During a visit from a Webelos Den at our last Troop meeting one of my Scouts was available to speak with the parents of the visiting boys. We were in our second week of disabilities awareness merit badge; the older scouts were leading a discussion with our younger scouts about the badge.
One of the parents was impressed that the older boys were leading discussions on the subject and asked the older scout: “How do you get the older Scouts to lead a discussion with the younger ones on such an important subject?” The Scout answered that he had watched the older Scouts when he was younger and learned how to do things like lead discussions. It seemed very natural and unremarkable to him.
The heart of a good Troop is this kind of positive peer pressure; something that takes time to develop. Perhaps the most important influence is way the Scoutmaster and their Assistants model acceptance and respect of new Scouts when they arrive. New Scouts do not have anything to prove, and no tests to pass – they are full members of the Troop from day one.
Another crucial element of building positive pressure is delegating real responsibility to the youth leadership; praising their accomplishments and accepting their failures with grace and equanimity.
Everyone rises to both positive or negative expectations of their leaders and peers. Maintain positive high expectations of behavior, performance and spirit. Reinforce these expectations with minimal, tempered and positive discipline. Younger Scouts internalize these signals and the positive peer pressure they foster. Pretty soon the younger Scouts grow older to perpetuate the cycle.