Illustration by Darren Thompson
Ideas from the field: What to do when the fists start flying.
On a recent camp-out, two Scouts in Scoutmaster D.S.’s troop got into a fight over a prank gone wrong. He wondered how other troops handle fights or prevent them from occurring in the first place.
TWO SIMPLE RULES
I know that Webelos Scouts are a little easier to direct, but over the past 15 years of Cub Scouting I have developed two simple rules of conduct in my den. No. 1: No one is rude (this includes rude words, jokes, actions, “bathroom noises,” and interrupting). No. 2: No one is hurt (no hurt feelings, no physical hurting).
I have had almost 200 boys go through my den, and I only occasionally have to use a gentle reminder. If I have a major infraction, I leave my assistant in charge and talk to the boys away from the group.
Webelos Leader B.A.
JUST SAY NO
Physical fighting has zero tolerance in my book. I don’t care what the circumstances are; the initiating Scout will be sent home. Depending on how involved the Scout that was defending himself got, he may go home as well.
Assistant Scoutmaster J.K.
WORK IT OUT
A dose of good old hard work goes a long way. Make them both scrub the fire pots or build the large campfire and/or do another appropriate task—together. By the time they’re done, neither they nor their comrades will be picking fights soon. Typically, their parents will support this action, and the time working together can actually bond them.
TALK IT OUT
If the situation were to appear, I would likely send both boys to cool off for a short period. I would then bring them both together, have them explain what happened, and ask how they might have prevented it and what they should do about it. I want the boys to solve their own problems.
PUT 'EM ON KP
If the boys have too much time on their hands, they can have KP duty for the weekend to keep them occupied and give them something to think about the next time they feel like fighting. Beyond that, let it go; the slate is clean the minute you leave camp.
Troop Committee Member J.H.
Garden City, Mich.
LAY DOWN THE LAW
Our troop has a written policy that physical fighting will result in the Scouts being removed from the activity. If we’re on a camp-out or at summer camp, the parents are called to come and pick them up. The Scouts are informed of this policy when they join, and it is repeated regularly.
OBEY THE LAW
Ask the Scouts which parts of the Scout Law they are demonstrating. The other Scouts will chime in with which parts they are not demonstrating. Putting them on the spot in public this way is usually enough to diffuse the situation.
FAMILY, NOT FIGHTS
I find the best way to prevent fights is to create a supportive and friendly environment. Make the troop seem like a family, and make Scouts feel comfortable talking out problems with one another other or with the Scoutmaster as a mediator.
When a fight does occur, all participants in the fight are punished by a call home, assigned as cleaning patrol for the rest of the trip, or something else to show that fighting is not tolerated.
Assistant Scoutmaster E.H.
BOYS WILL BE ADULTS
We should send Scouts home when their behavior creates a physical danger to themselves or others. Also, when a Scout’s behavior endangers others or interferes with the delivery of the program, the troop committee needs to meet with the Scout and his parents to determine appropriate action.
Be careful not to get caught in the “boys will be boys” mentality and minimize their behavior. “Boys will be adults,” and the kind of adults they will become is influenced by what we teach them about living by the values of the Scout Oath and Law.
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