[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.