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blackft

Challenging Scout and his dad

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I've joined this forum because I was recently confronted by a rather angry father and I'm really confused if my natural reaction was appropriate.    I've read some of the other topics and they seem to cover somewhat similar root subjects but I'm just hoping for some guidance on my specific situation.  

We have a 15 year old boy who may be special needs, or he may just be difficult.  He'll never answer a question directly and he'll argue and renegotiate everything you ask him to do, all with a smirk on his face.  So many events have been derailed because he seems to innocently mis-participate that I'm left wondering if he simply enjoys the chaos he creates.  Last year I resolved to do my best to give him special treatment because the other boys were distancing themselves.  He was not voted for AOL and the SM was so nice is playing it off like the boys didn't understand the voting procedures.  I've asked my son to also be more inclusive to see if this would change the outlook of this scout, but this guy just won't make anything easy.  

He asks so many questions over and over again that the SM has asked that he does not ask another question without a note pad and pen.  

Last camp out, the boy insisted he was told the wrong time and caused all sorts of problems with our SM's wife needing to get involved to escort him to where we were.  I put the time and location of all of our events on our Facebook page and on an electronic shared calendar and we cover the events in meeting and we re-explain it to him and his parents after the meeting.

The exact same thing was set to happen when last week I overheard the boy tell his father the wrong time for our upcoming camp out.  I took out my phone, showed father and son the information on the calendar and Facebook and spent about 5 minutes covering the details that were just discussed in the meeting.  As I turned around to leave, the dad asks the SM to recap everything I had just covered.  I threw up my hands and said something to of the effect, "I just covered that!" and walked to my car where my son was waiting.  

Last night the father walks in and confronts me to ask if I have a problem with his son being a Scout. Do I have a problem with his son specifically?  I had forgotten about the week before so I'm wondering where all this is coming from.  I start telling him about one of three of today's situations where the boy was being needlessly difficult and he cuts me off to remind me about last week.  The more I try to explain the more of a creep I feel like because I didn't volunteer to be a leader to make anyone upset.  A moment of natural frustration on my part has unraveled years of patience but I can't help but want to distance myself like the rest of the troop has.  What do I do?  Or is this difficult behavior really not supposed to be tolerated at scouts?  Every kid forgets but this kid in particular has me at my wit's end.   

  

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I understand your frustration but I wouldn't worry about this kid. If he has questions he should ask his Patrol Leader. If he doesn't understand or forgets the PL and/or SPL should send him to Scoutbook. Have a chat with the SM and let him know what happened and let him deal with this problem.

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I have spent the last 42 years in the public school system, so I am very familiar with special needs children.  I work with a number of those children on a daily basis, and fully understand the amount of patience that can require.

It is a little different in the troop than it is at work however.  We do need to make reasonable accommodations in Scouting to give every child every opportunity to participate; in the situation you have described it sounds as if your unit has done a lot to help the boy.  I also get the sense that part of the problem stems from the parent, who also sounds as if he may not be the most adept at following directions, planning  ahead, or seeking information on his own.  At some point the boys is going to miss out on an event due to his, and his parent's, lack of communication skills.  That is unfortunate, but may be what prompts change for the better.

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Facebook, eCalendar,  Troop googledocs,  all good tools.   But many do not readily use these well.  For these folks I would recommend the Scout Law , and print things out on paper for their review.  They seem to be non-electronic, I know I myself prefer a "hard copy" to a "schmart phone".  

When the dad wants to discuss TODAY,   make sure you discuss TODAY,  and not yesterday. Help him to keep on topic and task.    If necessary, and sometimes it is,   keep a small notebook with you and when giving times/directions/instructions, write it down and "courteously", "kindly",  "friendly" hand it to the Scout.   Smile a lot.  Remember that  they are NOT trying to prove you inept, uncooperative,  uninformed and/or  deceptively trying to embarrass them.  No, they are not trying to prove you guilty of these things, because , in their eyes, you already are (as is most of the rest of the world).   You must play their game better than they can, and you can, since you now know the rules, and have described it so well. 

"Special Needs"?   Absolutely.  Can you supply those "needs" ?   Absolutely.   The Scout has learned much of his coping skills and manipulative techniques , it would seem, from his dad (is the mom involved?  ) . I would concentrate on the Scout.  The dad is on his own here.   

See you on the trail....

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Thanks everyone. I'm just trying to do my best while not allowing myself and the rest of my troop get derailed and distracted from the mission of guiding young folks toward self-fulfillment and leadership.  I'm even now considering that perhaps this boy and father have been put in my life to help me improve myself.  The only problem that keeps gnawing at me is, if I focus even more attention on helping this boy succeed, will he ever succeed or will he continue to sap energy from everyone who takes the time to help him?

22 hours ago, TMSM said:

I understand your frustration but I wouldn't worry about this kid. If he has questions he should ask his Patrol Leader. If he doesn't understand or forgets the PL and/or SPL should send him to Scoutbook. Have a chat with the SM and let him know what happened and let him deal with this problem.

Ah, direct him toward his patrol leader!  The kids lead the troop!  I also like that answer because it gets me off the hook, but I hate that answer because the SPL and ASPL are trying to get the 5 brand new scouts up to the Scout rank and this kid would take valuable advancement time from them.   

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On ‎5‎/‎31‎/‎2018 at 2:10 PM, blackft said:

 

We have a 15 year old boy who may be special needs, or he may just be difficult.   

  

You should be very careful about characterizing a scout in this way.

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2 minutes ago, David CO said:

You should be very careful about characterizing a scout in this way.

That's why I'm not using any names or locations for myself or this boy.  I don't know what the exact "situation" is.  All I know is that none of the other kids want to deal with him because his behavior is difficult for us to deal with.  I realize that special needs is a politically correct term that has a very specific definition to those who keep up with the textbook, but to me special needs also means that an individual has needs that are special.  It's so exhausting that I'm about to hang up the leader shirt I've been wearing for almost a decade.   

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I feel your pain.  but just keep calm and do the best you can, We have an autistic boy in our group. without a doubt it can be difficult and frustrating to keep him on task and with the rest of the group but you will find somewhere in your group is a kid with a servants heart that is capable of befriending him and helping him grow himself. Just encourage that. And when you see the others pull away remind the SPL and ASPL that they live or die as a group. if they leave him out then they died.

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On ‎5‎/‎31‎/‎2018 at 2:10 PM, blackft said:

 

Last night the father walks in and confronts me to ask if I have a problem with his son being a Scout. Do I have a problem with his son specifically? 

  

When a parent asks if you have a problem with their son, what they really want to know is if they are going to have a problem with you.

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I've had several challenging scouts. Some are challenging because they're wired differently and don't know how they come across. Some are challenging because they don't want to be there. And a few are just growing up.

Don't let this one scout get you down. You try and whether or not you made a mistake it doesn't matter. You're a volunteer. If you can learn something and do better next time then great. If not, it doesn't always work out. Talk to some other adults about what happened. My guess is it will help. My suspicion is, based on what the parent said, that this is above your pay grade.

Good luck. BTW, I hope you come back.

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Here is how we try to head off these situations (as much as we can):

Every September, we ask the parents to fill out a new Emergency Contact form. This allows us to keep up to date with new phone numbers and email addresses (including that of our Scouts- the town has an iPad based curriculum from grade 6 on, so we know that every Scout has a school email address at the very least). The back side of the form asks for any information about the Scout that we need to know about, from allergies and medications to learning disabilities, phobias, or any other emotional or social concerns- things that aren't generally listed on the Medical Form. We had a Scout a couple of years back who was just horrible to deal with. He wouldn't listen to anyone, was disruptive and openly disrespectful during meetings, was mean to other Scouts, etc. During a week at summer camp, his dad was coming down to help us out with adult coverage. I ran into him near the entrance to the camp and stopped him to chat before he brought his gear to our campsite. When I related the events that had already transpired already during the earlier part of the week, he told me that his son was on the Autism Spectrum, and that he thought that his wife had told me (she hadn't). So much of his behavior made sense after that, and that knowledge would have completely changed my relationship with the Scout. After that conversation, the CC and I decided that we needed to keep that lack of knowledge from happening again, if we could help it, and the new form was born. I hate to add paperwork, but this can be crucial for the success of the Scout in the program.

As for your SPL/ASPL being tied up with 5 new Scouts, that is the job of a Troop Guide. We added 16 new Scouts in our Troop this Spring. We have 2 full New Scout Patrols, each with a Troop Guide. The SPL/ASPL have other things they are responsible for besides the advancement of the new guys. The current SPL and the 2 TGs have been leveraging a large group of 11th grade Scouts to each take a couple of the new guys under their wing to go over Scout requirements, then work on T-2-1 skills. Then the new Scouts sit with a TG, ASPL or the SPL to get their requirements signed off. It is pretty efficient, and each week, the Scouts sit with a different older Scout, so they are all getting face time with each other. Everyone gets to know each others names, and the Troop is gelling really nicely right now.

Good luck with this father and son. Follow the Oath and Law. Be patient.

 

 

 

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Here are a few axioms I do believe in.  

  • It's the scout's responsibility (and their families) to be involved.  We can't save the scout from themselves or their parents.
  • Scouts need to be self-supporting (to some degree).  We can help, but we can't be there at each and every moment.  We're volunteers.  

Communication - My opinion may differ from others.

  • Scout - Face-to-face 
  • Adults - Email, web site, calendar, Facebook

If scouts can't track the details from the meeting, help him.  If he still gets stuck, let him know that his parents should also have the details from the above sources.  

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Posted (edited)

Hi, 

First of all, thank you for working with the Scouts.  It is not easy!  

Second, I am thinking about something called executive functioning -- which is basically, organizational skills.   This kid may have difficulty with some of these things and keeping track of directions and times and dates, etc. 

Since there is evidence that following directions and keeping tack of times and dates is causing some difficulty, see what you can do to make the communication about these things easier for you and for the scout and his family.

Here is what I will suggest.   I once had a terrible experience with a CC who was belligerent towards our family, including my ASM husband and our oldest son with ADHD, a new scout at the time, and I think his motive was a power play to push us out of Scouting.  Except, we had no plans to leave, he left. My worst experience in Scouting and the prime example of how not to do things.

But, perhaps you, or your Scoutmaster and you, or perhaps the Committee Chair and SM and you can have a meeting with the dad with the tone of --- how can we make this work better for everybody? 

But if you do this, you have to be very positive and forward looking.  It's about figuring out what you can do, and what the boy can do and how the family can support the troop and the boy so that things run smoother. 

Maybe email reminders before outings with the date and time would be good! Our troop does that.  Maybe giving the kid a note with a few bullet points (from the PL) would be good also.  Our Troop also does paper permission slips.  The bottom is a tear off and the top has the date and time and location, etc.  Our family puts the top part on our fridge and it is helpful.

Maybe the kid could work with the Troop Guide.  Maybe there are some areas where this kid is talented where he can shine and be a leader.  Maybe you can find the times to praise him when he's doing things well.  Maybe the parents have examples of things that work well in their home or at school that you can apply to Scouting.  You can express to the parents that you need help, but be very, very careful to do it in a way that does not attack their son or their family.  The goal is to make it work for everybody.   It's not a disciplinary meeting, it's about a teamwork with the family and the troop.

You probably need to come up with a communication style with the kid so that you are not repeating everything.  You probably need a plan for how you communicate, so you give directions once,  you repeat once, and after that the kid is on his own.  Also, if he argues, you have a way to stop talking and not engage  Discuss this with the parents and ask them how they handle this at home or how things are going at school.  You can very gently discuss the behaviors (not the kid) the behaviors that you are hoping to improve and need help with.  You must be kind and gentle.  You are building a partnership.  But hopefully an hour with the parents over a coffee can help you be much more effective in the troop.  This is almost like an IEP meeting for Scouting, but be careful and not paint this boy as a problem. 

Maybe the parents don't have a lot of ideas for how to work with their kid and are struggling as much as you are.  Be compassionate and of course, kind, courteous, friendly, etc.

I hope that helps a little.  Best wishes.

P.S. If you have any perfectionist tendencies, you gotta let it go in order to survive!

 

Edited by WisconsinMomma
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Thank you all so much for your help.  I really love what WisconsinMomma said because I don't want to chase the boy away, but I do want to retain my professional demeanor and I'm afraid that I've lost that during this challenge.   

I guess he really hit my main hot button lately and that's communication.  We just had an event where the Scouts were to prepare breakfast for the Church congregation.  Only two of my boys showed up, but thankfully the Venture Crew and older (retired?) Scouts were there to run things.  I had several folks challenge me that we didn't communicate it properly.  We mentioned it in the meeting.  We mentioned it at the Camp out the week before.  It was on our Troop Facebook page, an Email was sent to all parents and it was on the Google Calendar.  We had a great event, but I agree with you when you say that I need a plan for how we communicate.  I thought I had a plan but communication only happens if the message is sent and received.  

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