Kid and Dad are a handful

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    Sam Hosney


    do any of you Scouters out there have any experience taking Scouts to Philmont that are 'a handful' to work with?

    All the adults on our 2009 trek are trying to determine if we're willing to be responsible for a Scout who is by a nice description, is at least a handful, but more like his dad.

    The Scout is not usually bad, but has a very short patience, quick temper, often a bully and has a history in our troop of disruption.

    The adults going were not aware he was going until yesterday, and I'm not sure any of the 3 of us are that willing to deal with him for 2 weeks (trip out and back inclusive).

    What are our options if we get there and he decides it's going to be his way? (a common event) Can we refuse to take him now? We don't have a lawyer in the troop, and can't really afford one.

    He's already paid his money in full, his dad is an attorney and a major league A$$HOLE, and is telling us we have to take him and he will be responsible for him. He apparently is also a little / lot ADD / ADHD / ???

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Scouts: volunteer group. Rather hard to sue!

    Anyhow, if you are stuck with the kid, run him off his legs! Who knows – away from Dad and having to meet your standards, he might be OK.


    Glenn Roberts


    Locale: Southwestern Ohio

    How is dad going to "be responsible for him" if he's not there? (Or are you stuck with dad, too?)

    I'm not a lawyer, so this isn't legal advice. Quite honestly, with 20/20 hindsight as a former Scoutmaster, I'd say stick to your guns, and if dad forces the issue, cancel the trip. Yes, it's sad that one kid can ruin it for everyone – but he's going to ruin it if he goes, too.

    This is a "big" trip, that I assume costs a lot of money. It would be a shame to waste the time and money on a trip where there's a good chance that you won't be able to enjoy yourselves.

    The worst dad can do is coerce the troop committee into firing you – and life's too short, with too many good hikes, to put up with this guy's crap. I once had a father who pulled that stunt on me; he backed down when I offered to let him have the job.

    Stick to your guns.

    Bob Bankhead
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon, USA

    Yes, you can refuse to take him before you go. Once the trip starts, you're stuck with him, and you are legally responsible for him.

    Adult scouting is a volunteer leadership position. You are under NO legal obligation to take anyone anywhere. If the adults are not comfortable having him on the trip, try telling his Dad this and that the only way the kid goes is if Dad goes along to supervise him – think of it as bonding opportunity. If Dad refuses, just refund the kid's money and tell him he's out. If Dad complains, ask him to cite chapter and verse of the appropriate legal statute supporting his position.

    I've had some experience doing this same thing with the Venture unit in the troop when my son was growing up. I organized and led 50 milers on the PCT every summer for several years.

    Just in order to QUALIFY to go on the trip, everyone, child or adult – had to complete the 3-hike training plan AND have the correct gear. As the Venture ASM and the adult who was going to be legally responsible for the group on the trip, my definition of "qualified" was law. Don't like that? Don't go with us.

    In 4 years, I never had a anyone lost, injured, or worse. One year I had to tell the Scoutmaster's son that he couldn't go because his demeanor and actions represented a potential safety hazard for the group. My predecessor had taken the boy on an earlier 50 miler on which this boy's indifference resulted in a severe case of hypothermia. He had not changed in the interim.

    The night before we leave, everyone comes to my place for a full pack layout (minus food), Gear discrepancies are noted and the packs stay at my place. The morning of departure, all deficiencies had to be corrected or you didn't get in the vehicles.

    One of the best lessons we as adults can teach these kids is personal responsibility. Setting limits and abiding by them is an acquired skill, and you learn this by watching. If the parents can't or won't provide it, we as volunteer leaders must. I too have had a Dad challenge my decisions, and he too backed down when faced with my offer to allow him to take over right then and there.

    Joe Clement
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest

    Another ASM and I told our scoutmaster that we wouldn't go on another trip if two kids who consistently caused problems went. He told the parents, they didn't go. You're in a bad place, so I don't really know what to tell you. It would probably do the kid a world of good to go, but it's not worth ruining it for everyone else.

    Tad Englund
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I think Bob is on the right track.
    I would also talk with Philmont and see how they handle this situation and how they handle a boys who needs to be sent home early (I know they have dealt with this kind of thing before).
    I would also talk to your District and Council, asking for there advise and direction. They will be able to help you with the Dad- especially the council.
    My idea would be to set your ground rules and then use your pre-hikes as a proving ground (make the hikes tough). If he can't handle them, then he's out. I would make this the same for everyone.
    BTW, I don't remember anyone having ADD/ADHD when I was a kid (or maybe I was the ADD/ADHD kid?)

    Joe Clement
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest

    I think we all had ADD/ADHD as kids, but it was called being a boy back then.

    Good advice on calling the Council. We have also made parents sign a form saying they will come get their kids if they become unmanageable.

    Glenn Roberts


    Locale: Southwestern Ohio

    I hope you never had this happen, but I've got to know:

    It's all well and good that the parents signed a paper promising to come get their kid if he becomes unmanageable. But, what was your fall-back plan when you made the call, and the parent decided that you were over-reacting, that their kid had not become unmanageable, and that they weren't going to come get him?

    Never had this happen at a Scout event, but had something similar happen at an after-Prom event my Rotary club put on. A girl showed up falling-down drunk. We called her parents to come take her home. Her dad came, talked to her a moment, and told us, "I've been in a lot worse shape than this; I'm not going to make her go home." We explained our next call would be to the police, since she was underage. Father and daughter got in his car and went home.

    paul buzzard


    as an ASM for our troop, and 3 time Philmont attendee, (we went this year), I think you have excellent advise in the posts above. Our group was so good, (they knew each other and from the same troop), I really got to enjoy the interaction of scouts this trip. Was great for all.

    However, one of our sister contingent crews was on the same itinerary as us, and they had a bad trip, due to boy interaction issues. There is so much invested in a trip like this, IMO you need to avoid it at all costs. It can ruin the trip for all, not something you could even want. I would offer talking to council and see if you can simply say no thanks to taking the boy unless his father goes, or something like that. Linking attendence to his parent, given the parent won't attend, would solve the scouts going. Not sure that can happen, but I would pursue that course first. That would be my choice as attending advisor. Problem solved before it gets started. But I am not sure this is "legal", given the boy is a legitimate member and has paid his money. I would work on not having him attend, rather than hoping it would work out. Good luck.

    Joe Clement
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest

    Where I live, most parents still want their kids to behave, so the bluff works pretty well. And you're right, it's probably just a bluff.

    Scott Bentz
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    I would hate to have a kid that is unmanageable on a trip like this. We all know boys will be boys and that's what is fun sometimes. But if a kid is going to stink up the trip for someone else it could make for a LONG 2 weeks. I would use the advice above.

    Talk to the council first. If you feel he needs to stay on the trip do what others have suggested. Make strict rules for pre-trip hikes. Make them hard. Make the kids work together. Who knows, maybe the kid will respond well. You do have to be careful though with a seemingly litigious father. All boys must be judged by the same rules. What if one of the other boys that you like doesn't stack up?

    We made it simple. We only took Eagle Scouts on our trip. They were older boys that we had made a lot of trips with. It was a joy. We just had to keep up.

    John Myers
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Texas


    Philmont is so special that everything possible should be done to make it a positive experience for those lucky enough to go.

    The training/shakedown hike ideas are good. If those do not go well, just inform the dad that his son will not be going this year.

    It is not fair to the other boys to have their Philmont trek ruined.

    Our troop had a similiar issue several years ago and we learned the hard way that it's better to suck it up and deliver the bad news than it is to suffer a bad trek. We will not make that mistake again.

    We shared '10 Rules of Expedition Behaviour' with our scouts this year. It is a humorous way to show what is necessary to work together as a group. It worked great. I'll e-mail it to you if you wish.

    tkkn c
    BPL Member


    Locale: Desert Rat in the Southwest

    This situation is a reason, why you need to set and enforce behavior standards on all hikes and outings. If you let the behavior problems slide on the short hikes and campouts you will have issues on longer trips. It might sound hardheaded, but I learned the hardway. 7 days in the wilderness with a behavior issue is unpleasent at best, and could be a safety hazard. The Scouts are suppose to live by the Scout Law and Oath. I try and get the Scouts to police themselves. It works even better when other Scouts remind the mis-behaving Scout that they are not living the 12 points points of the Scout Law.

    At the same time Scouts need to be Scouts and have fun or they will not enjoy the outings.

    Joe Clement
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest

    I'd like a copy of those rules please…

    Mike Barney


    Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!

    John, Can you post the 10 rules?

    John Myers
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Texas

    Expedition Behavior
    The Finer Points
    Howard Tomb
    A good expedition team is like a powerful, well-oiled, finely tuned marriage. Members cook meals together, carry burdens together and face challenges together.
    A bad expedition, on the other hand, is an awkward, ugly, embarrassing thing characterized by bickering, filth, frustration and burned food.
    Nearly all bad expeditions have one thing in common: poor expedition behavior (EB). This is true even if team members follow the stated rules, such as Don’t Step on the Rope, Kerosene and Food, No Soap in the River, No Raccoons in the Tent, Keep your Ice Axe Out of My Eye, etc.
    Unfortunately, too many rules of expedition behavior remain unspoken. Some leaders seem to assume that their team members already have strong and generous characters like their own. But judging from a few of the campers we’ve encountered, more rules ought to be spelled out. Here are ten of them.

    RULE #1 Get out of bed.
    Suppose your tentmates get up early to fetch water and fire up the stove while you lie comatose in your sleeping bag. As they run an extensive equipment check, pack gear and fix your breakfast, they hear you start to snore. Last night you were their buddy; now they’re drawing up list of things about you that make them want to spit. They will devise cruel punishments for you. You have earned them. The team concept is now defunct. Had you gotten out of bed, nobody would have had to suffer.

    RULE #2 Do not be cheerful before breakfast.
    Some people wake up perky and happy as fluffy bunny rabbits. They put stress on those who wake up mean as rabid wolverines. Exhortations such as “Rise and shine, sugar!” and “Greet the dawn, pumkin!” have been known to provoke pungent words from rabid wolverine types. These curses, in turn, may offend fluffy bunny types. Indeed, they are issued with the sincere intent to offend. Thus, the day begins with flying fur and hurt feelings. The best early morning behavior is simple: Be quiet.

    RULE #3 Do not complain.
    About anything. Ever. It’s ten below zero, visibility is four inches and wind driven hailstones are embedding themselves in your face like shotgun pellets. Must you mention it? Do you think your friends haven’t noticed the weather? Make a suggestion. Tell a joke. Lead a prayer. Do NOT lodge a complaint! Your pack weighs 87 pounds and your cheap backpack straps are – surprise!, surprise!, – cutting into your flesh. Were you promised a personal sherpa? Did somebody cheat you out of a mule team? If you can’t carry your weight, get a motorhome.

    RULE #4 Learn to cook at least one thing right.
    One expedition trick is so old that it is no longer amusing: on the first cooking assignment, the clever cook prepares a dish that resembles, say, Burnt Socks in Toxic Waste Sauce. The cook hopes to be relieved permanently from cooking duties. This is the childish approach to a problem that’s been with us since people first started throwing dead lizards on the fire. Tricks are not a part of a team spirit. If you don’t like to cook, say so. Offer to wash dishes and prepare the one thing you do know how to cook. Even if it’s only tea. Remember that talented camp cooks sometimes get invited to join major expeditions in Nepal, all expenses paid.

    RULE #5 Either A) Shampoo, or B) Do not remove your hat for any reason.
    After a week or so on the trail, without shampooing, hair forms angry little clumps and wads. These leave the person beneath looking like an escapee from a mental ward. Such and appearance could shake a team’s confidence in your judgment. If you can’t shampoo, pull a wool hat down over your ears and leave it there, night and day, for the entire expedition.

    RULE #6 Do not ask if anybody’s seen your stuff.
    Experienced adventures have systems for organizing their gear. They very rarely leave it strewn around camp or lying back on the trail. One of the worst things you can do is ask your teammate if they’ve seen the tent poles you thought you packed 20 miles ago. Even in the unlikely event you get home alive, you will not be invited on the next trip. Should you ever leave the tent poles 20 miles away, do not ask if anybody’s seem them. Simply announce, with a good-natured chuckle, that you are about to set off in the dark on a 40 mile hike to retrieve them, and that you are sorry. It’s unprofessional to lose your spoon or your toothbrush. If something like that happens, don’t mention it to anyone.

    RULE #7 Never ask where you are.
    If you want to know where you are, look at the map. Try to figure it out yourself. If you’re still confused, feel free to discuss the identity of landmarks around you and how they correspond to the cartography. If you A) suspect that a mistake has been made; and B) have experience in interpreting topographical maps, and C) are certain that your group leader is wrong, speak up. Otherwise, follow the group like a sheep.

    RULE #8 Always carry more than your fair share.
    When the trip is over, would you rather be remembered as a rock or a sissy? Keep in mind that a pound or two of extra weight in your pack won’t make your back hurt any more than it already does. In any given group of flatlanders, somebody is bound to bicker about your weight. When an argument begins, take the extra weight yourself. Then shake your head and gaze with pity upon the slothful one. This is the mature response to childish behavior.

    RULE # 9 Do not get sunburned.
    Sunburn is not only painful and unattractive, it’s also an obvious sign of inexperience. Most green horns wait too long before applying sunscreen. Once you’ve burned on an expedition, you may not have a chance to get out of the sun. Then the burn gets burned, skin peels away, blisters sprout on the already swollen lips. Anyway, you get the idea. Wear zinc oxide. You can see exactly where and how thickly it’s applied and it gives you just about 100% protection. It does get on your sunglasses, all over your clothes and in your mouth. But that’s OK. Unlike sunshine, zinc oxide is non-toxic.

    RULE #10 Do not get killed.
    Suppose you make the summit of K2 solo and carrying the complete works of Hemingway in hardcover. Pretty macho, huh? Suppose now that you take a vertical detour down a crevasse and never make it back to camp. Would you still qualify as a hero? And would it matter? Nobody’s going to run any fingers through your new chest hair. The worst thing to have on your outdoor resume is the list of the possible locations of your body.

    All expedition behavior really flows from this one principle: Think of your team, the beautiful machine, first. You are merely a cog in that machine. If you have something to prove, forget about joining an expedition. Your team will never have more than one member.

    Phil Barton
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oklahoma

    Sam, I have some thoughts and experiences for you. Can you please send me your email in a PM?

    Devin Montgomery
    BPL Member


    Locale: one snowball away from big trouble

    Thanks for sharing John! That's brilliant and absolutely right-on!

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    > RULE #5 Either A) Shampoo, or B) Do not remove your hat for any reason.
    > After a week or so on the trail, without shampooing, hair forms angry little clumps and wads.

    I must say this one seems a little out of place compared with the others! Could I suggest at least option C) Carry and use a comb each day?


    Mike Clelland


    Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)


    A comb????

    (note my self portrait)

    David Irvin


    Locale: Central Kentucky

    I think the advice listed above is excellent. Checking with your council and Philmont is a great idea. I think your troop committee could make the decision. I offer my advice from the perspective as a lawyer and as an ASM. First, it is admirable that the BSA and councils promote accommodating disabled scouts. This is a good policy. Sometimes scouting can turn around a kid with a bad home life, and scout leaders who can make a difference in a kid's life are to be commended. However, a kid that persistently misbehaves and makes no effort to follow the rules is a different matter. This creates a safety issue for the other scouts and and the "handful" kid himself. Adult volunteers are more likely to be successfully sued for an injury to a scout than for making a hard decision denying a kid the privilege of attending a high adventure trip because of behavior or fitness issues–if reasonable leaders would have known it was unsafe. That would be a jury issue. However, as a legal matter, I don't see what grounds the Dad could assert to claim his son had a "right" to go on your trip. I can't offer specific legal advice and laws vary in different states but the BSA is a volunteer organization–not a business. If the scout and his lawyer Dad are unwilling to comply with the troop committee's decision, I'd politely invite him to join another troop.

    Chris Lowe
    BPL Member


    Locale: DC Metro

    It is unfortunate that this sort of thing comes up when you are just trying to have fun with some kids and teach them to enjoy the outdoors. I would have to agree with the above in that I would find it hard to believe you are legally obligated to take this little brat anywhere. His dad is clearly using his status to attempt to intimidate you, but he wouldn't waste him time attempting to sue your scout troop over not allowing his son to attend a trip. Even if he does, you shouldn't have any problem showing that he has exhibited bad behavior on previous trips and you saw him as a liability. The time to get sued is when you take the ill-behaved kid with super-lawyer a-hole dad on a trip and he gets hurt. That's when he starts suing folks.

    Two things:

    1. If he decides to sue you, he will be suing BSA (not you) and they can find better lawyers than he is

    2. Have you ever heard of someone suing a company that leads mountaineering expeditions for deciding to leave them behind or not allowing them to continue on the trip they paid for when it is decided they have become a liability? NO. And they don't even get their money back.

    Give the dad his money back and tell him if his son can prove to the troop on shorter trips that he is capable of getting along with everyone then he will be allowed to go next time.

    Mike Barney


    Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!

    Our troop has been through this three times that I can remember. My understanding is that volunteers are volunteers, and are not required to catheterize kids, wipe their butts or put up with their crap, bullying or disruption (or that from their parents) regardless of the organization. (:->) Rumor has it California may have rules to the contrary.

    1) One parent repetitively told us if we didn't advance her kid, that she would pull him out…. Haven't seen her in a couple of years. It's not about not wanting to help, it's about helping the most you can.

    2) We had an uber ADHD kid at summer camp who was also vocally abusive. The second year we asked one of the (totally pain in the a$$) parents to come provide oversight. The parent came, found it was too much trouble, suggested one of the older kids (who paid to come work on merit badges) could take care of his kid, then the parent left for the Casino for the last 3 days… The next year, the parent was required to be there the whole time, but declined, noting we should be willing to take care of his kid on our vacation.

    3) The last one was last year at Philmont. We asked parents what we needed to know about their kids before going, noting really revealing. One of the 17 yr old kids was ADHD, psychotic and Aspersers. Not a bad kid when he took his meds. He quit taking the meds, got violent, complaining about everything, refused to p00p (at least for a few days… then biophysics took over in the middle of the trail to Beaubien:) making it a very ‘memorable trip’ for all. We took a satphone, and called his parents who went to Hawaii for 2 weeks. They swore he was taking his meds, so we should spend more time with him, spend half an hour each morning on what the schedule was for the day, then intermediate discussions through the day. Turns out the kid hid his meds. As a result for 2009, we’ve had an attorney come up with a document that basically lays out what our rules are: We want everyone to have the incredible experience that Philmont can be, and not have to deal with parents looking for a “Baby Sitter of America”. If the adults decide he's not cutting it, he's coming back on your nickel, no questions asked. I don't mean to sound callous, but you have to make a choice: Do you want to do the most good for the most or babysit for a kid who may need help, but their parents need more?

    I can’t help the most kids if I’m having to deal with one who probably shouldn’t be there. If you’re not comfortable with a particular trekker, then I would have no problem not taking responsibility for them.

    Kara Stevens


    I used to be a Philmont Ranger. I was there for four summers and from the sounds of this great forum, things haven't changed too much. I work closely with teens still and am active in the outdoors. You have a definite challenge with this kid. Here's the bottom line: will he ever present a danger to anyone's safety, including his own? I know its not good press, but there have been a few deaths over the last number of decades at Philmont. Not many, and due to various reasons.

    Wild animals, being lost, weather, medical issues, dehydration – alone each is a pain or a slight difficulty for the crew. Together these things present great danger to participants. Philmont, Rangers, and the Backcountry Staff are all VERY serious about safety. If he has to have things his way, then he presents a danger. There are far too many situations in the outdoors – even in the "luxury" of Philmont – where everyone HAS to be able to be part of the team. If he doesn't get his way, will he walk off? There are just too many ways he can exert power and control over the entire crew and get his way. If the other guys are having a bad time due to him, then he wins. Can you imagine an entire search and rescue happening due to him? That's quite the power trip for a teen like that. It will most definitely put a crimp in the trip for the entire crew.

    Seriously, the adults need to group together and approach the father together. The ONLY way he can be responsible for his son's behavior is if he is along on the trek. Then again, does dad just enable the son? Maybe you don't want either one.

    So here's the other side: If you think the kid might actually grow from this experience, not give everyone a hugely horrible time, then the other kids will benefit by learning tolerance, he will mature, and a good time can be had by all.

    Overall though, Philmont is by far NOT Disney Land. Not everyone comes out of there with smiles. Many go home dissappointed due to various reasons. Far more go home having had the most incredible time ever – and all of the great times center around very hard work and being part of a team. The best trips happen with the best planning and solid people on the trek. You have to ask yourself what you want to accomplish from this trip. I know the rest of the boys have worked hard for the money to go, have put in countless hours in planning and training, and are really looking forward to the trip.

    Good luck with this one. Not fun and not easy.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    > One parent repetitively told us if we didn't advance her kid, that she would pull him out….

    I seem to get the impression from much of this that the kid is NOT the source of the problem – rather it is the parent who has created the problem, often by being a lousy parent.
    If so, poor kid.


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