How do we maintain discipline, require accountability and promote responsibility without resorting to shame or allowing our anger to take over.
My answer is twofold – be an adult and be kind.
Scouters are supposed to be exemplary adults. We are to bring our experience and compassion to bear on the lives of our Scouts to help them through adolescence into adulthood. We are supposed to rise above pettiness, bickering and anger by using mature, fair and evenhanded judgment.
Scout-aged boys are very susceptible to shame from their peers, their parents, their teachers and other authority figures. The best leaders know how to redirect, correct and counsel without resorting to shaming. They know how to be disappointed in the behavior without being disappointed in the Scout himself. They know how to correct and encourage at the same time and make the best of difficult situations.
When problems arise my best practical advice is working things out by asking lots and lots of questions and helping the Scout understand the implications of his actions. In almost every case the Scout will work things out with very little prompting.
Compassion and kindness are not weakness. When we cultivate them carefully they will overcome anger and shame. Anger and shame are powerfully negative, injurious and scarring. Anger distorts our perceptions but compassion clarifies them. When I get angry I try to remember what old preacher once told me “you can’t keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair”. I do my best to let the anger pass before I act.
Angry, shaming Scouters have angry, shaming (and scared) Scouts. Compassionate, kind Scouters have compassionate, kind Scouts.
Which Scouts do you suppose will have a better record of behavior?