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Suffer, or Take a Stand?

October 2, 2009

Recently, I was faced with a difficult decision.  It regarded a girl in my Girl Scout troop who was a constant behavior problem.  She was disruptive, back-talked, wouldn’t sit still, etc.  She was in my troop for two years and no matter what I tried, she would not settle down.  The troop meetings were as much about getting her to behave as they were about the other girls learning new things and earning patches.

Worse yet, this girl’s parents never attended the meetings.  They didn’t even drop her off and/or pick her up.  I provided her transportation.  There was no parental involvement whatsoever.

At my co-leader’s insistence, I spoke with her mother about this girl’s behavior.  Mom’s solution was for me to threaten the girl by saying I would  call her dad.  Well, I tried that and it worked for about ten minutes the first few times I tried it.  After that it lost its effect because, well, I never made the call and dad never showed up.  Even a six year old knows a hollow threat when she hears one.

So when it came time to re-register the girls in the troop, my co-leader and I chose not to bring this girl back into the troop.  As first-year Brownies, the program is going to be much more activity centered this year, and we were tired of interrupting our troop activities every five minutes to try and get this girl back on task.

Today her mom finally called after at least two requests that she get in touch with me.  When I told her that my co-leader and I did not want her daughter to return to the troop, she was understandably upset.  I compromised and said that if she wanted to bring her back for this year’s program, she could… provided that she or her husband stay at the meeting with her to correct her misbehavior.

I pointed out that it wasn’t fair to me, the other leader, or the girls in the troop to have to interrupt our activities several times in the course of our meeting.  Mom works as a teacher.  She knows this is the truth.

Yet she was still angry with me.  Granted, she had some reasons to be.  For starters, I should have said something to her sooner instead of being a coward and avoiding the subject all summer because it was an unpleasant one.

Frankly, I think most moms would be horrified that I would kick a girl out of the troop. I’m imagining a lot of  angry responses like “how could you?” and “would you want someone to do that to your child?”  (To which I say no, but (a) my daughter is generally well-behaved and (b) when she does act up, I’m there to correct her.)

It all boiled down to this: I focused on the needs of the troop as a whole instead of being a politically correct, nicey-nice doormat.  As a result, our first meeting went smoothly, everyone left there being excited about the year ahead, and I was eager to start planning our next meeting.

What would you do in this situation? Continue to let the girl and her slacker parents (by virtue of their absence and total lack of involvement) derail the troop meetings… or take a stand and risk hurting someone’s feelings?

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