Letting them fail

Some of my scouts have disappointed me by repeatedly failing to behave responsibly despite numerous reminders. Their inaction has stonewalled an important training activity, one into which I put a great deal of effort. In discussing the situation with our District Executive, I received a small but potent piece of advice: “It’s time to let them fall on their faces.” He said it is often the hardest thing to do, but that it is also the best. Mr. Rupert, who is a lifelong scouter, said that he wishes his troop master had let him fall on hisĀ faceĀ more often, that it would have done him good. He noted that making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn and that scouting is a safe environment in which to fail, and I agree. Many have heard me say that “I learn best by making a mess and having to clean it up.” Unlike in later life, the mistakes these young adults make here will probably not have hugely detrimental consequences, and they can be very effective learning tools.

So, I told these scouts that hounding them about their duties is not an effective use of my time, and, as I have seen, it is actually a disservice to them and their shipmates. In this missive I noted that most of them have been with the ship for about a year, that I know all of them well enough to honestly say that they are very good people with great potential, that I am pleased and honored to be working with them, and to be witness to their growth and maturation, and that it is time to let them fail.

My intention is to prevent mistakes that would affect health and safety. I will continue to tell them what is needed, to make myself available for consultation and as a resource, and leave the rest up to them. If they neglect their duties, they will experience natural and logical consequences that may also affect their fellow scouts. The time has come for them to raise their canvas and sail.
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