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Preparing for my first one of "those" SM Conferences

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Next week I get the pleasure of having a SM Conference with a young man that needs a little bit of direction. The matter is not respecting the direction or position of his PL, APL or one of my ASMs.


Basically during a Patrol Meeting where the PL (then the APL when PL was called out of the room for a few minutes) was trying to discuss finalized menu, duty roster and tent assignments for an upcoming camping trip this young man (along with another I will be speaking with) started their own conversation about trying to change the Patrol Name, something the PL had already said wasn't going to happen and to drop it.


It got to the point that when the APL was trying to run the meeting he kept getting frustrated and raising his voice to try and get them to stop. This only spurred them on, and they started intentionally ignoring their APL. At this point my ASM told them they needed to cut it out and pay attention to the task at hand and listen to their APL. They finally did.....for about 60 seconds. Then they start up again and the ASM says the same thing again. Same result. Brief quiet followed by more disrespect.


This was followed up by some more instances of disrespect for PL, such as ignoring where the PL wanted his tent.


Unfortunately I did not hear about the Patrol Meeting incident until after the trip. I was all ready to chalk up the camping trip as guys together for the first time camping working things out. But now I have different people telling me stories that all end with the same name.


This Scout is a SM Conference, Scout Spirit req and BOR from 1st Class. He is actually expecting an SM Conference before our meeting this week, but the general "Tell me how you like the troop.....favorite Merit Badge" type questions.


My plan is this: Hand him his BS Handbook he left in my car after the camping trip and ask him open ended questions such as "So, how did the Patrol Meeting before out camping trip go?" and "What do you think about your PL and APL?" Then move towards "Can you tell me about this whole 'new patrol name' thing?" and "What do you think you should be doing during that time".


Somewhere after this I am going to get my most direct when addressing the lack of respect shown the ASM. This is where I am going to inform him his BOR is going to have to wait until after the next camping trip at the earliest, but more likely a month or so because I will not be signing his Scout Spirit requirement. My hope is to address only the behavior, and not make this seem like a personal attack to him.


I will want to end positively, telling him I know he can do this.


Sorry to drone on so much, but if you would please let me know your thoughts of my plan, and any advice you may have for this type of talk I am about to have with the young man.



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Good game plan. One thing that may help in regards to attitude and Scout Spirit: use quotes from the Scout Oath and Law and how he lived up to it. Also ask him about how he would feel and react to someone causing the problems he has caused.


Good luck.

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I think its a pretty good approach. It depends a lot on the maturity of the scout. I had one scout who was completely defient, but another one who voluntarily delayed his BOR until he proved to himself he could do better.


The personal attack part is important and I understand where you are coming from. You want to come off looking disappointed, not angry. Then he will respect your wisdom and not feel he is just being disciplined by an adult. Try to imagine you are having a discussion with an adult your age. It helps if you only as questions that hopefully guide him in the right direction. Once you start to get lectureous, you risk your emotions taking over and crossing the line. Disapointed, not angry.


Also, there is nothing wrong with a continued conference. Ask a question he can't answer, continue the conversation later when he says he's ready. Sometimes the lesson has a lot more impact when you wait for him to realize the wrong in his decision than you explaining that he even made a wrong choice.


Good luck, these things take practice.



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Gotta say, I've never been good at or a fan of the Socratic thing. I'm more of a cut to the chase guy. I'd rather have a conversation than ask a bunch of questions and hope the kid comes to the right answers.


Behavior wise, this doesn't seem like a big deal. More like being disruptive than really disrespectful. I was waiting for you to say the kid wound up questioning the ASM's lineage, or something like that.


Kids don't forsee consequences. Shoot, most don't see consequences after the fact. I think you have to help them connect the dots between his behavior during the meeting. That the problems encountered on the campout related to his disruptions during the planning. You need to help him understand the point of view of the APL who was trying to get something done but couldn't because of a couple of knuckle heads.


You don't mention how old these guys are, but I'm guessing fairly young. They sound like the typical maturity level of a 12 or 13 y.o. Old enough to have a need to exert their influence on the group but not mature enough to do that in a productive way. I would try to give them some concrete examples of how they can contribute positively to their patrol. We talk about this in terms of "small-L" leadership or leading by example or from the back of the group. (That compares to "big-L" leadership which related to your official position.) Talk to the boy about how he can be a leader in the patrol without being APL or PL.


And the big picture there is reputation. Now having been SM long enough to see a few years of Scouts come into the troop at 11 and age out at 18, guys in the troop get the reputations they earn. Teenage boys have really long memories. If you get a reputation for being lazy, a PIA or a screw up, the other guys won't forget it. Guys learn early on who they can count on, who is reliable and who they want in their patrols. Sooner or later the rest of the guys will push him out of the nest.


Maybe this means nothing to this kid. (Clearly, I'm applying assumptions to the situation based on other boys I know well.) So take this simply as an example. You've got to find an appeal which will mean something to him. Maybe his hot button is a carrot, maybe a stick, maybe some combination of the two. And there is a good chance you're not going to get through to him the first time. But as you get to know him over time you'll find an approach which works with him.


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Interesting situation. I see your point on Scout spirit issues and leave the conference to you.


My point of understanding is how the meeting situation was handled. No where in the string of events did I see anything about the SPL getting involved. What I did see was an ASM backing up a PL.


In my mind, it is on the PL to get the patrol members in line at his meetings.If he has an issue, he can get his SPL involved, or turn to a Troop Guide if your troop has them. It seems too early for an ASM to get involved.


Also, you do not mention the age of the scouts. Based on your first class SM conference, I would assume the boys crossed over spring 2011 which makes them 12 or so. At 12 for boys to not stay on task at a meeting is not much of a surprise..... Hence the challenge of the PL in trying to lead his peers....

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I read Chai's comments and then went back and read your original post.

Think about perspective and expectations.

What you're describing is a normal dynamic in a group of boys that age. This is a challenge for the PL to learn from. When you bring in the big hammer of the SM, you seriously risk undermining the PL's authority and learning opportunity.


Another perspective is that you say this SMC will be next week, but you're already on this board discussing your plans to reprimand the scout for a relatively minor behavioral issue. Maybe you're over thinking it a bit?


The much more valuable SMC will be the chat with the PL about building up his confidence to redirect the patrol members.

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I once walked up to a group of Scouts. A boy from one patrol was asking to borrow some cooking gear from the other patrol. The response was pretty rude.


I happened to be in ear shot, and all I asked was "So - how many of the Laws were just violated?" This triggered a great discussion, and I also tossed in that this would have never happened if the first patrol had Been Prepared. It seemed to work well as a conversation, and it ended in smiles.


The boy in question who violated the Laws STILL brings this up with others - it was a triggering point for him to change it seems.


Best of luck in the SMC.

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All's good if Socratic is really your style. If not, there's no harm in being more direct like 2C suggests.


After "laying out the charges" I can think of two approaches:


Don't shut the door on the kid advancing. Just ask him, "Are you sure you want to go before a 1st class BOR next week? Or do you think you should give it another month so your scout spirit -- especially when it comes to obedient and courteous -- could shine through?" Put it on his honor like he claims at every meeting's opening. Remind the boy that he can always ask you or the ASM if he's doing a better job. Call it an "SMC on the fly!" In this case, the BOR would include a discussion of the problems and ask what he changed, or what he's resolved to do from now on, to now be worthy his rank.


If you must be a gate-keeper (and from this side of the net it's hard to tell). Give him some concrete tasks. The most important thing is that he goes and apologizes to the PL and APL for making their job harder than it needed to be. If there's some other reconciling to do (like demonstrating cheerfulness about the patrol name/yell) you can give him a list, but don't overwhelm the kid. You tell him as soon as that's done, y'all can move on. In this case, the BOR would not bring any of this up with the kid.


Obviously, you can combine the two.


P.S. - Does he know he left his book in your car?

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To answer some questions:


The Scouts in question are all 13 years old


OGE, I don't believe he knows the extent of my disappointment. Part of that problem is I didn't find out about the meeting issues until after the camping trip, so next week will be our first chance to talk about it.


I can't tell you if he knows he left his book in my car. He hasn't called and I sure won't be calling him to let him know.


The SPL was engaged in camp prep. Our patrol meetings are his time to get together with the ASPL and work out their camp details, and he wasn't aware of the situation. But we have talked and he will be keeping a better eye on these things. I agree it was his place to say something rather than the ASM, but he wasn't there and she was.


I definitely appreciate the advice and comments, and would gladly welcome more (Beavah, I would love to hear from you. You too fred. And anyone seen Kudu lately?)


I really like the "reputation" approach. It's not one I had thought of. I'm still not sure he deserves the chance at a BOR before he has the opportunity to show improvement. But I wouldn't anticipate more than a 4 week delay in what he is expecting.

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I have had a scout where I wasn't going to be signing his scout spirit section... I sat down with him and had him read the section that the requirement sends them too - it talks about how scout spirit is something that can be measured by the scout and by others and how it's something that's lived not just in uniform but outside of scouts too. Then I had him read the scout law with the explainations from his handbook and that when he got to one that he's not doing very good with to let me know. I had already picked out 3 that he wasn't following at all recently - he found 2. I told him my 3rd. I asked him if he felt he was following the scout law. I asked him if he felt I should sign that requirement. I asked him how he could improve. I told him that I would watch his behavior and when I was ready to sign that requirement off I would let him know. If he does not show improvement I will pull him aside again and talk again about how he is going to improve.


if the scout was working on tenderfoot or possibly 2nd class I would've signed off but in doing so I would also comment that as he goes through to higher ranks he is expected to be a better example and that I would like to see improvement in this area.

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"I was all ready to chalk up the camping trip as guys together for the first time camping working things out. But now I have different people telling me stories that all end with the same name."


You have at least one person who disrupted the meeting and possibly caused some challenges during the campout. You might want to have a patrol meeting to do a start/stop/continue or roses/thorns type of debrief for the outing. Have the SPL and yourself sit in on it and give people a chance to discuss the issues without making personal attacks. This method will allow those with grievances to bring them forward and give the other person a chance to respond. This is a good format for setting the expectations and recognizing the effects of certain actions.


After the patrol meeting, you can have a shorter SMC with the boy, but you will already have a specific set of expectations that he will need to work on to improve. (The bonus is that they came from the PL, not some adult.) After you have heard the full story and seen how he reacts to the situation, you can decide whether you want to delay advancement.


I try not to get too excited about a situation without hearing both sides. Having them state their grievances in front of each other is an excellent way to remove the exaggerations and get you a better understanding of what actually happened.


Good luck.


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It's hard to advise without having been there. BUT ...




DE-ESCALATE - The best SMs de-escalate situations. It's not good to take a relatively minor incident and formalize it into a corrective action. This sounds perfect for an informal sit down and chat.




Treat as a grain of salt the comments of other ASMs / parents. Act on what you see and hear. Use their comments to alert you, but act on what you are sure happened. Way too often, I've found others misunderstood or only saw part ... OR are trying too hard to convince me of something.




BE TIMELY - Digging up the past can do more damage. It's been weeks since it happened. By now, those patrol members have probably moved past that specific incident or have found a way to deal with it or are dealing with another situation. Plus, this sounds like a relatively minor incident.


I'd watch and wait for something fresh to correct.




DON'T EVER WAIT FOR AN SMC - SMC is for taking stock of advancement, encouraging and building a relationship. I would never prepare discipline for a SMC. If you feel need to address it, do it timely and way before a SMC. Maybe they need to wait a month for advancement. That's a judgement call. Just don't surprise a scout during a SMC with it.




SCOUT SPIRIT - Take a whole scout view. Individuals regularly fail at specific times and can look bad. But if overall, they are okay, I would NOT make a big big issue of it. Plus, scout spirit is best decided as a joint decision with the scout.


I'd avoid "guilting" the scout too much on this. Keep it to how do we treat others. How did the scout oath and law apply to the incident. AND how should we have acted in the situation.


I'd also avoid the "I tell you when I think your ready to advance." A very important concept is that scouts control their own advancement. If it's 30 days, say it's 30 days. Don't leave the scout hanging on a whim.




REFLECT ON THE INCIDENT ... active listening


--- Do the scouts feel ownership of their patrol? You said it was their first time together.

--- Were the scouts "hurting" / "resentful" from some other "dis" or something beyond their power?

--- Why were the scouts acting out?

--- Were they just testing limits? Scouts and adults do this all the time.




SCOUT LAW says a scout is obedient. It does NOT say a scout is submissive and we don't want our scouts to be submissive. I say this because sometimes people want things to change without knowing how to speak up. Sometimes people see injustice without knowing how to correct it. Sometimes people are promised one thing and given another and then don't know how to pursue what was promised. Such people can often look like they are acting out.


Teach these scouts the right way, time and place to change things. It is a valuable skill to have their whole lives.




From what I understand so far, I'd treat this more as a scoutmaster minute opportunity. How do we treat others? The virtue of being a good follower. A quick roleplay or a quick discussion. Then, I'd leave it and watch how people act.



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