Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Perhaps it's just the warm(er) summer air here in MN these days. Or that school was almost out. But the last couple troop meetings have been disciplinary disasters with the troop basically running amok and not listening to anyone - not me, but especially not the youth troop leaders.

Boys will be boys, but I'm certain they wouldn't attempt this behavior at football practice. No coach would put up with it.

The difference is that I know they need Scouting. Even if they don't. And I can't simply say, "hey, if you don't want to settle down and participate, then don't come." Because some of the boys probably won't come back, and some of them are on the fence about scouting being "uncool" as it is.

I try my best to let the troop be boy-led. That means explaining to the youth leaders what needs to be done, and letting them do it. Even if sometimes that means the scouts waste an hour of the meeting doing 10 minutes worth of business.

I get funny looks from the other two adult leaders sometimes. And sometimes they jump in and with raised voices try to reel in the crazyness. However, I'm personally struggling with how to teach the boys to be respectful of their leaders (youth & adult) as well as the other scouts whose experience they're detracting from.

I don't want to be a bossy commandeering leader. Many of these boys get enough of that at home, school, sports. Many of them come from home lives that are less than idyllic. Most of them didn't actively participate in scouting as cubs, so they missed out on some of the structure and organization of the program.

We've tried the scout sign. I've tried silently waiting for quiet before I talk. I've tried simply explaining what needs to happen and then sitting back to let it happen or fall apart.

Perhaps I'm being too lax here. It is their program, but I know they'd enjoy it more if they behaved better and the program had more structure as a result, and was therefore more productive. However, I've had comments from some of the boys on more than one occasion that I'm the perfect Scoutmaster because I lead, and teach them, but don't boss them around. So I think deep down they get the difference, and appreciate the freedom I give them. But am I too lenient? I don't want to start forcing their parents to come if they're misbehaving, but I can.

I know it's not just the boys this age - because my 12 scouts in our local troop are 20 times more undisciplined than the whole National Jamboree Troop of 32 I'm leading as well. So it can't just be their age, and it can't just be me.

How do you let the boys lead the program, without destroying it. How do you teach respect, when they have no experience with it. Example doesn't appear to be enough.

How do you deal with discipline, and behavior in your troop?


lanji said...

From the sounds of your blog, you are doing things right. The important thing to remember is that the youth are having fun, and that the purposes of scouting are happening. Even though it sounds like only 10 minutes of business is happening, you most likely have many more minutes of learning going on then you think.

My question for you is have the PLC meetings gotten better yet? Is the SPL or ASPL running from a paper agenda created at the PLC meetings, or just winging it?

Latter-day Scout said...


We've been having PLC, and the SPL has the agenda to run the meeting - but the boys don't listen to him (or any of the boys really) any better than they do me and the other leaders. It would be nice if we had a stand out youth leader the boys really respected and listened to, but we really don't.. all a little rough around the edges.

David said...

It takes hard work to mentor the older boys to be strong leaders. You need to model it. I've been particularly happy with some of the changes in my troop.

Derek C. Simmons said...

The comparison to your Jambo troop and coaches is a bit of apples and oranges I think.

The scouts in the Jambo troop probably have more involved parent(s) and probably value scouting (or else they wouldn't make the investment to send them). And likely, they are a "better" caliber so Scout.

Coaches, unlike Scoutmasters, can use the "do it or ride the bench" threat. And frankly, for reasons that escape me, sports teams still carry more value that scout troops.

I struggle with the same issues with my Troop of 11 scouts. I give them the RESPECT scoutmaster minute, etc.

Just last week we were trying to do some brainstorming on activities to do in the next year. I pushed two of the more disrespectful scouts to the front of the room to lead the meeting. I even dished out some "disrespect" myself as they were trying to corral the group (followed up by yet another discussion about respect).

Hopefully they learned something, but, I'm not holding my breath :)!

Be strong brother! You are there and providing the program for them. Ultimately they'll "get it."

Clarke Green said...

Your whole job is to take your 'rough around the edges' SPL and help him earn the respect he needs to do his job.

I wouldn't speak in front of the Troop until your minute (use a watch) at the end of the meeting.
Do a maximum of five or ten minutes with the SPL at the end of the meeting asking questions:
How did things go? What needs work? How do you plan on handling that? Would you like some advice on this? Help him set two or three goals for the next meeting, talk to him just before the meeting remind him of his goals for that week and imbue him with confidence.

Other than something that threatens immediate physical danger there should be no raised voices from the adults! They should be so far in the background as to be invisible - this will take some work on your part.

A boy-led anything looks like pure chaos most of the time. This isn't so much about your vision and standards as the Scouts vision and standards. If something really bothers you discuss it with the SPL and ask him what he thinks. He may be able to teach you a thing or two (my Scouts do after 25 years of this).

I'd bet you are not being too permissive at all, you are just holding a little to firmly to the back of the bike - let that sucker go and you will be surprised how quickly the Scouts will be pedaling on their own.

Latter-day Scout said...

Thanks everyone for their feedback - I have some additional comments and updates to post. Just need to make the time to consolidate and write up my thoughts!