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Cambridgeskip

Standing up to adults

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I had some interesting conversations with my older (13-14 year old) scouts on Thursday night. With an expedition style hiking camp coming up in the spring I ran a session for the PLs and APLs about dealing with emergencies and how to take control of things if something goes wrong. We did a few role plays where I invited them in turn to be the one in charge in various scenarios including first aid, being lost, dealing with busy roads etc. As we went through I gave them some coaching on body language, tone of voice, keeping instructions simple, all that sort of thing. Generally how to come across as confident and how to keep things calm when something is going wrong or there is an element of risk.

They did pretty well so I moved onto a scenario which was a bit more challenging was based on a real life incident I was involved in* some years ago. It was being in charge if an adult arrives on the scene who wants to do something daft. In this case I played the role of a bumbling adult who wants to move someone with a suspected broken leg, but who is in no immediate danger, while waiting for the ambulance. Essentially getting the scout to tell an adult clearly and firmly NO!

I was genuinely surprised at how difficult they found it. It is of course something they are not used to, they are well used to doing as parents, teachers and, indeed, scout leaders tell them. They found the idea of saying no to an adult genuinely awkward and totally out of their comfort zone. I don’t know if that’s a reflection of our area or the kind of kids that come to scouts in that they generally do as they’re told.

It brings up all kinds of questions in my mind. Is it the same the world over? Has it always been this way? And of course what age do we trust young people to over rule adults?

Lots of things to ponder!

I was curious how that would compare to your side of the pond. Would a 14 year old in the state find it hard to do that?

On a darker note it did open my eyes to actually how vulnerable kids can be in terms of being drawn into crime, being abused etc.

*I came across at RTA where a motocyclist had come off and was on the ground complaining of pains in their neck. There were a couple of other adults who were trying to remove the casualty’s helmet and were refusing to listen to a teenage girl, who turned out to be an air cadet, who was telling them not to and they wouldn’t listen till I backed her up. Even the paramedics didn’t attempt it! They got her on a spinal stretcher and off to hospital before attempting it.

 
 
 
 
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Not to promote stereotypes, but ...

Throughout my life, I've noticed average British youth tend to be a little more reserved than other youth. Simple example: at World Jambo, I struck up a conversation with two young women from Kent who were watching me hang a flag. They had heard that the Indians were giving henna tattoos. I showed them the one they gave me and pointed to their camp, encouraging them to pay a visit. They looked at me sheepishly, and asked me if I would make introductions for them, which I gladly did, and soon they had called to their mates two campsites down, and soon Mumbai's lawn was full of English scouts having a henna party. As the week wore on, these girls became bolder. It's a rare American youth who would feel that  they needed my assistance.

But even our lifesaving instruction usually involves training youth to be firm and directive. It doesn't come naturally.

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1 hour ago, Cambridgeskip said:

I was genuinely surprised at how difficult they found it. It is of course something they are not used to, they are well used to doing as parents, teachers and, indeed, scout leaders tell them. They found the idea of saying no to an adult genuinely awkward and totally out of their comfort zone. I don’t know if that’s a reflection of our area or the kind of kids that come to scouts in that they generally do as they’re told.

 

If your kids will generally do as their told, I wouldn't mess with it.  An occasional mishap is a small price to pay for having respectful and obedient children.

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I've been in that situation once as a youth, and I was completely ignored by the adults in charge. Thankfully it was not anything as major as a potential spinal injury.I did what I was told, sit down and be quiet. I was 12 years old when that happened. Yes it was hard to talk to the teachers and parents on that field trip. Thankfully someone with training eventually took charge.

It did get easier as I got older, but that had to do with training and experience. At 16 and a certified lifeguard with CPR and first aid certifications needed for the job, I was able to take charge of a situation from adults until emergency services arrived and transported the victim to the hospital. My age only came up when I was asked to drive the victim's car to the hospital. I had not received my license yet.

Having the scenario of a bumbling adult is a good one and I think should be used. Also having a peer doing something incorrectly, and having the Scout need to make corrections is also good. With the current American Heart Association Basic Life Support Training, part of it includes how to politely, but firmly correcting coworkers who are doing something wrong, i.e. not switching to 15:2 compressions to breaths for 2 man Infant/child CPR.

Sadly I think the problem is a societal one. People tend  to equate age with authority or ability. Heck even the BSA has fallen for this. Look how 18-20 year old adults are no longer considered for Youth Protection purposes. But my all time favorite is regarding Safety Afloat, I remember back in the day, non-swimmers and beginners needed a certified lifeguard to be in a canoe. SO when I came back from the UK and went on  a canoe trip with the troop about 3 days later, I was a "non-swimmer" because I had not taken a yearly swim test at summer camp. So I had to be in a canoe with a 16 year old lifeguard. Irony is that I taught and certified him as a lifeguard before going to the UK that summer. Now Safety Afloat only requires an adult over 21 who has passed the swim test to ride with a non-swimmer or beginner. Me personally, I'd rather have the non-swimmer of beginnner with a 15-20 year old lifeguard instead of a 21+ adult who barely passed the swim test.

 

33 minutes ago, David CO said:

If your kids will generally do as their told, I wouldn't mess with it.  An occasional mishap is a small price to pay for having respectful and obedient children.

I don't know. If the mishap would be life changing like a spinal injury or lead to death, I do not know if I could live with myself if I had the knowledge, skills, and abilities to treat the victim and do nothing because someone older than me told me sit down and be quiet. I did it once because it was non-life threatening, but still had a hard time dealing with it afterwards.

 

 

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8 minutes ago, Eagle94-A1 said:

Sadly I think the problem is a societal one. People tend  to equate age with authority or ability. Heck even the BSA has fallen for this. Look how 18-20 year old adults are no longer considered for Youth Protection purposes.

Old to take and follow YPT training, but not old enough to supervise youth or count as a second adult. Craziness. That had to be a lawyers decision for liability purposes. 

I've noticed the same with my Scouts. They are often unwilling to make decisions that are well within their positions to make without clearing it past adults. I'm not sure if it's a lack of confidence, a fear of being overruled, or wanting validation. Being obedient to the proper authority is typically a good thing, but there are times when authority should be challenged, questioned or corrected, and I want my Scouts to be able to learn that. Not everybody with authority is right 100% of the time.

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37 minutes ago, Sentinel947 said:

I've noticed the same with my Scouts. They are often unwilling to make decisions that are well within their positions to make without clearing it past adults. I'm not sure if it's a lack of confidence, a fear of being overruled, or wanting validation. Being obedient to the proper authority is typically a good thing, but there are times when authority should be challenged, questioned or corrected, and I want my Scouts to be able to learn that. Not everybody with authority is right 100% of the time.

Yep. As a Sub Teacher in Middle School, I've often seen the general reticence of kids to stick their necks out, ask questions,  be "up front".  Some schools insist on the kid waiting on instructions (that's okay) but then when they wait to see what the teacher wants them to say, rather than saying what THEY want to say.... 

Even in the drama classes, being able to speak up, take a chance, insist on something, can be rare.   Correct an adult ?   Please, if I'm wrong , correct me , politely, courteously, but prove me wrong. 

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2 minutes ago, SSScout said:

Yep. As a Sub Teacher in Middle School, I've often seen the general reticence of kids to stick their necks out, ask questions,  be "up front".  Some schools insist on the kid waiting on instructions (that's okay) but then when they wait to see what the teacher wants them to say, rather than saying what THEY want to say.... 

 

Seeing this in my CCD, aka Sunday School, class.I teach Confirmation 2nd year, and had most of the students last year. Several I have known since Cub Scouts. It is like pulling teeth to get them to open up and have conversations with.

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26 minutes ago, SSScout said:

Yep. As a Sub Teacher in Middle School, I've often seen the general reticence of kids to stick their necks out, ask questions,  be "up front".  Some schools insist on the kid waiting on instructions (that's okay) but then when they wait to see what the teacher wants them to say, rather than saying what THEY want to say.... 

Even in the drama classes, being able to speak up, take a chance, insist on something, can be rare.   Correct an adult ?   Please, if I'm wrong , correct me , politely, courteously, but prove me wrong. 

Then there is the class clown or know it all kid that will challenge everybody for the sake of making a scene or arguing with others. Those obviously exist, but my experience with my Scouts has been more of the opposite. 

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I had one of those clown/know it all Scouts in an Indian Lore MB class. I didn't intentionally mean to shut him down, it just happened. We were discussing games, and the topic was lacrosse. He asked which is the more dangerous: lacrosse or rugby. At first I told him, "I don't know." and the smirk on his face appeared. Then thinking about it I said, " While the joke with rugby players is 'give blood, play rugby," there are still rules and no consequences for losing. Whereas for some First Nations, lacrosse is called "the little brother of war." There were little to no rules, violence, injures and even death on the field can and did occur, and for some nations the losers were enslaved or even executed by the victors. So in my opinion Lacrosse is the more dangerous game." You could have heard a pin drop after that response.And I had no more problems with him.

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It's not your scouts, it's not the UK, and it's not just kids.  Humans are social animals, much of our behavior is determined by the dynamics and perceived structures of the group we're in at the time --- how we see ourselves in it, how we see others and their status or position in the group, and how those others see themselves and us.   Kids generally are in groups where there is a defined or assumed authority based on age, and they behave accordingly.

In groups where the norm is to have some hierarchical structure it is more challenging than in a pure peer group to speak up and try to overcome instructions.  Overcoming that deference to the structure is a learned behavior --- on the part of everyone, including the folks who see themselves as a natural leader or authority figure in the group.

A great example of this and how it applies even to adults with a lot of expertise can be seen in the deliberate change in the "cockpit culture" of modern commercial aviation.  Post WWII. as commercial air transport grew in size, an analysis of accidents and near misses revealed that many were due to over deference in the cockpit to the pilot's decisions.  Other members of the cockpit team recognized when mistakes were being made or problems overlooked, but they were reluctant to point them out because the pilot was supposed to be in command and questioning his judgment was anti-social.  In addition, even when errors or omissions were pointed out by subordinates, pilots routinely ignored them because of the same social dynamics.  Today, every member of an aircrew is trained in overcoming the natural reluctance to speak up, and pilots are trained to ignore their own bias towards dismissing subordinate concerns and to take them seriously and respond appropriately to them.  This has driven down human error accidents dramatically.

What you saw at the motorcycle accident, and your scouts' reluctance to speak up, are the natural norms.  You will be doing your scouts a great service if you continue to train and drill them in ways to overcome normal group dynamics, especially in an emergent or dangerous situation.

 

 

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3 hours ago, David CO said:

If your kids will generally do as their told, I wouldn't mess with it.  An occasional mishap is a small price to pay for having respectful and obedient children.

Strongly disagree, I've raised my kids to do what they're told if it's a good thing, the right thing, and the smart thing.  Neither rules nor authority are self justifying, they're means to accomplish ends, and if they're not accomplishing those ends they're due no great deference.

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Strikes me that this is part of the natural process of development for kids/young adults.  When you're very young, you tend to have few places where you serve as a leader or an owner of a task. 

  • At 6, you're mostly playing, having fun, doing a few chores. 
  • By 10, you start to take on tasks - some of them with responsibility. 
  • By 15 the tasks are more complex, and you're starting to own projects where you have to interact with adults.
  • By 18, you're taking on adult roles.

As you progress, you're going to hit this natural conflict of "youth do as adults direct" vs. "people who own and are responsible for tasks have to interact professionally with adults"

I think most 13/14 year olds would have a hard time with this.  But, I do see that generally as Scouts grow older the become more confident in owning the task and interacting with adults.  Some of the best Scout youth leaders I've seen have no problems respectfully telling an adult no.  

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Interesting discussion.  I have seen a few instances in Eagle projects where an adult tries to run the project, NOT a parent, but one with special knowledge; or maybe they think they have expertise.  If the candidate is a younger one, they truly have a hard time speaking up, even if it is written and approved by others.  That is the time when we, as leaders, might need to step in and suggest the interfering adult rethink their actions, possibly taking them aside and reminding them or simply educating them as to what the intent of the Scout being in charge is.  A couple of times, in a review board, when asked about issues with the project, we have had this very discussion.

I am one to feel that as long as there will not be any danger or injury, to let them lead and see what happens.  After all, that is really what we hopefully strive for.

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@Cambridgeskip, I've seen similar and also used scenarios to give scouts some experience at people problem solving. Confidence requires practice. So I'd say keep going with your training.

As for the helmet, I was taught to leave it on. It's easier to tape the helmet down to a board than taping or holding a head.

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1 hour ago, MattR said:

As for the helmet, I was taught to leave it on. It's easier to tape the helmet down to a board than taping or holding a head.

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!

At one accident I was stopped and provided first aid at, the first person on the scene wanted to take off the motorcycle helmet off the potential spinal injury. The girl I was dating at the time, myself, and two others who approached the scene at the same time we did heard the initial person say he was going to remove the helmet, and all 4 of us screamed "NO"  at the same time. That's when the other couple announced they were an ER doctor, and a trauma nurse. Taking off the helmet would have required moving the head, which was not an option.

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