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When is it OK for an ASM to raise their voice and yell at a Scout?

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To set the tone for my question, I’ll relate my son’s experience...

 

At camp, he had some merit badge work to finish up on the last day. He told the ASM that he had this work to do, both in the morning and at lunch. Now fast forward to the afternoon. The Troop volunteered to put together the bon fire for the last night at camp, calling it a service project. My son was not there to help because he was turning in his merit badge homework. Upon returning to camp, the ASM made a big deal about scouts “ditching†the service project, yelling loudly that they knew who it was and that it was unacceptable. They were to work on it as a team and that by not being there to help, it made the rest of the scouts work harder.

 

My son says that everyone there knew he was talking directly to/about him. And that the ASM wasn’t just talking loudly but was in “rage†mode, never asking directly what he had been doing during this time.

 

I’m not happy about A) an ASM raising their voice to get a point like this across. B) publicly embarrassing a Scout in front of the Troop. C) why they weren’t following the Patrol Method and bringing it first to the attention of the SPL. So I’d like to get some opinions here about situations such as this...

 

Thanks in advance!

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@@Beagles welcome to scouter.com. Some followup questions:

 

1. When you said "the Troop volunteered"  was that done by the scout leadership or adult leadership.

2. With ASM complaining about  "scouts ditching the service project", why do you feel your son was singled out. I suspect most scouts were also finishing merit badges on Friday and missed the service project.

3. What was the reaction of your other troop adults attending camp? Did they intervene?

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Sounds like it's time for this troop to start using the boy-led requirement of scouting and quit making up rules as they go along.  Too bad your son didn't find the courage to stand up to the bully.

 

1) the adult should not have been present at the activity.

2) the boys got the work done with or without a few missing.

3) I would suggest to the SM they find a new ASM, that YPT doesn't allow bullying and berating of boys in public or private.

 

If this guy can't control his emotions at a service project which was none of his business, what about next time when the situation is more serious?

 

Safety first, the ASM is gone.  I don't allow bullying from the boys or the adults.  No second chances. 

Edited by Stosh

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The times when an adult should raise their voice are few and far between. As a general rule it should involve having to get someone's attention very quickly, probably in a safety related moment eg "mess tent is on fire, everybody out," or "put that axe that you were swinging around now."

 

An adult having a "bark" on them that they can bring out is useful in such situations.

 

As a general rule though any kind of balling out of a scout by an adult should be done with a level voice, once all the facts are known and understood and normally away from the rest of the troop. As per Stosh's comments, an adult who is in full rage mode has lost control and needs to reign it in. I perhaps wouldn't go as far as asking him to leave for a one off incident but somebody should be speaking to him and making sure he understands the correct procedures, keeping control of both himself and the scouts and the best way of speaking to scouts that do need a "word in their shell" (as we would say this side of the pond). Being cursed with an absolute "fog horn" (in the words of Mrs Cambridgeskip) of a voice in even the most normal of circumstances I find that the best way of expressing my displeasure at something that has gone on (which is rare) is to speak very quietly indeed. It's so unusual that everyone pauses to wonder what on earth has happened :)

  • Upvote 1

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Yeah, I got that "voice of God" thing (the thunder-on-the-mountain, not still-small-voice type) going on too. It's great for announcing soccer games and pitching concessions, not so great for conveying expectations to youth. Plenty of times after action, I've had to apologize for how I came off.

 

That said, in situations like these, help your child develop a thicker skin. Singled out? Well, I grew up an Arab American in a county rife with Klansmen and short on African Americans. Singled out was a way of life and came from all sides, all age groups, and all classes: Dad's fellow guardsmen, my fellow scouts. It could be about anything, from Mom's old-world attitude, Dad's prodigious nose, food rife with garlic and other spices, our kindness towards the unlovable, our affinity with camels (which, for the record, none of my kin ever raised), Grandpa's loyalty to the UMW (whose banner he flew just under the nations flag) ... if there was a way to say we didn't belong, it was found out and pointed out.

 

So, maybe what my family did will help your son.

 

1. There was to be no crying or excuses for who we were or why we do what we do. That included no whining about what other people said or did.

2. For each such scenario there were two options.

a. Be more like them, and stand up to us.

b. Be more like us, and invite them to supper (metaphorically, although Mom did stock three freezers full just in case ...).

 

I quickly learned that the food thing was more fun and resulted in fewer tears. So, encourage your son to identify with whatever good thing he was being singled out for, and invite his ASM in. After a dress-down, if it went as you described. He should have a quite word with the ASM and offer something like ...

 

"With all due respect sir, I thought you all would be more upset if I left advancement work hanging. I'll try to manage my schedule better and be there for my guys next time. Until then, if you're a counselor, I'd like to work on my next MB with you."

Edited by qwazse

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The times when an adult should raise their voice are few and far between. As a general rule it should involve having to get someone's attention very quickly, probably in a safety related moment eg "mess tent is on fire, everybody out," or "put that axe that you were swinging around now."

 

I strongly agree with Cambridgeskip on this one.  Unless it is to catch the immediate attention of a scout or Scouts to prevent a Health and Safety issue from occurring, there is no reason for any adult to yell or "bark" at a Scout.  Praise in public, critic in private is how issues should be handled.   if the ASM had a problem with attendance, then he should have addressed it with the SPL.    Instead the ASM made a fool of himself, as he already knew why several Scouts were not at the service project, but ranted anyways.

 

if the SPL volunteered his troop for this project, and it was completed, then why is the ASM getting into the SPL's lane?   Has this ASM taken position specific training?   

 

This is a teachable moment.  The SM needs too take the ASM aside and explain what he did wrong in this case. 

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This certainly sounds like one of those situations where there is far more going on than meets the eye.

 

Presumably this happened at summer camp - over a month ago?

 

There are rare occasions when yelling is appropriate for communication.  There are far more occasions where it is inappropriate - but, as a parent, I'm sure you can appreciate how it can be a gut reaction to being angry, scared or disappointed.  I'm sure you can also appreciate how, after a long week of camping, one can be exhausted and be a little more prone to rude communication.  I can think of several occasions where I've raised my voice inappropriately, and have had to apologize to the youth and adults who I treated poorly.  I can also recall a few rare instances where a message was delivered in high volume, which I feel was appropriate for the situation.

 

I wouldn't feel comfortable judging this ASM's actions - we know nothing of the events leading up to the incident.  Its very easy to intentionally or unintentionally paint someone in a negative light by omitting some key facts.  I generally wouldn't consider the act of giving a lecture in a raised voice to be akin to bullying or harassment, so calls for removing the ASM seem premature, at best.

 

Its easy to cite the "patrol method," and that the ASM shouldn't have been involved at all.  Of course, we all know that, in practice, a large number of troops aren't operating the patrol method that well.  We also know that there are certainly times when even well-performing troops delegate some supervisor rules to ASMs (they are there, after all, to assist the Scoutmaster).

 

I think @@qwazse has some great points - maybe the ASM acting inappropriately.  But, you're going to sometimes have to deal with people raising their voice at you.  Might help to try to get some perspective on just how offensive this incident really was, in the great scheme of things.

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Welcome to the forum, Beagles.

 

I think things are really messed up when a boy's merit badge "homework" has priority over building a bonfire. 

Edited by David CO

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Welcome to the forum, Beagles.

 

I think things are really messed up when a boy's merit badge "homework" has priority over building a bonfire. 

On one level, I'd agree -- especially if that priority scheme came from Mom and Dad.

Things get a little fuzzy when your in a troop and everyone is trying to up their MB count.

The boys start finding that scramble to "pack one more in" to be its own kind of fun.

Meanwhile a couple of older boys (the been-there-down-that type) are all about "the inner pyro."

 

When do you drop what your doing and take a partial to help your fellow scouts stack the logs?

When do you settle for a smaller bonfire to allow your fellow scouts to up the troops MB total for the week?

 

SMs/ASMs should be pointing out where boys need to be concerned about their conflicting agendas. Sometimes that "pointing out" comes out all wrong. When that's happened in our troop, the ASM would wind up being teased mercilessly by the rest of us adults. Sometimes we'd let the boys know to not worry, he got his. Other times we'd remind the boy that the leader meant well and really could have been anyplace else all week.

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One thing I will mention is that sometimes youth misinterpret what is really going on.  More than once I have heard my son tell mom after the campout that it was horrible, no fun, and others got special privileges.  When I have photo evidence of him with the world's biggest smile on his face and overheard a conversation with an ASM to him that he twisted around to being yelled at.  13 year old brains work different than our old ones. 

 

I don't know if that is what happened or not in your case.  If the leader is planning it and calling the boys out he needs to apologize and potentially move to a committee role.  I expect my adult leaders to hold an even higher standard than my youth and I wouldn't let my youth leaders call someone publically out.  The SPL can have a quiet conversation with him later or even come to me and I will chat with him about the situation rather than putting someone on display.  Sometimes even positive public announcements have adverse consequences.  It isn't easy for sure.

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Why would an ASM ever address such an issue unless the SM and SPL asked him to?

 

Maybe they did.

 

There have been many times in my career when the principal has directed me to really lay into a kid.  Give it to em with both barrels.  

 

The parents never knew.

Edited by David CO

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Everyone has a bad day.  I used to prepare the adults at summer camp that they might likely feel grumpy by mid week and resist  the temptation to react irritably. And, scouts have their bad days as well, so parents shouldn't get to wrapped up in these things unless the behavior is consistent and causing problems. Some adults just struggle to deal with scout behavior, which is why many troops require all adult frustrations go through the SM. The Scoutmaster is a filter to issues of real concern and venting by adults.  

 

Not that some adults can't control themselves appropriately around scouts, we have restricted several adults from scout activities just for that reason.

 

One note about how adults respond to situations in front of scouts, they are role modeling the behavior the scouts will mimic in the patrols. It's not a maybe, scouts learn by observing and they react in the only way that have seen others act in the same type of situations. Next time you are at summer camp, watch the SPL and see how close his actions resemble the adults. Kind of scary really. 

 

While I was SM, I had two rules for the adults to lessen the urge of being reactionary to the actions of scouts: First, the adults were never allowed to yell for any reason other than trying to communicate a distance that requires a loud voice. Second, adults never put their sign up until after a scout puts his up first. Have you ever watch adults herding the behavior of scouts by using their sign. It becomes so automatic that they don't even realize they do it. If the adult needs the attention of the group, he walks over to the youth leader of the group and ask him to get the groups attention. It shows respect to the leader of the group and it gives the adult time to breath and relax. Those two rules worked pretty well to keep adults calm in chaotic stressful situations.

 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
  • Upvote 2

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@@Beagles welcome to scouter.com. Some followup questions:

 

1. When you said "the Troop volunteered"  was that done by the scout leadership or adult leadership.

2. With ASM complaining about  "scouts ditching the service project", why do you feel your son was singled out. I suspect most scouts were also finishing merit badges on Friday and missed the service project.

3. What was the reaction of your other troop adults attending camp? Did they intervene?

1. The adult leadership volunteered the Troop.

2. There were only 2 boys out of about 40 that did not work on the project as they were both finishing their merit badge homework. Everyone knew which 2 boys were missing.

3. After talking with other ASM's, it turns out that 3 ASM's convened beforehand on how to handle the situation. They came to an agreement that they needed to be firm with a talk in front on the Troop. 

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