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Help! Can you have a toxic scout?Page Title Module
Always a hard call. I wonder if parents realize how much we agonize over these things. Yes I did get my SM attention and now I am the official "bad cop". The lad needs his POR and I am training the ASPL on managing the POR's so I can reinforce the oath and law.
I hope we can turn this kid around but more importantly I will work to set up and reinforce all our boys living the oath and law and calling out the ones who don't.
One thing I did learn from this is to listen, really listen, to the boys more. Boys told us over and over what was going on and we just didn't want to see it.
So is there any turning around the toxic scouts?????
I really hate discarding one boy especially one that could really benefit from scouting
Remember mine is a unit where SM and I want a sign that says "Troop ___, we take bad kids."
Yes a boy can turn around. But two things need to happen:
1. You need to get through to him that his behavior is foul. Not just bad like the kid with conduct disorder who is having an awful time controlling his temper and is just beginning to be able to handle overnights without a parent around, or bad like the kid who hasn't figured out that the practical jokes have to stop, or bad like the kid who is girl crazy and can't shut up about the one female staff at summer camp two years ago, or even bad like the kid who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and needs a cultural "paradigm shift." He has to catch on that his behavior doesn't make adults angry so much as it makes them want to vomit.
2. He needs to discover that there is pleasure, true joy - if you will, in building other people up. He needs to desire fellowship and acceptance for his positive actions to the point that he wants to seek fellowship and accept other people's hard work. It's sort of the "camel through the eye of a needle" experience. A toxic kid is rich in smarts and verbal skills. He has to develop enough faith set those aside and rely on building other people up instead of tearing them down.
You can do something about #1 via discipline, suspension, etc... You can tell a kid about #2, but he's probably so full of himself that he'll not believe you until he decides to take that journey on his own.
Yes, this boy probably does need scouting. So do many other boys in the troop, though perhaps for different reasons. Maybe they need a safe haven where they can escape some of the horrible behaviors they experience at school every day. Maybe other boys need the mentoring, companionship, and role modeling that older boys and the adult association method can provide. Maybe other boys need a place where they can excel at something non-academic, for a change. Maybe they need a place where there's less pressure to be "the best" at everything and where they can simply chart their own course. Those are all legitimate "needs" that scouting can fill, too, and no less important than this one boy's needs.
Don't allow the atmosphere to be so toxic that the needs of all the other boys are outweighed by the needs of this one boy. That does a tremendous disservice to the many other boys.
Anyway, I think the question shouldn't be "does this kid need scouting" nor should it be "can this boy be turned around." The question should be "is this boy, AND HIS FAMILY, interested in what we have to offer him?" If so, there's probably room to work with him on behavior and his family will support that effort to their best ability. If not - if the parents are as much a behavioral problem as the boy, or if they simply don't care - then forget it, you won't have much impact on this boy's behavior and you'll be setting yourselves up for a terrible time until you figure that out.
What people "need" and what they'll allow you to give them, are not always the same things.
We aint there yet but yes we are at a decision point. Make or break time for me in the next few months.
I took it as a good sign at the PLC that the new middle-scout PL's forcefully made the case that the younger scouts are still complaining about bullying. It takes some guts to take on the SM and shows some real leadership for his Patrol mates. So that is a good sign that we are changing the culture. The middle-scouts are rising to leadership; some of the older scouts are checking out for various reasons (the usual distractions, lack of more ambitious adventures, and not buying into boy-led)
I like watching how human organizations function and scouts is a real interesting petri dish.
On a good day scouting is a bright part of my life; on a bad day it is an unpaid job. I try to stay in contact with families that have left our Troop for various reasons and compare/contrast their experiences with the new Troops. And reach out to other Scouters. If nothing else you find things that you would never do!
I must enjoy it to spend so much time at it--my SM said I was the most passionate. To think it all started with a flyer to a Tiger cub round-up. Be careful what your wife sends you to.
Yes, I have seen it happen many times over the years. And as a result, the re-channeled efforts often times create some neat things for the troop. If a boy spends X amount of energy fighting the system, it is a real handful, if that boy re-channels that energy into working with the system, it's quite a thing to experience.
Is that our job? Really? To spend our incredibly limited time focused on a kid that in all likelihood doesn't want to be in Scouting in the first place, and letting those who really are into the Scouting program slip away? Maybe other Troops out there have the resources in terms of adult leadership but we discovered the hard way that we really do not.
Several years ago, we had an influx of boys ages 12-15 who were dropped off by their single mom. These kids were in major need of help, and their moms simply couldn't deal with them any more because they had become too much of a challenge. I guess the moms hoped Scouting would give these troubled youth character and help them become better citizens. But the boys didn't want to be there and did what ever they felt like, Scout Law or not. We tried to work with them, and ended up spinning our wheels and not giving enough time to the other "good" Scouts. We finally decided that either you follow the Scout Law or you don't -- enough of the coddling and coaxing.
Once that standard is set for all, and everyone knows it, the bullies & toxic kids either change or are out. Either way the Troops wins - either the kids shapes up and becomes a Scout, or to the great relief of the Troop, he's out. The fairest thing to everyone is to enforce the Law evenly to all. There is no reason to keep a toxic kid because you think it's the right thing to do while you sacrifice the rest of the Troop at the same time.
If the program is designed to help youth become productive citizens and great leaders, I really don't see the point of only cherry picking the low fruit.
If anyone really wishes to look closely into the BSA program in the medium of it's initial stages in America, one ought to read the Tom Slade books commissioned by the BSA back in the early years of BSA.
There are also a number of other books cited by Matthiews, (first BSA librarian) on many of these same dynamics associated with this thread.
Yes, BSA is in the business of helping these kids. The success rate is often times less than the cherry picked low fruit, but passing up on the potential excellent/exceptional leader is not a decision to be expediently discarded.
Is that our job? Really? To spend our incredibly limited time focused on a kid that in all likelihood doesn't want to be in Scouting in the first place, and letting those who really are into the Scouting program slip away?
On one level, each SM has his calling. And his particular gifts and talents might help him handle a wide range of kids. (E.g., make the "drop offs" feel welcome and needed, inspire fresh attitudes, etc ...).
On another, the toxic scout is a kid who wants to be there. (If a sociopath can really want things.) It's a great venue for him to play head games with a bunch of vulnerable youth and presumably soft adults. It's his little power-trip.
Helping the first one succeed and the second one surrender is the trick, I guess. That way everyone in the middle winds up with a wholesome environment and maybe learns a thing or two about human nature in the process.
The other side of this issue is the leaders. While one just commented that a Scoutmaster may have a calling, and many, if not most do, I can tell you that many if not most ASM's do not share the same enthusiasm or calling (from what I've seen).
I had more than one tell me that they didn't sign up to be a social worker for a sociopath. I can't blame them.
You can lose as many leaders as scouts, if a toxic scout is allowed to run HIS program.
I think there's a great deal of territory between "picking the low hanging fruit" and putting up with truly toxic behavior for the long-haul. This is not an either/or choice.
I really dislike the "but he needs scouting" mentality. This is like saying that most boys "don't need scouting," something that you rarely or never hear scout leaders say (for a good reason).
Sorry if this is a sore point for me. Over a period of several years, I watched a "toxic" kid in my son's former troop drive away a lot of other boys who also might have "needed" scouting. It happens that many of those other boys were struggling with issues of their own - issues where scouting could have been a tremendously positive influence in their lives. But because those scouts didn't manifest the kinds of severe behavior that the "toxic scout" did, their issues and "needs" for scouting were overlooked.
And the excuse of other leaders every time was "well 'Johnny' comes from a rough family environment. He needs this." Yeah. I was this kid's (and his older brother's) cub leader, have known him since he was 4 or 5. I know his family and suffice to say we don't share the same outlook on parenting or acceptable social behaviors. And I'm not arguing for throwing out a kid for every minor issue. But how come the needs of all those other kids didn't count for a hill of beans? In attempting to help him, they failed all of those other kids. There does need to be some limit.
And in my opinion, a lot of well-meaning and kind-hearted leaders do not set these limit because they're so afraid of confrontation with a boy's parents, that they allow themselves to be walked all over and they justify allowing it by saying "he needs scouting." And how, exactly, does that help the boy? It doesn't - it simply teaches him (and his parents) how to better take advantage of and manipulate others.