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


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#41 Lurking...

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Posted 11 May 2016 - 07:25 AM

How, if anything, is done "up-front" before any of these issues have a chance to start?

 

Before the boys actually join the unit, while there is one last chance for "adult-led", I always give a SM orientation to the troop.  The three rules of the troop are announced, boy-led, patrol-method is clarified, discipline procedures are outlined, and parent's are informed of their role in the troop.  Once this is done and everyone agrees that we are all on the same page, the registrations are turned in and the boys take over the operation of the patrols.

 

If an issue gets to the attention of the SM, it has been a serious infraction and has happened only once.  The boy came close to loosing his Eagle without a major shift through the appeals process which would have been a major headache for the boy, not me.  Otherwise everything seems to run smoothly enough that the PL's can handle the discipline issues by themselves.


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#42 Tampa Turtle

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Posted 11 May 2016 - 08:15 AM

Assuming the boy wants to be in scouts and assuming he has some 'issues' then it is more than fair for a parent to come along on campouts 'just in case'. I was asked to do that and rarely needed to step in and help/re-direct my son; but when I did at least he was not knocking the whole event off the rails and I freed up other scouters to help with what was needed. I also could help 'coach' the PL and SPL on how IMHO to handle my boy (some of them were just great)

 

What you don't want to do is have a Dad who jumps in and defends his kids bad behavior and blows up the event either. So it is a dicey balance. This can be somewhat avoided by making sure the parent is trained up.


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#43 Eagledad

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Posted 11 May 2016 - 08:19 AM

I agree with those who said that the most troublesome scouts are the ones who don't want to be there. And looking back at those scouts, they come in two categories;

 

One, the scout isn't interested in scouting at all, but is forced to be there.

 

Two, the scout's situation at home is the issue, not the troop program. But the scout is so distracted that they still don't want to participate.

 

These discussions tend to go off in generalities that would suggest are the solutions to all mishavior situations. But our troop has experiences dangerous aggression from scouts in both categories above.

 

Several times the behavior rose above the expectations of Patrol Leader's ability to control and parents had to be ask to help solve the escalating problem. In one situation, the scout had just turned into an out and out bully at home and school and was attacking scouts (in other troops at summer camp) for sport. Yes really, for sport. Something was going on at home, I don't know what, but the mother was hoping the troop would change her son's behavior. In another situation, the scout was so desperate for attention from his parents that he threatened a scout with his knife on a campout until the victim broke down from the fear. The threat went farther than it should have because the youth leaders tried to take care of the situation. But it quickly became obvious that it was above their ability. That scout, by the way, earned Eagle two years later (different troop in a different state) after considerable family therapy. 

 

So I think we have to be careful how we answer specific situations on the forum. We can certainly give generalities in how we approach misbehavior, but we shouldn't imply that all troops have the same ability to deal with all situations. I think it is naive to suggest that troops even pretend they can deal with all situations. Troop programs are not homes away from homes. The program may be the most stable and positive influence in a boy s life, but that doesn't mean it will fix the scouts struggle because he still spends most of his life away from the troop. Midnight calls from the police have taught me that. The abuse of one scouts parents was so bad that the family literally packed their car and left town in the middle of the night in fear of intervention by the authorities. My wife and often question what happened to the sad situation. 

 

I advised the Scoutmaster who replaced me to never hold secrets about a scouts behavior from the parents unless he thought harm would come from it. He admitted I was right when a parent brought a lawyer to threaten litigation. The Scoutmaster was only trying to be a nice guy and protect the scout from the parents discipline. He thought he could change the scout's behavior by himself. But these weren't abusive parents and they were upset that their sons misbehavior had gone on for several months. It took a threat with a knife by their son to bring everything to light and the parents weren't happy. 

 

I tell leaders at training to imagine that a mother approaches the troop holding a  box of puzzle pieces on her son's first day in the troop. The picture on the puzzle is her dream of her future son as an adult. Under each puzzle piece is the name of one person she hand picked to help contribute in developing her son into the ideal adult  pictured on the puzzle. On the back of one puzzle piece is his soccer coach, another is his piano teacher, another is her son's sunday school teacher and on the back of another piece is the Scoutmaster. See, we are not the total solution to building the mothers dream, we are just one part, one puzzle piece. We are a small part of her whole team that mom is using to build the kind of man she dreams about for her son every night.  When we leaders start to think of ourselves as more than that (and many scouters do), then we set up ourselves and the scouts for trouble.  

 

The best way for a troop to handle misbehavior is to develop a culture where all the scouts few free and responsible to proactively point out boundaries of behavior before a scout pushes past the boundary. A culture of of nipping it in the bud. But there will always be that one scout who even leaves the adults scratching their head and learning from that experience for the next time. Be prepared for that one unknown.

 

One last thing, these questions come up often and don't surprise me. The two most difficult discussions I have watched debated in my Scoutmaster Specific CLasses are Uniforms and dealing with misbehavior. Misbehavior is tough for all of us.

 

Barry


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#44 Lurking...

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Posted 11 May 2016 - 08:27 AM

This is something that should be addressed BEFORE the activity!  Too often we assume everything is okay, never ask if there might be any problems, and then just wing-it and find out it's a bust.

 

BE PREPARED.  Ask your parents if they have special needs children BEFORE they make a scene.  Let the PL's know what is necessary to take care of his boys.

 

It is amazing how many people just sit around waiting for the inevitable train wreck and then start running around like Chicken Little blaming everyone but themselves for not being prepared in the first place.

 

"I know everyone here in this room has perfect children who are all well versed in exemplary behavior, but are there anything that we ought to know about up-front?  We've dealt with bed-wetting, ADD/ADHD, Aspergers, Allergies, home-sickness, you name it, we've had it, so your child isn't going to be any big deal, but it would help if we had a heads-up on any issues so we can make sure your son has the best possible scouting experience...."
 

If parents don't speak up in the group, they are encouraged to call me at home to discuss privately. 

 

If the parent wishes to come on the outing they can do so as an observer, and if things go majorly wrong they will be available to help out.  Out of all the years of scouting, I have never had to have a parent step in and help out.  The PL was informed up-front in private and usually does well.  On rare occasion have I as SM had to assist him.  Never got beyond that.


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#45 qwazse

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Posted 11 May 2016 - 08:30 AM

... SM orientation to the troop.  The three rules of the troop are announced, boy-led, patrol-method is clarified, discipline procedures are outlined, and parent's are informed of their role in the troop.  Once this is done and everyone agrees that we are all on the same page, the registrations are turned in and the boys take over the operation of the patrols. ...

I agree this is critical.
 
With venturers, where it's a trickle-in process (rarely do I get more than two at a time, but it's every month of the year when I get them), to avoid repeating myself, I ask them to read the application -- especially the oath and law but also the fine print. I also point out that I will hold them to their religious preference or that of their parents if they are agnostic.
 
Still, that second day of hiking in bear country can bring out the worst. So, months of building trust prior is essential. That way the behavioral disorder kid knows to come to me before he/she blows his/her stack. Usually at this age, the signs are obvious ... e.g. an officer has had to ask "him/her" to turn it down a notch more than once.
 
I think some of what we observe in boy scouts is that they haven't learned what is expected of them. We haven't coached PLs well enough to let us know when a scout is getting out of hand in a small task (e.g. a patrol meeting). Which means we haven't had the chance to tell a scout we expect them be a little more disciplined on the upcoming campout. Then, on the high-country or open-plain, the kid is under a microscope without realizing it, doesn't grasp the importance of any warnings, leader yells, tears, discouragement.


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#46 Cambridgeskip

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Posted 11 May 2016 - 09:40 AM

 

 

"I know everyone here in this room has perfect children who are all well versed in exemplary behavior, but are there anything that we ought to know about up-front?  We've dealt with bed-wetting, ADD/ADHD, Aspergers, Allergies, home-sickness, you name it, we've had it, so your child isn't going to be any big deal, but it would help if we had a heads-up on any issues so we can make sure your son has the best possible scouting experience...."
 

If parents don't speak up in the group, they are encouraged to call me at home to discuss privately. 

 

I don't know what it's like your side of the pond but here parents often need considerable prompting to tell you there are special needs. I make a point of asking the parents of every new recruit, "is there anything else I need to know?" and go on to explain that can mean anything from peanut allergies to dyslexia to aspergers to sleep walking to claustrophobia. I've lost count of the number where they say no and then..... the classic was the peanut allergy I didn't know about till the scout told me they'd left their eppi pen at home. even worse was the parent of a cub who sent their cub to camp with sun screen "because it was on the kit list" even though he was allergic to it. Yes. That actually happened.


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#47 Eagledad

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Posted 11 May 2016 - 09:48 AM

I don't know what it's like your side of the pond but here parents often need considerable prompting to tell you there are special needs.

It's the same. I used to be amazed at the assumptions parent had of scout leaders' skills and abilities for dealing with medical and special needs. I can't count the number of parents who later admitted they took their kids of medication on weekends without telling anyone in the troop. 

 

Barry


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#48 Krampus

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Posted 11 May 2016 - 10:05 AM

I don't know what it's like your side of the pond but here parents often need considerable prompting to tell you there are special needs. I make a point of asking the parents of every new recruit, "is there anything else I need to know?" and go on to explain that can mean anything from peanut allergies to dyslexia to aspergers to sleep walking to claustrophobia. I've lost count of the number where they say no and then..... the classic was the peanut allergy I didn't know about till the scout told me they'd left their eppi pen at home. even worse was the parent of a cub who sent their cub to camp with sun screen "because it was on the kit list" even though he was allergic to it. Yes. That actually happened.

 

I can tell you that in Texas, we are pretty open about these things. The discussions are held privately and are very earnest. I would say that most discussions fall in to three camps: 1) Parents that know their child has an issue and are willing to discuss it and how to handle, 2) Parents that are aware there's an issue but have not dealt with it yet or are in the process of dealing with it, and 3) Parents that are in denial about their child's situation, blame others or simple blow it off as "kids being kids". That's as far as mental or behavioral issues.

 

As for health issues, 99% of the time parents are VERY open (again, discretely) about any health issues. Only a few times did I have kids with asthma have an issue and not have an inhaler. We met with parents when we got home and the response was, "They haven't needed the inhaler in years." Our rule: If the doctor prescribes it, you carry it.

 

Behavior-wise, we lay down the law. Violate the rules and you are on probation. In 12+ years only had to use it 3 times.


Edited by Krampus, 11 May 2016 - 10:06 AM.

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#49 Lurking...

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Posted 11 May 2016 - 10:29 AM

The caveat I always use with the parents is, if you don't inform us of a potential problem up-front, the phone call at 1:00 am will be either to come get your child or we'll meet you at the ER.  It's remarkable how that loosens the tongues of the parents.  I always leave the door open to a private phone call/visit/whatever it takes, to make sure I have all the information necessary to take care of their child.  The onus is on the parents.  I make sure that all the parents in the room are my witness that I addressed this issue fully because it falls directly under the #1 rule of our troop, Safety First.  I let the parents know that either way they are going to be embarrassed, a little bit up front when they tell me the problem or a whole lot when the whole troop finds out later on.  Their choice.


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#50 Cambridgeskip

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 06:07 AM

Sounds like there are similar problems both sides of the Atlantic!

 

Thankfully none of the issues discovered later than they should have been have resulted in a trip to hospital. Fingers crossed that it will never happen but you never know.

 

I should add that it's by no means all parents. I recently had a new scout start with cystic fibrosis. His parents could not have been more helpful in terms of briefing me on his needs. If only everyone was that helpful!


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#51 Lurking...

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 08:04 AM

You are right 'skip, parents are pretty much the same all over the place.  They don't want their child to be stigmatized or embarrassed.  They don't trust the adults to be able to handle the knowledge and will treat their child differently, so they are reluctant to say something.   Only once did we have a serious asthmatic reaction that required outside medical attention and I recognized it quick enough to deal with it.  Luckily we were at summer camp and not far afield somewhere.

 

I was ASM for well over 5-6 years before the SM notified me he carried and Epi-Pen for bee stings, so it's not just a parental problem. 

 

If one is going to take Safety First seriously, it is more than a whittling safety circle or ax yard, it's what's on the health forms, too.


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#52 Grubdad

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 08:16 AM

OP here.

 

I really appreciate these thoughtful replies. You have given me a lot to think about.

 

At the Troop meeting last night, one of the Assistant SMs, who I know well from our Cub pack, asked me about some of the issues from last weekend. Apparently he had heard that things had gotten a bit out of hand at the Camporee. We talked a bit about some of the chronic challenges a few of these boys had posed, and he is planning to get the parents involved, and give notice that their behavior won't be tolerated any more.

 

He quizzed me about what happened on the trip, so I gave him some examples. I told him I didn't want to come off as the new guy who was telling him how to run his troop, but he encouraged me to share my observations because a fresh perspective was sometimes useful. So I gave him my thoughts, which were that it seems these boys have gotten reprimanded so many times, but with no consequences attached, that they have learned they can get away with just about anything and risk only a scolding. That if there were real consequences, like missing the next Troop activity, it might be a real wake-up call. He got a look on his face which seemed to say, "Wow, why didn't we think of that".

 

He and a couple of the other leaders went and had a little pow-wow to discuss the situation, which, apparently, they had all been concerned about. The ASM who is my friend said he is going to talk to all the parents of the usual suspects about the situation, and before the next campout will present them with letters spelling out exactly what is expected, along with maps to the campout so the parent can come retrieve their son if there's a problem.

 

We have a few special needs boys in our troop, and they do great. Everyone understands their challenges and works with them and any special behavior quirks. It is also tragic when kids come from abusive or neglectful homes, and act out or are socially confused because of it. These are harder to identify. Other kids may have mental or emotional problems. Again, these situations may be hard to identify. And some kids are just plain mean bullies. So it's not easy.

 

For instance, one kid at the Camporee was this real nice, friendly kid, but he was a bit of a handful to manage. Often didn't follow instructions, and would wander around at times doing his own thing. It turns out he is autistic. It's the mean ones that worry me.

 

Thanks, again, for the suggestions and ideas.


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#53 Lurking...

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 08:31 AM

I showed up for a meeting about 1/2 hour early and my "Space Cadet" boy was there.  While I went about my business he went over and started playing the piano.  He loves his music and I got serenaded for almost a half hour before my ASM arrived and yelled at him for messing with the CO's property and that he couldn't play the piano!  Before the night was over, the ASM and I had a "little visit".  How many times is it that the boys are the problem?  and how many times is it the adults?  :)  

 

By the way, my "Mr. Space Cadet" piano player is also a karate Black Belt, so I know there's hope for him and eventually he'll turn into a great scout.  I don't know how much of his problems are a result of his home life but from what I have seen it is a lot.


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#54 Krampus

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 08:31 AM

@Grubdad, I hate to be Nancy Naysayer, but it sounds like the leaders are simply going to give these kids yet another chance.

 

Peeing in the middle of someone else's camp site and then doing something as dangerous as laying down in a roadway is a deal break as far as I'm concerned. If that is not grounds for immediate probation or suspension, I don't know what it.

 

I hope your leadership gets their act together and can stop this stuff. Let us know what happens.

 

Lastly, please don't think of the troop as "their troop". You are a dues paying member so you and your family are PART of the troop with an equal voice. Any troop that seeks to learn and grow will be totally open to ANY comments, suggestions, questions or concerns that ANY member has. If not, that's a sure sign you might be in the wrong place. ;)


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#55 Grubdad

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 09:30 AM

Thanks for your support, Krampus. This example I gave was from last fall, so it's too late to address it now. But it is something that should be filed away for reference.

 

I hate to be Nancy Naysayer, but it sounds like the leaders are simply going to give these kids yet another chance.

 

Peeing in the middle of someone else's camp site and then doing something as dangerous as laying down in a roadway is a deal break as far as I'm concerned. If that is not grounds for immediate probation or suspension, I don't know what it.


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#56 Lurking...

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 09:46 AM

When things get so out of hand that boys are peeing in the campsites and lying down in roadways, I as an adult have the option of simply not being a part of that process.  Although I have never had to resort to it, I do as a leader have the option to say, "I'm not going if these kinds of things will be part of the activity."  If they wish to find adults who are willing to take that kind of risk, then more power to them.  The boys all know what the Safety First and Look and Act like a Scout rules are.  I have had a few boys push the envelop here and there, but these kinds of activities described here have never been an issue I have had to deal with in 45+ years of working with youth in a variety of different settings, scout, church and community based youth programs. 

 

If the adults are allowing this type of unfettered behavior, there is something seriously wrong with the ADULTS!


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#57 Grubdad

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 12:49 PM

None of the leaders witnessed this. We were attending as Cub visitors. I was at the back of the hiking group when this happened, and didn't see it clearly, but other Scouts and Cubs did. IIRC the offenders made some lame excuse like they couldn't hold it or something. So I probably was to blame for not dealing with it it more vigorously. I think I mentioned it to the ASM that evening, who kind of shrugged it off.

 

If I reported every obnoxious thing this kid did I would be running to the SM every half hour. This is the son of our former Pack Scoutmaster, currently one of the Troop's ASMs.


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#58 Krampus

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 01:54 PM

None of the leaders witnessed this. We were attending as Cub visitors. I was at the back of the hiking group when this happened, and didn't see it clearly, but other Scouts and Cubs did. IIRC the offenders made some lame excuse like they couldn't hold it or something. So I probably was to blame for not dealing with it it more vigorously. I think I mentioned it to the ASM that evening, who kind of shrugged it off.

 

If I reported every obnoxious thing this kid did I would be running to the SM every half hour. This is the son of our former Pack Scoutmaster, currently one of the Troop's ASMs.

 

Therein lies the problem, I'm afraid. When I've seen stuff like this before the unit never does anything about the Scout because, well, they don't want to lose his dad. Unless the SM is serious about addressing such issues this will only continue until the Scout finally leaves Scouting.

 

I hate to say it, but it does sound like these adult leaders really don't consider this behavior as un-Scoutlike. My troop welcomes on average 5-7 Scouts as year as transfers; mostly because their former units tolerate similar crass behavior.

You may need to find another unit if this does not improve for you....or learn to teach your son to stay away from this kid.

 

I'd be prepared for the eventuality that this may never get better.


Edited by Krampus, 12 May 2016 - 01:56 PM.

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#59 Eagledad

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 02:19 PM

I've had more than one new scout urinate near or on their tent in the middle of the night because they were scared in the dark. Typically the Patrol Leaders take care of it and the adults don't over react. Actions need to be understood in context. Peeing in defiance would require a different response.

 

Your issue Grubdad has some history and part of the complication is the adults, or adult, are still learning the right responses. All troops and adults go through the same growth, and it never really stops. What you learn from this situation will better prepare you for the next. Our troop policies are the results of a series of situations in the past and how we handled them, or maybe more often mishandled them. 

 

What's really hard about dealing with misbehavior is most new adults instinctively want to react with a compassionate response because we truly want scouts to grow from their experiences. The problem is that human nature combines our past experience with our self-serving desires and misplaced compassion gives the wrong self-serving expectations. In other words if you give a scout a yard, he will want a mile and repeat his behavior to see if he can get it. And for those adults who use the "Three strikes your out" approach; Please! 

 

What I learned from my experiences over the years is to not take a scouts behavior of any type personally. And practice holding the scout accountable for his behavior, whether it's good behavior or bad. And hold them accountable as soon as you can so that they can process their the right and wrong of their decisions. Holding a scout accountable is as easy as asking what parts of the law they used or abused in their decision. 

 

Our goals as adults is to help scouts develop habits of making right decisions. So, if we can just get them to reflect on the consequences (not being friendly, courteous or kind.....) of wrong decisions, hopefully they eventually want to initiate the habit of making right decisions. 

 

Truth of the matter is that the more wrong decisions as person of this age makes and are held accountible, the faster they learn to change. I learned that from a youth counselor long before I was a scout leader. I just didn't really respect what he said until it was applied in the troop. Up to a limit, we want scouts to make bad decisions so they learn the habit of making good decisions. What gets in the way are those few scouts who don't want to be there in the first place and actually enjoy the stress they create. I just hand those guys off to the parents and let them deal with it. 

 

In a boy run troop or patrol, the objective is to get the group thinking of right decisions so that they as a group hold individuals accountable for their choices. They may not mention the scout law, but they all know right from wrong because they continually hold each other accountable. As the scouts develop a maturity of holding each other accountable for their behavior (good and bad), the adults learn less and less about misbehavior because the scouts have learned how to deal with it or really nip it in the bud.

 

One example off the top of my head is when I walked over to watch the scouts play Capture the Flag. I was far enough in the woods that the scouts didn't know I was there. As one of the new scouts ran by at full speed, he said a few four letter words. An older scout running near him said, "hey we don't talk like that here". The new scout said "got-it". All that happened in just a few seconds and without much thought. But the group as a whole excepted that the language was wrong and as a whole nipped it in the bud before the behavior become a problem. 

 

Sounds easy, but that kind of culture takes some time to develop. It starts with adult expectations and how to deal with good and bad behavior.

 

You will eventually get it, we all do with a little practice.

 

Barry


Edited by Eagledad, 12 May 2016 - 02:21 PM.

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#60 Krampus

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Posted 12 May 2016 - 02:58 PM

I've had more than one new scout urinate near or on their tent in the middle of the night because they were scared in the dark.

 

I can say I've done that in bear territory when my over-night bottle was already full. There are some times when that is necessary.;)


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