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Behavioral Observation of A scout, Tell the Parent?

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On a recent campout one of my scouts seemed to have a lot of hostility. At every moment he grabbed a stick or other item and whacked trees, bushes, the dirt, anything. When not whacking away at inanimate objects he was slashing trees and bushes with his pocket knife. I suspect that there are issues behind this and would like to discuss with the mom.


But I am not a trained psychologist and my hypothesis on why this kid is lashing out may be way off the mark. And even sugesting this may not be comfortable. Just to clarify I don't think this a youth protection issue more of a learning capacity issue.


Do I mention all this to his mother including my suspicions or just assume she knows?



(This message has been edited by a staff member.)

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Many things can affect how to handle it. How old is the boy? Yonger ones, it is usually best to talk with the parent(s), depending on their receptiveness to that type of thing. I know I would want someone to tell me. Older boys will hide such things from their parents and may resent you for tell them. If you can talk with an older boy you may get out of him what is bugging him. Many times it is parental problems and the last thing they want is to talkto their parent about problems. Sometime being a good ear to their problem will help them figure it out themselves. No judgment, no answers, no "this is what to do"s; just let them talk.

Hope that helps a bit.

Kat (This message has been edited by a staff member.)

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The mother might be the problem.


I would have tried to have a talk with the boy that evening. He might be upset that he was missing a bowling party because he was off camping. Or he could have just learned that his mother had cancer.


As the TV shrinks will say, quite often people act out in order to draw attention to themselves. If it is unusual behavior, it might be an flailing attempt to start a conversation.


Most of us do similar things even if it isn't whacking things with sticks. If you had a bad day at work, you go home and slump in your Barcalounger in the hopes that your better half will say, "What's the matter dear? Did you have a rough day?" That gives you your opening to compliain.

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I'd ask somebody, especially if this is a kid you know fairly well who is suddenly acting different from his "normal" self. It could be hormones. It could be school, or family, or friends, or his patrol mates. It could be nothing at all and he just felt like whacking at stuff (though - with his pocket knife?? maybe another conversation about totin' chit expectations to be had there). Worst case scenario is you ask him and/or his mom and he/she is bewildered by your question.


While there's a chance that asking may cause some temporary resentment, there's at least as good a chance that he'll be grateful to know that someone is paying attention, or he'll be happy to have someone he can vent with fairly safely, or there's even a chance that you asking will prevent something much worse from happening if he's having a really bad time of it.


So yeah, I'd ask. Good luck with it.


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"...slashing trees and bushes with his pocket knife."


Scoutmaster conference with the scout right then and there. Review knife safety and Outdoor Code. While reviewing these topics ask him indirect questions about the activity and work your way in.

"Okay, we went over proper handling of your knife, how is your other gear working?"

"Now I'm here to help, but so is the rest of the troop. Have they helped?"

"This campout was planned to have fun. What has been fun on this trip? ...what could have been done better."

"Now we need to come up with a plan for the rest of the campout."


So indirect questions, you don't want to phrase it directly as "What is YOUR problem?" As direct questions then to have assumptions (e.g. blame) before you have obtained any information.


Maybe he will quickly open up, maybe it it take more probing by asking further questions or another scoutmaster conference by a different adult. He may simply be having a mini-power trip with a new pocket knife, he may be very upset about something,...


You may want to tear a corner of his Totin Chip card or take away his knife.


Whether the situation turns around or not, I would mention this to his parents. "Your son wasn't a happy camper during the first half, we sat down and talked and

1. "things improved"

2. "we need some more work here"


Hope this helps.

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Hi All


Dont assume anything becaue you are likely wrong, just mention the behavior and let the parents ask questions. I never had a parent resent hearing such information. Wouldnt you as a parent want to know?


I talked to all the parents when we got back from and outings. Usually a few words to brag about their son, but occasionally there was mention of about not so good behavior. I wanted my parents to know everything about their sons scouting experience.




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Personally, I would have had a SM Confrence with the boy and discussed the abuse of rocks, trees, and bushes. I would try and dig into what's buggin the kid.


In the past I've had to have conversations with a boy here a there, only to have a conversation with the mom or dad on return from an outing. Don't assume the parents see what we see, they either have blinders on or the boy doesn't act the same way for them. I believe it's important that the adult figures of a child are on the same page and seem to come from the same direction. This helps re-inforce what the community would consider social norms.


For example. I had a boy that acted out around one of my ASMs. He hated the man. I had my own issues with him, too, but couldn't let on about that. I had a talk with the boy, then with his single mom. Her and I decided to "attack" the issue together. We both sat down with they kid and discussed his behavior and what was and was not acceptable. He understood that what he was doing didn't work at the meetings or at home, so he made some changes.


Generally, when ever I have a talk with a boy about behavior, I have a talk with mom or dad about what we discussed. If the boy and I come to an agreement, we discuss that agreement with mom and or dad and that's the end of the "issue" usually. I'm not one to dwell on the negative.


Now when a kid does something right, good, positive, then I gush about it to everyone that will listen. I like having the boy in earshot while I brag about what he's done. A kid will walk a mile out of his way to you to get a pat on the back, run a mile in the opposite direction to get corrected.

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He put the knife away when I asked. I am acutely aware of knife issues having had a big blow up about 1-1/2 years ago with a Webelos scout. After letters of apologies and parent - cubmaster conferences it worked itself out. That boy is still with me in my troop and is a really good scout. No more knife problems with him.


As with that boy there was an underlying issue. His dad walked out on his mom 6 weeks after that incident. So based on that experience I see a scout new to my troop lashing out at every object that he can find. You can almost see in his eyes that someones face is on that stump or branch. I suspect its his brother's image. His older brother is in the troop and its not pretty when they try to work together.

(This message has been edited by Its Me)

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Now that you know that there are issues in the home and with the older brother, maybe you can try something different. See if there is something that the Cub has interest in. maybe there is a project that he can lead up, or a camping trip that he can help plan. If he has these strengths, then use them, if he has learned to cook at home, let him help at camp, or have him assist with the meal planning. There are a lot of things that you can do. If you talk to him there may be somethin that he may want to ehlp with. If his parents split, who brings him to his meetings. If it is his mother, ask if there is something that he likes to do that you can work with.


We are all leaders here. It is in our training to spot problems that are happening at home and help the scouts with them.

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Yah, yeh also need to keep your YP trainin' in the back of your mind, eh? Bouts of unjustified anger and such are one of those things on the list of "suspicion of child abuse." Be open and available to the lad. Be conscious of your reportin' obligations, both legal and moral.


You mention an older brother in the troop. In addition to talkin' to the boy himself, I'd talk to his older brother. More maturity may allow for more ability to verbalize stresses and their causes, and give yeh better insight.




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Anger needs attention. Observation, friendly counseling (listening), informing parents of what you saw is fine. Help the scout learn how to deal with problems constructively.


Misuse of the knife requires action. Take away the knife, revisit woods tools training.


Swinging sticks among trees and bushes? Around here we call that golf.



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