We are all working towards the troop where Scout leaders are not leading, up front, talking much ( if at all). Our aim is that , the vast majority of the time, Scouts are leading Scouts and we are far in the background. I am not advocating that adults should be continually present monitoring for bad behavior. This technique works not only for Scoutmasters but for senior patrol leaders and patrol leaders too.
Fixing bad behavior is sometimes a challenge in a troop or patrol unless, of course, you are a Jedi Scoutmaster. It may be that Scouts are disrespectful, or smart-alecky or any one of a hundred little foibles that are distracting and counter productive.
Understand, too, that a sense of perspective and proportion is vital. Order is a relative thing that is likely to be undervalued by boys and over-valued by adults. Adults can also tend towards being oversensitive to the way boys verbally poke and dodge at each other too. So I am not promoting a rigid system of order by any means. But sometimes things will have gone a bit too far and they need adjustment.
Scouts (especially younger Scouts) want attention. Good attention, bad attention; doesn’t mater to them so long as someone is paying attention. So here’s the Jedi Secret – only pay public attention to the things you want your Scouts to do. Pay little or no attention to the things you don’t want them to do. “This is not the behavior you are looking for… ”
Sometimes Scouts will exhibit bad behavior that can’t be ignored – but never do this in front of the other Scouts. Take the Scout aside and talk to them – never in front of the other Scouts.*
Instead of correcting bad behavior start looking for the least little expression (you may need anything from a magnifying glass to an electron microscope) of good behavior (the exact opposite of the behavior you are trying to eliminate). When you see good behavior fall all over yourself talking about how wonderful that Scout is in front of the other Scouts.
Adults with sons involved should all agree to this plan; it’s up to another adult to mention it when they see good behavior or to address bad behavior in your son and you will do the same for them. (Good or ill nobody should be talking to or about their own son if at all possible).
In my experience addressing bad behavior breeds more bad behavior because it satisfies the desire for attention. If you change your tactic and ignore (so much as possible) minor bad behavior and make a big fuss over positive things they will soon change their tactics to gain your attention.
Most importantly you must do all this with the utmost sincerity because they will smell a phony a mile away.
Also most importantly: boys are not behaving badly to spite you – it’s almost never personal.
* Talk to the Scout in full view and hearing of another adult. Three questions:
- Ask him why you had to call him aside. The most common answer is ‘I don’t know’ . Persist.
- Ask him why he did it. Again, I don’t know is the most common answer.
- Ask him if you can count on him not to do it again.