Re: An SPL Needs Advice
Norman J. MacLeod (gaelwolf@SSNET.COM)
Thu, 16 Nov 1995 21:09:13 -0500
Well, let's see what we can come up with here...
This is not an easy problem to either put a handle on or to resolve. However, th
problem of the 12-year-old is one that I have seen many times in many places.
There are variations on the theme, but the core of the situation nearly always
seems to be a plea for some kind of help, coupled with a lack of understanding o
how to go about geting the help the "easy" way...
It would, of course, be easier to try to figure out what is going on in the boy'
life if I had more details, but that would be better taken up in e-mail than her
with the entire list. I'd be willing to help where I can in that respect, if you
However, there is enough here for some thoughts that might benefit more than jus
yourselves. Scout Leader training is sadly lacking in describing developmental
psychology in even the most basic lay terms. That's a pity, because many more of
us would be able to provide meotional first aid if we knew how to go about it.
Those of us trained in counseling to a professional level have a bit easier time
of it, but we are spread pretty thin in life, not to mention Scouting...
Hang on a few minutes, and we will get to the Scoutmaster, too...
Generally, a disruptive 12-year-old is looking for attention out of a need for
some kind of interaction with others. If he is being disruptive, it MAY have
something to do with negative emotional or social interactions at home, at
school, or in the neighbourhood. An attention deficite disorder (ADD) - of which
there are many differing types - could be a factor, but is probably not the
problem in and of itself.
The way you describe him, the lad appears to be above-average in intelligence
(?), and certainly above average in leadership ability. Take a close look at his
leadership performance this past summer, and consider some reasons why he may
have performed so well:
- He was entrusted with a leadership position, something that others had
not offered him in the past(?).
- Being placed in a leadership position quite probably worked wonders fo
his self-esteem - he felt as if others saw him as being "worth something".
- If he was able to lead, he was able to do so only if others saw him as
a leader. That was enormously positive feedback for him, increasing his feeling
- From your short description, I would think he is not in a leadership
position now, and thus, has lost the prestige he was enjoying when he was
- He may be feeling that he has lost what he had been trusted with durin
- He is confused as to how to interpret all of this, and is probably
wondering whether or not the Troop leadership now feel he is worth as much as he
was during the summer.
This places him, and you, in a fairly awkward position. He is acting out in an
attempt to get attention - negative attention being better than no attention, as
far as he feels things, you know... You, of course, are providing that attention
which is frustrating for you, because you KNOW he can do better.
Your Scoutmaster - for whatever reason - is not being helpful, and actually
appears to be enabling the behaviour. Chances are, he doesn't really know what t
do - but he MAY have a clearer idea than you of things that are going on in the
boy's life that could be strong contributors to the acting-out. If that's the
case, though, he really ought to be working with you and at least giving you som
idea of where the problems may be rooted.
I am glad you appear to want to help make things better here, and know what a
tough spot you are finding yourself in. Not a comfortable situation for anyone,
let me assure you!
Although this youngster performed well this summer as a leader, he is probably
trashing the level of respect and followership he received when he was doing
well. This is probably the first thing you need to approach in your quest to
bring some positive change into the situation.
Now, it's going to help you both if you at least basically like this kid. (I
probably didn't have to tell you that, though...)
You need to arrange a situation where you and he can be pretty much alone. This
should be at a time when he has not been disruptive - perhaps even away from you
Troop activities. Someplace where you can talk about jst about anything under th
sun. Once you are both comfortable with each other, you can move your
conversation toward issues concerning the problems he is causing himself, you,
and the other Scouts.
Tread gently, because you probably don't know him as well as you think you do,
and there may be some pretty unhappy experiences and feelings lurking just below
the shell he has built around his emotions. Don't probe deeply, but DO let him
know that you are concerned and are prepared to be supportive. If there are some
really heavy burdens, you should simply listen. If he opens up to you, then it's
because he wants to share things with someone. If he has the feeling that the
disruptive behavour has not pushed you too far away from him, he may feel that
you are the one he can trust to ask for help.
Think about this before you act on what I suggest, though. Talk with your dad
about what kinds of things you should expect, and about where you can turn for
help if the boy's problems are more significant than things one young man can
help another through without some adult support. I have seen Scouts work through
things like this without adult help, and I have helped a few indirectly through
one of their friends. (This includes an SPL in a Troop I was associated with
providing some badly needed peer support to another Scout who had been talking
about self-destructive things - there were some other adolescent counselors
involved with us, but it was another story...)
The point I want you to understand is that there may be something seriously awry
in this young man's life that is manifesting itself in disruptive behaviour. Of
course, things may also be a whole lot less complicated, too. I certainly hope
As for your Scoutmaster? I have a sneaking suspicion that he knows more about
what is going on than you do. If this is the case, it would be helpful if he
would at least discuss it with you, since the Scout's behaviour is affecting
everyone in your Troop.
Quite often, this sort of reaction to a Scout's misbehaviour on the part of an
adult Leader means that there is something wrong in the Scout's life - but also
that the Leader really doesn't have a good handle on how to deal with the
Please let me know if I am too far off the mark, here. It's pretty hard to be
really meaningful in these situations with only the bare bones of what is
happening. After all, even when you are living with the problem, it's hard to
sort things out, eh?
Hopefully, I have at least given you a few ideas on possible approaches to the
situation. While there meay be something useful there, please remember that we
may be quite a way off the mark, too! Use the ideas to trigger your own thinking
processes and observations, and go from there with what you already know.
Again, I may be of more help if you can give me a few more details. While I can'
tell you what is wrong, I may at least be able to provide you with a few of the
questions to ask...
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