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Grubdad

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

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"I know everyone here in this room has perfect children who are all well versed in exemplary behavior, but are there anything that we ought to know about up-front?  We've dealt with bed-wetting, ADD/ADHD, Aspergers, Allergies, home-sickness, you name it, we've had it, so your child isn't going to be any big deal, but it would help if we had a heads-up on any issues so we can make sure your son has the best possible scouting experience...."

 

If parents don't speak up in the group, they are encouraged to call me at home to discuss privately. 

 

I don't know what it's like your side of the pond but here parents often need considerable prompting to tell you there are special needs. I make a point of asking the parents of every new recruit, "is there anything else I need to know?" and go on to explain that can mean anything from peanut allergies to dyslexia to aspergers to sleep walking to claustrophobia. I've lost count of the number where they say no and then..... the classic was the peanut allergy I didn't know about till the scout told me they'd left their eppi pen at home. even worse was the parent of a cub who sent their cub to camp with sun screen "because it was on the kit list" even though he was allergic to it. Yes. That actually happened.

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I don't know what it's like your side of the pond but here parents often need considerable prompting to tell you there are special needs.

It's the same. I used to be amazed at the assumptions parent had of scout leaders' skills and abilities for dealing with medical and special needs. I can't count the number of parents who later admitted they took their kids of medication on weekends without telling anyone in the troop. 

 

Barry

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I don't know what it's like your side of the pond but here parents often need considerable prompting to tell you there are special needs. I make a point of asking the parents of every new recruit, "is there anything else I need to know?" and go on to explain that can mean anything from peanut allergies to dyslexia to aspergers to sleep walking to claustrophobia. I've lost count of the number where they say no and then..... the classic was the peanut allergy I didn't know about till the scout told me they'd left their eppi pen at home. even worse was the parent of a cub who sent their cub to camp with sun screen "because it was on the kit list" even though he was allergic to it. Yes. That actually happened.

 

I can tell you that in Texas, we are pretty open about these things. The discussions are held privately and are very earnest. I would say that most discussions fall in to three camps: 1) Parents that know their child has an issue and are willing to discuss it and how to handle, 2) Parents that are aware there's an issue but have not dealt with it yet or are in the process of dealing with it, and 3) Parents that are in denial about their child's situation, blame others or simple blow it off as "kids being kids". That's as far as mental or behavioral issues.

 

As for health issues, 99% of the time parents are VERY open (again, discretely) about any health issues. Only a few times did I have kids with asthma have an issue and not have an inhaler. We met with parents when we got home and the response was, "They haven't needed the inhaler in years." Our rule: If the doctor prescribes it, you carry it.

 

Behavior-wise, we lay down the law. Violate the rules and you are on probation. In 12+ years only had to use it 3 times.

Edited by Krampus

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The caveat I always use with the parents is, if you don't inform us of a potential problem up-front, the phone call at 1:00 am will be either to come get your child or we'll meet you at the ER.  It's remarkable how that loosens the tongues of the parents.  I always leave the door open to a private phone call/visit/whatever it takes, to make sure I have all the information necessary to take care of their child.  The onus is on the parents.  I make sure that all the parents in the room are my witness that I addressed this issue fully because it falls directly under the #1 rule of our troop, Safety First.  I let the parents know that either way they are going to be embarrassed, a little bit up front when they tell me the problem or a whole lot when the whole troop finds out later on.  Their choice.

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Sounds like there are similar problems both sides of the Atlantic!

 

Thankfully none of the issues discovered later than they should have been have resulted in a trip to hospital. Fingers crossed that it will never happen but you never know.

 

I should add that it's by no means all parents. I recently had a new scout start with cystic fibrosis. His parents could not have been more helpful in terms of briefing me on his needs. If only everyone was that helpful!

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You are right 'skip, parents are pretty much the same all over the place.  They don't want their child to be stigmatized or embarrassed.  They don't trust the adults to be able to handle the knowledge and will treat their child differently, so they are reluctant to say something.   Only once did we have a serious asthmatic reaction that required outside medical attention and I recognized it quick enough to deal with it.  Luckily we were at summer camp and not far afield somewhere.

 

I was ASM for well over 5-6 years before the SM notified me he carried and Epi-Pen for bee stings, so it's not just a parental problem. 

 

If one is going to take Safety First seriously, it is more than a whittling safety circle or ax yard, it's what's on the health forms, too.

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OP here.

 

I really appreciate these thoughtful replies. You have given me a lot to think about.

 

At the Troop meeting last night, one of the Assistant SMs, who I know well from our Cub pack, asked me about some of the issues from last weekend. Apparently he had heard that things had gotten a bit out of hand at the Camporee. We talked a bit about some of the chronic challenges a few of these boys had posed, and he is planning to get the parents involved, and give notice that their behavior won't be tolerated any more.

 

He quizzed me about what happened on the trip, so I gave him some examples. I told him I didn't want to come off as the new guy who was telling him how to run his troop, but he encouraged me to share my observations because a fresh perspective was sometimes useful. So I gave him my thoughts, which were that it seems these boys have gotten reprimanded so many times, but with no consequences attached, that they have learned they can get away with just about anything and risk only a scolding. That if there were real consequences, like missing the next Troop activity, it might be a real wake-up call. He got a look on his face which seemed to say, "Wow, why didn't we think of that".

 

He and a couple of the other leaders went and had a little pow-wow to discuss the situation, which, apparently, they had all been concerned about. The ASM who is my friend said he is going to talk to all the parents of the usual suspects about the situation, and before the next campout will present them with letters spelling out exactly what is expected, along with maps to the campout so the parent can come retrieve their son if there's a problem.

 

We have a few special needs boys in our troop, and they do great. Everyone understands their challenges and works with them and any special behavior quirks. It is also tragic when kids come from abusive or neglectful homes, and act out or are socially confused because of it. These are harder to identify. Other kids may have mental or emotional problems. Again, these situations may be hard to identify. And some kids are just plain mean bullies. So it's not easy.

 

For instance, one kid at the Camporee was this real nice, friendly kid, but he was a bit of a handful to manage. Often didn't follow instructions, and would wander around at times doing his own thing. It turns out he is autistic. It's the mean ones that worry me.

 

Thanks, again, for the suggestions and ideas.

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I showed up for a meeting about 1/2 hour early and my "Space Cadet" boy was there.  While I went about my business he went over and started playing the piano.  He loves his music and I got serenaded for almost a half hour before my ASM arrived and yelled at him for messing with the CO's property and that he couldn't play the piano!  Before the night was over, the ASM and I had a "little visit".  How many times is it that the boys are the problem?  and how many times is it the adults?  :)  

 

By the way, my "Mr. Space Cadet" piano player is also a karate Black Belt, so I know there's hope for him and eventually he'll turn into a great scout.  I don't know how much of his problems are a result of his home life but from what I have seen it is a lot.

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@@Grubdad, I hate to be Nancy Naysayer, but it sounds like the leaders are simply going to give these kids yet another chance.

 

Peeing in the middle of someone else's camp site and then doing something as dangerous as laying down in a roadway is a deal break as far as I'm concerned. If that is not grounds for immediate probation or suspension, I don't know what it.

 

I hope your leadership gets their act together and can stop this stuff. Let us know what happens.

 

Lastly, please don't think of the troop as "their troop". You are a dues paying member so you and your family are PART of the troop with an equal voice. Any troop that seeks to learn and grow will be totally open to ANY comments, suggestions, questions or concerns that ANY member has. If not, that's a sure sign you might be in the wrong place. ;)

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Thanks for your support, Krampus. This example I gave was from last fall, so it's too late to address it now. But it is something that should be filed away for reference.

 

I hate to be Nancy Naysayer, but it sounds like the leaders are simply going to give these kids yet another chance.

 

Peeing in the middle of someone else's camp site and then doing something as dangerous as laying down in a roadway is a deal break as far as I'm concerned. If that is not grounds for immediate probation or suspension, I don't know what it.

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When things get so out of hand that boys are peeing in the campsites and lying down in roadways, I as an adult have the option of simply not being a part of that process.  Although I have never had to resort to it, I do as a leader have the option to say, "I'm not going if these kinds of things will be part of the activity."  If they wish to find adults who are willing to take that kind of risk, then more power to them.  The boys all know what the Safety First and Look and Act like a Scout rules are.  I have had a few boys push the envelop here and there, but these kinds of activities described here have never been an issue I have had to deal with in 45+ years of working with youth in a variety of different settings, scout, church and community based youth programs. 

 

If the adults are allowing this type of unfettered behavior, there is something seriously wrong with the ADULTS!

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None of the leaders witnessed this. We were attending as Cub visitors. I was at the back of the hiking group when this happened, and didn't see it clearly, but other Scouts and Cubs did. IIRC the offenders made some lame excuse like they couldn't hold it or something. So I probably was to blame for not dealing with it it more vigorously. I think I mentioned it to the ASM that evening, who kind of shrugged it off.

 

If I reported every obnoxious thing this kid did I would be running to the SM every half hour. This is the son of our former Pack Scoutmaster, currently one of the Troop's ASMs.

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None of the leaders witnessed this. We were attending as Cub visitors. I was at the back of the hiking group when this happened, and didn't see it clearly, but other Scouts and Cubs did. IIRC the offenders made some lame excuse like they couldn't hold it or something. So I probably was to blame for not dealing with it it more vigorously. I think I mentioned it to the ASM that evening, who kind of shrugged it off.

 

If I reported every obnoxious thing this kid did I would be running to the SM every half hour. This is the son of our former Pack Scoutmaster, currently one of the Troop's ASMs.

 

Therein lies the problem, I'm afraid. When I've seen stuff like this before the unit never does anything about the Scout because, well, they don't want to lose his dad. Unless the SM is serious about addressing such issues this will only continue until the Scout finally leaves Scouting.

 

I hate to say it, but it does sound like these adult leaders really don't consider this behavior as un-Scoutlike. My troop welcomes on average 5-7 Scouts as year as transfers; mostly because their former units tolerate similar crass behavior.

 

You may need to find another unit if this does not improve for you....or learn to teach your son to stay away from this kid.

 

I'd be prepared for the eventuality that this may never get better.

Edited by Krampus

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I've had more than one new scout urinate near or on their tent in the middle of the night because they were scared in the dark. Typically the Patrol Leaders take care of it and the adults don't over react. Actions need to be understood in context. Peeing in defiance would require a different response.

 

Your issue Grubdad has some history and part of the complication is the adults, or adult, are still learning the right responses. All troops and adults go through the same growth, and it never really stops. What you learn from this situation will better prepare you for the next. Our troop policies are the results of a series of situations in the past and how we handled them, or maybe more often mishandled them. 

 

What's really hard about dealing with misbehavior is most new adults instinctively want to react with a compassionate response because we truly want scouts to grow from their experiences. The problem is that human nature combines our past experience with our self-serving desires and misplaced compassion gives the wrong self-serving expectations. In other words if you give a scout a yard, he will want a mile and repeat his behavior to see if he can get it. And for those adults who use the "Three strikes your out" approach; Please! 

 

What I learned from my experiences over the years is to not take a scouts behavior of any type personally. And practice holding the scout accountable for his behavior, whether it's good behavior or bad. And hold them accountable as soon as you can so that they can process their the right and wrong of their decisions. Holding a scout accountable is as easy as asking what parts of the law they used or abused in their decision. 

 

Our goals as adults is to help scouts develop habits of making right decisions. So, if we can just get them to reflect on the consequences (not being friendly, courteous or kind.....) of wrong decisions, hopefully they eventually want to initiate the habit of making right decisions. 

 

Truth of the matter is that the more wrong decisions as person of this age makes and are held accountible, the faster they learn to change. I learned that from a youth counselor long before I was a scout leader. I just didn't really respect what he said until it was applied in the troop. Up to a limit, we want scouts to make bad decisions so they learn the habit of making good decisions. What gets in the way are those few scouts who don't want to be there in the first place and actually enjoy the stress they create. I just hand those guys off to the parents and let them deal with it. 

 

In a boy run troop or patrol, the objective is to get the group thinking of right decisions so that they as a group hold individuals accountable for their choices. They may not mention the scout law, but they all know right from wrong because they continually hold each other accountable. As the scouts develop a maturity of holding each other accountable for their behavior (good and bad), the adults learn less and less about misbehavior because the scouts have learned how to deal with it or really nip it in the bud.

 

One example off the top of my head is when I walked over to watch the scouts play Capture the Flag. I was far enough in the woods that the scouts didn't know I was there. As one of the new scouts ran by at full speed, he said a few four letter words. An older scout running near him said, "hey we don't talk like that here". The new scout said "got-it". All that happened in just a few seconds and without much thought. But the group as a whole excepted that the language was wrong and as a whole nipped it in the bud before the behavior become a problem. 

 

Sounds easy, but that kind of culture takes some time to develop. It starts with adult expectations and how to deal with good and bad behavior.

 

You will eventually get it, we all do with a little practice.

 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad

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I've had more than one new scout urinate near or on their tent in the middle of the night because they were scared in the dark.

 

I can say I've done that in bear territory when my over-night bottle was already full. There are some times when that is necessary.;)

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