I missed two campouts in a row for the first time since I joined the troop 14 years ago. While gone it seemed like everything was falling apart. All sorts of Mean Girls crap, parents sending me emails, one family quit in a huff, scouts saying they want to quit, parents telling me we have to have adults with the scouts at all times, an adult berating the troop because his son wasn't treated well. Blah blah blah. No, this is not the good news but it does make it that much sweeter.
Anyway, after all that I stick with my belief that scouts are good, problems are opportunities, and we are not going to solve all their problems for them. The long story short is that the scouts will not bring up problems. They don't know how. Everything seems black and white to them. Problems mean violence, so don't admit there's a problem. Even though we have reviews the real issues are swept under the rug. It doesn't matter whether adults are there to facilitate reviews.
We made a couple of changes to help with this. We asked patrols to focus on people problems during reviews. We asked ASMs, at least for now, to facilitate the discussion and to coax out issues. The ASMs also wander about at random times at campouts and meetings, just far enough way to not be noticed but close enough to know whether things are rough or smooth. Next, I told the scouts that if they attempt to fix something before I find out about it then I don't really care what it was, within reason. Finally, I pulled aside a couple of the older scouts that are the natural leaders (without any POR) but don't realize it and just talked about their role in the troop. This was all done before preparing for this past weekend's campout.
At the meeting before the campout all sorts of issues were brought up so it seemed good. At the campout the scouts were doing okay but it became real clear real quick that their planning for the main events were not very good. This brought up all sorts of problems. What was wonderful is that the scouts mostly took care of the issues on their own. I had very little to do on the campout.
That afternoon, after all the problems were solved, was magic. They all cooked dutch oven meals and then hung out together around the fire. 11 to 17 years of age. All having fun. The older scouts, the ones I had talked to, were running games and really enjoyed it. The younger scouts were so enthralled with the whole scene that they were just good. They looked up to the older scouts and the older scouts looked out for them. It was a Norman Rockwell scene.
Maybe we were lucky. Certainly we didn't have the complete set of troublesome scouts but we did have a couple of them. We seem to go through these rough patches every 18 months or so but this time it was different. They did a better job solving their own problems. It certainly renewed my faith in scouting.