Don’t Learn Bad Habits

By | July 20, 2019

[July 20, 2019] New and young leaders are often placed in a position where bad habits are easily learned and encouraged. As regular readers of my leadership blog know, I’ve been at Scout Camp for the past week where most of the scout counselors are not yet 18 years old. One challenge adult scout leaders were facing was that there was a tendency for the counselors to learn bad habits.

Like a disease, bad habits spread throughout young counselors. For example, they would often ignore the youngest scouts. When I asked questions about it (at Merit Badge stations), I was told that the youngest scouts were disruptive and lacked a long-enough attention span to make it worth the effort. Yes, 11 and 12-year old scouts are a challenge, but ignoring them is not the answer.

I found more senior counselors encouraging this behavior and failing to stop it. After I spoke with other Scout Masters and adult volunteers, we all paid closer attention to the stations where Merit Badges and other skills training occurred. Fortunately for all, the younger scouts then had a better experience and certainly learned more.

One young counselor, aged 16, was teaching the Pioneering Merit Badge; a difficult skills badge and not popular for that reason. I found him to be well-educated on the subject, and he understood the basic physics behind things such as why a diagonal spar is necessary to build a stable trestle. I gave him a written letter of appreciation for his professionalism. The young man asked me for advice, and I said that he should do his best to avoid learning bad habits.

It is better not to learn bad habits than to learn them in the first place and then unlearn them. Such is the way humans operate psychologically and is no surprise to those of us who made more than our share of mistakes as children. Some, for example, begin to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol at a young age then have a difficult path to stopping it before their health is damaged.

Thanks to the Scout Masters, many bad habits were avoided at this Scout Camp. We all arrived home safely last night after nearly six days in the heat, humidity, and stormy weather. At our next scout meeting, our Senior Patrol Leader (a boy scout who is the elected senior leader) told me he plans to talk about these bad habits and what to do about it.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “Don’t Learn Bad Habits

  1. Wesley Brown

    Gen. Satterfield, I’m sure you are glad to be back. I monitored the weather while you were gone and saw that the temperatures and humidity were high. You were lucky if there were no heat injuries.

    1. Edward M. Kennedy III

      Only a few can withstand the rigors of the weather and responsibilities of leadership. I’m happy to see that so many young boys were able to successfully navigate the waters of leadership on the campout.

      1. Kenny Foster

        Great to see you on Mr. Kennedy. I look forward to your next article.

  2. Lynn Pitts

    Keep up the great work, Gen. Satterfield. These are the kind of articles I do really enjoy. Also, please continue your scout camp series so we can see the experiences with young boys. Also, if you have any info on how the girls did at boy scout camp, let us know that too.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Yes! I look forward to how girls in scouting is working out.

      1. Tony B. Custer

        We look forward to it. Please give us your honest opinion. I’m sure there weren’t many girls there so we should be careful to extrapolate that info as representing all girls in the program.

      2. Bryan Lee

        I’m sure there isn’t much written on the topic that’s not infected with political correctness.

  3. Greg Heyman

    Gen. Satterfield, thank you for bringing up this topic. Too many of us begin our lives on the wrong foot. I know that from personal experience. Learning how to do things the right way, the first time is easier and less stressful. But for some reason, too many of us haven’t figured that out yet. Here is a good article from Reader’s Digest on how to unlearn them:

    1. Forrest Gump

      I agree. Great article. Quotable quote, “A regained sense of joy and control is worth its weight in gold, and the physical health benefits will be substantial as well.”

      1. Eric Coda

        You got that right, Forrest. My mother always said, “don’t do stupid.” Of course, I ignored her and paid a price.

    2. Willie Shrumburger

      Thanks Greg. I read the article and enjoyed it. Some habits, however, are not so simple to overcome.

  4. Janna Faulkner

    This is likely to be one of the biggest problems any of us face, especially as youngsters. How to avoid the pitfalls of bad habits and learning how to succeed in the world when our peers are trying to pull us down to their level.

    1. Harry B. Donner

      “If only ….” Oh, how that has been said over the centuries. Learning bad habits, to begin with, is something we all should be avoiding. Why do we do it in the first place?


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