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Thread: Dealing with 'That one child'

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    The problem is though, it's not really about individual behaviour when that behaviour can tear down an entire evening's program. If you're having to apply different rules to different kids to deal with individual behaviour, that in and of itself causes more problems.

    And even having many adults, it doesn't always work. It's like boballan said, we're not social workers or psychiatrists. I mean, I have a fair bit of experience with this, and I struggle, and that's mostly down not to individual behaviour but the group dynamic that individual behaviour causes.

    The problem we have is, if we chuck a kid out - it's a small village. It's a bit of a balancing act really. I'd rather not be getting dagger eyes or out-and-out abuse in the local coop because I've offended an entire family's delicate (and very misdirected) sensibilities.

    So, we just put them out for a week as above. They get three verbal warnings then they're out the door and out of everyone's hair for a week.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post

    The problem we have is, if we chuck a kid out - it's a small village. It's a bit of a balancing act really. I'd rather not be getting dagger eyes or out-and-out abuse in the local coop because I've offended an entire family's delicate (and very misdirected) sensibilities.
    This is why many teachers won't work in the communities that they live in.

    Obviously if you've gone up through a Scout Group and stayed as a leader, you're going to end up in your local community. And if you're a parent volunteering for your own child's sake you'll be at your local group. But if you're an adult looking to volunteer with a group, i'd always suggest going to the next village or another part of town.

    On the Original Post - two things:

    a) You don't have to put up with any level of bad behaviour, nor do the rest of your Scouts. You have every right to enforce behavioural sanctions including calling parents etc, and you can work with your GSL to remove the child permamently if necessary

    b) Before you take that course of action, do you understand why they're misbehaving. If they're genuinely bored when the rest of the troop is enjoying the programme, then Scouting isnt for them. If they're looking for attention then is there a reason? Are they being neglected at home, bullied at school, etc?

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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    The problem is though, it's not really about individual behaviour when that behaviour can tear down an entire evening's program. If you're having to apply different rules to different kids to deal with individual behaviour, that in and of itself causes more problems.

    And even having many adults, it doesn't always work. It's like boballan said, we're not social workers or psychiatrists. I mean, I have a fair bit of experience with this, and I struggle, and that's mostly down not to individual behaviour but the group dynamic that individual behaviour causes.
    Absolutely the case. One individual can disrupt a whole programme just by being in the room. They can intimidate others simply by being there, they can manipulate some into doing their bidding. They change the whole group dynamic. They put Leaders on edge as well, and the kids can sense it and that makes them nervous.


    The problem we have is, if we chuck a kid out - it's a small village. It's a bit of a balancing act really. I'd rather not be getting dagger eyes or out-and-out abuse in the local coop because I've offended an entire family's delicate (and very misdirected) sensibilities.

    So, we just put them out for a week as above. They get three verbal warnings then they're out the door and out of everyone's hair for a week.
    We draw kids in from across five villages. We have been doing this so long that people know who we are even if we don't know them. I don't care if I get the evil eye from someone's cousin's uncle. If the kid is disrupting the whole programme week afeter week. They are out. If they come to join and they have a bad attitude in their first couple of weeks, their membership is rejected.

    The kids that we have appreciate it, their parent appreciate it and my team appreciate it too.

    I was told at a meeting recently that I ( and most Scout Leaders etc) would never be trusted by street kids, because they consider us as "the police", ready to grass them up - I had to smile, because I would and I have done where the need has arisen. He, on the other hand turned a blind eye to petty crime, drugs etc,. in order to win their trust - but he admitted that he was playing in a very different ball game. In his world, if they had not won kids over by 8 or 9, they were heading for the gangs and grooming.
    Ewan Scott

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    I should add that this isn’t about bending over backwards or changing the rules for one kid. It’s about pausing for breath before pulling the trigger. Giving the family the chance to tell you if there is something else going on. And a chance for whoever the scouter is to be open with the family about the consequences of this kind of thing continuing.

    I’ve never had to actually throw anyone out. I have though had a few of those cards on the table discussions with scouts and their parents. In some cases it turned things around, in some cases the scout quickly departed, particularly after they found I was true to my word and would happily phone their parents to take them
    Home if they continued to dick about. Parents very rarely have to be asked to do that twice!

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    Quote Originally Posted by CambridgeSkip View Post
    I should add that this isn’t about bending over backwards or changing the rules for one kid. It’s about pausing for breath before pulling the trigger. Giving the family the chance to tell you if there is something else going on. And a chance for whoever the scouter is to be open with the family about the consequences of this kind of thing continuing.

    I’ve never had to actually throw anyone out. I have though had a few of those cards on the table discussions with scouts and their parents. In some cases it turned things around, in some cases the scout quickly departed, particularly after they found I was true to my word and would happily phone their parents to take them
    Home if they continued to dick about. Parents very rarely have to be asked to do that twice!
    Yup.

    I wouldn't exclude a kid without knowing what their background was. The two I excluded for the week, I knew well and knew their families. Of course, sometimes, you never truly know what's going on, and sometimes, even if you do, it's still not your problem and maybe, gambling on an exclusion might actually improve things at home too...

    It can occasionally be a bit of an eye opener with parents and their perception of their kids, (as you'll all know already). Not so much now because our troop has been somewhat gutted - we've lost ~ five members down to going to high school and the dynamic we had. But, some kids just create drama. They are so sensitive or they don't seem to be able to understand consequences, they're like a whirlwind of theatrics - and just they can't help themselves - which makes it hard because while it's all coming from them (I'm not joking, families have moved house because of it), it's not really there fault. The parents can't even step back and be objective about it...

    The last thing I want to do is even start getting into any pre-existing feuds between families, (often what's going on at Scouts, may very well be going on at school and in the street). I have zero patience for this kind of he-said/she-said thing, it's bad enough when the kids do it, but the parents too?

    Nope, nope, nope. It's not for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    Yup.

    I wouldn't exclude a kid without knowing what their background was.
    That was what I thought. Sometimes the background is irrelevant. I even went on a Mental health FA Course to see if I could get some clues.

    It was a great course and it has helped with some of the kids, but I have read the 150 pages of the manual from cover to cover and there is not one mention of sociopathy. I have since read up on the subject and essentially, dealing with that type of problem is way beyond our paygrade. If a kid is a sociopath, then walk away or they will manipulate you without batting an eyelid (unless of course you have the training and understanding to deal with that issue).

    I'd advise people to go and read up on sociopathic behaviour and the symptoms. I was 61 before I understood, none of my Leaders had a clue what it was - we do now.
    Ewan Scott

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushfella View Post
    That was what I thought. Sometimes the background is irrelevant. I even went on a Mental health FA Course to see if I could get some clues.

    It was a great course and it has helped with some of the kids, but I have read the 150 pages of the manual from cover to cover and there is not one mention of sociopathy. I have since read up on the subject and essentially, dealing with that type of problem is way beyond our paygrade. If a kid is a sociopath, then walk away or they will manipulate you without batting an eyelid (unless of course you have the training and understanding to deal with that issue).

    I'd advise people to go and read up on sociopathic behaviour and the symptoms. I was 61 before I understood, none of my Leaders had a clue what it was - we do now.
    I can recommend Jon Ronson's The Pychopath test. It's very accessible, not written at all like a text book, (his books are good generally). A wee bit of Googling into the Bob Hare psychopath test is also instructional. That in and of itself could be an activity to do with Scouts/Explorers.

    Most young people are slightly sociopathic, but they grow out of it as their brain develops. At scout-age, they should be on the cusp of coming out of it (usual caveats around development apply.) I've read a few books on sociopathy and psychopathy, it's a real eye opener - when you begin to see it in a very few (thankfully) people around you, it's very interesting to observe.

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    I had a child once who scared me. He had no inkling of right and wrong. I met his teachers at a training session and she brought him up. I compared him (in an unguarded moment) to some children who had been in the news for doing something very evil. She said "i know exactly what you mean"

    I received an email from his mother one day in which she said "lkjdflkdfj wants to leave scouts because of this"... (this being something that had supposedly upset him) and she added context that she wanted me to fix the problem. I took the quote out of context, accepted his desire to leave and told her i had offewred his place to the next child on the waiting list." She want ballistic but tough... my life got a million times better.

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    I always feel bad when I see a kid and think 'they'll be in the news some day...' But you can't help sometimes.

    The real danger is, that one kid can enable so many others into doing things they wouldn't normally do - that's kind of what happened with us (kind of). The other problem is, a lot of the indicators for psychopathy/sociopathy mirror indicators for things like ADD or other oppositional disorders, even condition on the autistic spectrum. Even psychopathy itself in children is problematic in terms of responsibility.

    When they're adults, then fine, you deal with them as such. But a kid probably won't know they're doing anything wrong. As they get older, they'll learn to cover up and manipulate, but it will always be there. If you have a young person with this on-board, coupled with an otherwise assertive, proactive personality - that's when something will probably occur. Psychopaths/sociopaths aren't necessarily brave, but they might feel they can do things and get away with it because they're clever, even if they aren't.

    At Scout age (and probably a wee bit at cub age), the whole sexuality thing crops up too. That can be an eye-opener. Often, they don't really understand the full meaning of what they're saying, or that their motivations may be problematic. But the motivation at this stage is genuine.

    As I said, it's fascinating stuff. And fortunately very rare. Mostly it's just kids being a bit wayward, I would say, if it's really persistent, then there are probably underlying problems that may lead to a future diagnosis. A lot of parents won't do that though, but don't realise it can help so much.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    I can recommend Jon Ronson's The Pychopath test. It's very accessible, not written at all like a text book, (his books are good generally). A wee bit of Googling into the Bob Hare psychopath test is also instructional. That in and of itself could be an activity to do with Scouts/Explorers.

    Most young people are slightly sociopathic, but they grow out of it as their brain develops. At scout-age, they should be on the cusp of coming out of it (usual caveats around development apply.) I've read a few books on sociopathy and psychopathy, it's a real eye opener - when you begin to see it in a very few (thankfully) people around you, it's very interesting to observe.
    Manipulative, mendacious, no concept of right or wrong (he was always right even when you could give detailed explanaition why he wasn't), no remorse, etc., and getting worse rather than better. Ticked all the boxes big time.

    Most young people explore what they can get away with. That is not quite the same thing as being a sociopath. It isn't worth the risk.
    Ewan Scott

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    Bob Hare (in The Psychopath Test) tells Jon Ronson a story.Jon had interviewed a big US CEO type character. He'd shut down a toaster factory (I think it was toasters) in a mid-west town knowing it would essentially also destroy the town - if was profitable and solvent, but the toasters (i'm sure it was toasters) could be made more cheaply abroad.

    During the interview, Jon commented on a painting of three red setters and asked if they'd been pets. The CEO said they had and went on to say how upset he'd been when each one died. Jon said the guy seemed to be genuine in his grief.

    Bob Hare explained that the CEO wasn't mourning the loss of three beloved pets, he was mourning loss of three beloved possessions. He went on to suggest that the CEO would be no more or less grief stricken if he crashed a favourite car. It's a subtle but clever distinction, well I thought so anyway...

    I've had a fair bit of experience with this, and can confirm, to a true psychopath, its 100% about ownership. They can look as if they care about people, but it's care from ownership, not love or feeling. To them, people and by extension the things those people own (which to the psychopath, include other people) are territory to use or be traded away.

    It really is fascinating stuff.

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    I'm always intrigued why we (collectively) beat ourselves up about the loss of one child who we 'couldn't cater for' as if somehow we've failed. We have them for 2 hours max a week yet somehow we are expected to solve all the child's ills and give them a memorable time that will stay with them for the rest of their life. I'm as guilty as the rest - it is the 'one child' we spend so many hours and resources on rather than the collective mass, who probably already have to put up with him/her disrupting their education during the day and now face the same problem at cubs/scouts.

    Scouting has a good track record at dealing with special cases, whether diagnosed or not, which is pretty impressive given the quality of the training available on the subject. Is it because we like a challenge or because we think we 'should' be providing scouting for all - regardless?

    I would always advocate involving the parents at an early possibility, never overlooking of course that the child is unlikely to be perfect at home and we might be their only respite away from the little monster. From 35 years of experience there is ALWAYS a solution to these kids - its just whether the leader has the time/inclination/resources to try and find it AND is prepared to often see their unit destroyed while they seek the Holy Grail. We are customer led so if a Group is based around appeasing one individual sooner or later the customers start going elsewhere where the division is fairer.

    We had a special case who went through the Pack a few years back and it wasn't until the first camp without them that we realised how much of a drain they had been on the entire team. I think we broke even with them on balance. They lasted six months in scouts before their Patrol Leader told them what she thought of them and their attitude and they were never seen again. Maybe sometime in the future they will join the human race and appreciate what we tried to do for them. In the meanwhile I still have the heart-breaking postcard one of the others wrote home from camp complaining he was being bullied and asking if his mum could collect him. This child had a lot of friends and the parents talked - its taken 18 months for our camp numbers to recover.

    I wish TSA could put together a genuinely useful resource on 'challenging behaviour' as everything I've seen seems to be based around co-operative parents and endless time & resource, rather than the reality of only one other leader and the little s**t in full battle mode because it rained all day and they haven't been uncaged or someone forgot their medication. Just how do you make that meeting a worthwhile experience for everyone. Too often we regard the evening as a success if they didn't disrupt things 'too much this week' or we managed to complete '75% of what we planned' because of their behaviour.

    Is it worth as a group of E-scouters putting together a 'Scouters' Guide to dealing with complete little s**ts'? That's certainly something I'd welcome in my stocking on Christmas Day
    Last edited by Keith at 2M; 14-12-2018 at 01:14 PM.
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    From my pov, our group has always been a bit of a haven for the dispossessed - be that down to not wearing the right trainers or being shunned due to 'weird' or bad behaviour (whatever that can mean these days). So we are keen to at least try and hold on to kids who are a bit wayward.

    But it can only work if the kid is willing, if they're not, then there genuinely isn't going to be a solution. You can have endless time and resources - and it just won't make a difference. I'm pretty sure we've not had the worst of it in terms of kids - we haven't for example had kids making false accusations, I think we've maybe had two official complaints (only one from parents, the other was from an angry tennis player...) We've had loads of unofficial 'discussions' over the years that were resolved one way or the other.

    I think it would be really useful to have two things. The first would be an idiots guide to the most common diagnoses - Autism and the oppositional disorders (like Attention Deficit Disorder - and yes, it does exist. That was my main area when I worked for Social Work...) The second would be, just dealing with groups of kids, the dynamics that can develop and how to keep them occupied so situations don't crop up in the first place. This should also just mention, that just like leaders, kids also have a life outside of Scouts which might be horrible in places.

    I do consider it a personal failure if I fail to spot that a kid has been acting out because of pressures elsewhere in their life, and all I did was punish them. I try my best, but like everyone else, sometimes you just can't know, nobody says anything, and you only end up finding out by accident. But, that kid has gone and the opportunity was missed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith at 2M View Post

    I would always advocate involving the parents at an early possibility, never overlooking of course that the child is unlikely to be perfect at home and we might be their only respite away from the little monster. From 35 years of experience there is ALWAYS a solution to these kids - its just whether the leader has the time/inclination/resources to try and find it AND is prepared to often see their unit destroyed while they seek the Holy Grail. We are customer led so if a Group is based around appeasing one individual sooner or later the customers start going elsewhere where the division is fairer.
    1/ The first point of contact if there is a mental health problem is the parents - However - they may well be the cause of the problem and contacting them may make things worse. You do some work and make a judgement call on that one.
    2/ There is NOT ALWAYS a solution to these kids - I am not going to go into detail, but having bent over backwards to accommodate/ help/ appease things turned to sh*t very quickly when we had to take the action to send one such kid home. (A few people on here witnessed part of the fall out on FB - I have told a select few the story privately).
    3/ You are correct in so far as the wellbeing of the unit. section can be destroyed whilst seeking the Holy Grail of helping that individual who cannot be helped, who is beyond our paygrade. More than once, I have gone out of my way to the point where we started losing members to try and help some troubled kid. It always takes time to recover from that nadir. You have to work out whether it is worth the effort.

    Sad to say, some kids are simply not going to be worth the damage that they will cause, to morale, to integrity, to the group dynamics, to other individuals and to the adult team.

    I got a call yesterday from a parent whose kid had missed two meetings. He wasn't wanting to come back because of the behaviour of certain kids. She had spoken to him and apprently his peers had also been having the same thoughts. I explained that four newbies had had their membership application rejected because of their behaviour and a fifth had been suspended (this is the first year in 25 where I have done either). The suspension involved me having to report a crime to the Police, who made it a Priority case.

    Never before have I rejected members. Never before this year have I sent anyone home. I never thought that I would have to report one of our own to the Police ( I spoke to his family and they understood 100%, I spoke to the targeted victim's family and they also understood and backed me 100% - without going into details, it was akin to a safeguarding issue - once you know you have to report it.)

    Times are changing, and for some of us the idea of the jolly Skip leading a bunch of happy boys to camp is now something far from reality. It doesn't change my faith in what we do, but it does change the way in which we do it.
    Ewan Scott

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    Keith at 2M Keith at 2M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushfella View Post
    2/ There is NOT ALWAYS a solution to these kids - .......Sad to say, some kids are simply not going to be worth the damage that they will cause, to morale, to integrity, to the group dynamics, to other individuals and to the adult team.
    I'll disagree with you on this Ewan - there is a solution to every child, but whether that solution is worth the cost is the issue. For many of us it is way beyond our resources/patience/time.

    Times are changing, and for some of us the idea of the jolly Skip leading a bunch of happy boys to camp is now something far from reality. It doesn't change my faith in what we do, but it does change the way in which we do it.
    You may have hit the nail on the head here to explain some issues. When I was a kid, going home and admitting I'd been told off in school/scouts would probably have earned me a good (deserved) boll***ing plus sanctions. My parents would never have questioned the authority of the teacher/scout leader. Nowadays its open season on anyone questioning their child's behaviour

    My favourite example of this comes from my wife's school - parent called in because a teacher was covered in paint by a pupil. Mother swore blind it was someone else because her daughter denied the offence - potentially quite dangerous because some went on the teacher's face. Parent continued to refuse to accept the teacher's version of events even when it was pointed out to her that her daughter was the only pupil in the room.

    Second example from our Pack - child recently diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum tells a leader he doesn't have to do as he's told because he's disabled. Go figure!
    The Roman Empire did not become great by holding meetings. It did so by killing everyone that opposed their point of view.

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