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We have had several incidents with an adult using excessive discipline with his son while on troop outings. We have taken the following steps:

(1) Troop committee chairman discussion with the adult concerning one incident.

(2) Written account of the incident prepared by ASM for Troop committee. Discussion by SM and ASMs concerning situation.

(3) Troop committee chairman discussion of incident (no names) with District Executive and what was proper action for troop. No Troop Commissioner is available.

(4) Scheduled discussion with adult and Troop Committee to resolve the problems.


The registered Scouters in the troop who are dealing with this problem have resolved themselves to solve this problem and not allow this adult to use excessive discipline while at troop functions - but to keep the problem as a difference of opinion between Scouting and Troop Committee guidelines and personnal ideas - not a person-to-person conflict. In other words, this problem will be resolved by the Troop Committee and this adult.


I would like some discussion on the following:


(1) Lack of guidelines and procedure for discipline of adult behavior during Scouting activites from Council or National. Our troop is applying the same procedures that we use for Scout discipline.

(2) We tolerated several minor incidents before discussing the problem with the adult. How many cases of adult abuse are ignored because we find it hard to confront another adult?

(3) What is a reasonable resolution? We are considering telling this adult that he may attend only award ceremonies where his son receives a badge. We don't think that he will ever change his ideas about discipline. We want to keep the boy in the troop - but accept the fact that he may not be able to attend if we restrict his father.






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I'm kind of curious as to what your troop considers excessive discipline. I'm probably on your side, but I don't think a parent ever gives up his right to be a parent. If I feel I need to take my son aside and have a discussion with him, I will. On the other hand, the parent should not be disruptive to the troop and its activities. It's difficult for me to give an opinion without knowing any specifics.

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Is the adult a registered scouter acting in the capacity of an adult scout leader? Or is he just a dad observing an outing from the sidelines? I would not want a uniformed, registered adult leader using heavy handed disciplinary tactics with any scout, even if the scout is his son.

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The key to remember, or at least in our unit, is it is a boy run program. Therefore, we ask the youths, the PLC in particular, to help approve leaders and work with the committee chairman on insuring the SM has the proper adults on outings. With that said, we work hard at enforcing the rules of the BSA and ensuring adults are trained.


Ive found that adults need to get trained as soon as possible. There are several reasons, from Youth Protection to just knowing the rules. If adults attend the training they often see and learn what they are to do. In my experience, adults are more difficult to work with if theyre not trained. By being trained, they now understand what their role should be.


What makes this issue even more clouded is, especially with adults, is there is no list of rules let me explain. Often adults are accustom to having everything listed and clearly defined as were often treated that way ourselves daily, like in an employment contract, employee handbook, legal system, my civil rights, or bylaws etc. Adults often are looking for a precise set of rules or laws as that is now such a big part of our adult life.


But, in scouting, BSA provides rules where they are appropriate without turning it into a list of legal bylaws. The guidelines are general but detailed enough to allow the youths to execute a youth run organization. Along with these rules, is the Scout Law, which even the adults are charged with following. Therefore, I would say that the BSA provides enough rules. With that said, it often is not enough for the adults to understand. Therefore, I would suggest you do the following:


1. Put together a training schedule with council to get your adults trained. Make it mandatory before they can continue going on outings. Its painless and it really can be fun. Also, training covers everything from YP, Safety a Float, Safe Swim, issues, and etc. You really cannot afford not to have your leaders trained.


a. Ive noticed that after training, adults often see for themselves what to do or not to do.


b. Ive had adults that act similar to what you are experiencing and after training they remark how they were unaware of how things were suppose to work.


2. Im also a believer in making a troop handbook for adult leaders. We issue a list of troop rules we expect each adult to follow. The committee with the PLC establishes this and maintains it. Each adult is handed a copy and asked to read it. Some of it is a reminder of BSA Policy, like drugs, tobacco, and YP. But we also have items like:


a. Adult chain of command and how youths are to be corrected.


b. Not singling out your son nor disciplining your son. If your son needs correcting we ask that you ask another leader to perform this (unless safety deems otherwise).


3. Prior to each camping trip and upon arrival the first night. I call an adult meeting with the SPL and clearly explain the Adult Patrol and what they are expected to do. On the camping trip, I explain that I am their SPL while the boys have their SPL. I say it nicely, but firmly.



The above has worked for me. Ive had situations where adults dont or wont do the training. As hard as it is to do, I say sorry cannot use you. My CO makes it mandatory to attend training (after a reasonable amount of time). By forcing the training, I think it often weeds out potential problems before they occur. If they cannot do the training then I believe thats an indication of a problem in itself.


Secondly, I dont have time for adult issues. Im running a boy scouting program for the boys, if after doing training and being explained the rules, and I still have an adult that doesnt follow the rules then I politely tell them we cannot use them in the future. If they dont like it, then theyre more than welcome to join another troop in our area. Maybe they can go to that unit and work the way they want. In the last 10 years, Ive only had one adult that, after doing the training, refused to listen. I talked to him and said you cannot do XYZ but he continued. So we fired him and he went to another troop. That troop welcomed him with open arms and all I heard about every month, at Roundtable, was all the adult fighting that was going on in that troop.


Ive had a few that say they cannot take the time to do the training, so I dont know if I lost a potential good, bad, or ugly. I just know that setting the expectation clearly upfront with the training seems to work for me.


My 2 cents


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The discipline which was applied was excessive as defined by Scouting guidelines. It was negative and demeaning to the boy. Any other details only serve to provoke an emotional response in this case. At least two registered adults feel that the discipline is abusive as defined by Youth Protection Guidelines.


We have a written troop guideline that states that parents are welcome on activities; but that they should stand back and allow the boy leaders and trained adult leaders to do their jobs.


In addition to what I had originally stated, I had in mind to propose that in order to participate in troop activities, this adult must complete Scoutmaster Fundamentals Training and then submit his adult application to the troop committee. This provides him a way to learn how Scouting tries to teach Scouts to learn and to lead.


Thanks for the discussion. Keep it coming.


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Bob, by the letter of the guidelines, you are correct. Isn't the G2SS and YP guidelines, well guidelines. They are not laws or orders. Hasn't the BSA left their interpretation up to the leaders to decide what is excessive. With all the legal stuff and kicking out of the troop, when would you have time to deliver the promise and put the outing in scouting.


Isn't the intent of the guides to identify potential problems and offer a solution. I can't imaging how you can recruit leaders and scouts with a reputation of turning in every infraction of any guides to the local authorities. Bob, its only a matter of time until you are turned in for something that you didn't think was a big deal, it is the environment you help create. Scouts are boys. Not adults with such sound judgement that they can vote or decide whether to drink legally or not. Stop the zero defect atmosphere.


I doubt that turning in this parent would get your desired results. The parent needs someone, non-threating person they respect, to point out some "observations" not attack them. Kids don't come with instruction manuals and many parents try their best. Lets help them and not prosecute them.


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Double Eagle,

Your understanding of the Youth Protection Policies and the content of the G2SS is incorrect.


The Youth protection policies reflect the BSA's compliance with existing laws in nearly every state. You are not required to have evidence of abuse, only the suspicion of abuse. As Scout Leaders we are required by law to report suspected child abuse to local law enforcement or to the State Dept. of Children and Family Services, and to notify your local Council Scout Executive or the Scout Executive in the Council where the suspected abuse took place. Failure to do so is a criminal offense in most states. This is made very clear in the BSA's Youth Protection Training.


Anything in bold print in the Guide to Safe Scouting is a policy of the BSA, that means you must follow it. Failure to do so endangers the health and safety of our scouts, eliminates your liability protection umbrella provided by the BSA, opens you to permanent removal from the BSA, and could be grounds for civil or criminal prosecution related to your actions. The BSA is not kidding, they demand compliance with those policies.


Information printed in standard type in the G2SS are recommended practices, but you must follow all policies in BOLD type.


You also need to understand that you are not turning in the father you are protecting the child. One reason child abuse has grown to the level it has today (nearly 3 million cases every year) is the reluctance of adults to report other adults, while allowing the abuse of the child to continue.


Bob White

(This message has been edited by Bob White)

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We are talking about a father & son, correct? What exactly was done that was considered excessive under BSA guidelines?


It seems we may be stepping on toes here. If the father was discplining his own son and no one else was involved and there was no abuse then where is the problem??


Ed Mori


Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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What did the father do? I think if this group is going to give good advice, we need a good history. What exactly happened? It may have been poor manners, but not a violation of BSA policy. I agree with Rooster that if a father is 'disciplining" his son, its hands off, at least until the bamboo cane comes out. Can you give some details?

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When my son went on his first overnight as a boy scout I received some good advice from a leader I respected. He said "walk away and let the boys handle it." My son is now a Venture Scout and I am an AA but I will never tell him to do anything directly on any activity.

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On one hand we have the mother not disciplining her son (toad killer/picky eater) and we have this father. One extreme to the other. The parents are bad if they do and bad if they don't. In addition to helping scouts, don't we also help those in need. Both need help with parenting. Bob, keep in mind that not every troop is in the states, we are abroad too. What I perceive as abuse may only be tradition. Caning, coining, and even to the possibility of being ignorant about "mongolian spots" as bruises. What you see as abuse may lead to an ugly situation between adults that will spill into the youth arena. Help the parent. The adult needs help from a respected adult in anger management.


Bob, bear with me on text book stuff. I'm playing on an extended camping trip in the Balkans without all my references just a little memory.

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I agree that more information is needed in order to generate a proper response or give good recommendations. Have two boys in scouting and made it clear to them early on that on o-nites and during meetings that they were scouts first and my sons second. Worked out ok. This is the advice given to every new adult volunteer/leader that joins our troop.



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Thanks for the comments and the advice concerning training and necessity of reporting any incident that we feel is abuse as defined by Guide to Safe Scouting. This incident has not been reported yet due to circumstances of incident and the surprise and effect on the adult leader that observed it.


I submitted this topic for discussion because of the difficulty that most of the registered adults in our troop had in confronting this problem. We have (individually and collectively) worked through this difficulty and will respond more quickly in the future for the benefit of the boys. One of my goals was to get others to think about how they would respond.


I view our job in Scouts as adult leaders to be responsible to the boy and his well-being - we are here for the boys. I am not trained in helping adults with their problems and do not see it as my job - some may happen along the way as we work together with the boys. I am concerned with the boy/adult interaction primarily during Scout activities. In general, it is not in the best interest of the boy for a scout leader to directly interfere with the parent/child relationship - but to respect that relationship and encourage it when you can.



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