Responding to bad behaviour

Back to Unit 15

Be positive but realistic. It is likely that every young person at some point will show bad behaviour.

If low level behaviour is occurring in the section as a whole, here are some useful techniques:

  • Sit them down and try to time a minute in silence. When they think a minute is over, they stand up.
  • Clapping game. When they’re noisy all the leaders clap then slap their own thighs which is repeated. Gradually the children join in and they become quiet.
  • Do a short burst of physical activity such as running around the room, begin a game of ‘Simon says’, get them to jump in the air as high as they can and then crouch down low for example.
  • Do something else for a few minutes then go back to what you were saying later.

These tips can support you in responding effectively to more serious incidents:

  • remain or appear calm
  • speak firmly but quietly, and give the young person their personal space
  • focus on de-escalating the situation and maintaining a safe environment
  • don’t take it personally and don’t be quick to make assumptions
  • remember, bad behaviour always has a cause; it can be beneficial to consider what a young person may be communicating through their behaviour

Following incidents, reflect, review and plan ahead Once the incident is over, discuss what happened, the actions taken and any lessons to learn for the future.

  • support young people to manage their own behaviour and make positive choices
  • be aware of any warning signs and seek to respond before a situation escalates
  • don’t try to fix everything at once; prioritise and focus on the one issue at a time
  • use the principles of promoting positive behaviour.
  • seeking a different perspective and sharing experiences can be beneficial.
  • support is available; seek help when you need it. If in doubt, always speak to your line manager and ask for help

Reflection and review should focus on answering the following questions:

  • What may have been the cause or trigger?
  • How did the leadership team respond? Was it appropriate? Was it effective?
  • Were there any warning signs?
  • How can we avoid the situation occurring again?
  • How should the leadership team respond next time? Is further adult supervision needed in section?
  • What can the young person do differently next time? How can we support and empower the young person to do this?
  • Are principles and strategies for promoting positive behaviour the section?
  • What if behaviour continues?

Seek support from your Group Scout Leader (GSL) or line manager in Scouting.

For continued bad behaviour, it is important to work in partnership with the parents/carers. All should be clear of the next steps – working out a process that contains defined boundaries and times scales is important so that everyone is aware of the process and how it is going to happen. If after this period has concluded, there is still an issue, then bringing in support from the Group Scout Leader is important. Once you have reached this stage, your GSL in consultation with the District Commissioner, will advise you of the process which is also contained in Policy, Organisation & Rule (

Remember that any behaviour that represents a serious threat to the welfare of others should be reported through the Child Protection procedures (Yellow Card).

Discuss behaviour with the parent or carer

Below are some suggested questions to help frame a conversation with the parent/carer of a young person who has been displaying bad behaviour in Scouting. These questions could also be used to help plan ahead for a new Member who you are aware has behaviour difficulties.

This is a sensitive topic so it is important to maintain a positive and open relationship with the parent/carer; working together to support the young person to access Scouting. Where there is repetitive bad behaviour or the bad behaviour is severe, you may wish to seek some more support from your Group Scout Leader, Assistant District Commissioner (Section) or Assistant District Commissioner (Inclusion). You can also seek support from the Inclusion team at Headquarters, via

Focus on the behaviour rather than the young person, and the impact this is having on the young person’s ability to access, enjoy and develop in Scouting. Stick to the facts of what has happened and focus on planning ahead, to support the young person to manage their behaviour in the future.

  • [Name] seems to struggle at times with their behaviour. Does this happen anywhere else?
  • Are there any recognised triggers for the behaviour at home or school?
  • Are there any situations where [name] will find it difficult to cope?
  • What methods/strategies have worked well at home or school, to discourage the behaviour?
  • What support strategies have worked well at home or school, to encourage positive behaviour?
  • What do you do at home when the behaviour occurs?
  • What happens at school when the behaviour occurs?
  • Is [name] on any medication?
  • How do you think we can best support [name] with their behaviour at Scouting?
  • How do you think we can best support [name] to manage their behaviour?

Back to Unit 15