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Behavior problems: What is expected, how to deal with?

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I said you need to have the talk early and timely.  And, it needs to be blunt.  "These are the boundaries of scouting.  Either participate within those boundaries or find another place to spend your time."

 

My experience is also that the scouts either shape up or leave on their own.  It's the blunt conversation that is critical.

 

Agree 100%. Not something you wait to see what happens. Someone could get hurt.

 

Address quickly, calmly, rationally and discretely (but not in clandestine manner).

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I have never had to ask a scout to quit as a result of his behavior, and very few leaders here have examples of bad behavior that would top ours. But families who join our troop learn that we don't hide anything from the parents and we expect the parents to work as a team with the troop leaders to help change bad behavior.

 

The parents are informed about all their son's behavior, both good and bad (Typically 90% good). I like to think of myself as the boys biggest cheerleader. But when the parents get a report of bad behavior, they are expected to help with the behavior unless they are told the troop leaders (adults and scouts) have a plan to work with their son and don't really need their help. In extreme situations, the behavior reaches a level where it is made clear to the parents that they either participate with their son in patrol and troop activities, or their son is not allowed to participate with the other scouts. The families make the choice if junior continues with the troop. I would guess our record is about 50 percent of families decide not to come back back. Those are extreme situations and rare. 

 

However, it's not just dealing with the bad Scout behavior; a few adults were told they were no longer welcome to participate with the scouts because of their behavior. Of the three I can remember off the top of my head, only one pulled her son from the troop.

 

Let me also add that our policy was learned from hard experiences. I think all units (cubs, troops, and Venturing) have to learn and develop from their experiences. 

 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad

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I've also noticed entire campouts brought down by one or two really negative or bad apples. I've also seen one or two really good apples float the entire troop but that's probably a SM minute thread.

 

A "stern talking to" is nothing but an empty threat for any kid that knows how to play people. The biggest problem scouts I've ever had are those that don't want to be there. If they want to be there then they want to be accepted on the terms of scouting and it usually doesn't take much more than pointing out their behavior for them to see the problem and try to fix it. Immature scouts that want to be there just need time and constant, gentle pressure. Their behavior will slowly improve over time. If they don't want to be there then their behavior will slowly get worse until finally something explodes.

 

Either way, there are boundaries and they are the same for all scouts (and adults, as was pointed out). Also, as pointed out, there should be consequences for going over the line. If a scout is brazenly breaking boundaries and nobody stands up to him then there's a problem that should't be wasted. It might be the SM wants the scouts to deal with it and the scouts need some training. It might also be the scouts expect the adults to deal with it and the adults are uncomfortable dealing with it. It might be that the troublesome kids all belong to the SM/asms. It could be the scouts only listen to the SM and everyone else is ignored. You'll never know until you ask the SM in the most open way you can. "I saw so and so saying such and such at the last campout, was that okay? What was supposed to happen? My son was really embarrassed."

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I work my boundary issues in with the leadership development emphasis in the troop.  I find that once a boy figures out that negative attention does not draw the biggest crowd, they tend to square themselves up. 

 

The biggest most obvious problems arise from the boys who have not had the opportunity to develop social and leadership skills from their home and/or school settings.  They tend to be "misfits" and are quite lonely and have no skills to change that so they act up garnering any attention even if it's negative.

 

While on the surface teaching boys social skills is not as emphasized as leadership and outdoors skill sets, it is still a necessary part of character development of the Oath and Law.

 

A boy acts up and how do others react?  Is their reaction within the boundaries of the Scout Oath and Law?  Is the boy treated with helpful kindness?  Does courteous fit in anywhere in one's reaction to his infraction?  OR is the reaction one of punishment, separation and encouragement to quit the program because one doesn't want to have to deal with what should have been done by his neglectful parents?

 

I have had boys quit the troops over the years, but I have never had to "send a boy home", "have his parents come and pick him up" or tell him he can't be part of the troop any longer.  If I ever get to that stage of the game, I'll quit Scouting because I can no longer an effective Scouter.  All the boys that join my troop are my responsibility to HELP out, not KICK out.

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OP here. Thanks for the responses. I am getting some very useful input here.

 

I had lunch yesterday with one of the dads from our previous Cub den who is a good friend. We decided it would be a good idea for the four former Cub dads who were on this campout to meet with the SM to talk about the experience, share what we observed, and see how we can improve.

 

I was reminded by my friend about yet another incident last weekend where the #1 perp on this trip also made a particularly bad racial slur. This was not one of those little comments that could have been open to interpretation, but instead a sweeping condemnation of an entire racial group. This sort of thing, if I ran things, would have resulted in serious punishment. I don't think the SM was aware of it, though.

 

If it were up to me, I would take the five bad apples and tell them they were on strict probation until further notice. This would mean that at the next event, the most minor infraction would result in them being separated from the troop and their parents being called to come pick them up. This may not reform all of them, but it would sure send a message to them and the rest of the troop. As it is now, all the other Scouts see is that these five have all the power: The power to disrupt. The power to get attention. The power to intimidate. The power to get away with it.

 

I also really like the idea of the parents of the bad apples being required to attend the next event and micro-manage their boy. One problem is that the absolute worst one belongs to an ASM, who has always been incredibly hands-off regarding any sort of discipline. In Cubs he would often stand by passively while his boy was being obnoxious or mean. But I don't think he wields any political clout, and he's a pleasant enough guy, so I don't foresee any major resistance there. But I don't foresee any major improvement, either.

 

I actually think most or all of these problem boys want to be there. I think to them it may be an opportunity to get away from adult supervision to violate boundaries and run wild.

 

Keep the suggestions coming! Thanks!

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I posted my last reply before I read Stosh's excellent post.

 

I am torn between the punishment vs. nurture choice. I agree that Scouting should be a positive and guiding influence for all boys, and especially for those that need that extra guidance and structure because of a deficit in their own lives. I was one of those boys.

 

So I am not wanting to immediately kick anyone out, with the possible exception of the #1 troublemaker who has been a toxic element for seven years now, since I first encountered him in Cubs. I know at least three families in our Cub pack who quit Scouting because of this kid, and the lack of response to his behavior. These families never returned to Scouting, and you can bet don't have much good to say about Scouting to anyone.

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I posted my last reply before I read Stosh's excellent post.

 

I am torn between the punishment vs. nurture choice. I agree that Scouting should be a positive and guiding influence for all boys, and especially for those that need that extra guidance and structure because of a deficit in their own lives. I was one of those boys.

 

So I am not wanting to immediately kick anyone out, with the possible exception of the #1 troublemaker who has been a toxic element for seven years now, since I first encountered him in Cubs. I know at least three families in our Cub pack who quit Scouting because of this kid, and the lack of response to his behavior. These families never returned to Scouting, and you can bet don't have much good to say about Scouting to anyone.

 

Well, as my old friend Spock used to say...

 

tumblr_inline_npj08hCrD11rls7hh_500.jpg

 

Seems like it is either this kid leaving or MANY kids leaving. As an SM that's a no brainer. We'd be sitting down with mom, dad and Scout to discuss his behavior and this probation. If he goes on a camp out, mom or dad have to go to....mostly to witness that we've dealt with him fairly. Give him six months. No foul language, no trouble, no bullying. One instance of any of those he's banned from the next outing and must demonstrate his changed nature during meetings and service projects. Second strike and he only allowed to attend meetings. Third strike, we have a meeting with district to discuss his disciplinary issues.

 

He will get the message before it comes to the second strike and leave.

Edited by Krampus

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Occasionally one does come across a boy who is devoid of social skills that they really didn't know. Parenting skills cannot be assumed in this day and age.

 

Scouters who have been through trainin' for kids with special needs will also recognize this to be a symptom of kids with certain learning disabilities, eh? 

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Scouters who have been through trainin' for kids with special needs will also recognize this to be a symptom of kids with certain learning disabilities, eh? 

 

Not always. There's a distinct difference between someone with learning or social disabilities and kids that are just off the rails. To those trained in working with such kids it is easy to spot.

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Well, as my old friend Spock used to say...

 

tumblr_inline_npj08hCrD11rls7hh_500.jpg

 

Seems like it is either this kid leaving or MANY kids leaving. As an SM that's a no brainer. We'd be sitting down with mom, dad and Scout to discuss his behavior and this probation. If he goes on a camp out, mom or dad have to go to....mostly to witness that we've dealt with him fairly. Give him six months. No foul language, no trouble, no bullying. One instance of any of those he's banned from the next outing and must demonstrate his changed nature during meetings and service projects. Second strike and he only allowed to attend meetings. Third strike, we have a meeting with district to discuss his disciplinary issues.

 

He will get the message before it comes to the second strike and leave.

 

If one feels that the problem lies with just the boy and that only the parents can deal with it, they are missing out on a major learning opportunity for the PL, the patrol members and the adult working with the program.

 

First of all if one is using the patrol-method, how is the this boy not isolated from the rest of the troop?  And why aren't the patrol members taking care of each other?  Maybe the PL needs some extra guidance/support from SPL in handling this issue?  What adult resources are going into this issue?

 

I have had more than one occasion where the boy who is seeking attention gets positive attention from his patrol mates and settles in quite nicely. 

 

If one is using the troop-method, it offers up a wide range of distractions and a greater audience to draw from and does nothing but cause major problems.

 

I find that the biggest "trouble makers" are those that have found it difficult to find a comfortable "home" in their patrol and their "friends" have not been very friendly.  Under these circumstances, maybe more than just the one boy ought to be kicked out for not taking care of their buddies.

 

Once one figures out that the leadership, maturity and boundaries all fit together, things run a lot smoother.  I have mentioned many times I don't seem to have these kinds of problems in my troops, and I really don't think the make up of my boys is any different than for anyone else's.

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@@Stosh, from the sounds of things this kid has been a pain of many years. The Patrol Method may not be the answer.

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I have had boys quit the troops over the years, but I have never had to "send a boy home", "have his parents come and pick him up" or tell him he can't be part of the troop any longer.  If I ever get to that stage of the game, I'll quit Scouting because I can no longer an effective Scouter.  All the boys that join my troop are my responsibility to HELP out, not KICK out.

@@Stosh

 

I fear my comments may have been taken the wrong way here. I am not advocating sending a scout home as a run of the mill, standard reaction for someone who has behaved badly. It is very much a “nuclear option†used in exceptional circumstances. In 20 years as a scouter I have been forced to use it in on just 4 occasions. Twice with cubs* and twice with scouts. On each occasion my own moral has taken a battering.

 

The two scouts were both part of a gang of 5. When I took over my current troop in 2009 I inherited a discipline problem from the previous SL. It sounds almost identical to the OP. This gang were rude to scouts and adults alike, constant back chat, constant attempts to intimidate. I tried every trick in the book to get them interested and engaging. They all failed. Eventually I laid down the law. 3 of them pulled their socks up because, basically, they liked scouts and realised it was time to choose it or lose it. The other two eventually got sent home. One was almost immediately afterward for calling me stupid in front of the whole troop. The other one was nearly a year later when she slipped back into her old ways after an initial improvement. She sat on the ground during a night hike and refused to move when she didn’t get her own way on something. I say sent home. I tried to get her parents on the phone but they didn’t pick up. Both came back for a while then later on quit.

 

It wasn’t something I wanted to do, or enjoyed at all. In fact I felt like a failure on both occasions. Those incidents were (I think) both in winter 2009/10. I’ve not had to do it since or even threaten to do it. If I am ever pushed again though, if I ever have scouts ruining things either for the other scouts or the adult volunteers on my team I won’t hesitate to do so again.

 

*The two cubs incidents were very different. Both for out of character one off incidents where again I was left with no choice. 

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OP here. Thanks for the responses. I am getting some very useful input here.

 

I had lunch yesterday with one of the dads from our previous Cub den who is a good friend. We decided it would be a good idea for the four former Cub dads who were on this campout to meet with the SM to talk about the experience, share what we observed, and see how we can improve.

 

I was reminded by my friend about yet another incident last weekend where the #1 perp on this trip also made a particularly bad racial slur. This was not one of those little comments that could have been open to interpretation, but instead a sweeping condemnation of an entire racial group. This sort of thing, if I ran things, would have resulted in serious punishment. I don't think the SM was aware of it, though.

 

If it were up to me, I would take the five bad apples and tell them they were on strict probation until further notice. This would mean that at the next event, the most minor infraction would result in them being separated from the troop and their parents being called to come pick them up. This may not reform all of them, but it would sure send a message to them and the rest of the troop. As it is now, all the other Scouts see is that these five have all the power: The power to disrupt. The power to get attention. The power to intimidate. The power to get away with it.

 

I also really like the idea of the parents of the bad apples being required to attend the next event and micro-manage their boy. One problem is that the absolute worst one belongs to an ASM, who has always been incredibly hands-off regarding any sort of discipline. In Cubs he would often stand by passively while his boy was being obnoxious or mean. But I don't think he wields any political clout, and he's a pleasant enough guy, so I don't foresee any major resistance there. But I don't foresee any major improvement, either.

 

I actually think most or all of these problem boys want to be there. I think to them it may be an opportunity to get away from adult supervision to violate boundaries and run wild.

 

Keep the suggestions coming! Thanks!

 

Yah, hmmmm....

 

So a group of newbies is goin' to go to the fellow who has been runnin' things for years and demand changes after goin' on one trip, eh?   Like da custodian at Hogwarts they want to see some punishment!!! :mad:

 

How do yeh really think that's goin' to go?  

 

In many troops it's goin' to get a CC or SM sittin' with da group, listenin' and noddin' sagely, thankin' 'em for their input and then havin' the "this is not Cub Scouts and you are not in charge" conversation.  Comin' in and demandin' to see some punishment of other people's kids isn't a great way to start life in a new program.  Not even punishment, eh?  Yeh want to see someone else's kid kicked out!   Helicopter parents can be really destructive to good Boy Scoutin'.

 

Besides, you don't know these boys yet, eh?   What experience yeh have with troublemaker #1 is from years ago.  That's what's known as "prejudice", eh?  Kids change with time, often lots.  

 

I know this is hard, eh?  Yeh apparently have a tight-knit bunch of kids and former Cub Scout parents who all joined this troop together as a fully intact clique.  Yah, yah, all those new crossovers are great kids, eh?   They would never use bad language when you weren't around.  :laugh:   And you'd know, because you are around on everything the lads do, right?

 

In Boy Scoutin', we take kids of all ages and backgrounds from all sorts of families, eh?   Some whose families use more colorful language, some who might be from broken homes where the lads are still learnin' better behavior.  Scoutin' isn't a gated community, and we really don't do punishment. 

 

I return to my original diagnosis.  Yeh need to sit back and stop rabble rousin'.   No comments until yeh really become a member of the troop and not just your den, eh? Get to know all of the good things about the troop, and the older boys, and the Scoutmaster, and da other adult leaders and parents.   Settle in, and give yourself time to get comfortable with da chaos of youth leadership that yeh never had with dads runnin' the show in Cub Scouts.

 

Just like workin' with kids, yeh have to spend at least 4 times discoverin' and praising the good things they do before you'll ever be successful in pointin' out one thing that they might improve on.  Other parents will listen to yeh more after you have built up some social capital, just da way kids will.

 

Then, down the road a ways, if your son feels there are issues go talk to the SM.   But if yeh take anyone with you, at least half of 'em have to be parents of older boys who weren't part of your den/pack. :unsure:

 

Beavah

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Most problems if left untreated for many years will tend to get worse over time.  As SM go to the parents and tell them their child needs professional help and see how far you get.  :)

 

When I was in the ministry I would teach Senior High Sunday School, Middle School confirmation and late grade school Vacation Bible School.  That way I have many consecutive years with the kids in my congregation.  When the 4th grade Sunday School teacher gave me a dire warning about "Johnny" who would be coming into my VBS class in the summer.  He had been a pain in every teacher's neck since the start of 3 year-old's Sunday School.

 

Well, what they couldn't figure out is why I didn't have a problem with him in VBS and Confirmation and by the time he got to HS he was doing well.  I didn't have the heart to tell them the problem might not have been the boy.  My first clue?  The 4th grade Sunday School teacher gave me a dire warning......

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@@Cambridgeskip

 

My comments were never meant as a judgment of anyone.  Not everyone has the skills or background to handle difficult situations and I completely understand that.  Not all SM's are good with ADD/ADHD or Autism or any one of a number of social issues and/or even physical and mental problems that young boys are challenged with. 

 

Yet how we react to those things tells us as much about ourselves as it does about those we encounter.

 

Psychology has always taught us that there are only two options we face at times like this Fight or Flight.  Or lets put it this way, are we going to engage the problem or are we going to separate ourselves from the problem?

 

So I can put a scout on probation for 6 months and wait for him to fix his own problem (which he has had all his life) or one will officially make the separation know to the world. 

 

Or I can engage the scout for 6 months and find out what the issues are and whether or not I can help him.  Now I might not personally be able to help him, but maybe I can find others who can if I have a good handle on understanding his problem.

 

I find I drag less guilt home with me with the second option.

 

I have had a lot of experience with at-risk kids over the years and one of the first things I did for self-preservation in the program was to realize I was the "outsider"  I had to engage and understand their situation in life if I was going to be of any help in their lives.  Let's put it this way, If I couldn't get through to these kids they didn't get kicked out of the program, they got sent to jail.   I was their last chance.  The onus was on me! NOT THEM!  I had to step up my game for them!  Over the past 45 years, my perspective has never changed whether it be with at-risk kids, church group kids, scout kids or neighborhood kids, it's all the same.  I might be their own chance... and I don't know which ones they are when they come to me.

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