A reader sent in this question:
I am taking over as Den Leader for my son’s Bear Den. The boys’ behavior, 2 in particular, was not very good last year. (One whose parent was there and did nothing to help, just smiled at him like he was an angel.) There were no real expectations for behavior. I was wondering if you have any advice for behavior, and consequences for misbehavior. (I am not talking about boys being a little rowdy; it was like watching her try to herd cats.) I am a classroom teacher and have 4 kids of my own. But, I do not want to run it like a classroom; and cannot discipline like they are my own. I would love any suggestions from you, from someone who has run a Den before.
Thanks for the question! This is something almost every den leader has had to deal with at one time or another. One note I should mention before I start is that I was leader for two of my sons dens. What worked for one den didn’t necessarily work for the other. You will have to consider the personalities involved and the group dynamic.
Asking the parents of the disruptive boys to get involved is a common way to work on this problem. However as you have already discovered, this might not work. But it would be good to at least talk to the parents. There might be underlying behavioral issues which you are not aware of. Ask the parents what they think a good solution might be.
You might want to consider having the boys create their own “Code of Conduct”. This is a good way to get a discussion started about behavior at meetings. Talk about how you want to help them earn their awards but you need their cooperation. Ask them what they think the behavior expectations for behavior should be.
I found that positive incentives worked well at Cub Scout den meetings, both individually and as a group. For individual incentives we would give each member five tickets at the beginning of the meeting. If they were disruptive they had to turn in a ticket. At the end of the meeting, we would have a drawing with the remaining tickets and the winners would get to pick from my prize bag of dollar store items.
For group incentives, you can use something like a marble jar. Every time they stay on task for part of a meeting or have some other good behavior, they get to put a few marbles in a small jar. It will take several meetings to fill the jar. When the jar is full, the whole den gets a reward, such as a special treat at a meeting or a fun field trip. This approach worked really well for one of my Cub Scout dens because they didn’t want to let the group down.
If you have a den doodle, you can also use that to reward positive behavior. I would let the boys put beads on their section of the den doodle for all sorts of things, including when they did really well at paying attention or staying on task at meetings.
Readers, what are your ideas for managing behavior at Cub Scout den meetings? Add them to the comments below.