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Should The Adult Step In or Stay Out

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Good Day,


I witnessed a couple of disturbing things at Summer Camp last week and need a "head check" to see if I am off base on this or if I have reason for concern. We took 20 boys to camp, one of whom is a "Junior Assistant ScoutMaster" (nearly 17 y.o.). He planned to stay with the Troop as an adult leader when he turns 18, and we felt making him a Junior Assistant SM was a way to get his feet wet in the Assistant ScoutMaster role.


Now for the first incident:

Two Scouts (13y.o. and 14y.o.) missed Tuesday Lunch. Later, I found that the reason they missed was that they thought lunch was the same time as it was on Monday. We had a rotating Lunch schedule and they did not realize that Lunch was an hour earlier on Tuesday. They were at the shower house when the Troop left for Lunch, but the Troop did not realize they were missing until we arrived at the Mess Hall. All during Lunch my other two adult leaders talked about the two missing boys and what a punk 'Tom' has turned into. They based his turning into a punk on the fact that he wears pants too big for him and wears his hat with the bill at about 45 degrees from the front-center. The person first back at camp was our Junior Assistant SM. He got a quick explanation from the boys about what happened and told them to grab some granola bars and head to their afternoon Merit Badge sessions. He also told the boys that they should pay better attention to the schedule that was posted on the bulletin board. When I arrived back at camp, I heard one of the adult leaders yelling, he then grabbed his fishing gear and announced that he was going fishing because he is tired of disrespectful, punk kids. I learned that he came back to camp and screamed at the two boys who missed lunch for eating the Troop's snacks because they were too lazy to come to lunch. When the boys tried to explain that missing lunch was an accident, he told them they were just being disrespectful punks and that they should be ashamed of themselves. Our Junior ASM tried to intercede, because he felt bad being the one who told the boys to eat the granola bars, but he was also yelled at and told that he was being disrespectful. This adult would not listen to the boys side at all. He perceived anything coming out of the mouths of these boys as being disrespectful.


After the incident, I shared that I did not believe the two boys who missed lunch should have been yelled at for eating the snacks, but that we should have talked to the Junior ASM to make sure in the future that he puts a limit on the number of bars that the boys eat. I was informed by the adult in question that I was wrong, the Junior ASM was wrong, and the two boys who missed lunch were wrong and that he would not change anything about the way he handled it. Our Junior ASM plans to quit over this incident as he again tried to talk to the adult leader several days later and was once again told he was being disrespectful and that he was wrong to have given permission to eat snacks. He was further told that he was the one that got the other two boys in trouble and that he should feel bad about that. The adult ended the conversation with words to the effect that he did nothing wrong and would not change any of it. Now I was present at this discussion, and the only one who seemed to be disrespectful was the adult.


I view this as an Adult jumping all over the "Boy Leadership" concept. We stressed at the beginning of camp that the Junior ASM held the same basic authority as the adults. I feel that if he gave permission to eat the snacks, that at the very most, we should talk to him so he can see that it would have been best to place a limit on the number of granola bars that the boys ate so the Troop's snacks are not depleted. A bit of gentle correction could have made him a better leader; instead he now wants to quit.


The other incident was similar in that our Junior ASM had dealt with a problem from a 12y.o. Scout and another adult stepped in 30 minutes later (after the problem was done and over with) and started getting onto the Scout for what he was doing. This Scout was very upset at having to get in trouble twice (really over something very trivial). Again our Junior ASM was upset at having his authority to handle a situation questioned.


Am I out of my head to worry about these incidents?


Thanks for reading,


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No you are not wrong to be concerned over this. If the youth leadership is taking care of things the only need for an adult to butt in is if there is a safety concern and yelling at a scout is not the method to use, although we all can lose our cool at times. I would definitly try to avoid taking that adult to camp again untill he gets some training.

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There is a lot that could be said about the situation, but you pretty much said it all. My experience is when the adult starts to behave in the way you described, it is time for him/her to move on.


I also don't see the granola bars being a big issue here. In the context of everything, the boys learned their lesson and the JASM guided them in how to change the behavoir and the snacks just help the scouts funtion the rest of the day. The adults need to know when a positive growth experience can quickly change to negitive one.


I've observed about Wednesday at summer camps, everyone is peaking with fatigue. I eventually started having meetings with the adults in the morning explaining this unwanted tradition and to expect that not only will the boys get cranky, but so can the adults. I ask that they give an extra effort to set an example and hold from snapping or jumping on the scouts or each other. In fact, I ask that they give an extra effort to keep the enviroment positive. I also ask that no adult feel offened if another adult needs to interupt a potental cranky attack. I learned that the hard way during my first summer camp as an adult.


Come Thursday, it seems like everything starts getting back to normal.



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Thanks for the feedback.


Barry you are so correct about the fatigue that hits about Tuesday evening and seems to last through Wednesday. I have tried the last couple of years to get a Wednesday nap in sometime in the afternoon.


In this case, this was more than a "cranky attack". This seems to go to the core of not only how the Troop should operate, but what constitutes disrespect from a youth. I really believe that this Adult Leader thinks that a youth can never say anything in his defense without it being disrespectful. It not only happened to both the Scout that missed lunch, but it happened to the JASM when he tried to explain the situation. Not to mention that several days later when trying to bring closure to the whole thing, the JASM was once again accused of being disrespectful but I was present and did not see any disrespect. I did see one hurt JASM, because he was doing his best to be calm and continued to be called disrespectful. I for one don't care to see this Adult (who has been my good friend for 4 years) work around youth anymore.



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Once an adult leader (what's his position?) starts referring to scouts as 'punks', it is time for a long sabbatical and retooling. Ask him to find a nice big fishing lake to get lost on for the next few months. He is way too wrapped up in getting respect he thinks he deserves, rather than showing respect to others.



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I think you were right to be distressed. The JASM sounds like a fine young leader with alot of potential. I feel he handled the situations very well. The loud mouthed assistant needs to be counseled immediately. If he will not change his ways, it would be best if he was asked to leave.

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I agree this leader needs to be removed. Immediately. There should never be an excuse for a leader screaming and yelling at boys. Not in this manner. If a boy had acted this way I would have sent him home. I wonder how this man would have felt if he had been talked to in the way he talked to these boys. If you want kids to respect you you have to show them respect. Once a leader begins acting like the boys will lost all respect for him.

JASM can be a hard position to hold. You are expected to act like an adult but most adults still look at you as a kid.

I would have a good talk to this leader and if he plan on remaining with the troop and has the same attitude I would be looking for another troop.

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An adult leader's number one responsibility is to provide a safe haven for all of the Scouts. Calling them "punks" etc. is not the way to do it. I've had Scouts miss meals, usually it is breakfast and it is because they sleep in. I do not feel it is my responsibility (or the SPL or the PL) to wake them up. The consequences of missing breakfast is they miss a meal.


We have our patrols buy cracker-barrel food (snacks) and I've told them and their parents that "food police" is not part of my job description. As a troop, I've requested to the SPL that he assemble the troop before all meals and flag ceremonies. We always take a head count. When they run late, we release patrols that are full. If your patrol is not all accounted for, you wait for them. They all don't have to be present (could be in showers, tents, etc.) but they MUST be accounted for or the whole patrol waits (use peer pressure to YOUR advantage.)


Kids should be wearing either their field or activity uniform at summer camp. Yes, I'm aware that not all do but that does not mean that they shouldn't. How they wear the uniform may be a battle (pants to low, boxers showing, brim to the side, etc.) Don't let it get your undies in a bunch (don't sweat the small stuff). Kids at this age are testing their limits. I know that some of the SAs with their oldest son in the troop at the ages of 11 or 12 are not use to the verbal challenges and machinations of 15 -17 year old boys who seem to want to challenge everything. It is part of growing up. Learn to deal with it or step down.


Yes, let your JASMs, TGs, SPL, ASPL and PL deal with problems. Empower them and back them up. It is all part of Scouting. They learn from it too.


I'm ashamed to admit that I have screamed at a Scout once on an outing - my son. I'm not proud of it. I've come to realize that sometimes it is best to have other leaders, other than myself (the Scoutmaster) interact with some of the boys. My #2 son knows how to push my buttons. At summer camp this year, we had a core of three adults and I came down a little hard on the SPL (no yelling or anything physical) but did have a few comments about him not meeting my expectations on a few matters. This was held in the adult patrol camp site (about 50 ft from the boys site). After the SPL left, his father, the CC, came over and thanked me for my conversation with his boy. There are some boys in the troop who I don't click with. It is human nature. Same with the boys. Some of them prefer certain adult leaders over others. Now, we do try to be consistent and don't play favorites but if certain boys really rub certain adults the wrong way, have different adults deal with them. Above all you have to maintain your composure.

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I think Eagledad has said it best. It sounds like this ASM can use a little time away from the boys. However we need to keep in mind this adult VOLUNTEERED to take a week of his own time to spend it at a boy scout camp. I've seen some of the most low key laid back adults I know lose it after the 3rd or 4th day at summer camp with a difficult group of scouts. This doesn't excuse the adult's behavior, just explains it a little.


I'm curious though, was this behaviour out of character for the adult or does he frequently have issues with scouts questioning his authority?


Barry has a good suggestion on asking the adults to recognize the fatigue factor and try and work through it.


I would also talk to the JASM. Let him know you support him and you thought he did the right thing. Correct him where he may have made minor errors, but overall it sounds like he handled the situation well and should be commended for it. Let him know you trust his judgement.


It might also be a good time to discuss how there will almost always be someone somewhere who is in a position of authority that may not like his approach to resolving an issue. This goes for CEOs and even Presidents. If he has confidence in himself he needs to know he can rely on his own judgement and not second guess his decisions everytime someone disagrees with him. He can examine his decisions and review them, but if he thinks he did the right thing...he probably did. Be that as it may, he will still need to work with that someone. In any organization a leader not only has to deal with the logic of the situation but the personalities as well. I've seen many adults that don't seem to get this, let alone a 17yo JASM.(As you have observed!)


But think! Where else can a 17 year old get this kind of experience?! As Barry often says," I love this scouting stuff!"




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I'd prefer to keep the Scout & lose the Scouter. It sounds like the JASM handled the situation well. It sounds like the SA did not. And if he's blowing off the handle like this over things so trivial, how do you know when he will really blow his stack and hit or harm a Scout? (I've seen it happen with hotheaded adults.)


We have had a couple instances in the last couple years where Scouts openly disobeyed or questioned the youth leadership's authority for a variety of reasons. The one that gets my goat is, "My parents said the only one I have to listen to is the SM." GRRR! Anyway, unless the youth's direction is waaaaay out of line, I back him 110%. I generally ask something to the effect of, "What did your PL/ASPL/SPL say? Then do it." Or, "If they said it, it is the same as if I said it." I have made it clear to the one's who "only have to listen to me" that my instruction is to listen to their youth leaders. And that's an order. If the youth leader has handled something not well, that needs corrected in the future, we counsel privately (in public) about how they might handle things differently in the future, but the adults try to support them whenever possible. It reinforces the leadership concept.


The adults should support the youth leadership and back them up, and take "failures" and help the youth turn them into "opportunities for improvement". I would be talking to the committee & CoR about having the SA take a leave of absence for a while or at least talking to him about what behaviors will not be tolerated. What he did IS ABUSE!

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Thanks again for the replies:



You are correct, I never judge a scout by what he wears or how he wears it. This boy (the one who missed Lunch, aka "the punk") is one of the best scouts I have had in the 7 years that I've been in Boy Scouting. I have renamed him "Mr. Someone". If a leader says, "Someone needs to pick this up" he is the first one to stand up to do it. He goes over and above what any other Scout in the Troop does to be polite, kind, and helpful. Basically this Scout exemplifies what a Scout is.



I agree with what you say... The problem is this ASM's wife is the Committee Chair and was present during the follow-up discussions and feels that her husband was totally disrespected by these Scouts.


Not an easy situation. As has been said, "I love this scouting stuff", but sometimes I hate having to deal with the adults; kids are much easier to deal with...



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I think we are all in agreement about how the adult should have acted in this situation. At this point, from what I hear, you may also want to try to come up with ways to keep the JASM involved, since he seems like he would be a good person to have involved. My suggestion on doing this would be that you appeal to his sense of duty, and show him how he is benifiting all of the other scouts by staying involved, and without him there there would be absolutly no chance of the Youth Leaders having any power, or something to that effect.

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A couple of years back a ASM in OJ's Troop yelled at him in the dinning hall for something.

It turned out that this was the very rare occasions when OJ wasn't guilty. Yes strange things do happen!!

OJ, tried to be calm and inform this misguided person that he was wrong (OJ was SPL at the time.)

The ASM was sure he was right and gave OJ an ear full of how he should know better, and he should be setting a better example and went on and on.

I happen to know the ASM,, he isn't a bad fellow.

He is from someplace in West Virginia where kids are seen and not heard.

He seems to view any sort of reply from a Scout as the Scout sassing him. I think it's a cultural thing?

They never did resolve the problem whatever it was?

Sadly OJ has absolutely no respect for this man.

I have at times tried to point out some of the things that he is good at and good that he has done, but I get no place.

I'm OK with people not liking me. However I would hope that even those that like me might have a little respect for me.

If this other adult leader is a friend of your's?

I kind of feel that you owe it to him to let him know that he is making a big mistake.

You might want to be very careful and pick the right time and place.

Dealing with the 17 year old can be very hard.

OJ came home from camp very upset and the words he used to describe this fellow can't be posted in this forum!!

I really don't like him showing that sort of attitude and disrespect to any adult. But the guy was wrong.

What we do in "Boy Scout Land" is at times the real world scaled down to "Boy Size".

I tried to explain to OJ that even though the guy was wrong, he just didn't see it that way and sadly things like this will happen in life.

I went on to tell him that what happens next is really up to him.

He can choose to carry a grudge and be a pain about all this or he can choose to move on.

He choose to carry a grudge.

Things are getting better he now can say the fellows name without adding any sort of a description after it.

What we as individuals can learn from this sad situation is enormous.


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Standard Procedure


Name calling is out of bounds. It engages anger.

Always listen first, always. It makes you look smart.

Find out who were all of the parties involved and call them in one at a time. Only the facts, Mam., Sergeant Friday

Wait a few minutes to decide how much of a problem was created. (*minor by most standards)

Call the JASM in and tell him that lunch is lunch and snacks are for snacks and then tell him that he was thoughtful and did a better job than you could have ever done.

While the JASM is listening, tell the boys that the JASM was 100% correct and that you are now going off to think about it (meaning, fishing).

Go fishing and think about your actions.

At the next Troop formation let everyone know that the entire unit is expected to be present at all meals and the SPL will have a head count before leaving the campsite. (*This insures that you wont miss the meal either.)

Go fishing. Take a nap under a big shade tree. Cool showers are good also. Try to arrange your chair to face a cool breeze. These guys have had a tough year and they need you to be at your best. FB


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