Have you ever had to deal face-to-face with a fellow Scout who was out of line?
If your Patrol and Troop are doing adventurous and challenging things, you will have to deal with a situation like this sooner or later.
I remember the hardest time I ever had camping was in the middle of July in Texas at record high temperatures. It was hot; you were laying down absolutely still at night with sweat pouring off and gathering in pools around you. Everyone was miserable, but we all had to put up with each other for five full days of summer camp.
These hard conditions brought out the worst in one of the older Scouts in my Troop. When the adult leaders weren’t around, he snapped and started acting out.
The way he was acting certainly was a bad example to the younger Scouts. As one of the older Scouts present, I felt the responsibility to confront him about it. He was older and quite a bit bigger than I was, and I never did feel very comfortable talking face-to-face with others.
However, I felt it was my duty to talk with him about it, so I did.
It felt a bit like walking up to a ticking bomb and trying to figure out how to defuse it!
In the end, I did defuse the bomb and he calmed down, here’s how I did it:
Remember; you are a friend, so be friendly!
When I worked at a local grocery store, I was in the middle of stocking a shelf when the manager came right up and started yelling at me because the product I was stocking wasn’t supposed to go out yet.
He got my attention!
Yelling at someone may get their attention, but it’s not the best approach.
A Patrol Leader ought to be a friend to every Scout. When you have to defuse a problem, do it as a friend.
When wealthy steel industry executive Charles Schwab was visiting one of his steel plants, he walked past a group of workers who were smoking and talking just a few feet away from a “No Smoking” sign.
Instead of yelling at them (which was his first impulse), he told them how much he appreciated their working for him, and gave them each a cigar. Along with the gift he said, “I’d appreciate it, guys, if you smoke these outside.” They got the message. Schwab got through to them in a friendly manner without criticizing or arguing.
If you work at it, you can find a way to be friendly, and defusing the behavior or problem without causing hard feelings (but don’t hand out cigars, okay?)
The best way to get a Scout to change their behavior is to appeal to a nobler motive.
Scouts share a set of high standards, the Scout Oath and the Scout Law, which we strive to reach. These high ideals are our common ground; they motivate and encourage us to leave off bad stuff and shoot for a nobler goal.
If we apply the Scout Oath and Law to a situation, it takes the focus off of the individual. It’s about the big picture. Why are we Scouts? What is our Duty?
Remember the Scout in Summer camp? I reminded him that the younger Scouts looked up to him and emulated his behavior, both good and bad. I appealed to his sense of respect for his own higher principles. That was much harder for him to ignore or argue with than if I had just yelled at him!
When you’re up against a situation that no amount of tact and respect will remedy, you’ve got to remember your responsibility.
A Patrol Leader’s first concern is the advancement and well-being of the whole Patrol. If one Scout is doing something to jeopardize that, you can’t overlook it.
If talking, appealing, and persuading get you nowhere, take the issue up the chain of command. Your senior patrol leader, or Scoutmaster (if it comes to that) will guide you in towards resolving the problem.
Every leader (with or without a title or a patch) can apply these principles; I know they work!
Have you ever confronted a Scout who was doing something wrong?
Good idea for an article, but doesn’t have any practical advice. A few stories, but not much more.
Walter Underwood says
I had a very tense discussion with the parent of a Scout. I knew it would be difficult, so I prepared. I stuck with the facts of what I had seen and what was already decided, but I allowed her room to be a Mama Bear. It is always OK to defend your kids.