Scoutmaster Musings - Peer Discipline

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Scoutmaster Musings

Peer Discipline
"We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does."
That is the USAir Force Academy's honor code. The Naval Academy and Military Academy have similar codes.

Since I was accepted to the USAFA eons ago (but didn't attend), I've always respected their honor code. It's clear and direct. The lie, steal or cheat part is actually the easy part. The rest is where it gets tough.

What should a scout do in a situation where another scout is not acting "scout-like"? Let's say another scout is bullying someone, or cheating in a game, or forging sign-offs, or ... whatever the behavior that comes to mind. What should a scout do?

In the Scout Law, trustworthy, loyal, and brave are strong players in this situation. A scout that is Trustworthy tells the truth - he does not lie. If that's the case, he can't let the behavior slide by. Ignoring cheating is just like saying it did not happen, which would be lieing. So, the scout must address it.

If a scout is Loyal, to whom is he loyal? He might convince himself that to be loyal to the other scout means he should protect him and that means keeping the cheating secret. But, that is certainly misguided thinking. A scout should be loyal to the Scout Law above an individual scout if that scout is in contradiction to the law.
To be truly loyal to a friend is to help him change his behaviors for the better, so a loyal scout will bring the behavior to the open.

For a scout to call another scout on bad behavior takes either bravery or lack of social understanding. "Hey, you cheated!" being blurted out is the latter and seldom turns out well for anyone. The former requires control and a desire to help a person rather than simple justice. And, a desire to help others isn't a base, natural desire in people in general, let alone scout-age boys. So, it needs to be nurtured and developed.

Scouts that feel ownership of their patrol and troop understand they need to manage the atmosphere and general behavior. Each patrol leader sets the tone of cooperation, support, and loyalty in his small group while the SPL encourages the patrol leaders and steps in when needed. In order for these leaders to lead, they do need to understand how to discipline or enforce the values in the Scout Law. And that requires training from a mature, fair, trustworthy role model.

Part of the training provided to each scout leader by the Scoutmaster should include how to address un-scoutlike behavior. They need to understand their role is to build up the scouts in their group while not tolerating activities contrary to the Scout Law. The best way I know to do this is with a few role-plays to act out a few behaviors and appropriate ways to address them.

The goals of addressing misbehavior by peers might be something like this:

For example, a patrol leader sees one of his patrolmates trip a younger scout running past while playing a game.
Right then, PL walks over to JJ.
PL: "JJ, I need you to help me over by that big rock."
PL: "JJ, you tripped Bill over there. The Antelope patrol plays fair and we don't try to hurt other guys."
PL: "We really need you so we can win the next game fair and square, so let's get back with the guys."

Privately, immediately, quickly, and friendly.

Of course, there will be situations that require more intervention, but this simple interaction with a scout in leadership can turn around a huge amount of misbehavior. The scout leader needs to be respected by being a role model himself and he needs to be confident enough to follow through. He gets this confidence by believing his SPL and Scoutmaster will be there to back him up when needed.

See pages 105-112 in the Patrol Leader Handbook for good information to use in training your scout leaders.

Scout On

Posted: 10:03 11-13-2009 459
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 Nov 13, 2009 - Carol McCarthy
Have you thoughts on diversity of any kind...or stories that apply to use in training I am setting up? Ethnicity, education, neighborhood, skill, appearance, etc. Seeking material. Thanks, MAC

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