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New Bear Scout Den Leader Help with Boys!!

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I just assisted my dh in leading our second den meeting with a group of 8 yr old boys and it was the most chaotic, crazy thing I have ever attempted! There were only 6 boys but they were WILD and disrespectful to each other as well as to us! One boys even took his shoes and socks off and put his feet up on the table We thought maybe having them make up den rules would help them to behave but even that went crazy! THey''d yell things like, "never pee on anyone" and then they''d all laugh..etc...


We brought treats and they were throwing them at each other. Our son was trying to eat his grapes but two boys grabbed them right out of his plate and then he started crying. It was total chaos and no matter what we (my dh and I) would say, they''d laugh at us and keep on acting up! How do you control such unruley boys???


We got involved in this group because no other parent would step up to do the leadership role. It was a group of boys from our local parish who should''ve been christian boys...but, you''d never have know it by their behavior! We have never done this before and are still "in training" but now I''m not sure scouts is worth all this.


We only have one child of our own, whom I homeschool....how do you control boys who are going so wild and are not your own??? We were so hopeful but feeling overwhelmed now and not sure what to do at this point....not so sure scouting is going to work for us after all. :(



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In World War 1 the French used to kill one soldier in a failed unit "Pour les autres", which even though I failed French meant "for the others".


Well you can''t do that and the French also found out it didn''t work.


What you can do it talk to them and set up rules that they want. You can also explain to them that there are many good things in the Bear book and unless they stop acting like overstuffed,never scolded, undisciplined, privileged young American boys that they will not have a den.


I used to sit my kids on the floor in silence and they hated it. They thought it was a waste of time. I had to do that three times, then only threaten to do it.


The other thing you can do is make the parents attend. These little brats are the product of their parents. Make the parents attend until you get some semblance of order.


I also used to make them run around the meeting building to "run the satan out of them", sometimes it worked.



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The single most useful piece of training information I ever received was simply "BSA does NOT stand for Baby Sitters of America". With my first group of Bears I spelt out my simple expectations of them - to them and their parents, along with consquences - Standing silently w/ their Scout sign up for 15 seconds for a 1st offense, calling their parents to pick them up for a 3rd offense, that sort of thing. Treats were earned, not automatic, etc.


However, all that being said - go to training. Both you and your husband, as well as the boys will benefit greatly from you being trained. Don''t wait until you hate the boys and they are so out of control that you can never get them back and lose the ones that truly want to be there.




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10 Rules for a New Den Leader...


1. Have the meetings outside of the house. A house is typically way to comfortable of an environment resulting in boys behaving like they are at home. Plus, you don''t want your stuff getting busted up. A classroom at the church should work well, since they usually have little more than some tables and chairs, minimizing distractions.


2. Set the expectations at the outset with the scouts and parents. Don''t be afraid to require a parent to attend to keep their boy in line, or to call a parent to come pick their scout up early when he becomes a discipline problem.


3. When frazzled, go outside. Today, a boy spends most of his waking hours inside, sitting down - usually as a matter of compulsion (i.e., school). When they are outside - playing games, working on advancement - they are happier and have more room to spread out. Annoying each other and going wild is much easier in a confined setting than the great outdoors.


4. Plan every minute with engaging activity. Keeping them actively involved minimizes the opportunity for them to ''go crazy''. Sure, some will claim boredom and seek to spice things up, but if the others are engaged and having a good time with the activity, he will find himself alone in his endeavor.


5. Can the snack. A boy will not starve during the course of an hour to hour ''n half den meeting. The 10-15 minutes or so of feeding time is not necessary - they can eat when they get home. This will save money, time, clean-up and grape-stealing, letting you focus more on scouting activity.


6. Get trained as soon as you can. Understand the BSA policies, but even better use the training as an opportunity to network with others to see what works for them. Believe me, you are not the first to pull your hair out after a chaotic den meeting.


7. Teach respect. You can''t change how they behave at home, school or the playground, but you can establish the behaviorial environment at your den meeting. Together, make a list of no more than 5 rules that will always be followed at the den meeting. When they call out ''don''t pee on others'', answer firmly with ''as an eight year old, you surely must know that is an inappropriate answer. In the future, I would ask you to use respectful language during our meeting.'' Then move on.


8. Get a good den chief. A den chief is a boy scout (not cub) that will assist the den leader with meetings. While they are not responsible for discipline, the presence of a 13-14 mature boy in uniform acting as a scout should act, is an awful powerful example for the younger boys to follow.


9. Don''t give up. The first meetings are always the hardest, as everyone attempts to scope out the territory in terms of what they can get away with. Over time, you will come to understand each boy better - what sets him off, what keeps him engaged, etc. - making it easier to deal with them as a group. Even after a couple years of doing it, there will still be days you have to wonder what went wrong. Scratch them up to living and learning, and keep at it.


10. Have fun. Make it fun for the boys. Make it fun for you. Don''t hassle the small stuff. If it ain''t fun for everybody, what''s the point of doing it?

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Wow. I think I''m going to hug my little Bear Cubs next time I see them. They do NOT act like this and never have. We had 11 of them.


We also homeschool our only, so I understand a lot of where you are coming from.


The very first thing I would do is call a meeting with all parents and cubs. I would have someone else there from the Pack - CC or CM or just someone who has been around awhile. I would talk clearly about what is expected in the way of behavior at meetings. I would also require a parent to attend all meetings for at least the first half of the year. I did that with my parents last year (our first) and by the middle of the year, the parents were so into everything that now I can''t get them to stay home! It gave me and the boys a chance to get to know each other, the parents let me correct their kids and only step in when their kid is being particularly naughty. I had one time that a boy stuck his finger in paint and then into another boy''s eye. I was on that one like glue. Little offender was put into time out on the step where he could hear what was going on but not be a part. After about 10 minutes I sat and talked to him about how to deal with anger, giving him permission to interrupt me even if he thought he was getting that mad again. Then he and mom and I had a really long talk when she got there (she was taking a college class and hadn''t been there for about 3 weeks. I think it really bothered him not having mom there).


I use tools like Den Doodles, a Conduct Candle and Den Rules to help maintain order. I also follow a routine so the kids know what is coming next. We have very little "down" time. Left with nothing to do, they will get wound up.


I keep thinking of my little guys and trying to even imagine them being that defiant and I can''t even picture it. Get parents and Pack involved in this. Scouts really IS worth it. Really, it is. And so are the kids if you can get this under control.

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I had a mom last year who was ready to pull her boy from Scouting, because the first two den meetings they had attended were utter chaos. Fortunately (?) the den leader had a change in her work schedule and had to drop out. I approached this mom and asked her to take the den leadership. She was hestitant and said "but the boys are so wild." I said, "only if you let them be. As den leader, you can set the tone for your den." I talked to her about having the boys set up rules for the den. She is a teacher, so she knows how to work with kids. She tentatively agreed.


A few months later, she came up to me and said, "Thanks so much for encouraging me to do this. I don''t know when I''ve ever had so much fun." And her den? One of the best-behaved in my pack.



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When I was a den leader, I had 11 boys and about half of them were wild. Some things that worked for me:


- Separate the "wild" ones so they can''t "egg" each other on.

- Have the first activity be ACTIVE, to help get the "wiggles" out.

- Do a lot of hands-on activities, so their hands are busy.

- Post the rules in plain view.

- Keep the rules short and simple.

- Use a stop light chart. I started all their names at "green." If

they broke a rule, their name moved to "yellow." Another broken

rule put them at "red." At the end of the meeting, the boys got

2 candies for "green", 1 candy for "yellow", and none for "red".

- Use incentives for good behavior. Give out tokens (or keep track

on a chart) at the end of the meeting based on how many times you

"caught" them behaving. The tokens could be exchanged for small

prizes each meeting or each month.

- Have other parents help out, as well as Den Chiefs.


Try to make most activities at least a little bit active. When my Wolves were learning the Cub Scout Motto, I had them take turns jumping on our mini-tramp as they said the words: Do-Your-Best. The bouncing kept them active, and helped them quickly remember the words.


I also had good luck with relays such as giving each team strips of paper with one sentece of the Cub Scout promise or Law on each one. Then they had to see which team could put them in the correct order first. I also had them do this with the information taped to their shirt, so they had to get themselves in the correct order.


If you can get more adult helpers, you can break the boys into two or three groups, and have them rotate through the activities. My boys paid much better attention when broken into smaller groups, and we got a lot more done that way.


Good Luck!

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Try a conduct candle - light a candle at the beginning of the den meeting. When things get out of hand, blow it out. When the candle burns down a certain amount, the boys get a reward - something they want to do, be it go bowling, have ice cream, whatever. (Light a similar candle at home and time it, so you have an idea when to give a reward - maybe the length of 2 meetings to start, then increase the time.)

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  • 4 weeks later...

If you plan fun and interesting meetings that elicit involvement from both parents and boys, then a lot of the behavior issues go away. The "Program Helps!" is a great starting place for ideas. Just throw in a little imagination. Involve the parents, engross the boys, keep it simple, make it fun.


SemperParatus'' had 9 pretty good rules to follow. I completely disagree with rule number 1 (it''s also unnecessary if you get a few of rules 2 thru 10 to work). A family or rec room, basement, or even a garage (you mentioned you home-school, maybe you have a classroom already) that you can set up a folding table in but is not too large should work well. You want a space that''s relatively confining so the boys won''t be able to run around and such. Holding meetings in my familry room or garage worked great for me... you never to worry about forgetting something like you do for an "off-site" meeting and you don''t necessarily have to clean up after the meeting right away.


Additionally, no snacks aren''t necessary but they do provide an opportunity to assign responsibility to the boys by having them take turns bringing them. The parents will do most of the prep to get the snacks at their intended destination but it still teaches responsibility--especially if the boys will be responsible for their own clean-up. Scouting is not meant to be effecient, it''s supposed to teach valuable life skills starting with small steps and increasing the step size as the boys get older. Maybe 10-15 minutes of clean-up is worth that.


Not all dens are created equal. You''ll have to figure out when the boys will begin to benefit from the introduction of these steps.

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Don''t be afraid to use your authority. Wear your uniform and expect the boys to wear theirs and to wear them correctly, shirts tucked in, all patches etc. It teaches respect.


Remind them that they are in your home and that they need to respect you as their leader and to respect your home.


Keep the program high energy with some games, outdoor time, new stuff, quieter times etc. These guys are right in between being little kids and young men. They need a bit of both in their world. I tend to talk too much and bore the kids. My wife tells me often to stop talking about stuff and start doing something.


Have someone critique your meetings like she does to me.


Keep having fun, both yourself and with the kids.


I''ve got 8 Bears who are all homeschooled. We have a blast together. It''s my second time around as a bear leader so I got the chance to make most of the mistakes with my older sons den.


My real advice is to keep at it and discuss the problem with your CM and other DL''s along with the parents.

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  • 1 month later...

I work with behavior disability students. These are the kids with no veil of acceptablility and thus do whatever/whenever. I will give you some really good advice that was given to me by a mentor:


1. Kids only hear 5 words at a time. If you don't want them to talk, simply say "Don't talk" in a very firm voice.


2. Make sure you teach and spell out expectations including rules. Make sure you only have 5 rules or less. My classroom has THREE only. My poster says "At all times we will have: Respect, Responsibility, and Safety." Then, I explain what each includes but are not limited to......


3. Teach and RETEACH each behavior BEFORE anything else in the scout manual. Example: If you want them to come into the room and sit a certain way (like alphabetically), show them, have them leave the room and come in correctly. Each time they DO NOT do that, re-teach it. Eventually they either learn it, or become so bored with the constant correction, they do it so they can just move on.


4. Make certain you NEVER fail in consistency. If you say "Don't Talk!" Make sure they are silent before you begin talking. They cannot leave their seat without permission, cannot touch others, no spitting, hitting, or whatever. I have one student who blurts obscense words a lot. I've learned with this boy that just saying "OK" and moving on to the lesson is best with this boy. Without the attention called to his behavior, it's over quicker. Finding what works best with EACH child is good.


5. Finally, they often must move or interact with each other in active ways. There must be the discipline in place before they can move around. Marching small boys is always easier than saying let's go into the gym. We line up and march (and I do highschoolers). They must stay arm's length from each other at all times, stay silent, and if they do this well, they get a reward (usually a minute out pass which allows them one minute out of class early).


NO FOOD/DRINK EVER!!!! I never gave my cub scouts food or drinks. They were allowed water breaks only. Then, the meeting becomes about the meeting not the food. I had cubs who were not happy with this arrangement, so I told the parents to feed them prior to leaving the car or not at all. Then, if they complained they were hungry, I just reminded them they were told to eat/snack PRIOR to the meeting which was not my time.


We had food at two Pack Meetings per year. The first one and the Christmas one ONLY. Worked great!


For really problem children, making their parents stay is usually not enough. Most parents are bringing "Bobby" because they don't want to deal with them at home anyhow. Baby sitting for free is always a good deal, plus they hope you can control little "Bobby" and teach him something. IF you involve parents, you also invite them to have opinions on how you run the meeting with their child. Sometimes, that is worse. Calling them to come get their child when they feel they are having free babysitting is all it takes in my experience. It's much like kicking a kid out of class. Once the audience is gone, the allure of the misbehavior is also gone. Add to that bugging mom to come back early when she feels she's free of little "Bobby's" behavior won't cut it for long.


If you can also invite the Cubmaster to attend your meetings until you can teach and reteach, that is a good source of additional discipline. Have the Cubmaster be nearby, but not in the meeting. Then, when "Bobby" misbehaves, send him from the room immediately with a firm, but quiet "Bobby, since you've chosen to misbehave (break rule #XX, whatever) you must go sit with Mr. Doe for a time out. Once the others see that "Bobby" is no longer getting a free pass to be "cute" they'll not wish to leave either. After awhile, Mr. Doe will no longer be needed.


I also find that stickers work well. IF a child is doing well in using perfect behavior, I simply move to that child, place a sticker on their desk/shirt/hand and move away. I never state why. At the end of class, I say, "Those with stickers were doing XX well, and may now leave class FIRST." Then, even in high school, my students all crave that sticker so they get some type of reward. BY not stating the behavior I am seeking that day, they know they must deliver ALL of them since they don't know which one I'll chooose that day.


BD kids are really hard, time consuming, and will wear you OUT. Be sure to have capable assistants and don't be afraid to ask for more. SOmetiems it does take a village.

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Heh, heh, yes I remember it well....

I agree with getting the den out of the house. Get them active. Don't feed them at the beginning. The candle thing works OK sometimes.


I used to schedule every den meeting I could at the local park. Then before the boys arrived I had a big cooler on the table - closed. And a pile of rope or some other item on the ground. The first one who arrived I'd ask him if he could help me with a problem.

It's funny, the way EVERYONE on these forums has an opinion...they also seem to think they have the solution to a PROBLEM...and they want to help.

I'll get him to run with the tape measure or the rope or something down the park so I can measure something. The next boys arrive. They want to know what I'm doing. I'm setting up a contest. They're in....


I learned that once I established every den meeting with some sort of physical challenge at the beginning, they came to expect it and look forward to it. When it was warm, we also employed water (sorry parents ;)). We had foot races, tugs of war, tugs of war with lopsided teams. We'd have throwing contests - softballs or footballs, distance or targets. You get the idea.


Once I saw sweat pouring off them I let them have water or something. Sweat's easier to see if they have a layer of dirt from the activities. Much calmer now.

Now, if it looked like the cutesy craft thing we were going to try just isn't in the cards, we'd try a different challenge. How to get that rope up over the limb to make a rope swing. They'd try and try and try relentlessly. And sometimes we'd actually get to swing (and I'd have to get a heavier rope next time).


These guys are best viewed as chimpanzees with the moral compass of raccoons (they'll sneak into that cooler if they get the chance). Once you understand that you are not a babysitter but really a zookeeper, it becomes understandable and even fun for the leader as well. Noise, action, running, tumbling, water, dirt. What could be better?


If it was raining, we'd meet at the church and run crab soccer games up and down the hallway. The little church ladies would scowl with their mouths all puckered up like...well, nevermind. But I'd just shrug and ask the boys, "Hey, want to do it again?".

Yeah, I know...simple pleasures.


And...just before they got picked up to go home, I rewarded their good behavior with juice and a cookie snack. Heh, heh, just for the parents who didn't stay to help out. :)


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  • 2 months later...

When my wife was a Den Leader she posted the Knights Code of Conduct on the wall on a cardboard shield. (It was in the Wolf Handbook at that time, and might still be.)


She explained that the Scout Oath and promise were based on the oath taken by The Knights of King Arthur, and that these Cub Scouts were now the Knights and our basement meeting room was their castle. They would all take the Knights Oath and then make cardboard shields with there own Coat of Arms design and hang them next to the Knights Code.

This is the spot where they did their opening and closing ceremony each week.


The code talked about helping others, being courteous, being honest, and respecting those of greater age (the den leaders).


Each year they made a new shield at the first meeting of the school year.


She had a very well behaved group. Maybe something similar will work for you. As far as tips for a good meeting, check out the list provided in the Cub Scout Leader Book. (Notice there are no snacks in a Den meeting agenda:) )


Have fun with the scouts you serve,




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