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Junior Leader Resources

Dealing With Disruptive Scouts

(Controlling the Group and Effective Teaching)



1. Do not ignore disruptive.

2. Bring disruptive Scouts into the learning activities. Ask them a question or have them perform a demonstration.

3. Make firm eye contact often. You can "bring back" a Scout from a daydream or give permission to ask a question or just give silent reassurance. Act just like the conductor of a symphony. Get the orchestra's (troop's) attention before beginning. You may use silence, the Scout Sign, or the tapping of your baton to do this. Keep the troop "in time", pointing to different parts of the room as you need their help.

4. Validate all comments made by Scouts (i.e. listen and respond to Scouts' comments). Pay attention to connectedness. These Scouts need to feel engaged and connected. As long as they are engaged, they will feel motivated and be less likely to tune out.

5. Never embarrass a Scout in front of the troop. Talk to a disruptive Scout by pulling him to the side during some down time, after the troop meeting or if they leave, talk with them before the next troop meeting begins.

6. Progressive discipline! (begin with low-level response) and choose the timing of the discipline with care.

7. Document major Scout problems.

8. give disruptive Scouts boundaries and limits. This is containing and soothing, not punitive. Do it consistently, predictably, and promplty and plainly. Do not get into complicated, lawyer-like discussions of fairness. These long discussions are just a diversion. Take charge!

9. Report major problems to senior Scout leadership. If they can not handle it, they can bring it up to the adult leadership or a troop disciplinary committee, made up of the Senior Patrol Leader, Assistant Scoutmaster, Scoutmaster, and/or some committee members for further action. This should be looked at as a last resort.

10. Prevention is the key - orient Scouts in the beginning of the Scout year.

11. Establish open lines of communication (eliminate the artificial barrier between Scouts and leaders).

12. Treat Scouts with respect.

13. Foster mutual respect in the meeting place.

14. Split up disruptive groups. Seperate pairs and trios, even whole patrols, that do not do well together. You might have to try many arrangements.

15. Verbalize to the troop: What can I do to help you?

16. Move around the meeting place (get out from in front of the troop, let the Senior Patrol Leader be at the front).

17. Talk less and have more hands-on activities.

18. Be aware of the physical space of the meeting place and enhance this space (e.g. play music, dim lights when appropriate, move outside for some activities).

19. Change the orientation and order of the meeting place (e.g. from a circle with chairs, sit on the floor, etc.).

20. Institute the 1-minute question on a regular basis: What concept have you grasped well? What concept is giving you trouble?

21. Communicate expectations in writing.

22. Redirect Scouts' questions back to the patrol leader, senior patrol leader or the troop as a whole.

23. Teach Scouts the skills associated with being a successful Scout, and surviving in the outdoors.

24. Remember that we all need structure especially the disruptive Scout. They need their environment to structure externally what they can't structure internally on their own. Make lists. WE benefit greatly from having a table or list to refer back to when they get lost in what they are doing. Tehy need reminders, previews, repetition, direction, limits, structure. Make sure your troop meetings are well organized and that you come to them fully prepared to fill the entire time, even if someone or something does not show up. If you are not organized, your Scouts will not be!

25. Develop troop rules (in concert with the Scouts), and stick to them.

26. Ensure that the Scouts understand that the troop meeting lasts the entire period and their behavior also needs to be under control during this entire time, and also during campouts and special events. Make sure they understand that their actions represent their troop and scouting as a whole.

27. Have as predictable a schedule as possible. Refer to it often. If you are going to vary it, as most interesting leaders do, give lots of warning and preparation. Transitions and unannounced changes are very difficult for many. Take special care to prepare for transitions well in advance. Announce what is going to happen, then give repeat warnings as the time approaches.

28. Know your limits. Don't be afraid to ask for help. YOu, as the leader, can not be expected to be an expert on everything. You should feel comfortable in asking your senior leadership for help wen you feel you need it.

29. Break down large tasks into small tasks. This is one of the most crucial of all teaching techniques. Large tasks quickly overwhelm Scouts and they recoil with an emotional "I'll Never Be Able To Do That!" kind of response. By breaking the task down into manageable parts, each component looking small enough to be do-able, the Scout can sidestep the emotion of being overwhelmed. In general, thse Scouts can do a lot more than they think they can. By breaking tasks down, the leader can let the Scout prove this to himself. It can help them avoid the wrong attitude that so often gets in their way.

30. Let yourself be playful, be unconventional and flamboyant. Introduce novelty into the meeting or activity. Scouts respond to novelty with enthusiasm. It helps keep attention -- The Scouts' and yours as well. Scouts are full of life -- the love to play. Above all they hate being bored, so much their day involves boring stuff like structure, schedules, lists and rules. You want to show them that those things do not have to go hand in hand with being a boring person, a boring leader or running a boring troop. Every once in a while, if you can let yourself be a little bit silly, that will help a lot.

31. Still again, watch out for overstimulation. Like a pot on the fire, disruption can boil over. You need to be able to reduce the heat in a hurry. The best way of dealing with chaos in the troop meeting is to prevent it in the first place.

32. Seek out and underscore success as much as possible. Scouts often live with so much failure, they need all the positive handling they can get. This point can not be overempasized: Scouts need and benefit it. Without praise, they shrink and wither. Often the most devastating aspect of disruptive activity is not the intent to disrupt itself, but the secondary damage done to self-esteem. So water these Scouts well with encouragement and praise. Praise, stroke, approve, encourage and nourish.

33. Give responsibility when possible back to the Scout. Remember the old adage: "Don't do anything for a Scout, they can do for themselves."

34. Role models work very well. A Troop Guide assigned to a rowdy patrol not only gets them interested but helps them to advance and to prove themselves.

35. With older Scouts, have them write little notes to themselves to remind them of their questions. In essence, they take notes not only on what is being said to them, but what they are thinking as well. This will help them listen better.

36. Exercise. One of the best treatments for disruptive Scouts (and Scouters) is exercise, preferably vigorous exercise. Exercise helps work off excess engery, helps to focus attention, stimulates certain hormones and neurochemicals that are beneficial, and is fun. Make sure the exercise is fun, so the Scout will continue to do it for the time allotted.

37. Always be on the lookout for sparkling moments. Disruptive Scouts are far more talented and gifted than they often seem. They are full of creativity, play, spontaneity and good cheer. They tend to be resilient, always bouncing back, generous of spirit and have a "special something" that enhances what ever setting they're in. Remember that there is a melody inside that cacophony, a symphony yet to be written.



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