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Dealing with scouts personalities

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I need some advice. We have a scout who has developed an attitude problem, and he is a PL.


It is difficult to sum up the issue here. He decides what to do, and does it. Right, wrong, or indifferent. If he decides that the previous patrol leader did not call the patrol members, then he sees no reason to do it either. If he takes on a project, he will stubbornly work on it until it is done (or finished); he will not ask for help, nor will he listen to any advice offered. When offered advice or an idea, he will even sometimes respond with a snide remark. And for all that, he can never be wrong. It is obvious the other scouts around him do not like the behavior, but his patrol is willing to tolerate it because no one else wants to be PL.


I have tried to sit him down and discuss it, but it is like talking to a brick wall, which I knew it would be. I spoke to his father about it last week, and he was receptive to the discussion, but offered little. His mother approached me yesterday to discuss it, as this behavior is also prevalent at home. We talked about a word to describe him, like stubborn or defiant, but these seemed to miss the mark. She then recalled a word his preschool teacher used (apparently it has been going on that long), "inflexible."


Have any of you dealt with scouts whose personality made them inflexible? He is a good kid who likes scouting. I would like to be able to counsel him, but as he can never be wrong, he simply will not listen.

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Buffalo Skipper, that's a tough situation.


I'd recommend telling him like it is...specific examples of his behavior, the negative effect it has (sets a poor example for those he leads, the tarnish on his reputation as a scout)and some consequences for continued disrespect, such as delayed advancement, or removal from his leadership duties.


Sorry this seems harsh, but I'd venture a guess that he's never really experienced the consquences of his actions. It's tough to hold a scout back, but it sounds like he has the drive to achieve...and I'll bet he's up to the challenge of proving everyone he's better than that.


I know some of the setbacks I experienced as a scout...my tenures as PL and SPL were not wonderful every day, and I had some pretty blunt but truthful feedback from my SMs. Each time, once I worked thru the Stages of Grief, and came to Acceptance, I sure tried to do a better job.


I am glad I learned those tough lessons as a scout, and not for the first time as an adult, when more is at stake. Scouting should be a safe place to learn lessons, even some that aren't pleasant, such as coming to grips with personal shortcomings.


Lastly, I'm grateful you are the leader for this scout...you obviously care for his welfare, and you have my deepest respect for your leadership.




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Have to be very careful how you discuss this kind of thing. If it comes across as an accusation (and it would be easy for this to happen) he might respond defensively and you'll hit a brick wall. I've seen this up close in boys who need rigid structure in their lives. If they've been successful in getting their own life in order by erecting such structure, they tend to expect it elsewhere as well.

I have to ask, has he broken any rules? Has he been dishonest? Has he been intentionally destructive? If not any of those things, then I'd say things are going fairly well so far. Reality will eventually soften him up. I've seen that happen too.

You might ask him if he's had any problems getting boys to work with him? Or similar questions. He might be just as frustrated and just not mentioning it. If so, it is an opportunity to note that "you know I had a similar situation a long time ago and here's what I learned in order to cope with it." He might even listen. Good luck.

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This sounds like an opportunity to do some training. Conduct training for your entire PLC to include responsibilities for their POR, expectations (yours and theirs), rules of conduct and have each participant help lead one session and conduct the reflection for that session. This might help this scout to realize that he is not alone and that he has people he can turn to. Also leading a reflection might help him be a little more flexible in his dealings with others when hearing and seeing their perspective in a non-hostile or non-confrontational environment.

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Yah, two things.


Thing one. Don't think for a minute that you're goin' to talk talk talk blah blah blah this kid into learnin' anything. He's a fellow who has to figure things out on his own by learnin' from experience.


So to work with that is easy, eh? All yeh have to do is set up tighter, impersonal evaluation / feedback. Congratulations or "BRONNNNKK! You lose!". Then let him figure out how to beat the game.


Competition can work. Start givin' patrols points for attendance, and I reckon he'll learn to call people (or text 'em or tweet 'em or whatever thing they use these days). Have patrol competitions, and I'm sure he won't take advice, but I'm also sure he'll look to see what other PL's are doin' that works. Either that or his patrol will get it together to elect someone else ;).


In short don't tell/"suggest to" him what to do or how to do it. To him, that just means "Little kid, I think you're an idiot." Just specify challenges and outcomes, which to him will say "Young adult, I think you can figure this out."


Thing two. No adult can be a mentor to every kid. There are always goin' to be those kids that just annoy us, or that we can't figure out. Thank goodness, the Great Scoutmaster saw fit to put more than one adult on the planet. A boy that you just don't get may be a boy that is great fun for someone else with a different style. Let boys and adults in your program bond as they see fit, and don't be afraid to say to an ASM "he's yours!" when an ASM has the keys to a kid that you don't.


Me, I like da ruffians that a lot of Scoutmasters can't stand. Just my style. But there are some lads that crawl up my nose or that just mystify me. Dat's OK. They have the adults who "get" them, and I give those adults some room to work their own brand of magic.


And the scoutin' goes on...



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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My 2 cents, for what it's worth.


The defiant boy is basically isolating himself and his self-worth is dependent on how successful he appears. If someone else comes up with a good ideal, it reduces his self-worth because the idea didn't originate from himself. If that other idea succeeds, it's a threat to his abilities.


Step One: I would focus on HIS ideas and comment on them periodically with a "That's really a good idea." or "I'm thinking that would work pretty well."


Step Two: After he realizes that your interest is supportive, one could introduce such ideas such as: "I like that idea, have you come up with a solution that follows?" "I like that idea, but if it doesn't work out exactly like you have it designed, do you have a plan B?" This way you can introduce thought processes that will encourage him to seek solutions from within himself and increase his self-worth.


Step Three: Eventually you will be able to offer suggestions for him to modify so he can think they came from him.


I find that boys that are afraid to fail will struggle and fight, coming up with every excuse to justify it was someone else's fault so they won't be seen as the one that messed up.


If you can convince this boy that you are his ally and not the enemy, it will go a long way in helping him feel secure that someone genuinely is helping looking out for him and will be there when and if something goes wrong. If he think's he's the only one looking out for him, it's a tough spot to be in.


If the "plan" fails, share in the "blame". "I guess that idea WE came up with wasn't as good as we first thought." or "I sure wish I could have given you better advice or I wouldn't have messed this up." If the "plan" succeeds, give him all the credit even if it was an idea you planted in his head! He knows where the idea came from and if you give him all the credit, it will go a long way to build a good relationship with him. Once he realizes you can survive failure this way, then he will be able to as well. Lead by example. :)





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Before I offer an opinion, do any of the following traits relate to this young man?


avoids eye contact, interrupts others, violates their physical space, and steers the conversation to his favorite odd topic, appears willful, selfish and aloof?


stiff and rule-oriented and act like little adult, typically does not care about teen fads and clothing styles, may neglect their hygiene and wear the same shirt all week.

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Yes he does avoid eye contact and interrupts others, but I have not noticed him ever violate others' personal space, and he rarely steers the conversation to his topics. When he is done with the conversation, he generally walks off, whether others are done or not. Willful is a signature trait, and he does sometimes appear to be selfish and aloof.


He is stiff, though I would not say rule oriented. Though I know him from church (we are always uniformed at scouts), I have never noticed that he follows or ignores trends. His hygene is above average, but not excessively so.


These may be typical teenage traits (if that is where you are headed with this), but remember, his pre-school teacher labeled him "inflexible," which indicates that though he is almost 13, he has been this way essentially his entire life.

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Buffalo Skipper: I have one of those scouts. For four years, he's been the guy that always knows everything, he's always right, nothing anyone can say will mean anything to him. Sadly, his mother backs him up on it. Any time I've counseled him on his behavior, I've received an angry call from his mother. She's threatened to transfer him to another troop so many times I should have just handed her an application, his records, and said good luck long ago.


He was our SPL last year. He wasn't elected, but the SPL that was elected chose him as his ASPL. SPL had to step down from the job because of school demands so ASPL moved into the job. It was a tough year. He's a dictator. He's mean. He never recognizes any else's achievements. He can never admit a mistake, but is the first to point out someone else's mistake. Rather like folks that feel the only way to build themselves up is to tear others down. He will remember forever any time someone criticizes him, but will never acknowledge a compliment. The boys don't like him. The other adults don't either. I've spent a lot of time on this guy, trying to guide him and help him. He will pay me lip service when we talk, I'll see improvement for a week or so, and then back to the old routine. His father has always been supportive, his mother not at all.


Last September, my son was elected SPL and the troublesome scout was asked to be his ASPL - mostly because my son realized this guy would be trouble in any patrol he was in. The scout wanted to run for PL, but my son knew he wouldn't be elected because the other boys don't like him and so he would be a lot of trouble to whomever was elected PL. Making him ASPL kept him out of the regular patrols. Sad really, but a reality.


Two months have gone by and no word from the ASPL. No phone call, no responses to emails, to say he wasn't coming to meetings, PLCs or campouts. He did come to one meeting when my son called him to say he wouldn't be able to attend because of a band meeting back in late September, but that's the last time we've seen him. His mother sent me an email stating he was too busy with school to even reply to emails or return phone calls and to please just stop contacting him until he contacts us. SPL has selected a new ASPL. I wonder sometimes if this guy would have done the same thing had he been elected PL - would he just have abandoned his patrol? For him, it's all about the patch. By the skin of his teeth he was elected into the OA last spring (enough of the newly crossed over scouts voted for him, the guys that knew him did not). He's not yet participated in any chapter meetings or OA functions. Again, it's just about the patch and the recognition.


Recharter is coming up and we'll see if this scout renews his membership. It's too bad. He's a smart boy and I still see much potential in him. Then again, meetings and campouts have been very pleasant.

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Well, there isn't gonna be a "perfect fix" to this kids issues. His mom may say it's been a long time issuem but I bet neither her or the dad ever tried to correct or steer him differently.

Anyways, I have dealt with many people in various situations( wether work, fire dept, scouting) with this approach:

Tell this Scout that, although he is a PL, he is still no more than a manager , if you will. Think Corporations. Each office, compant, or section, has it's onw branch with it's own manager or head of operations. While this person may be in the same position as a PL, that person still answers to a higher authority. That person in turn, answers to a higher up too, And so on and so on until you are at the CEO or Board of directors. At this point, you can chart out the ranking of Scouting from National and your CO on down to PL APL, SM CC or whatever.

Tell him there are times when he may exert his "authority" but there are times when ( as in the outside world) you just have to follow the standard procedures of the higher ups. For some reason, this approach works well when all the rest fail.

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The more I read this thread the more worried I'm becoming.


This Lad sounds a lot like I was when I was his age.

Mule Headed? You bet!

Strong sense of justice? Sure. Even when maybe I wasn't right, but there was no telling me that!

My way or the highway? Of course and it was a one way street.

Inflexible? Definitely. Autistic?? I hope not.


Yes I was a real "PITA".

I seen some adults as being "Them" while there were others who while maybe not one of "Us". Did seem to be not so much one of "Them".

Rubbing people up the wrong way and seeing them not know what to do added to the score. I was winning!

Still for all this there were times when I needed a friendly arm around my shoulder and to hear "Hey! You did agood job!"

I chose the adults I wanted to be close with.

I wanted people to take the time to explain the reason when I asked why? Not just tell me that it is that way because that's the way it is!

Thankfully there were people who did take the time, people who were able to get past me being a real PITA.

They were able to see through the long hair, the extra wide flared jeans. They didn't allow me to get into the stuff that would have done me real harm.

God Bless them.


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To be blunt, but speaking from experience, the young man may need to be evaluated by a professional to see if there is something going on in the physical/mental relm that is a major contributor to his acting out and being so stubborn and unsocial. Only his parents can see that that is done. They may have not even thought about it. Not every kid that acts out is ADD, ADHD, Bipolor ect. but it needs to be ruled out if possible. Its a fine line because now a days the first thing that people want the doctors to do is blame a persons actions on one of these disorders. That is why a person needs to see a competant professional who is able to discern wether there is a disorder and if there is come up with a plan to help control the situation. A person may have a combination of disorders and it can become complicated.


I come from a family that has been dealing with stuff like this for generations. I could give examples from family members just acting out, being stubborn and just plain unsocial to family members that have taken their own life. I hope that this young man is able to cope with his problem wether it be that he is just a plain jerk or to the possibility that he is dealing with other serious disorders.(This message has been edited by crossramwedge)(This message has been edited by crossramwedge)(This message has been edited by crossramwedge)

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As always, I appreciate all your feedback and responses, wide and varied as they are.


First, I am not looking for a perfect fix for this scout. The SPL has tried but just can't seem to crack him, so I want to help without interfering too much. I am fortunate that we have parental sympathy, but I do not know how much his parents are really doing to support him, though they have suggested they may be taking him to a counselor soon.


Is he just a stubborn kid? Yea, he is, and I see he is very much like his father in that respect. But is that just his personality, take it or leave it? I don't think so. He certainly is a bright scout, and I feel that he could do much better if he just opened up a little. Not completely, but just a little would be a great start.


I don't think his patrol sees him as doing that bad a job. They really haven't really had a good patrol leader since they joined the troop, so they don't have a concept of what they should be expecting. The real problem is that the other patrol, which is mostly made up of first year scouts, is really beginning to excel.


I actually want him to continue to be the PL. He is the most motivated of all the scouts in his patrol, and in spite of his hardheadedness, he really is the best candidate for the patrol. As such, I really want to see that he has the tools to succeed, even if that is a rough journey.


Servant leadership is something we have not yet covered in our Green Bar training. Some scouts (like our SPL and our other PL) just get it naturally, while others may need it spelled out for them. I will make a point of covering that at our next session. To me servant leadership comes with an understanding of one's place in an organization.


mmhardy, I am still looking forward to your reply as well.

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Sorrylong weekend and I totally stepped away from the computer screen for awhile. Im neither a doctor nor a councilor but I have a kid with a formal diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. Your boy sound kind close. Its on the high functioning tip of the Autistic spectrum. He may show significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. (they fixate on single ideas/thoughts/patterns) They are typically very smart but show little emotion or even acknowledge that youre talking to them. (Like talking to a brick wall)


On the plus side they tend to follow the rules and have high expectations for everyone; including the adults. You mentioned that you like the progress he has made in running the patrol. A job no one else wanted. You may want to mention this to him and give some small achievable goals that you would like to see. You may never crack him. Thats OK. But I found positive reinforcement techniques go a very long way.


Aspy traits can run in families so you observation about the father may be dead on. Working with them may be challenging but these people are diamonds in the rough. Their ability to zealously pursue a single goal has probability contributed the most in advances in human achievement.


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