by Anna Nickson - Colony Service Scouter - Sunnybrook Area (GTR) and Kevin D. Nickson - Area Commissioner - Sunnybrook Area (GTR) (1997)

It is important to realize that all children go through periods of behavioural and/or emotional difficulty. It is also important to recognize that all children are individuals, therefore there is no universal formula for resolving all emotional or behavioural problems. Within the next little while, hopefully, I can begin to offer some insight to recognizing children with difficulties and offer some suggestions to help you, as Leaders find the right approach to aid them.


The most common complaint that I hear is the scenario of the Beaver, Cub or Scout who never sits still. You know, the child whose motor is always running, climbing the walls, talkative. This child is often wrongly labelled as the hyperactive child or as the child with attention deficit disorder, a popular term used these days to label any child who has energy to burn. There are many medical reasons to explain hyperactivity ranging from genetic factors to sugar in the diet. To this day, scientific evidence does not conclusively substantiate all of these claims but there are proven methods, which as adults we can focus on to assist these children so that they can truly benefit from the program that you are offering.


Very often children become distracted because they are bored. By providing a program that combines active games, songs, sports and fresh air with relaxing stories and engrossing badge work there is little time to become bored and less of a chance of becoming distracted. Use this child's energy constructively. Have him assist in running a game, setting up a project etc.



Teach the child to talk to himself in order to guide his own behaviour. You might start with a small card that says "STOP AND THINK" or "CALM DOWN' . These cards act as visible reminders. Then allow him to use these phrases out loud without the card until he can accomplish this silently. Remember to always praise the child when he calms himself down with a pat on the shoulder and a "Good for you, you calmed yourself down". Positive praise (acknowledgement) reinforces appropriate behaviour.


Never underestimate the effect that you have on a child. Children are very intuitive. They may not always hear what you say but they rarely miss what you do.


Speak to the child, not at him. Get down to his level, make eye contact. Have the child repeat the information that he has just heard to make sure that he understands the instructions given or your expectations.


Aggressive behaviour is a normal reaction in young children. It emerges most often when children feel the need to protect their safety, happiness, individual position within the family or group, their inability to verbalize frustration or as a learned response i.e. a parent or leader gives into the child's demands in order to stop the undesired behaviour. By 7-9 years of age children are fairly well controlled, so if the the child still engages in frequent, excessive aggressive acts, parents and leaders need to take swift, serious action to curb the aggressive behaviour.


There are no real statistics as to the number of children who act relatively silly at various ages. Also, there are no estimates as to what percentage of time a child must act foolishly before the behaviour is considered a problem, making it very difficult to determine whether constant clowning should be considered a problem or a sign of general immaturity. Therefore, the concern about clowning/silliness becomes a combination of the amount of the child's behaviour and the parent's and leader's attitude and tolerance about it. Children who feel negatively about themselves try acting like clowns to obtain attention from others. Negative attention is better than no attention at all. Peer influence is very powerful. Peers very often encourage or even provoke a child to act foolishly. Positive or very negative reactions from peers, respected adults, or parents can reinforce clowning in the child who is lonely and desperate for attention. Silliness is very common in young children and absolutely contagious when friends act silly. For some children silliness can continue as a habit if they are not taught appropriate humour. These children may believe that the only way to get the attention that they crave, is to be laughed at. Similarly, they may feel that the only way to be humorous is to be a clown. There is no question that a constant clowner can be very disruptive to a program.

What to do?


Underlying many childhood problems is a feeling of low self-esteem. Children's behaviour is usually determined by how they feel about themselves. Feeling worthless, lacking in self-respect or a lack of self-confidence influences their attitudes and behaviours. We would all agree that children should feel good about themselves, that is, they should have a basically good self-concept, so why are so many children having feelings of inadequacy and how do we help rebuild their self-esteem?

It is important to remember that the best resources that you have on hand are the parents. They know their children . If you have questions or concerns about their child, ask them. Remember that you are not a doctor. You cannot and should not attempt to diagnose a physical or an emotional problem. You are a Leader and you set the pace within your program. Ignoring inacceptable behaviour only condones it. Nagging will only force a child to shut down towards you and the program. Excessive criticism will give a reason for a child to sneak around behind your back to accomplish his goals for acceptance. As a Leader, you have the ability to teach and more importantly, model acceptable behaviour which will benefit the individual child, your program in general and your section as a whole.

by Anna Nickson - Colony Service Scouter - Sunnybrook Area (GTR)