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Standing up to adults

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On 1/19/2020 at 5:45 AM, Cambridgeskip said:

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.


I raised my sons to be that way.  They had no problems telling adults if they were wrong. They were also pretty good about knowing when not to do so, albeit my oldest not so much as my youngest.

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Once, our troop was back-packing in mid-October in the mountains of western Pennsylvania on a narrow, slanting trial above a steep slope that went down several hundred rocky feet to a cold reservoir. 

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

I agree. And actually I go so far as to teach my own children to respect everyone - adults, peers, younger children, and even animals. Obedience comes into play when there is a superior. If your boss

On 1/20/2020 at 1:51 PM, ParkMan said:

My take away is that even our printed materials don't make the case that a Scout should obey all adults.  He should respect those who are "superior" - but that's as far as it goes.  If an adult comes along and tells the Scout to do something different on first aid, the Scout needs to show that he/she respectfully considered it, but made a different decision.  This is the lesson I think we teach - we need to respect adults - but not necessarily obey them.

I agree. And actually I go so far as to teach my own children to respect everyone - adults, peers, younger children, and even animals. Obedience comes into play when there is a superior. If your boss tells you to clean the bathroom even though your "job" is, let's say, a cashier and not a janitor, you should probably obey; the bathroom isn't going to clean itself just because the janitor called in sick. If an EMT shows up in a first aid situation and tells you to step back and let them take over, or "Hold this for me" or whatever, you obey because the EMT is the expert in the field and you may know something but you're not an EMT. Some random person off the street, however, would need to identify himself or herself as an authority before obedience should be conferred: "Step back, I'm a paramedic" or "Step back, I'm a cardiologist," or "Step back, I'm a midwife" - depending on the scenario. If the authority fits the case, obedience applies. If "Step back, I'm an auto mechanic" comes along, obey if you're trying to get a car started, but not necessarily if you're trying to stabilize a broken neck and you have Wilderness First Aid training but the Auto Mechanic clearly doesn't. That's the time for assertiveness and leadership skills, NOT obedience; I don't care how much older the Auto Mechanic is. Teaching our youth to know the difference is a very key element of their upbringing and Scouting offers a great opportunity for this. 

I once worked alongside another Troop committee member who described herself as "Obedient to a fault." She'd say things like "Council office said we can't do that" or whatever and I'd ask, "So, did you tell them this" or "Did you ask them that?" and she would always say no and generally I'd give them a call and politely talk the situation over and usually get a different answer. I remember her talking to me about how much anxiety she had about anything that could be perceived as second-guessing a peer, let alone an authority, and it always kind of stuck with me as something I wanted to make sure my kids would not grow up to be burdened with. While appropriate obedience is indeed a good skill, if we over-teach our children obedience, then we risk them growing into over-obedient adults who struggle with decision-making. 

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