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smaster101

Outcast scout

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I have a 15 year old scout in my troop that is very much an outcast from the rest of the boys. He comes on most troop outings and summer camp, but he tends to be a loaner and rarely participates in what the other scouts are doing. Most of the merit badges he starts go unfinished. Hes sloppy and unkempt, which probably just means he has very low self-esteem. Last year he was appointed to the position of troop librarian, but didnt do anything, so the next SPL assigned the job to someone else. Hes still First Class because he demonstrates no leadership ability. Hell do things one on one with other scouts, like swimming, if hes asked, but otherwise he just hangs around by himself. The guys tend to make fun of him sometimes, but do try to include him in group activities.

 

I had a scoutmaster conference with him last week and learned that he volunteered last summer at a library 3 days a week reading to younger kids. I told him this was great and asked if he liked teaching. He said no, he hated it and only did it because his mother made him volunteer because he was spending all his time in the house. I asked him what his interestes were and he said he didn't have any.

 

His mother took me aside at camp and said that shes very worried about him. The outcast pattern is present in his personal life as well as in scouts. She said he has never had any friends and whenever hes asked someone to his house they find excuses not to come. He was on the freshman football team last year but didnt make any friends through that either. She said she had to force him to come to summer camp this year. She described him as very shy and afraid of rejection. Im not a social worker, so the best I could do was agree that he does show signs of depression and she should be worried.

 

I feel that as his scout leader for 5 years I should do something more for him, but Im not sure what. I think he needs some professional counseling, but Im not sure his parents are ready to take that step. I've seen scouting help so many other kids, but it's not working for this guy.

 

Id like to hear from others that have dealt with kids like this, especially if you have some constructive ideas on how a SM can help him out.

 

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smaster101,

 

I don't know that I can offer much, but I do appreciate your concern. I was a very insecure child growing up. Why, I don't know? I had very committed, caring and loving parents. I'd put them up for parents of the year against anyone in the world. It was just something inside me. Actually, I was OK as a little kid, it was more towards my teen years that I became withdrawn. I was not prepared for Jr High. All of a sudden all the guys were playing sports, the girls were joining pep club or trying out for cheerleader and pairing off at school dances. I felt out of place. I just didn't get it and didn't know how to be cool like my friends. They started dressing with the latest styles. Also, it is in the early teens that kids who WERE your friends can become so cruel. If I could blank out any time period in my life, it would be 7th thru 11th grade. My "salvation" came thru the youth minister at my church. I always felt like a fifth wheel and one day he made an effort to include me in an activity. He made me feel important. He made me feel like a person......just like everyone else. He wanted to hear my thoughts. It started a close friendship and mentorship that lasted until his death. He drew me out of my shell slowly. He made me feel I had real worth. By my senior year, I was a different person. I don't know what is inside this kid's head or what his home life is like, but he does have some issues. He is lost at sea and is adrift. He may want to be normal, but just does not know how or have the confidence to do it. He may need professional help. I probably did to, but did it the "hard" way. He may need medicinal help too. My youth minister took a long shot and extended himself to me. He was persistent, but in the final analysis, it was up to me to respond. My best advice is to do your best to befriend the boy. Don't force him, but try to win his trust and draw him out. Spend time talking to him and listening to him. Make him your shadow. Make him feel important. Let others see that he is important to you. Most of all, do not tolerate the teasing of the other boys. I think a one on one individual discussion with the other boys to quiz them on how a scout should treat others would be in order. Make them think thru their actions. It will be a slow process, this boy won't change overnight. He may never respond. But you have lost nothing in making the effort and possibly gained another "son" in the long run. Good luck!

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One key is how the 15 yr. old responds to you or any other adult leader in the troop. Having an adult confidant or mentor is great but he also needs to find friends in his peer group too. Kids in their early teens do tend to ostracize and tease and one of our duties as leaders is to curtail and teach that those actions are not positive or constructive. You also have to guard against concentrating to much time and effort on one scout vs. the troop. AS SM, my duty is to teach leadership. However, as a fellow human being, I try to bend over backwards to help youth such as you described. Good luck!

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Could you make him a Troop Guide and work with the younger scouts? I know he said he did not like teaching, but try to sell this as leading and not teaching. Sometimes boys say things they do not mean. Explain that he needs to set the example for the younger scouts, with how he looks, how well he knows the scout skills. Assign an ASM to help him, teach to lead.

Troop Guide is the one position the SM has a say in.

 

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Has this boy always been this way--uninterested in anything in particular? What is his reason for coming to Scouts? If he is coming for any reason other than being "made to", then he IS interested in something. You mentioned that you don't think his parents are ready for professional help. Remember, the mom came to you, so she opened the door to your suggestions and assistance. You are doing her a service if you share with her your opinion, telling her that you are limited in helping him, but that you will do what you can. 15 was a tough age for me, and that was a long time ago now. I had wonderfully supportive parents, and I did well in everything I got involved in, but part of what caused struggles for me were issues like this: 2 schoolmates committed suicide that year, 1 friend was kidnapped (I was involved in the find), many were involved in drugs, there was pressure on me to get involved in drugs and alcohol. It took it's toll. At age 16, a wonderful man--a youth leader--was able to talk with me about a lot of this. What he did helped. He ASKED me questions about me and he then LISTENED. He was genuine, made sure it was ok with my parents that we meet for lunch, made a point of following up on how things were going with me--just simply cared. Did life get easier? No. More stuff happened--and it was hard. But I shudder to think what path I'd have taken had someone who had no reason to care shown a personal interest in me--in my feelings rather than my accomplishments, in my thoughts rather than my actions. You are a good person to care about this boy, and you are most likely doing far more good than you may ever know. Hang in there, and God bless you for caring so much for this young boy!

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Hi smaster101

 

I have worked with a few scouts like you desribe and the responses from the other adults here are very good. I can only add that I look for some outside interest that these guys enjoy and try to find or make up a troop job where they can apply that interest. I had one scout who absolutly hated scouts but was forced to come because his father had dreams of Eagle. After several months of struggling with this scout, I found he was a computer geek and asked him to work with our Web Page. From that time on he looked forward to attending every PLC meeting until he moved away a year later. Two years after that his family moved back and now he is finishing his Eagle. He is still kind of out there, but he is excepted by the troop and comes every week. Try to find that one interest whatever it is and fit it in the troop.

 

Barry

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KWC57 - you sound almost like me at that age - for me, it was scouting that stepped in and helped.

 

Like many kids, at the time i was in Jr. high, my MOM was more interested in keeping me in Scouts than i was. though I had been in Girl Scouts since Brownies, I did actually drop out of a troop in 7th grade - Mom convinced me to keep my membership active - in case i changed my mind, i guess. And SHE stayed active on the district & council level - she didn't force me to participate - but hey - if she was going to spend the whole day out at day camp setting up the nature hut, she wasn't going to let me stay home all day alone, either. To pacify me, she allowed me to bring a friend or two along, and the next thing we knew, we were happily involved in a project out there.

 

I DID like kids, and dreamed of being a teacher someday - but I was painfully shy, and had very low self esteem. However - everyone knew my mom - and most of the 'mom' scout leaders were new, hesitant and unskilled - they were thrilled and made a fuss over me when i could lend a hand, keep the kids occupied, show them how to start a fire, or tie a knot or put up a dining fly. I got sucked into being a CIT because they were so desperate for help (I'm sure, orchestrated without my knowledge, by my mom)

 

the experience was wonderfully ego-building for a girl who was unpopular, shy and gawky everywhere else.

 

I was blessed by a council and scout leaders in my teen years that made me feel i could do ANYTHING thru scouting, and gave me successes to build on in other areas of my life.

 

My Mom, and some other SCOUT LEADERS recognized and encouraged me - and because of that experience - I have tried to do the same for my son and his scouting friends.

 

Look for some spark of skill or interest in this boy and encourage it, draw it out - give him some place to shine. He doesn't have to be the most popular or the star of the team for someone to make the difference in his life that he needs.

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How wonderful that you have noticed and have concern for this outcast scout!

 

Is his behavior "off" in any way - in other words, can you kinda see why the boys don't choose to be around him? If yes, sometimes a quiet word to

the boy can be helpful. In a backwards way, it might be helpful to reassure him that he does not need dozens of friends - but suggest that he might have

more fun if he had one or two good friends. You could ask him what he would look for in a friend and see if he has any ideas of what a good

friend for him would be like. He might then be able to see his own behavior patterns more clearly.

 

And I'm not shy about telling a parent that she might consider having him chat with a professional- it's not the same thing as saying "wow, your kid's

a nut case." Like you, I'm not a social worker, but the fact that she confessed her concern to you makes it seem possible that she was looking for some

support for the idea of getting some intervention. There's nothing wrong with saying, gee, 15 is a tough age for many kids and based on your son's

behavior in the troop - and the WAY THE OTHER KIDS RESPOND TO HIM- it seems like it could be hitting him kind of hard. (In other words, recognise that it takes more than two to cast out a scout...and it isn't always the outcast's fault.) Then suggest to the mom "Why don't you see if the school counselor (youth pastor, psychologist, pediatrician, fill in suitable person here) has any constructive suggestions?"

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I agree with suggesting professional evaluation. A trained counselor can often find out things that may surprise a parent. Depression would be a good thing to have, because it responds well to counseling/medications in most cases. But schizophrenia could start with similar behavior. If the scout were a girl, I'd be wondering about sexual abuse with the unkempt behavior, too. If he's unsure about his own sexual orientation, he may be pretty uncomfortable in most social situations right now. If he's just shy, he ought to be able to form a friendship with one other outcast-type boy or girl, not just stay home alone all day.

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Im a young Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop1009 (age 25). My Scoutmaster has appointed me the liaison between Leaders and Scouts. When I came back to my Troop there were issues with some scouts being withdrawn from the others and other situations where the scouts were not relating to the older adults. Since I have come back, Ive been trying to build that bridge again between scouts and their leaders so far so good.

 

With the withdrawn scout(s), it is critical to watch how we talk to them. For example, you need to step up and lead your troop which could be replaced with I need someone strong and have a great will to lead our troop, can you help me? Words like: need, you, always, etc. are provoking for younger and teenage boys. You need to do this. You always have to etc. Encouraging words like: I know you mentioned you do not like teaching but I understand youre great with leading a group of people I need someone like you to be Troop Guide.

 

A withdrawn scout will look at that as an opportunity and they will also see that they are important because they were called upon. Two former withdrawn scouts in my Troop are very active and leading a healthier social life in scouts.

 

I hope this can help for anyone!

 

Sean

 

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I want to recommend three good things:

 

Every individual Scout in your troop should know that you care that they are activly engaged in learning the Scout Law/Ideals.

 

Every Scout should hear you speak during your Minute, that is, you at your best, doing your best, to reach out for the best.

 

Visit the most difficult Scouts in their home to speak with them and their parents about the Scout program. This visit will reset your compass when trying to assist.

 

We do not have all of the answers but we can let them know that there is a place of substance with people that care. FB

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