Some of my friends will know that I’m a leader of an Explorer Scout group and for most of this last week (4 nights in fact) we’ve taken 15 scouts to Snettersham in Norfolk for our annual summer camp.
It’s been a great time and we’ve all come back very tired (and smelly) but definitely smiling.
I’ve had fun, even though it’s been quite tiring, but I’ve learned a few things that I think might help others. So here goes:
- Allowing 10-12 year olds to make their own hot chocolate drinks at 9:30pm is a bad idea. They all put plenty of sugar in their drinks and were wired until well after midnight.
- Every young person has something to offer. You just need to find it and nurture it.
Many of the young people in our group have challenging backgrounds or social situations and it’s far too easy to see what’s wrong. But, with a little structure and focus, almost every young person can be made to shine at something.
- You learn to appreciate hot running water when you’re on a campsite without hot water or a shower cubicle.
- The best sanction for a misbehaving 12 year old football fanatic is to ban him from playing ball games.
- Keeping 10-12 year olds on-task can be quite difficult. The key is to keep them close and keep them busy.
- Try and give clear instruction as to what you want and avoid saying what you don’t want.
This is all about communication and applies to people of all ages but is especially important for children and young people.
When you tell someone what it is you don’t want you give them too much scope to find something else that could be even less desirable that what you’re telling them not to do. With young people this is even more important.
Here’s an example:
Instead of saying “please don’t play football near the tents” say “please play football at the far end of the field”.
With this approach you’re giving clear direction about what’s wanted with little room for manoeuvre.
- Be flexible.
Not everything will go plan all of the time, in life as well as camping. So, it’s vital that you’re open to being flexible.
As an example of camp, we were aiming to go swimming on Wednesday. But by the time we reached the pool after our day’s activities we wouldn’t have had as much time swimming as we’d hoped. So we put it off for a day and it worked out better because we spent loads of time in the pool.
The scouts were disappointed at the time but were less bothered when we explained that we’d get much longer in the pool tomorrow (and it was raining on Thursday so that limited our outdoor activities anyway).
- Work out quickly who can (and can’t) take a joke.
- Encouragement and public recognition will always mean a lot.
Far too few young people receive much in the way of positive affirmation in my view. Many adults just tell them what they’re doing wrong with little thought for what’s going right and what is a good direction to go in.
Even something as simple as showing genuine appreciation for what the young person has done can have a positive impact.
- Never be afraid to say sorry if you’ve done something that someone else doesn’t like. Even if it’s not necessarily your fault. Being a peacemaker will always win more than lose friends.
- Work hard to be the kind of person that the young people might want to grow up into. In my opinion there are very few role models these days (especially male role models) so I always try to be someone who is worth looking up to.
By far this is the most difficult thing to do and maintain and I’m not saying that I’m perfect or that I have all the answers, I’m just saying that I work hard at setting a positive example.
I may add more to this as I contemplate how I’ve done over this last week but if you’re a parent or a leader of some kind of group for young people then I hope that there’s something here that will help.