, too.

            2. Set the standard internally for what constitutes "sending you home now" behavior (or other corrective actions) well in advance, so you don't have to decide what to do under pressure and when you're irritated to the nth degree by his behaviors. Better to be able to calmly say "Kid, you've crossed the line. Call your parents." Than to be shouting "That's it! I've had it! You're going home!" out of anger. If you think it would be helpful, map out a series of set responses to lower-level issues so that other adults (and the SPL and the kid's PL) know what to do when he's being obnoxious but not outrageous. Having that plan of action will reduce the stress on everybody.

            3. Be very, very clear in your communication with him and his parents about consequences for actions, and do this with the active participation of your SM and CC (I can't remember - are you the SM?). If you find he's doing these things again, what will happen? And stick to your guns no matter what. Don't allow him or his parents to play the "you're playing favorites" or "the other kids are making it up" or other nitpicking games about what happened. There's no appeal of your judgment as SM. If parents pitch a fit about how you're "picking on" their little darling, tough. You have expectations about behavior and their boy isn't meeting them - you aren't "picking on" him, you're doing him (and them) a favor by helping him learn to interact more civilly with others. If they are really all that upset, they're welcome to find a different troop.

            4. Don't get too caught up in the "but he needs scouting!" thing. Yes, he probably does. So do all the other boys in your troop, though perhaps in different ways. They and their needs aren't less important than he is.


            • #7
              I think there would be a lot to recommend suspending him from the troop each time this behavior is noted.

              Perhaps 30 days, then 50 days then 90 days.

              That gives him a chance to improve, but the main emphasis should be on protecting the unit and the Scouts and Scouters in it.

              But he will be thrown out of many organizations as long as he displays this behavior. Eventually he ought to get the message and change, and being suspended from Scouting is a positive step along that path. As long as the behavior is not punished, it is a winning strategy of sorts.


              • #8
                Do NOT ever, repeat NEVER, find yourself alone with this kid.


                • #9
                  >>A couple days later he does this stuff again--the kid is cruel--and I talk to him. He lies so sweetly to my face and I start to get mad. He smiles some more and I realize that he realized that he knows how to push my button.


                  • #10
                    PapaDaddy I read that loud and clear.

                    I am an ASM..though I guess a "senior" one. I doubt I have the temperament yet for SM or I am just not ready. I was told that this weekend and pretty much agree. But I am deeply involved.

                    Next infraction I am circumventing our kind-hearted SM and talking to the parents.

                    I will talk, tactfully, to the other Adult leaders.


                    • #11
                      In addition to all of the above, do your best to undermine his premises.

                      e.g. ...
                      "Retarded people can do many things. They belong and are very welcome in our troop. And, Tim is 1st Class because he has done everything necessary to take his patrol hiking and camping. Your flawed assessment about why someone would be held back a grade is an indication that you are little more than a brutish thug. I'd work on reforming that if I were you."

                      "I just saw Fred do __ right. Therefore your statement is flawed. We must then conclude that everyone likes Fred. We conclude therefore that he must remain in his patrol and troop. May your brother scouts one day conclude the same for you."

                      "How many grubmasters have you known? Could your please write them down an a piece of paper so I can compare your list with mine? If he is such a terrible grubmaster, may as punishment you should require him to enjoy his meals in peace the entire weekend."

                      "Your assumptions of what would cause a shelled reptile's heart to fibrilate are flawed. I would also suggest you consider that other assumptions you may have about, say, the strength of his snap, may be flawed. This makes your continued course of action detrimental to your career as a scout."

                      This is not just an SM's responsibility. There are some ASM's who are particularly effective with certain scouts. If you've got one use him.


                      • #12
                        Good advice and much appreciated Brother and Sister Scouters.


                        • #13
                          "Next infraction I am circumventing our kind-hearted SM and talking to the parents."

                          This probably will not work, unless the SM and CC are in agreement that it is a good idea. Otherwise, you will end up internally divided among the adult leadership. More so, if the kid's parents are anything like the kid is. They'll tear you up and pit you against each other. You'll end up portrayed as the adult who is "picking on" their son at every turn, with unreasonable standards, just looking for excuses to give their kid trouble. They'll box the SM into a corner with all kinds of complaints about the standard of proof you have, or the extent to which their darling's behavior was truly that bad, or who started it, etc. Since he's "kind hearted" (which also can be read as "spineless" or "conflict avoidant"), he may back down. And if they succeed, you and your SM will be at loggerheads. What, then?

                          Maybe I'm jaded and things are different in your situation. But that's something I saw play out in my son's former troop and it wasn't pretty. So my sense is that you adults need to figure out, together, how you're going to handle this boy BEFORE you go to his parents. You want a united front here.


                          • #14
                            We had one similar...bully.....The cruelest person I have ever met.

                            The end of his days was my son came out complaining about how he was treating the other boys, swearing, racial slurs......After a couple of trips to speak with the young man about his language and general attitude, I set my phone to record and gave it to my son to walk over to the table and record what was going on....

                            SM had a conference with Scout, mom and dad, who think he is an angel, boy denied all the allegation.....SM pulled out the phone and asked if he would like to change his story or let the recording speak for itself.....

                            Played the recording........Mom was beet red, dad was sweating and very tense....scout denied that was him on the recording.......

                            Dad snatched son, mom apologized and we never saw him again.

                            Right or wrong.....TT?????? I had no idea what else to do. Very intelligent, manipulative, respectful to adults.. The adults thought he was a super kid


                            • #15
                              Ok LisaBob I see your point. United front. If it blows up because I am stupid it may damage my sons.

                              This is the part I hate.