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Behavior problems: What is expected, how to deal with?


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#1 Grubdad

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 07:31 AM

My Cub just crossed over into a Boy Scout Troop along with 5 other of his den mates, most of whom have been together since they were Tigers. They are a great group of boys: well-behaved, active, polite, and fun (with the occasional boys-will-be-boys exception). They all love the Scouting experience, especially camping, and are thrilled to be actual Scouts now.

This new Troop seems good in many ways, very active, with a good Scoutmaster and some great older boys. But there are a few boys who are ruining the experience for many of the other Scouts, and for the parents who attend campouts and events. One is chronically mean, an instigator, a liar, nasty, breaks rules constantly, and mouths off to adults. He really is a bit scary, and I have this fear he's going to hurt someone someday. While most of the boys avoid him, he and a couple followers tend to dominate any situation. Any campout he attends has a completely different and negative and stressful mood to it. We have known him since he was in our Cub pack, and I was really disappointed to learn he's in this Troop.

There are two or three other boys who are almost as bad, and a couple more on the edge. In this bunch there is constant arguing, name-calling, bickering, physical confrontations, and foul language including various iterations of the F-word. This is combined with a near total lack of respect for others, including adults, including actively ignoring instructions or loudly mouthing back.

We just got back from a great Camporee, but this stuff really dragged us down. And the worst kid wasn't even there! The adults who attended got really getting discouraged and upset with all this. We are constantly doing damage control as an almost full-time job. Most importantly, it really damages the experience for the good Scouts in the majority, and sets a horrible example. One thing that seems obvious is that there are no negative consequences for bad behavior except perhaps a stern talking-to by the Scoutmaster. This particular situation was also hampered by really inexperienced and ineffective patrol leaders, because most of the older boys didn't attend.

My friends and I agree there needs to be a better system based on bad consequences for bad behavior. The excuses I hear, though, are that nobody wants to be the "heavy", or that "it's no better in any other Troop". Nobody wants to be the one to confront the parents of a Scout with unacceptable behavior.

What policies and procedures are in use to address this sort of thing?

Sorry for the long post, but I would really like to learn how this can be addressed. Even if I found a better troop, I would hate for my son to have to leave all his friends from the last five years of Scouting.

Thanks for any help.


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#2 KenD500

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 08:35 AM

Things I (SM) get involved with quickly - physical confrontations, name calling & cursing.  Name calling & cursing get a talking to.  Physical confrontations - get sent home & a meeting involving the parents & I.

 

Arguing / bickering happen.  I talk with PLs afterword to find out what's going on and how it was resolved.  Sometimes, I provide strategies to help resolve differently.


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#3 Krampus

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 08:41 AM

@Grubdad, sounds like you need to get together with any parents who feel this way and have a chat with the SM. He may not be aware of the situation, my be aware but have political issues he's dealing with or, I hope is not the case, is aware but doesn't think it is a big deal. In any case, he needs to know how you feel and your observations.

 

I am hoping for your sake he's just a good guy who has missed this. That's a fixable situation. If it is more political than that you might have your work cut out for you.


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#4 Beavah

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 08:42 AM

Yah, GrubDad, welcome to da forums, eh?

 

You haven't made clear what your role is in da troop.   Are you "just a dad"?  An ASM?  A Committee Member?   What yeh choose depends on what you're role is.

 

First thing to get past is da notion that some sort of "policy and procedure" can address youth behavioral issues.  That's not the way kids' brains work, and it's da wrong approach to teachin' character and citizenship.   We don't behave well because there's a policy, we behave well because we choose to.

 

I'd say if this was your first camporee that you should give it another few tries before yeh get too concerned.  As you mention, the regular PLs were absent this weekend, there were likely Mothers' Day conflicts and such.  

 

Generally speakin', this sort of thing is the Scoutmaster's purview, so if yeh decide you do have a concern that merits a quiet conversation, yeh do that with the Scoutmaster.  Then yeh give the Scoutmaster time to work on it.

 

Most of the time, the Scoutmaster is well aware, eh?  Odds are he knows more about the lad(s) and da circumstances than you do.  Odds are he's already workin' with the boy(s) and the family(s).  Changin' behaviors takes time, especially if da family situation for a lad isn't the best, which is often the case.   Yeh should try to trust the man in the Scoutmaster seat to do his best.

 

Dealin' with teenage youth and their behaviors is not a forte of most adults, eh?   So sometimes adults who are conflict adverse sort of let things go.  If the Scoutmaster is like that, then others tend to follow suit and yeh get a kind of unresponsive bystander effect.  Everybody looks to everybody else to do somethin', and nobody takes responsibility.  That's often when people want a "policy", because a policy is a way of avoidin' personal responsibility and personal interaction with a more challenging youth.

 

Two suggestions if yeh find yourself in that circumstance.   First, speak to the Scoutmaster as a friend and supportive individual.  Have other parents do the same.  Lots of times it helps to be confronted with the impact a poorly behaving boy is havin' on da other boys.  It makes addressin' the conflict easier in a SM's mind to know folks have his back. 

 

The second suggestion is that yeh need a new Scoutmaster, eh?  Someone who has better skills maintainin' relationships with teenage boys.   Note that I didn't say disciplining teenage boys or imposing policy on teenage boys!   Maintaining relationships with teenage boys and havin' a sense of vision for the troop.  Young adults can often be better at this sort of thing.    Addressin' behavior with boys who are not your own son requires first buildin' relationships and understandin' the youth dynamics.   If yeh have a SM who is mostly an organizer, then sometimes yeh can get away with a lead ASM who has this skill set, but usually it should be the SM.

 

What yeh don't want is to turn a youth behavior issue into a parent vs. parent behavior issue.

 

So first steps?   Wait for da next campout and see if it's better.   Then supportively share your concerns with da SM.

 

Beavah


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#5 Grubdad

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 09:22 AM

Thanks a lot for the great replies. Let me clarify a few things.

 

I am just a dad who intends to participate in every activity and campout with my son, as I did in Cubs. I have no leadership position.

 

I understand policies and procedures won't fix things. I am just trying to get a feel for what is considered unacceptable, and how it is typically dealt with.

 

This has been a problem with these particular boys for years. Five years from our personal experiences with the #1 troublemaker I talked about first, who had also been in our Cub Pack.

 

These are not isolated or occasional incidents. They seem almost constant.

 

The Scoutmaster is well aware of these chronic issues. At this Camporee I was helping him prepare the adults' dinner and got to chatting with him a bit about it, mentioning one particular incident. He immediately rounded up the three boys involved, took each one aside one at a time, and apparently read them the riot act, from what I assumed because of all the tears. Since I and the other dads that came from our Cub Den are all brand new here, we're still learning the lay of the land, and haven't yet talked with him in depth about it. This Scoutmaster is a very good guy, but I get the feeling he might be a bit exhausted from doing this for some years. Maybe he doesn't have the stomach for meting out tough consequences? I am hoping if some of the other dads make it clear to him that we support him 100% he will be more empowered and consistent.

 

I spent several hours driving to the Camporee with two scouts who have been in the troop for a couple years, and they had some very useful insights and observations. I learned a lot about the situation by chatting with them.

 

I realize there is a balance between wishing for a perfect world, and letting chaos reign. Please keep any suggestions coming.


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#6 Cambridgeskip

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 09:43 AM

This is a tricky one without having greater knowledge of what is going on and for how long.

 

Fact is that we have all, no matter how experienced we are, had “that” evening or “that” camp where it was a nightmare. The good news is that these are nearly always one off events where a perfect storm of circumstances come together. We’ve all been there.

 

If that is the case then a discussion with the SM or if you are the SM your ASMs as to what went wrong and how to make sure it doesn’t again is a great start.

 

But….. my instinct from what you’ve said is that probably isn’t the case. It sounds like you have a small group of trouble makers. If that is the case then things are rather different. Those individuals need to come up against a brick wall and that brick wall is the SM. I’d suggest they get hauled in for a first, last and only warning. They are told what they’ve done isn’t acceptable and if it continues then there will be consequences. It could mean missing a camp or outing. It could mean losing their position as PL or APL. Ultimately it means parents being phoned and them being asked to collect him. Also think about how you present it. I am cursed with an absolute fog horn of a voice. So when a kid gets a dressing down from me I make a point of speaking very quietly indeed. Don’t copy me, just find your personal way of emphasising the point.

 

And then make sure it happens. Do NOT let them call your bluff. If you say you will do it, then do it. And make sure the rest of the troop knows you have done it. You won’t have to do it very often, indeed maybe never again, once they realise you are serious.

 

It’s been about 6 years since I last sent a scout home. That time the troop went from their normal noisy but good natured selves to dead silent for the rest of the evening. The message was received very loudly.


Edited by Cambridgeskip, 09 May 2016 - 09:44 AM.

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#7 Beavah

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 09:50 AM

 

 

I am just a dad who intends to participate in every activity and campout with my son, as I did in Cubs. I have no leadership position.

 

Yah, this is unrelated, eh?   I'd encourage yeh not to do this.   Boy Scoutin' is not Cub Scoutin', and your son won't truly be a Boy Scout if yeh behave the same way yeh did when he was a little tike.   Take a look at the campout calendar right now and pick half of the campouts that you will not go on.  Your son will need some space to make Boy Scouting his activity.   After he finds his feet and the troop becomes truly his as a Boy Scout, then you're in a position to come on more trips as a supportive adult who keeps to the adult patrol and eventually serves as an ASM.  Both you and he will get more out of Boy Scoutin' that way.

 

Second suggestion I have is that five years is forever in the life of a boy.   Try not to let your experiences from when this boy was once a Cub Scout color your view of him or his family today.  Boys change, eh?  Often quickly.   Just speak to da issues right now.

 

In terms of havin' a feel for what's "acceptable", I reckon most scouters with a sense of vision and mission have relatively quick but gentle triggers, eh?   As @KenD500 says, there aren't too many of us who allow any sort of physical confrontations or name-calling.  Cursing also gets addressed fairly quickly, though I reckon there's always some youth who are tryin' out adult language from time to time as they grow up. :confused:  By gentle triggers I mean that they prefer redirectin' energy and usin' youth leaders to respond and settin' things up to help the boys learn, rather than waitin' for bigger incidents and reading 'em riot acts.  

 

I'm also personally not a fan of riot acts, eh?   Everybody has their own style, but in respondin' to individual boy behaviors I think quiet with firm consequences is more likely to win the day.

 

Since the lads seemed to care enough about da riot act to be upset and respond with tears, I think for you right now the proper choice is to step back a bit and keep watchin'.   One of da things that's true about human nature is that when we come into new environments the first thing we notice are things that are "wrong" or different from what we're used to.   It takes us much longer to learn and discover how things are "right" and perhaps better than what we're used to.   So I always tell folks who are new to any community that they should wait a year or so to truly figure things out before they start tryin' to fix things or pull out the "we did it differently in my old pack/troop".  ;)

 

Welcome to Boy Scoutin'.   Youth leadership and patrols and all the rest are messy and chaotic to adult eyes.   In the end, I think you'll find da outcomes are almost always better.

 

Beavah


Edited by Beavah, 09 May 2016 - 09:56 AM.

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#8 Krampus

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 10:48 AM

So I always tell folks who are new to any community that they should wait a year or so to truly figure things out before they start tryin' to fix things or pull out the "we did it differently in my old pack/troop".  ;)

 

I'm at the other end of the spectrum.

 

I like to know what people's first impressions are because they are usually spot on. I like to know what good ideas people have to change things, or keep doing things. I have found that, if left too long, those good ideas that people initially have go away and never get implemented. That initial reaction and suggestion can sometimes be MORE helpful than one left to simmer for two years.

 

Of course, you get the other end of the spectrum where people make suggestions that obviously won't work. Would two years of waiting to offer that advice has helped them understand? Sure. But why wait? They are adult enough to learn fast that their idea wouldn't work and why. Saves them two years of watching and the learn faster. ;)


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#9 Stosh

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 11:18 AM

I am more in line with @Krampus a well disciplined group has the boundaries spelled out up front. This way when discipline is necessary there are no "I didn't know." argument available. Usually "the Look" is all that is needed. I very rarely have to go that route because the PL usually has it under control.
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#10 fred johnson

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 11:21 AM

I've dealt with a few of these situations at times.  IMHO, some boys are at different points in their lives.  Sometimes dealing with issues beyond what scouts can handle.  Sometimes boys want to hijack the program and activities for their own intentions and objectives.  (fun, building a click of friends, etc).  Sometimes that means being mean or building a power base by putting others down.  I'm not sure I'm being entirely suscinct and clear.
 
As a parent, there is not much you can do other than pass your concerns onto the scoutmaster and to be there AT A DISTANCE to watch and be there for your son.  But stepping in to change the behavior of other scouts isn't really your place.  Sometimes a few light handed interactions might be useful, but it really needs to be fully coordinated through the scoutmaster.  
 
On the other side, the SM and CC need to work together, quickly and timely.  I fully believe these situations need to be met with a simple short conversation about the boundaries of the program and that if the scout doesn't want to enjoy the program within those boudnaries, they should look to spend their time elsewhere.  SM talks to the scouts.  CC talks to the parents.  Both conversations need to happen.  
 
IMHO, those looking to swear, bully or display other anti-social behaviors need to change or move on. 
 
IMHO, the statement "If any kid needs scouting, he does." is a big big big red flag.  Scout leaders are not trained as therapists and need to trust the scouts to be own their own working with each other.  

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#11 fred johnson

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 11:23 AM

...  "I didn't know." argument ...

 

Those arguments don't go far with me.  IMHO, kids don't misbehave because they don't know it's wrong.  


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#12 Stosh

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 11:33 AM

Occasionally one does come across a boy who is devoid of social skills that they really didn't know. Parenting skills cannot be assumed in this day and age.
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#13 Krampus

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 11:57 AM

IMHO, the statement "If any kid needs scouting, he does." is a big big big red flag.  Scout leaders are not trained as therapists and need to trust the scouts to be own their own working with each other.  

 

Yeah, that's a red flag statement for me too. That is usually code for no/bad father, no/bad mother, family issues (divorce, abuse, etc), poor (can't afford to do yxz) or something else going on in the kid's life where Boy Scouts would help him escape, learn or grow.

 

But there's usually a double-edged sword that goes along with a kid in these circumstances. In my experience, about half have turned out to be productive Scouts. The other half have become issues for us.

 

While you're right that Scouters are volunteers and may not have the training or time or energy to help such kids, we at least owe them one swing at the plate before we toss up our hands. It's a very difficult call for a Scouter to make. I've found that kids like this, once "called out" (nicely, of course) and put on a behavior plan, usually either calm down or leave.


Edited by Krampus, 09 May 2016 - 11:57 AM.

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#14 fred johnson

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 12:09 PM

While you're right that Scouters are volunteers and may not have the training or time or energy to help such kids, we at least owe them one swing at the plate before we toss up our hands. It's a very difficult call for a Scouter to make. I've found that kids like this, once "called out" (nicely, of course) and put on a behavior plan, usually either calm down or leave.

 

Fully agree.  But I think you interpreted what I said differently.  I wrote "On the other side, the SM and CC need to work together, quickly and timely.  I fully believe these situations need to be met with a simple short conversation about the boundaries of the program and that if the scout doesn't want to enjoy the program within those boundaries, they should look to spend their time elsewhere.  SM talks to the scouts.  CC talks to the parents.  Both conversations need to happen.  "

 

I said you need to have the talk early and timely.  And, it needs to be blunt.  "These are the boundaries of scouting.  Either participate within those boundaries or find another place to spend your time."

 

My experience is also that the scouts either shape up or leave on their own.  It's the blunt conversation that is critical.


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#15 Sentinel947

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 12:13 PM

A little name calling we expect and encourage our youth leaders to handle. When it becomes pervasive, foul and targeting we should be involved. Physical violence should always be handled by the SM and CC. There are few exceptions, but otherwise, serious physical violence would warrant a suspension in my troop. A little pushing and shoving? Probably not. Hitting people? Yes. The line is a grey one. 

 

Our ability to handle these behavioral things is pretty limited. I can have a conversation with the scouts and monitor for compliance. I can remove the Scout and hand him over to his parents for actual discipline. Most cases with my boys the soft power option works well. I enjoy that method, but it's only good on kids that are really good kids and made an error in judgment. If they are a rotten apple, they are going to say all the right things, then go back to doing whatever they want. 

 

IMO revisiting old behavior is not useful. Correction of behavior in children needs to be done close to the event in question. 

With my troop by far the more common issue is bullying. Name calling, teasing, ostracizing other boys. They go to school together and build up these conflicts outside of our view as scouters. One of my lines is "You don't have to like each other, but here you will treat each other with respect." More simply, if you don't like each other, why are you seeking each other out? Leave each other alone! 

 

The bullying I think is somewhat inevitable. It's something that must be managed, and cannot be eliminated entirely. 

 

To the OP: Observe. Work with your son on ways he can cope and deal with the troublemakers. Keep the SM in the loop on what you are seeing. This is a problem with any youth organization, it's pretty simple to deal with. Not easy, but straightforward. 


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#16 Krampus

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 12:30 PM

 

I said you need to have the talk early and timely.  And, it needs to be blunt.  "These are the boundaries of scouting.  Either participate within those boundaries or find another place to spend your time."

 

My experience is also that the scouts either shape up or leave on their own.  It's the blunt conversation that is critical.

 

Agree 100%. Not something you wait to see what happens. Someone could get hurt.

 

Address quickly, calmly, rationally and discretely (but not in clandestine manner).


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#17 Eagledad

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 12:32 PM

I have never had to ask a scout to quit as a result of his behavior, and very few leaders here have examples of bad behavior that would top ours. But families who join our troop learn that we don't hide anything from the parents and we expect the parents to work as a team with the troop leaders to help change bad behavior.

 

The parents are informed about all their son's behavior, both good and bad (Typically 90% good). I like to think of myself as the boys biggest cheerleader. But when the parents get a report of bad behavior, they are expected to help with the behavior unless they are told the troop leaders (adults and scouts) have a plan to work with their son and don't really need their help. In extreme situations, the behavior reaches a level where it is made clear to the parents that they either participate with their son in patrol and troop activities, or their son is not allowed to participate with the other scouts. The families make the choice if junior continues with the troop. I would guess our record is about 50 percent of families decide not to come back back. Those are extreme situations and rare. 

 

However, it's not just dealing with the bad Scout behavior; a few adults were told they were no longer welcome to participate with the scouts because of their behavior. Of the three I can remember off the top of my head, only one pulled her son from the troop.

 

Let me also add that our policy was learned from hard experiences. I think all units (cubs, troops, and Venturing) have to learn and develop from their experiences. 

 

Barry


Edited by Eagledad, 09 May 2016 - 01:28 PM.

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#18 MattR

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Posted 09 May 2016 - 07:12 PM

I've also noticed entire campouts brought down by one or two really negative or bad apples. I've also seen one or two really good apples float the entire troop but that's probably a SM minute thread.

A "stern talking to" is nothing but an empty threat for any kid that knows how to play people. The biggest problem scouts I've ever had are those that don't want to be there. If they want to be there then they want to be accepted on the terms of scouting and it usually doesn't take much more than pointing out their behavior for them to see the problem and try to fix it. Immature scouts that want to be there just need time and constant, gentle pressure. Their behavior will slowly improve over time. If they don't want to be there then their behavior will slowly get worse until finally something explodes.

Either way, there are boundaries and they are the same for all scouts (and adults, as was pointed out). Also, as pointed out, there should be consequences for going over the line. If a scout is brazenly breaking boundaries and nobody stands up to him then there's a problem that should't be wasted. It might be the SM wants the scouts to deal with it and the scouts need some training. It might also be the scouts expect the adults to deal with it and the adults are uncomfortable dealing with it. It might be that the troublesome kids all belong to the SM/asms. It could be the scouts only listen to the SM and everyone else is ignored. You'll never know until you ask the SM in the most open way you can. "I saw so and so saying such and such at the last campout, was that okay? What was supposed to happen? My son was really embarrassed."
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#19 Stosh

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Posted 10 May 2016 - 08:00 AM

I work my boundary issues in with the leadership development emphasis in the troop.  I find that once a boy figures out that negative attention does not draw the biggest crowd, they tend to square themselves up. 

 

The biggest most obvious problems arise from the boys who have not had the opportunity to develop social and leadership skills from their home and/or school settings.  They tend to be "misfits" and are quite lonely and have no skills to change that so they act up garnering any attention even if it's negative.

 

While on the surface teaching boys social skills is not as emphasized as leadership and outdoors skill sets, it is still a necessary part of character development of the Oath and Law.

 

A boy acts up and how do others react?  Is their reaction within the boundaries of the Scout Oath and Law?  Is the boy treated with helpful kindness?  Does courteous fit in anywhere in one's reaction to his infraction?  OR is the reaction one of punishment, separation and encouragement to quit the program because one doesn't want to have to deal with what should have been done by his neglectful parents?

 

I have had boys quit the troops over the years, but I have never had to "send a boy home", "have his parents come and pick him up" or tell him he can't be part of the troop any longer.  If I ever get to that stage of the game, I'll quit Scouting because I can no longer an effective Scouter.  All the boys that join my troop are my responsibility to HELP out, not KICK out.


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#20 Grubdad

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Posted 10 May 2016 - 08:02 AM

OP here. Thanks for the responses. I am getting some very useful input here.

 

I had lunch yesterday with one of the dads from our previous Cub den who is a good friend. We decided it would be a good idea for the four former Cub dads who were on this campout to meet with the SM to talk about the experience, share what we observed, and see how we can improve.

 

I was reminded by my friend about yet another incident last weekend where the #1 perp on this trip also made a particularly bad racial slur. This was not one of those little comments that could have been open to interpretation, but instead a sweeping condemnation of an entire racial group. This sort of thing, if I ran things, would have resulted in serious punishment. I don't think the SM was aware of it, though.

 

If it were up to me, I would take the five bad apples and tell them they were on strict probation until further notice. This would mean that at the next event, the most minor infraction would result in them being separated from the troop and their parents being called to come pick them up. This may not reform all of them, but it would sure send a message to them and the rest of the troop. As it is now, all the other Scouts see is that these five have all the power: The power to disrupt. The power to get attention. The power to intimidate. The power to get away with it.

 

I also really like the idea of the parents of the bad apples being required to attend the next event and micro-manage their boy. One problem is that the absolute worst one belongs to an ASM, who has always been incredibly hands-off regarding any sort of discipline. In Cubs he would often stand by passively while his boy was being obnoxious or mean. But I don't think he wields any political clout, and he's a pleasant enough guy, so I don't foresee any major resistance there. But I don't foresee any major improvement, either.

 

I actually think most or all of these problem boys want to be there. I think to them it may be an opportunity to get away from adult supervision to violate boundaries and run wild.

 

Keep the suggestions coming! Thanks!


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