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Please help this Scoutmaster keep from losing his mind!


I have a 14-year-old scout who has been in the troop since he crossed over from Webelos. He attends every campout. He also throws a major temper tantrum (or two, or three)when he doesn't get his way. I'm talking on par with the two-year-old at Walmart who was told he couldn't get a toy.


At summer camp, he did it at the dining hall and again at flag lowering in front of the entire camp. He has not been diagnosed with any behavioral problems, he's just extremely immature.


I have tried talking to him, offering advice for anger management and even a good old-fashion drill-sargeant style dressing down after meltdown #3 on a weekend campout. Nothing works.


I am ready to tell the troop committee, "either he goes or I go." I no longer look forward to campouts as I used to; I now develop a since of dread as the weekend approaches. This weekend, we are camping at our chartering church's fellowship event, and I fear he will cause a scene in front of the entire congregation and give the troop a black eye. Help!

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Their are options the troop can enforce, and they can get down to having the scout leave if it is a detriment to the moral of the entire troop.. (And if you are having a difficult time with it, I am sure some (if not all) of the boys in the troop are too.)


But, there may be other ideas to employ leaving that to last.. But those ideas are easier to come by if like packsaddle said we can get a feel for if involving his parents would help or hurt the situation. Or if there are hints as to why he is acting out.

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Temper tantrums are a great way to get attention, eh?


Sometimes with a lad this age yeh can deal with it with peer feedback. A roses and thorns session where his buddies ask him why he's being such a baby carries a lot more weight than an adult conversation.


Occasionally yeh can sentence him to go hug a tree quietly. So yeh reward the attention-seeking behavior by isolation/time out. Only if he obeys, though.


Only other way to change such an entrenched behavior is to make da behavior not work, so he doesn't get attention for it. Easiest way to do that is to say "yah, hey, you're clearly not ready for da challenge of this campout so I'm sending you home.". You'll have to be ready to follow through immediately a couple of times, and execute without allowing any negotiation, ignoring all da hoopla and angst. Just simple consequence for simple behavior.


I'd certainly look into whether there are other things goin' on. Home life, other psychological stuff, etc. Yeh might want to sit with the parents and say "here's what we're seeing and it's really not developmentally appropriate for a lad of his age. We think you should seek some professional help for him.". Odds are da parents enable the behavior and need some help, too.




(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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For background, the scout comes from a stable home with good parents. The dad is my ASM, and a very good friend. Dad goes on all the campouts and jumps right in to defuse the situation, but is also at a loss as how to stop it once and for all. When the scout is in a tantrum, you can't reason with him. Any interaction just makes him get more obnoxious. You have to wait for the storm to pass and then sit him down. I'm thinking of sitting him down Friday night before any tantrums and warn him of severe consequences (sent home, confined to tent, barred from the next campout) if it occurs.

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I would suggest sitting down with BOTH the Scout and his parents, and explain his behavior is just not acceptable, and he needs to start learning some self control.


With his parents, come up with consequences for the tantrums. Since his father is an ASM, and at every activity with his son, some consequences I would recommend would be are -


At the first tantrum, dad takes him by the arm to an out of the way area, and leaves him there. Dad can stay within a distance to keep an eye on him, but just let him alone until he calms down.


If there is a second tantrum dad takes him home immediately. You should make sure you have enough adults at the activity to cover the 2-deep without dad.


If he goes an entire activity with no tantrum, make sure to praise him highly. Positive reinforcement often works better than negative.


I do have some questions about his behavior however. Does this behavior happen only at campouts, or at Troop meetings, and other Troop activities also? Does it occur at home also? How about at school? Does this usually happen at a specific time of day (afternoons, first thing in the morning, evening, etc)? Is this a new behavior (or relatively new), or has he been doing this his entire life? Is he on any medications?


My daughter had night terrors when she was young. She would wake in the middle of the night. You could not even touch her or she would start screaming so she could be heard 2 states away. Making sure she was not exhausted when she went to bed helped. She finally just out grew them. My son had tantrums when he was a child. Any "no" would see him flopped on his tummy kicking and screaming. He outgrew them way before he started pre-school.


This boy is in 8-9th grade. This is not normal behavior for that age.




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He is either seriously troubled or just a spoiled brat. How best to proceed depends on which one of those it is.


Personally, if I were the father of a teenager who acted like that, I would be embarassed to be seen in public with such a kid. The fact that the father accompanies him but is apparently unable to deal with it indicates to me that there's something more there hidden under the surface that he and the mother know about, but don't want to talk about. Maybe he has some mental health or developmental issues that they're ashamed to discuss or don't want to be made public. Perhaps they simply have spoiled him all his life and don't know how to discipline or set limits.


Beavah outlined your options well. I'd start with a sit-down, just you and the parents, and ask them why they think this behavior is happening. If they stonewall you, ask why they think a teenager should be allowed to act like a toddler. Because that's exactly what they're saying by their inaction if they allow this kid to persist without seeking help.


If that doesn't get you anywhere, since the dad's on every campout, the surefire solution is easy. On your next campout, make sure you have two-deep leadership plus one. As soon as this teenager starts acting like a toddler, you send him home in the company of his father. Immediately. No ifs, ands or buts. No time to pack up his gear and throw another tantrum - his pals can do that for him and send it home after the campout. Make it automatic. There is no place for that type of behavior from a Scout. End of story. That will get his attention. No second-chances, no confining-to-quarters, no time-outs. You act like a Scout - or you go home.


As SM, you also need to think about the affect this mess is having on everyone else. I guarantee you that if you're feeling a sense of dread, the Scouts in your troop are feeling it, too. A 14-year-old Scout should be a leader in his patrol and troop, not a liability. The other Scouts will breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy themselves a lot more when someone stands up to this kid.


He's two years away from driving a car! What happens if he gets PO'd and throws a tantrum behind the wheel?

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"He has not been diagnosed with any behavioral problems, he's just extremely immature."


And yet he has a behavioral problem that's not being addressed and is being written off as being "extremely immature"


Forget all this stuff about "getting attention" or using peer pressure to deal with this, or using thorns and roses, or using consequences to change negative behavior. That's all well-meaning advice and I mean no disrespect to those who gave it, but based on the description you've given, in my professional opinion, there is something much more serious going on in this young man's life and he needs professional medical help - NOW!.


This young man has undiagnosed behavioral and emotional problems, and they are undiagnosed because his parents are in denial that there is something mentally or emotionally wrong with their child. It's much easier for parents to avoid the issue than to admit that their son might be mentally or emotionally ill.


You're good friends with this lad's father. It's time for you to tell your friend that his son needs to see a doctor, preferably a Psychiatrist, and that the parents need to be upfront with the doctor about what's been going on. They could even start by being honest with their family doctor and getting some advice and a recommendation for a good Psychiatrist. Yes - I said Psychiatrist, not Psychologist. In the short term, he needs a medical professional to determine if there is a medical issue going on. It's possible that there is an undiagnosed physical condition that is causing these tantrums. That needs to be ruled out. It's possible that there is a chemical imbalance in the brain. There are many possibilities here - but he needs to see a medical specialist in this field, and he needs to see one immediately.


Longer term counseling can be done with a Psychologist, but the cause has to be found and treated first.


This may be one of the most difficult conversations you have with his Dad but you must stay firm. Don't threaten with expulsion from the Troop or anything like that - you need to make sure you're coming at this as a good friend who is very concerned about the well-being of his son. This will be hard at first, but it could also end up being the most gratifying thing you've ever done.




(This message has been edited by calicopenn)

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To me, the key part of sharky's post is, "I am ready to tell the troop committee, 'either he goes or I go.' I no longer look forward to campouts as I used to; I now develop a since of dread as the weekend approaches."


What ever you do with this kid, the problem needs to be solved NOW. It's not fair to you or the rest of the troop to continually deal with his behavior. You DO need to issue the ultimatum to the troop committee. They need to be on board with taking action to solve the problem.


We're all volunteers and we all have our limits. Don't for one minute feel bad that you've reached you limit with this kid. Some of us are better equipped by aptitude and training to deal with behavioral and emotional issues better than others.


Your job is to look out for the best interest of ALL the Scouts in the troop. Part of that means the care and feeding of the adult leaders, the Scoutmaster included. I doubt having the Scoutmaster quit over the poor behavior of one Scout is going to do much for the overall health of the unit.


Whatever parting advice you want to give the parents about taking this kid to doctors or therapists is up to you, but from your initial post, it sounds to me that talk needs to happen sooner than later.

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I'm with Calico. The kid's not a criminal, and It's my guess that he doesn't want to embarrass himself in front of all those people. If he's doing this on purpose, there are some really weird things going on in that family. My guess, though, is that he gets pushed over the edge for whatever reason (that we've all learned to control, but he can't without some meds), and he has a meltdown. When he does, there's nothing you can do about it.

I think he's undiagnosed, and we owe it to him to offer a safe place for him to develope his character and self-esteem. Find a way to help him and his family. Get him diagnosed. Easy? No. But he won't change without it, no matter what you might try. He can't help it.


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While I think getting some kind of medical help is good advice. I also think one of the best things you can do in these type or situtations is just ignore the behavior when it happens. Just walk away without saying anything. When the boy learns that he won't get any attention at all, the behavior will go away. You also need to talk to dad and have him on the same program.



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Forewarning I am not an expert in this area or any medical area, but this sounds like Asbergers (sp) Syndrome. Friend of mine has a son diagnosed with this, and this syndrome is making the rounds in the local paper because of the autism awareness group my friend and his wife have started.

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What Calico said.


As far as the possibility of it being Asperger's, lots of behavioral problems are characterized by tantrums.


It could also be an underlying somatic condition (like hypoglycemia) that is impacting his behavior.


Finally, not all behavioral conditions have an neurological basis, but it is still a behavior problem. Professional help can both aid in distinguishing which it is, as well as treating it, whatever the cause.


Talk to the parents. Get the boy some help.

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Unless you're a medical professional willing to take this kid on as a patient, keep your diagnoses to yourself.


We're here to teach the game of scouting. How many of the scouts are feeling like this scoutmaster? How long before the scoutmaster, dad and kid are the only ones left and the troop is dead? Get rid of him and go on teaching scouting to the rest of the boys.

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Stone Cold, if a scout entered your campsite with his arm hanging down at a funny angle and a bone protruding through the skin, screaming in pain, would you "get rid of him" for distracting from the game of scouting? How about the boy lying in his tent with a high fever and complaining loudly of abdominal pain? Just another trouble make to be excluded?


We should not practice medicine beyond our training or in violation of licensing requirements, but that does not mean we should just ignore obvious signs of physical or mental illness or injury. Advising the boy and his parents to seek qualified medical attention strickes me as the most responsible way to address this situation.


And a scouter who is setting an example to his charges by following the Scout Oath's injunction to "help other people at all times" and the points of the Scout Law mandating loyalty and kindness IMO would not kick a boy to the curb for something he may not have any control over.




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