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A Patrol of difficult Scouts

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OK, it's finally time that I ask for some help. Here's the situation:


We have a Patrol that consists of (3) 9th graders (15 or about to turn 15), and (5) 8th graders. The PL and APL are two of the older boys, and, in the interest of full disclosure, the PL is my youngest son.


One of the 8th graders is an extremely small boy physically, and although he is very intelligent, he suffers from a number of diffuculties, including ADD. To add to these, his father tells us that he is a constant target for being picked on at school because of his size. We have never noticed any of the Scouts pick on him for his size, nor has he ever complained to us about it. The problem we do have with him, however, is that he is hell bent on disrupting most anything in which he is involved. The event that has me writing this happened Tuesday, when, during their Patrol meeting, he was asked (verified by an adult who was monitoring the meeting) to put away a book (that had nothing to do with Scouting), and he got up and paced around the group of boys chanting the "f" word. Although this is the first time THIS has happened, it is a typical type reaction from him.


Another boy is one of the nicest trouble makers you'll ever meet. Bright, polite, a halo around his head when adults are around. However, he has a friend (see the next paragraph) that is happy to oblige any request this boy makes, and it usually is disruptive. By every PL he has had in almost three years in our Troop, we are told he is the source of many problems. Responds to absolutely no youth leadership, and, when they attempt to get adults involved, he denies any wrongdoing, and acts like the perfect angel when he thinks we're watching.


Scout # 3 is the dupe for the last guy. He is one of the bigeest bumps on a log I have ever met. He attends 90% of the meetings, but does literally nothing. He signs up for campouts and such, even paying money. When his PL assigns him tasks on the duty roster, he always decides he has something else to do. The only time he has been to any campout since his first year in Scouts, the PL at the time did an experiment and assigned him no duties. He came and sat by the fire ring for 2 days, except when he was eating.


Scout #4 is a good kid, but he wants to put zero effort into Scouts. Three times in the last three months, his PL (my son) has asked him to assume one responsiblity or another. He always says yes, but when the PL follows up, nothing has happened. I have heard my son try to deal with this. He has tried all of the techniques he knows, and many of the ones I know, to help this Scout understand why his commitment is so important to himself, the Patrol, and the Troop. Nothing seems to work. The only thing that gets him motivated is if it is sports related. If asked to run a game, he'll capitulate. Other than that, nothing.


The 5th Scout is an OK kid that I think would flourish in a better Patrol, but he is friends with all of these guys, and does not want to move to a different Patrol. And, although he isn't part of the problem, this is one case where he isn't part of the solution, either.


OK, there's the band of merry men with which we have to deal. I've watched my son, as the PL, struggle with these guys for six months now. I've seem him make some of the best efforts I have seen made to work with a tough situation. I've seen him get the SPL involved, who also did a number of things that should have worked, but nothing. Now, the PL and the APL are ready to quite if we don't do something drastic, and their strongest suggestion is to toss these guys out of the Troop. They know that isn't really an option, but that's how frustrated they are.


One common denominator they all have is that they all came from the same den in Cubs, and the father of Scout #1, an Eagle Scout, who was their Den Leader, was the NSP's ASM (which I now understand from my participation here is a bad idea. This should have been an experienced ASM). He usurped much of the Troop Guide's responsiblities, and this Patrol was more like a Cub Scout Den than a Boy Scout Patrol for almost two years. At that time, in an effort to try to jolt them out of the funk they were in, we convinced my son's established Patrol to invite these guys in, despite the fact that three of the five were miles away from 1st class yet.


OK, this has gotten long enough. Unfortunately, I can't come up with one specific question to ask, so I'm just going to ask generally - How would you handle this situation?


Thanks in advance for your replies.



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I would have a Scoutmaster conference with each scout. Ask them some pointed questions. What is the purpose of scouting? What is the purpose of a patrol? What are the responsibilities of being part of a team? What is the biggest problem their patrol is having. What would manke scouting better for them?


Listen to each personas anwer. then correct them when they are wrong and agree with them when they are right.


Then say There is a boy in your patrol wh....(and describe the boy to himself in detail) why do you think he behaves this way? How do you think we should handle it?


So if the boy can come face to face with himself and find his own solution.


When all else fails tell the scout that according to the rules you are required to follow by the BSA if a scout is continually disruptive you must have him, and his parents, meet with the troop committee to determine what to do with the scout. "When would be a good time to have them come in?"


As a precaution remind your son and his assistance of the skills of leadership that can be used to control incorrect behavior before it gets out of hand.

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First off, the Scout walking around using the f word would have been stopped, parents called & sent home. I wouldn't tolerate this from anyone!


It seems like these guys sort of feed off each other. Has any consideration been given to splitting them up? It might make a difference!


Ed Mori

1 Peter 4:10

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Both formal and informal SM conferences have taken place with four of the five of these guys. Sm one on one, Sm with PL, SM with ASM and PL. They've not helped, but, our SM doesn't have the demeanor to use your suggested technique, which I think sounds pretty good. One of the ASM might be able to do this a little better, and I think I'll make that suggestion to the SM and the ASM. I'm sure the suggestion will be considered. The SM knows he's a more "in your face" kind of guy, and often turns to one of the ASMs or me when more of a soft touch is needed. I'm sure willing to give it a try.


Do you (or anyone else) have any experience with a meeting between the comittee and the parents of a boy like this? My suspicion is that it most likely becomes a parent defending his son, and if it's that, I don't see much value in it unless the goal is to kick the kid out. We've never done it, so I could be wrong. But it sure seems like the world has become a place where no one wants to take personal responsiblity for anything, nor expect there their children to do so. I'd like to hear how meetings like this actually have played out.


My son's actions in all of this have impressed me. I've had conversations in the past about what the 11 points of leadership are, and he couldn't name a one. But I've watched him attempt to apply problably 6 or 7 of them during his tenure. I'm problably a little too quick to be critical of my children when they don't meet thier potential, but I really think he has done well here, despite the lack of results.


Ed, in hind sight, we wished we had called his parents, and we have resolved to do so if something like this happens again. We truly have such little problem with bad language from our guys, this was very suprising to us. But it has caused us to put our heads together along with the SPL and ASPL and come up with a rough idea of how we will deal with disruptive behavior if it happens again. As for splitting them up, we've discussed this, but there isn't a real good way to do this right now. A Patrol of five would work, although a Patrol of these five is likely to do nothing. But that leaves a Patrol of three, and there really isn't any place else these guys would fit. I think we're stuck with this situation until any new Scouts we get this spring are being intergrated into regular Patrols. I'm sure we can't wait that long.


I appreciate your responses. Both are well thought, and I think they will be helpful. I'd love to hear from others, too.





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I've got a similar situation, but not quite as bad. It, too, is a patrol of 5 boys. The PL is excellent, but a little quiet. He will let the boys run over him if he doesn't watch out. The APL is a pretty good kid, but has an attitude problem. He can go from happy to angry in a second. Boy #3 is the former PL. As PL he was bossy. He's lazy and doesn't care a lot about scouts. Dad is ASM & very involved, that's the only thing keeping him around. Boy #4 is a non-factor. He's not "all there" most of the time. When he is there, he's goofy beyond belief. Boy #5 is the kicker. He's sounds like your ADD boy. He is a constant iritation to every boy and every adult. He's borderline ADHD, and has "anger management issues" (according to his parents & counselors).


I have regular sessions with the PL & APL and encourage them on how to handle "#5". I met with #5's parents to discuss the issues. They gave us some tips on how to handle him. Such as, you can't tell him "no", you have to explain the rationale behind the decision. And, he doesn't follow other kids, he only listens to adults (if he listens to anyone).


I explained to the parents that scouting is a boy-led program, and that he was going to have to adjust. I agreed that I would coach the leaders (boys and adults) to use technique of explaining decisions whenver possible. But, they had to understand, that sometimes "no is 'no'", and that there really isn't time to deal with it all the time.


Bottom line, right now I am holding him up on advancement due to him not living by the scout oath and law. He's going to shape up, or eventually get passed by the younger scouts. (I don't think his ego can take that.) The other thing I am doing is every time he acts in a way that I don't deem appropriate, I pull him to the side, and explain that this is why he's being held back. We've only been doing this with him for about a month, so it's too early to see.


The one other thing we're thinking about doing is moving him to another patrol. I don't think it will help things with him, but I do think that it will demonstrate that he is the source of most of the problems (i.e. the problems in his patrol will manifest themselves in the one he moves to). Then we have more of a case for removal, if necessary.


Sorry for the long post, but I feel your pain.

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I'm feelin' your pain. But, I don't think you have to drag along Scouts who aren't living the Ideals. First of all, revocation of membership is an option for certain infractions -- check the G2SS, Section 1, page 6. Second, this should be fun for everyone, even the Green Bars (heck, especially the Green Bars). In the long run, if everyone else sees that the Green Bars have a continuous migraine with these guys, many qualified Scouts won't run for election, or may eventually leave for a different unit, or even a different program.


One of our aims is to build character, and the foundation of character is self-discipline. If they ain't got it by their age, you have to wonder if they will before they age-out. Boys grow into themselves of course, but a lot of what you're describing sounds like first-year stuff, not 3rd/4th year stuff. Breaking them up might work, or it might poison all your other patrols, too.


Something that's worked for me in two units now, is clearly spelled-out consequences for breaches of discipline. What are the rules? We don't have a long penal code -- our rules are the Scout Oath and Law. The consequences start with a warning by a Green Bar, and go all the way up to membership revocation, with intermediate levels that involve me, then parents, then the committee. Everybody gets a copy, and there's no misunderstandings. PM me, and I'll e-mail you an electronic version if you want to see the whole thing. The main challenge with the thing is continually ensuring the Green Bars know that it's a tool for them to use, but will only work if they use it.


Will a warning work? Not on everyone, but the consequences should escalate, and if they do, you'll eventually hit something that will change behavior or remove the problem. Do I want Scouts to quit? Heck no -- that lad is going to be doing something in 15 years. I want him to be doing it sober, paying attention, and contributing something to society. That foundation's laid with us and our efforts, better than anything else I can think of. Yet, if a small minority of Scouts in a unit is ruining the experience for everyone else, I see my main responsibility and loyalty as being with the majority of Scouts who are living the Ideals.


That may seem uncaring, or almost mercenary to some. After all, we like to think of ourselves as Fred MacMurray's Lem Siddons, turning Kurt Russell's Whitey from a JD into a model Scout. Well, that's a great movie, but this is real life. Sure, many of the Scouts are being raised by single moms, are taking behavioral meds, or are from dysfunctional families/environments, or a product of MTV, or what have you. But, after you've sunk three years of effort into delivering a program and role modeling what right should look like, if they're not internalizing the Ideals, I see a few options. One, do nothing different, but I think you know that's not really an option. Two, "tough love" to open up their heads and "pour it in". Three, if Two doesn't work, invite their families to find a different youth program that more closely matches their son's values, interests, and motivation level. Then, you can invest your time with Scouts who will respond to your leadership, not spend it on those for whom the Troop is a just a place to hang out and practice their standup routines.


Consistency and communications, with youth leaders at the center, are the keys to making Troop discipline work, in my opinion.





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There is some serious wisdom being presented here, and a few more of the obvious posters to look forward to (intended seriously)

We've all got these problem children, and I wonder if it doesn't point out a problem with same-age Patrols?

Suddenly thinking about crossing over into our Troop 6 years ago and watching the group ahead of us go through all of this. The ones that have stuck around (about half) are pretty decent young men and I'm proud to have worked with them. Completely ignoring the Patrol of perfect angels that I crossed over with... The group behind us is still working through it and will lose some more before its over - some will be missed more than others! And then there's the year after that has disapppeared completely?

Tough to summarize all of that and tougher still if you've got a small Troop; but I'd be inclined to really crank up the program a notch and make sure that your meetings apply directly to the upcoming activity while letting advancement happen in its time. Make it understood that the trouble makers might not get invited on some of these more engaging trips, if only for the health and safety aspect... I like to work from the carrot side of things and let the stick remain unseen, a Scouts' imagination is probably more vivid than the tools (and the time and energy) that we have available to maintain order.

And MK, can you find an excuse to visit other Troop meetings? Every time that I'm able to that (always with a good reason ie joint Venture Patrol activity) I'm able to hang in the background and learn something - sometimes its how good I've got it. Good luck!

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I agree 1,000% that at some point the good of the whole has to be put in front of the good of a few. Thinking back on this, we've been a little quicker to do so when the youth leaders involved have been those other than the sons of some of the core adult group. When our kids have been in leadership positions, we've dragged our feet a lot more. I suspect it is the belief that we can coach our own kids more because we have the ride home, the dinner table, playing catch, etc., to do the coaching. (That reminds me of the question in Scouting Magazine this issue, about how much time is too much to be devoting to Scouting. My wife complains constantly that the only dinner conversation at our house for the last 12 years has been Scouts!)


But we still have this knawing feeling that it's THESE kids who need this program the most. We've got a former Scout at West Point right now. We talk about him constantly, about how he would be at West Point with our without Boy Scouts. But those boys who struggle with what is right, with being constructive instead of destuctive, really need the direction Scouting provides. They really need the mentorship I'd like to think we provide. I recognize that at some point, we may have to do what we don't want to do. But it's hard to think like that when you're not sure you've done everything you could.


I will PM you for that resource. It sounds like it could be a good framework for our process.


I just had lunch with our SM. He said he had an 1 1/2 conversation with the mom of Scout #4. She wants to know why he hasn't advanced. She wants to know why he's getting heat from older Scouts about the current expectation we have of him. She wants to know why the older guys all seem to have more fun than her son says he has. She did not appear to be interested in hearing that every Scout gets the enjoyment out of the program they earn. She didn't want to hear that the only attitude and only actions her son could control was his own. She diodn't understand that even if her little #4 wasn't at fault, the SM's job is to keep his hands in his pockets for as long as he can (another reference to Scouter Mag.), and let the youth leadership handle it. She was calm, but she just wasn't going to accept that her little #4 bears most of the blame for his own lack of enjoyment.


Again, thanks all for your help. Asking here is somewhat what I perceive going to AA is like. It was so hard to admit that there's a problem in my little Troop, but once I fessed, up, it's easy to see that help is out their.



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"(The parents) gave us some tips on how to handle him. Such as, you can't tell him "no", you have to explain the rationale behind the decision. And, he doesn't follow other kids, he only listens to adults (if he listens to anyone)."


Did the parents keep a straight face during this conversation? Did you?

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I hope you realize that none of us can agree on the tiniest question, so don't expect a landslide of the same opinions.


Outside of Scouting I work daily with kids that are ADD, ADHD, LD and that have host of problems. I have had kids that rejected everything that I have said and tried. One thing that I now fully understand and accept is that I cannot fix everything. I have found my own set of limits.


I let each person know that when we partner for the program it is voluntary. It is a cooperative agreement and it is response driven. Not one person is forced to participate. Each person has goals that they have chosen and that are compatible with their abilities. If a person fails in their goals, they are asked to come in and we try another set of goals that are more closely aligned with their new understanding of themselves. They also realize that if they stop working towards their goals, support stops. As long as they work on their goals and communicate then we continue.


We write a contract with each person for their goals. We keep it simple. They are allowed to bring in their parents or whomever they want to help them develop their goals.


We have periodic progress checks. To remain is to succeed or to change goals, then succeed.


I submit this to you for your consideration to use in a similar fashion with some of your more difficult Scouts.



(This message has been edited by Fuzzy Bear)

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He said he had an 1 1/2 conversation with the mom of Scout #4. She wants to know why he hasn't advanced. She wants to knowShe did not appear to be interested She didn't want to hear She didn't understand

Gee I wonder why the scout does not take responsibility for himself!I would suggestMANY SM conference. Meaning I would ask the SPL or any other leader whenever they see one of these scouts doing something wrong, have the Scout go see theSM, so the SM can have a conference with him. It could be the same SM conference over and over, just as long as the Scout is sitting with an adult and discussing the issues. I have to believe after awhile they would say, Gee if I do this or that I will have to get sit with the SM again for THE discussion. Maybe this will make them think about their actions or it could possibly mean they will leave, but at least you can say you tried REALLY HARD.Please let us know how it unfolds.


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2CD -


In regards to my conversation with the parents. Yes, I kept a straight face. Of course, the mom was in tears most of the time. They are at the end of their rope as well. The only thing is, they deal with it 24x7.


I've explained boy leadership to them, and this is going to be a major hurdle for the boy. He's been Tenderfoot since last June. I'm using concepts similar to what Fuzzy mentioned, but not as formal.

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We had some bad weather here, and my phone (and internet) has been out since Friday morning; please be patient and I'll reply to your PM.


On your comment that these are the kids who need the program the most, you're absolutely right (it's the "Whitey" scenario from FMB). But, it's not enough to need it the most; they also have to WANT it the most.


You know, I'm in this for fun, too. For me, the fun is in seeing boys grow in skill, maturity, leadership ability, and confidence; seeing the looks on their faces (and their parents' faces too) when they're up there at that COH getting that advancement and recognition, and seeing that 17-year old boys can co-exist with 11-year old boys without giving them swirlies or taking their lunch money. When this works the way it's supposed to, it's amazing, and I enjoy being a part of it. That said, I've got only so much time and energy to dedicate to it. I have a job, a wife, a daughter in addition to my son, household chores, and a dog that wants to be played with. Given those demands, where do I invest my Scouting time/energy? On the lads whose commitment and dedication approximates mine. Again, it's a practical example of "...you get out of it what you put into it."


Now, don't get me wrong. I don't ostracize the Scout who's "mailing it in". I do make sure we're not counting on him for anything important, so the Troop won't be adversely affected by his inaction. And, as they say, "...a rising tide lifts all boats", so the well-planned program and opportunities for advancement will benefit the hangers-on as well as the dedicated, hard-working Scouts. But, as Fuzzy Bear so eloquently put it; this is "...a cooperative agreement, and it's response-driven". Beautiful! That one's going in my notebook.


What do they say, 4% earn Eagle? The other 96% who didn't make it, can't say it was because we failed as adult leaders. They made choices, plain and simple.



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Some flak may come from this.... but scouting is for the boy.


Easy scouts are easy to bring along and teach the things that scouting can bring to them. But, it is the others that scouting can have a great or even the most benefit.


While scouting is 'boy led' sometimes adult participation or interest in an individual scout is needed. (besides SM) I have supported and mentored scouts in the troop and have some success. Not all have been success stories but the effort must be made. Many of these scouts had no adult scout expectations and once that expectation was known the scout responded positively. True returns.


Not all have gone on to Eagle but the positive expectation had a benefit to the scout, and allowed them to move beyond the current behavior and progress in scouting.


That I believe is why we do the scoutin 'thing'.


Splittng the patrol up is one solution, but after 2 yrs not one that will probalby work. Individual contact and expression of expectation is one thing may work.


The other (tongue in cheek) is stopping by the store and buying a couple cloves of garlic.



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Wow -- this is one of the best threads in a while! Lot's of great ideas!!

We've recently started a process as follows:

1 - When PL unable to handle disruptions, he gets ASPL or SPL to assist. (SM/ASM only as a last resort or if safety/youth protection involved.)

2 - If problem persists, scout is asked to attend a post-PLC and they make sure he knows his behavior is unacceptable and they expect improvement. (Discussion documented in minutes.)

3 - If problem happens again, it's back to PLC for Final Warning. (Documented.)

4 - Next stop is SM for SM Conference. (Documented.)

5 - Next stop is Troop Committee with parents.


Have seen some improvement in the last 2 months. PLs appreciate the support and disruptive scouts are rightfully concerned about having to appear before the PLC. Some have come before PLC, but none for the second time (Final Warning). Troop Committee has been alerted and are standing by to engage if/when required.


If we get that far, I'll let you know how it goes.

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