Create shared expectations and you’ll have a happy troop.
In this week’s podcast I answer an email question about a behavior problem. A problem that would never happen if those involved shared expectations.
Ask Scouts to analyze their behavior in light of the Scout oath and law. Listen carefully, ask questions, listen more, share your thoughts, and leave this discussion with a very clear set of shared expectations.
The same applies to evaluating the “judgement call” requirements like Scout spirit and active participation. We should not make judgment calls based on our own observations alone.
Evaluating Scout Spirit is a prime example. Ask the Scout to explain the concept to you, ask them to use points of the Scout oath and law to evaluate themselves and see if you agree with that evaluation. It’s very likely that 99 out of 100 times you will agree with the Scout.
If you don’t agree then tell the Scout precisely why, illustrating your thoughts with the oath and law. Continue asking questions until you create shared expectations of how the requirement will be met. Each Scout will have a slightly different take on the situation at hand, and if you listen long enough to what they say you discover a great many things about them and about yourself.
Most Scouters begin with the idea that they are responsible for shaping and controlling behavior and evaluating performance. They dictate a set of expectations that their Scouts may or may not share setting up a confrontation down the road.
When Scouts evaluate their own behavior and performance against the Scout oath and law they are actively forming their character. You can actually see character forming, sometimes you can almost see smoke coming out of their ears as they reference and build an internal standard. You can see the lights come on.
Most Scout-aged children do not have any other opportunity to exercise this internal standard in any meaningful way. Most of what they do and how they live is dictated to them by adults or by the uncertainties of what is cool or acceptable to their peers.
When you begin doing this it will seem like another adult trick, they will not really understand what is going on. They have learned not to trust adults, because adults have absolute power and have no problem welding that power to get their own way.
When we recognize and trust a Scout we make the most of the Scout oath and law. You can’t hide from or lie to the Scout oath and law. Create shared expectations in this context and see what happens.
Scouters can’t allow all issues to hinge on their personal judgement. If we reserve the right to punish or sanction behavior with our own judgement we miss out on the most powerful and transformative potential of our work.
Naturally there are situations when you must be the adult and put a stop to dangerous or inappropriate behavior immediately. We also don’t accept every decision or every idea simply because it originated with a Scout. Everything we do has to be within the rules and aims of the game of Scouting. Scouters have to study these rules and be fully versed in the aim of our work to be the most effective guides for their Scouts.
We don’t wield the power of our own judgement to reward or punish our Scouts. Scouters don’t disqualify them or sanction them. We count on the Scout oath and law. When you step aside and allow it to be the most powerful player in the game things start changing for the better.
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