Dealing with an unfriendly Scout

A Scout is not welcomed in troop activities because the other boys say he is not friendly, reports a Scoutmaster. Readers offer ideas, including reminding Scouts to use the Scout Oath and Law in their relationships with other troop members.

I suggest the troop hold a team-building camp-out. Assign each Scout to tent with a boy he does not know well. Ask each Scout to find out something special and positive about his tentmate and tell the whole troop about it the next day. This way the troop will begin to know the outsider a little better.

To improve the chances of success, the Scoutmaster might pair the outsider with the most popular Scout or the senior patrol leader. He might also help this pair in the “getting-to-know-you” session. And he might try to find out something the outsider is good at and plan team-building exercises that favor his skills.

Fort Wayne, Ind.

Each Scout pledges to “help other people at all times.” A Scout is loyal (to other Scouts also), helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, and cheerful. Sometimes these ideals are not easy to live up to, but “on our honor” we have pledged to do it. It helps us grow into better people.

Ask the Scouts who are doing the “shunning” how they would feel if they were left out.

The shunned Scout may not be friendly because of the way he feels he is being treated. A friendly smile and being asked to join in some activity may be what that Scout needs to feel welcome.

Chester, Va.

It’s common for adolescent boys to form tight-knit cliques. Often there are other dynamics at work, too. Perhaps the new boy has some “history” with the older boys from school or other community events.

The point is to impress on everyone (youth and adults) the importance of practicing the Scout Oath and Scout Law at all troop functions.

To accomplish this, our Scouts formulated a troop policy that espouses Scouting’s ideals, defines expectations, and identifies consequences for unacceptable behaviors. The troop committee approved the document, which was signed by all Scouts and their parents.

When possible, the boys themselves police the situation, referring problems to adults only when necessary.

Since implementing the policy, we have experienced renewed enthusiasm for the troop and have seen boys grow in their maturity and acceptance of others.

On camp-outs, encourage the senior patrol leader to pair the excluded boy with other boys for specific tasks. It’s amazing how working together can foster understanding and cooperation. Also, limit the free time during which any problems can get worse.

East Hampton, Conn.

It isn’t easy to be the new boy in the troop, especially if you’re shy. Maybe the boy just needs someone to approach him first. He may have been teased about something and is hesitant to open up to strangers.

Talk with your senior patrol leader, junior assistant Scoutmaster, an Eagle Scout, or other member of the troop the boys look up to, to see how they can help bring the boy out of his shell and become a bit friendlier.

Committee Chairman D.R.
Stafford, Va.

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Sometimes all it takes is for a senior member of the troop to show an interest in the boy who is being shunned. Generally, when a boy feels accepted by someone he and others look up to, his confidence grows, and the others are more likely to accept him.

The process is subtle, of course, and you have to ask the right boy and have him handle it well.

An alternative is to ask the boy if he has friends he’d like to invite to join the troop. Having his “own” friends there will expand the circle.

Finally, a boy by himself during free time doesn’t necessarily mean a problem. Perhaps he enjoys being outside, listening to the birds and thinking about stuff. (The opportunity can be a real blessing to a boy from a large family living in a small house!)

Of course, if he is visibly upset, or has been rejected by the group after attempting to join in, then you need to find out what is going on. Talking with the boy is important because he may not even know what he is doing to upset the other guys.

Maple Grove, Minn.

We had a boy who was easy to pick on and was always the butt of jokes. He was always messy, and at his worst when we went camping. When one boy picked on him, the others would join in.

The adults would stop anything they saw and talk to the boys about their actions. I called aside two of the Scouts who I thought would help.

“When someone picks on that Scout,” I told them, “one of you say softly, ‘Don’t pick on him,’ and the other say, ‘Yes, let’s leave him alone.'”

It worked. That Tenderfoot Scout is now the troop’s senior patrol leader.

Fayetteville, N.C.

As a Scoutmaster for four years, I’ve had my share of troublemakers, foul language, and fights. When a Scout is unfriendly or mad at the world, I tell him: “You have to be a friend before you will have a friend.”

I spend extra time with the boy at camp-outs, to teach him a skill the other Scouts might not have —from lighting a Coleman lantern to tying a particular knot to cutting and frying an onion for an appetizer.

Then, when an argument starts, I call to him, “Why don’t you show these guys how to…”

The skill can be anything. The point is to get the boys’ minds off arguing and show them something interesting.

Scoutmaster R.S.
Midland, Tex.

Our pack once had a boy who was extremely bright but was in foster care and had a lot of “baggage.” He would bite other boys and get into fights.

Eventually, the pack committee, after consulting with the parents, asked the boy not to attend any more meetings. It was very difficult and a last resort.

I recommend that the unit committee make a thorough analysis of the problem before acting. A conference with the Scout’s parents or guardians is a good starting point to get an idea of what’s happening at his home.

Communication is key.

Troop Committee Member K.H.
Jonesboro, Ga.

Because he has always been put down, teased, or even yelled at, a Scout may believe he is not very good at any kind of physical activity. Insecure, he withdraws into his shell, figuring that if he doesn’t participate, he can’t make mistakes.

Urging the Scout to take part in troop activities could be a challenge for your senior patrol leader or an Eagle Scout. Have them sit down and get to know the Scout. Let him know that it’s O.K. not to be good at everything.

I had this problem with a Scout who was an outsider. Now he is on his way to earning the rank of Eagle Scout. And the Scouts who worked with him have become better leaders.

B.G.N. Jr.
Louisville, Ky.

Plan a troop activity in which the shunned Scout can prove himself and demonstrate his abilities to the other Scouts. The best activity I’ve found for this is backpacking.

I will never forget the look on the face of an overweight, unaccepted Scout after he completed a steep climb out of a river gorge in the Sierra mountains—just minutes ahead of the last hiker in the group—me.

At our first meeting, I had been dubious about taking him on the hike. However, he followed our advice to break in his new hiking shoes, and he successfully completed the less strenuous tune-up hike.

I noticed some bonding taking place during the camp-out, but it reached a high point after his climb out of the gorge. He had been allowed to start at the head of the group, and I challenged him not to let me, as “trail sweep,” catch up with him.

He met that challenge and became a “full” member of the troop. The other Scouts seemed to sense the great effort he had made and respected him from that point on.

Unit Commissioner P.L.H.
San Clemente, Calif.

Many times you have to be creative in teaching Scouts skills that do not seem immediately interesting. Use the same system for your outcast.

Find out something special about the problem boy. Does he have a skill that would interest others that he could teach to his patrol?

If he does not, perhaps you could teach him something that he could instruct others. Create a way for him to use his own personality to gain friends.

Jeffersonville, Ind.

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