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Witnessing Poor Behavior From Scouts From Another Troop

The first problem: this sounds like a large MB class. That is not how the program is meant to be delivered. MB counseling was designed for a counselor with a couple of boys (it used to be 1-on-1 before the need for youth protection) – precisely for those misbehaving scouts who just wreck group situations, or for those counselors who aren’t trained educators. Honestly, if the class size was more than a patrol or two, it’s pushing the capacity of the program to deliver on the promise of scouting for each scout participating. You are very fortunate to have a child who can get a lot out of a large-group presentation. But when that becomes the default way to deliver counseling, it does no favors to the many boys who simply can’t handle one more hour of school in the week.
Now that that rant’s over …
I have never hesitated to do any of the following:

  • Have my SPL get in touch with that troop’s SPL about the scout’s conduct.
  • Encourage the counselor to remove the scouts from the class. (That’s a lot easier to do from my position.)
  • Send them to the event organisor and find a service project or something else more motor-involved instead of the MB course.
  • Ask the scout the name of their SM. Call him/her immediately. (Actually, many times the problem goes away the minute I ask.)

One thing I never did was E-mail about matters of discipline. Part of the fellowship of scouting is sitting together a talking about how to bring our kids up strong and good.


Having just rolled off two large “merit badge forum” programs as an instructor, I have to agree. I was able to teach Weather and Cit in Nation – and with work and prep I was able to spin some EDGE into it while giving the youth activities-but just barely. My son took Chess at a forum and the instructor talked for two hours straight. Ouch.

Not really thinking that giant merit badge forums are as helpful as we really seem to think they are based on how often they seem to be done.


I have a couple of issues with comments here. While I do agree that there should have been some kind of leadership provided by the troop that the troublemakers belong to, I have a bigger issue with the fact that no one in the room took charge and handled it. All leaders get the same training. All leaders have an idea of what should have been done but no one did it. This is where we fail. Just because the scouts weren’t in your troop doesn’t mean you can’t lead them. If the scout’s behavior was addressed with them and then it didn’t change, I would give them a warning that if they keep disrupting the class, that they will be asked to leave and won’t earn the badge. For everyone who says “it isn’t that simple”. They are wrong. It is that simple.


@TrentWhite, while I agree with the whole, “It takes a village” approach. Large classroom settings are a set-up for this particular kind of failure. Everyone is waiting for someone to take action.

The bigger the event, the more likely the MBC and other leaders may feel it isn’t as simple. Of course, for every one of these rough classes, there are 10 others where either scouts are unanimously engaged in the class or an adult feels comfortable helping the MBC maintain discipline. But those ones don’t make their way to the internet.

@TrentWhite - I’m sorry, I don’t think it is that simple in this case. I was there as a dad. I wasn’t with a troop - just my own son - and I wasn’t in uniform. The session was being run by a representative of the local police department, who was in uniform, and wasn’t controlling the situation. Other uniformed leaders attempted to help the situation, but the boys did not listen. Since this was a police sponsored event - not run by any troop, district, or council, I think our authority as scout leaders was limited.

I see it as no different than if I was chaperoning a field trip for my son’s school. I may see other kids at the zoo misbehaving, and I may ask them to stop, but I have no real authority to do anything more than find out where they came from and let the adults who are responsible for them know about the behaviors.


Sounds like a behavioral not religious issue. I would notify the Scoutmaster of their Troop and provide objective details of how they were behaving poorly.

Qwazse, I completely agree with what you have said. Unfortunately there are so many parents and Scouts who think that ‘merit badge days’ are the way to get merit badges. Yes, I used the word get on purpose. As each and every Scout needs to discuss, explain, or show something to earn the merit badge we have all seen group merit badge classes where the instructor talks and the kids take notes. There are no requirements that have ‘sit and listen’ in them. I really wish we would go back to having merit badges done either one-on-one or in twos or three at the maximum. The whole point was that the Scout learned and did the material and then went to the Counselor to show that they had completed the merit badge. Not sit passively in a class.
Sorry, I’m just an old dude that earned Eagle a long time ago.


Don’t lose hope, David. Both of my boys made rank without a single MB class. The counselor’s in my community were so good for them.

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I told my troop about one merit badge university and sent my son. I find it a bit bothersome the idea that a counselor can work with 10 plus youth and complete a badge in a single sitting. There are some exceptions, but my experiences are such that I don’t encourage them.

Having said that, the instructor should have warned the scouts a couple times. Then they should have ejected them from the class. The instructor absolutely did a dis-service to scouting by allowing poor behavior in the class. Hopefully the instructor didn’t do even worse with the reward of an unearned badge.

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I am also an old dude though I did have a few classes. I earned all three Citizenship merit badges in a class type setting. Now that class met for some time on a weekly basis in a district court judge’s chambers. In the course of classes I learned a ton while also getting some insight on courts most people don’t get.

I also had First Aid class. Every year.

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Kirk and Qwazse, I agree. My son did Personal Mgt with a local banker over many Saturday mornings. Absolutely wonderful. Son did do First Aid at a mb day, but I stayed long enough to see that they were good, and it ran the whole morning. Subsequently he taught first aid at our Council camp and took Wilderness First Aid, so I’m not worried about that.
But, it’s the one Saturday morning mb days where they pump out 2 mb that bug me.

Just wish National would make a more forceful statement about how mb are to be done.
As with both of you, it’s somewhat up to the parent to guide one way or the other. In our family it’s the policy that if the Counselor left out a requirement he does it on his own.

Funny thing is, when my son sees someone with a ton of mb on sash he mutters ‘must have been a lot of mb days.’

But, this thread has been highjacked a bit by the direction this is going.
To get it back on track, it seems what we have been saying is that when mb are done as meant to be done - in very small groups - the problem of bad behavior is gone.
I had one Troop want me to work with them on Env Sci mb. About 14 kids. Once they saw I really wanted each of them to do all the work all but one stopped working on it. Cool little dude who finished.

To original poster, I’d say call SM of Troop involved. Don’t put it into writing if at all possible. Once written it becomes a much more formal complaint.


I like your response. Address the Scouts first. I also like the idea of reaching out to the Scout leadership. Just like any other correctional behavior, sandwich it with complements of the Scouts who were so respectful, and what a role model they were - particularly in comparison to the others, offering examples.

The other thing to consider, for those acting out is they may have been distracted by the size of the group. Perhaps, if possible, breaking them into a smaller group, so there is less downtime for them to get bored. Just a thought.

To wrap up how this all worked out:

I appreciate all the advice here, and I understand what a lot of you are saying about the large merit badge classes.

I contacted both the merit badge counsellor and the committee chair for the troop in question.

The MB counselor said she was aware of the bad behavior and how it was impacting the other boys, but said she was torn about stopping the class to admonish or remove them - as she worried that that would cause a bigger distraction. Bottom line, she agreed that 37 scouts in the room was way too many for them to gain much.

The CC from that troop was incredibly gracious. He appreciated that I took the time to praise his well-behaved scouts and also that I made him aware of the behavior issues. He seemed very sincere in his regret that his troop didn’t have any adults in the room to prevent this behavior and said that he would make sure that would be approached differently in the future.

I felt good about both interactions, as they were both focused on how to make the experiences better for the scouts in the future.

As for me and my son, we’ve learned that these big classroom environments aren’t the best way for him to learn and earn his badges. In the future, we will seek different avenues for him to explore the merit badge topics he is interested in.

Thank you all for your help and advice.


Some leaders have different thresholds.

Typically, I would defer to those in charge.

However, my go-to response to inappropriate behaviors is to assertively and quietly tell the individual “ please tell your Scoutmaster/ parent etc that I would like to discuss your behavior with them. I will wait while you go get them.

Gives the youth time to consider how much to reveal or hide from the Scoutmaster - and even if they do not return with the Scoutmaster, the Scout has stopped the behavior and has time to consider future behaviors.


Whoever was hosting the event should have handled things then and there. I’ve never been a fan of delayed correction. I would contact the event host and inquire if they can assure you that the situation was addressed. If you still feel the need to contact their unit leader, I would take particular care to mention the good behavior of the other members of the group as well. I believe it to be essential to keep the discussion on the behavior and the image it produces for the unit. Fifth and seventh Scout Laws.

Delayed correction doesn’t work any better for kids than it does for puppies.


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