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Walking Stick issue - Am I overreacting?

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one of my pet peeves is individuals misusing a walking stick and acting like it is a martial art instrument or in some way play fighting. When I see this I step in and instruct the Scout that the stick is to be kept with one end on the ground. I am proactive in my approach whenever I see Scouts acting like they are fighting - kicking at each other, swinging at each other etc.


The problem is that I am receiving no support from other adult leaders and have had confrontations over this. It makes me very uncomfortable with the other leaders.


What suggestions does anyone have. Am I being overreactive? Should I let "boys be boys". Should I mind my own business and not care when some scouts get away with things b/c their parent permits such behavior.



Please respond.

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a Firestone has stated the difference between a "stick" and a "stave" (or "staff).   The first is a whacker, the second is a tool.  What I try to instill in the Scouts I work with is the "respect" sho

Yah, CA brings up another good point, eh?   There's good and bad ways of sayin' "No."   A bad way of saying "no" is to yell at a kid. Or to give a lecture. Or to make a set of arbitrary rules

I've had scouts do this, and they've gone out of there way to make sure they are away from the campsite and not going to bother anyone. I have no problem with that.   I have another scout that c

Our Troop has the same rule. One end of the stick must be on the ground. They get 3 warning and then they loose the stick. The warning would be given because of misuse that would cause harm to another scout. Several of our ASM have spent hours in the Emerg. Room and really don't want to have to do that again!

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I don't know your boys, ages, temperaments, past history of squabbles, etc. I have general issues with anything that is unsafe BUT, they are boys. There is going to be an establishment of a pecking order(informal) regardless of what activities we allow or take away. (Before I get slammed to many times on my safety issues - Rock climbing is not unsafe, Shooting sports are not unsafe, Swimming, Canoeing, Whitewater, and Scuba are not unsafe activities - IF the proper planning, training, and precautions are all in place.)


In my case I may be the worst offender, I have a hard time not playing with the walking stick that I carry. I absolutely refuse to play fight.(Except with my son and away from the other Scouts - like at home) If I don't have a walking stick I am just as likely to pick up a short 18-24 inch stick and make a pointer/swagger stick out of it just to have something in my hands.


IF there is ANY mean spiritedness in your troop, behavior problems, an exhibited failure to immediately respond to adult intervention then I would firmly be with you in your decision to stop, halt, cease and desist, put the kibosh on the stick waving, and play fighting. For that matter if I were your ASM I would support that decision because you(the SM?) were making it in what you saw as the best interest of the boys.


I absolutely would not let the issue go simply because any specific family lets their children do it. Neither you nor I are their martial arts instructor - at least I'm not working with anyone but my own son right now. And I know what he's doing on campouts... ;)


But if they are good, well mannered youth who understand the concept that the play fighting can go south really quickly, and know how to stop themselves before it gets to far then I might provisionally allow it. Knowing that I would just as quickly put a ban on it as soon as it turned into an issue. And the one end of the stick on the ground rule wouldn't be far behind.


And actually I would probably be very aware of any play fighting going on and be more interested in that than if someone was giving himself plenty of room and while staying aware of others coming towards him and working on actual stick fighting katas or even made up ones. The primary difference to me is that I don't have a problem with them whittling(playing with knives) as long as they are observing the totin' chip rules(esp. making sure there is enough space between them and others) and this would seem like an extension of the same thing in terms of the space you allow yourself if you are going to swing anything, stick, camp axe, knife. etc.

Just my humble opinion.


(This message has been edited by Gunny2862)

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I am not the SM. I am not talking about the boys using the walking stick as a fake gun, but rather moving it in the air like one would use a quarter staff or bo (if I have the terms right). Sometimes it is just one boy, the danger being he doesn't see another person nearby or that person walks into the danger zone unknowingly, sometimes it is fake combat.


Please keep responding.(This message has been edited by a_sly_fox)

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The quarter staff or bo are the terms I am familiar with and are the context that I took your initial post in. :)


I hope that you see me as being as concerned about the safety issues as you and just as quick as you to kill the activity if I saw the situation as unsafe. :)


I don't know your boys, I think my boys can have some leeway here as long as they don't abuse it. Its not about whether or not they are bad but the degree of responsibility and awareness that they exhibit.


In the end I would give consideration to your question (as a ASM, and you being another parent, or Scout or another ASM) and the fact that the question was raised would cause me to take more consideration of the issue.

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Yah, there's some things that just seem natural to boys. Play fightin' is one of 'em, eh? Any decent sized stick on the ground usually becomes a gun or a sword given enough time, and various games of "king of da mountain" on snow piles, snowball fights, and all other improvisational roughhousin' is part of their life. Such things can be fun and healthy, eh? I remember years of fun as a lad playin' army with stick guns and dirt-clod grenades.


Da flipside is that most kid roughhousin' will escalate over time until it becomes unsafe and someone is cryin'. They don't always have a "natural circuitbreaker". As Gunny describes, if you've got bullyin' issues in your troop, the play-fighting can become a focus for that, too.


So yeh just got to decide, eh?


You can just not bring walking sticks. Boys don't really need 'em. Avoid the temptation.

You can spend your adult time yelling at 'em near constantly to try to stop 'em doing something that seems so natural.

You can keep outings so busy that they don't have "down time" to play around like that.

You can let some of it happen, and keep an eye on it, teaching 'em how to keep it fun and safe.


I suspect the "feedback" you're gettin' is that #2 is makin' parents uncomfortable, because it feels too harsh/too constant/not right tone to 'em.


Yeh gotta make the call, fox! Maybe try a different option and see how it goes?




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There might be two different issues here...


First off, you might just be dealing with one particular family that lets their own child get away with stuff that isn't permitted by the rest of the families.


Or, you might be too harsh in tone when stopping this behavior. A lot of this can be halted with a wink of the eye, a *look*, a brief "unh-unh" reminder. Or perhaps it's not a harsh tone, but too long a lecture. Once the boys hear it from you once, they get where you stand - no need to repeat, just "unh-unh". Or the ever-popular "give it here" said in a totally bored tone of voice - which conveys acknowledgement of "yup, if you dont knock it off it's going to turn into the long boring lecture".


Generally, if you *suspect* you might be overreacting, you just might be. Always go for the least and quietest and briefest intervention necessary.


Where does your PLC stand on this issue?


Anne in Mpls

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This is one that's hard to answer without really knowing more details. You aren't the SM, and the other adult leaders don't see the same problem you do. The two extremes, then might be:

1. You are the one "kill-joy" leader who is always restricting and controlling the boys.

2. You are the one leader who is actually paying attention to safety.

You have to make a judgment on where you fall in the spectrum between these two. The fact that other leaders don't see the same problem is something you should take into consideration in deciding if your position is the correct one.

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I've had scouts do this, and they've gone out of there way to make sure they are away from the campsite and not going to bother anyone. I have no problem with that.


I have another scout that can't seem to leave the end of the stick on the ground. If he doesn't have his walking stick, he'll pick up a stick. Or sometimes a rock. And, he's liable to sling it around at any time, in any place, with no concern about who or what might be around. Now, this scout has a slight learning disability that causes him to lose focus, and that's a big part of his problem. But I've had no problems taking his stick away from time to time to remind him to be safe.

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1.A scout safely off by himself, jousting at imaginary dragons, ninjas or whatever is not a problem to me. 2.A scout indiscriminately swinging a stick around while on a hiking trail is a big problem. 3.Two scouts doing this, play fighting, is a problem regardless of the circumstances. The latter two behaviours need to be corrected. The first, not in my mind, just a reminder to keep an eye out for others and make sure the scout is away from areas where others may pass.


So I don't know if your over reacting or not. If the situation is more simlar to item 1 than items 2 & 3 maybe you are.


I'm reminded of an incident I witnessed at a camporee. Two scouts in the unit I serve were playing a game they learned at summer camp that involves a walking stick. Basically one takes the stick, about 5' long, and stretches out his arm from the end of the stick to a point on the ground maybe 3' from his feet. Then turns in a circle making a circle in the ground, sand, but marking out a circle on the ground. Then two players step into the circle and each grab the stick with both hands and hold it horizontally. At the command.. "start" or "go" each player tries to force the other player out to step out of the circle. Both players must keep both hands on the stick or play is stopped. Now this is not just a game of strength. There is quite a bit of balance, timing and deception involved as well as strength, but there is a lot of pulling, shoving and fake pulling, shoving, etc.


Anyway the scouts in our unit were playing this game. Quite organized actually, they had an imprompto referee that stopped play when things got out of hand and declared the winner and loser of each match. After a while several scouts from other nearby units were also watching. They were asked if they would like to try. I'm observing all this and thinking this is great. They boys are getting excercise, they're working together, meeting new scouts, a whole male bonding moment. After several rounds the boys are doing fine in my mind. Competing, winning, losing, but overall they are getting along and overall sportsmanship is high. After a while another scouter observes this activity runs over grabs the stick and proceeds to dress down the entire group about how scouts don't fight and they should be doing this. One of the scouts tries to explain they weren't fighting but playing a game but at this point the scouter wasn't going to hear any explanations. She just said something like scouts don't play games like this and walked off with the stick, giving me the dirtiest look she could because I was clearly aware of this and did nothing to stop it.



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In my experience, I've noticed that lads are more likely to "play" with makeshift hiking staffs found along the trail than with permanent hiking staffs. Finding a stick on the ground seems to energize a lad's imagination (the stick becomes a sword, a gun, a Bo, etc.) while a permanent hiking staff is most often given the status of "Tool" and is therefore treated with the respect one gives one's tools.


Certainly, if the play fighting is getting out of hand, we adults need to step in. The trick is trying to determine when play has overstepped its bounds. Rather than keep butting heads with the other leaders, I think I would encourage the lads (and the Troop) to develop their own personal, permanent hiking staffs. They can be carved, decorated, etc. (there are now plenty of state and national parks with hiking trails that are adopting the European hiking staff medallion program - medallions shaped in such a way as to enable them to be permanently attacted to a hiking staff as a rememberance of ones hike) which will instill even more of a sense of care. You'll still have the occasional flip of a staff (I still do it myself when walking) but no one is likely to try an all out battle with a staff they own and decorate.


ScoutingAgain - please tell us this wasn't the end of the story - that the lads just got another hiking staff and continued the game, or that you quietly (or not - I suspect I would have blasted her full bore) confronted the other Scouter and explained that this was a time-honored game learned in a Scout Camp (and if I'm not mistaken, this game was once featured in the Boy Scout Handbook in their physical fitness chapter - this is certainly a game that sounds like it would have come right from Baden Powell's handbook) and retrieved the stick.



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Pet peeves can be hard to deal with.

I have a long list of my own PPPP's (Private Personal Pet Peeves.)

I own them, they are mine!!

While others might have the same peeves, some of them are just things that get on my nerves, at times I think my very last nerve.

I'm aware that at times I do things that annoy others and might well be one of their pet peeves.


A Lad who joins a Boy Scout unit is still at the end of the day a Lad.

Wearing green socks with red tops doesn't transform him into any sort of a little Angel.

While of course certain behaviour is clearly not acceptable, we kinda have to accept that kids will be kids and boys will be boys.

I try and stress that there is a time and a place for everything. - Yes even a certain amount of horseplay.

Back when I first joined Scouting in the UK, Scout Staves (Staffs) we "In". They were seen as the multi-all-purpose-scout-tool. Marked off in feet and inches, fishing line added in case of a Trout emergency, one half the body of a emergency stretcher. In fact a tool no real Scout would ever go without.

While not shown in any British Boy Scout Handbook, we also used them for our version of improvised morris dancing,jousting,we of course used them as quarterstaves playing our game of Robin Hood and Little John.

Looking back it now seems strange how much fun we had with six feet of English Ash.

Sure at times someone did get his knuckles hit and we did at times incur the Scoutmasters wrath.

But for the time we spent doing what maybe we shouldn't have been doing? We were transported to a different time and place, at least in our imaginations.

Is this worse than kids stuck indoors for days playing video games? Yes - the over-playing of these is one of my pet peeves.



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I did discuss the incident with the boys. I told them they had done nothing wrong, but every now and then they are going to run into a person in authority who is flat out wrong but they will need to listen to them politely. Then decide if the issue is big enough to confront the person. Other activities were beginning at the camporee and they basically moved on and did other things.


After a while I did try and explain the game to the scouter that had interupted the game quietly. She basically did not want to hear anything that did not support her original actions. The stick was something the boys had picked and had fashioned for the purpose of the game, nothing of value. As I noted with the boys, one needs to choose one's battles. At this point the boys were doing other things. The other adult wasn't going to change her mind and I did not feel like expending the energy that would be needed to do so.






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