Wednesday, February 15, 2012

3rd 100 Days of Scouting: Day 8

Day 8

Tonight is our meeting night.

I have a Bear den as part of my weekly hour...followed by our troop meeting...another hour...and change each week.

Before the den meeting a mom called me aside to discuss her son's behavior.  He is fairly new to the pack, a first-year Webelos Scout.  Very enthusiastic, energetic...and for our mostly homeschooled group, very "public".  At 10, he has quite the troubled background, and his mom brought him to Scouts for exposure to "good male role models".  From her comments, he has pretty much only had bad ones.  Some real bad.

We are fortunate, I think, in that all of our den leaders are men--that he gets to see an abundance of men who lead and care about the boys.

I knew from the outset that we would need to keep an eye on him, heeding his mom's cautionary comments to us.  She understood that if we had any of his "issues", that he would have to be pulled.

This Scout always tests the boundaries, but snaps into shape when you advise him that he's straying over the line.  When a man has no boundaries, he acts like he wants, without fear or care of others.  That he listens to our correction is probably a miracle.  But he does.

I want to say that this time she wanted to talk to us about how life-changing our program has been for him.  How much he has grown and turned his life around.

But that isn't the case.  In fact, he's been suspended several times from school, is acting out his aggression on personal property at home and at school, using inappropriate language, and acting with a full measure of disrespect everywhere.

Except at Scouts.

Her concern was if he was acting like this at Scouts.  Her fear was that we were having to put up with a hellion.  She was confused, or maybe shocked, when we told her that he acts within the normal behavior swings of a 10 year-old boy.  She thinks pulling him from Scouts might be all that she has left to threaten.

I offered to speak to him after his den meeting, to try to reach him.

We met with his den leader observing, just the three of us.  I asked him how things were going.  He said, "Fine."  And then looked down and mumbled, "not so good."

I reminded him of our very first meeting only four months ago.  Respect for each other is expected.  It doesn't have to be earned--but given and received.  I listen to you, you listen to me.  You call me Mr. White and I'll call you Mr. X-and-such.

I told him that while he is at Scouts he is choosing to be well-behaved, helpful and a good Scout.  I reminded him that a couple of blocks away is a building full of men who made bad choices.  He knew exactly what I meant.  We talked (yeah, mostly me) about how if he chooses to be a great kid here, how he might choose to be a great kid at school and at home.  I tried to show him how he was in control of it, since he could control it around us.

Bad language is a good example.  I told him that I used to use bad language until about 15 years ago, I got to thinking about it.  I never, ever, did in in front of my mother.  Or my grandmother.  Or our parish priest.  The light-bulb went off!  I was choosing poor behavior because I could control it around others.  So I stopped cold-turkey, but that is another story.

I advised this young man that he was exactly that: a young man.  He was at the point of making some bad choices that couldn't be fixed at school, at home or at Scouts.  I pointed at that building again and told him that this was the point they started making the kinds of bad choices that put them in jail.

A long pause to let it sink in.  I reminded him that I'm not mad at him, because he is always fine at Scouts.  We talked (yes, still mostly me) about being a Scout all the time.  We talked about it being time to grow up a little, and start making some good choices.  It was time to say, "I'm sorry" and to mean it.

Now, I suspect not many folks have ever said they were sorry to him, so the concept is pretty foreign.  His mom is worn down, his teachers know his reputation before they ever set eyes on him.  And in many ways, he is surely getting what he deserves.

So I encouraged him to say he was sorry to his mother and his teacher, and to offer to help make up for it.  I advised that it won't always be easy, sometimes it will be embarrassing, sometimes it won't be accepted.

But everyone respects a man who admits his failures, says he is sorry and tries to make up for it.


Now I don't have any misconceptions about the power of my talk.  It was a good talk, but the odds are stacked against him and his wounds are pretty deep.

But there is something about Scouting that reaches him, and I hope it isn't too late.

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