Watch your mouth

During our last camp out I was forced into a situation that I am sure most if not all Scoutmasters hope that they never have to deal with.  I was sitting with the Assistant Scoutmaster when from over in the Scout area of camp I heard a word that got my attention.  I jumped from my chair and offered an ultimatum to the Scouts.  Use that language and find yourself on the “uninvited” list.
A Scout is clean in thought, word, and deed.  Living that part of the Scout Law that is Clean does not stop at brushing your teeth.
That sad part is that it’s not just the older Scouts that seem to have trouble with their language.  I have heard on occasion some of the younger Scouts using foul language.  Now, we do not encourage the use of foul language in our Troop and never model that language ourselves.  I will not say that I am a saint, but never use bad language in front of the boys… never.
I would love to say that this is isolated and I wish I had a solution.  I do a lot of volunteer work at the High School as well as the Elementary School that my wife works at.  I am shocked (not offended) when I hear how some of the kids talk.  3rd and 4th graders that swear like merchant marines.  High School kids that can not get through a sentence without throwing a four letter word out there.  And so it is no surprise that we are hearing this kind of language in Scouting.
The older Scouts are typically the worse and no matter how many talk withs we have they do not seem to care how we feel about the issue.  It is comply till the Scoutmaster leaves then back at it.
I have a few Scouts that fall into this category, and you can always tell a difference when they are not around.  But those are the guys that really need to be there and it would be great if they stepped up and led by example… well I suppose they are leading by example, its just not the example we want them to be teaching.
I am not naive’  enough to think that bad language is not just becoming a part of the world today, in fact it’s pretty much always been there.  We try to teach good manners, values, and social norms to our Scouts.  The rub comes from the social norms that they learn at School, Home, and with their peer groups outside of Scouting.
So how do we fix this?  I am not sure, but what I do know is that we don’t condone it and we nip it when it happens.  Is it going to stop.  No.  And truth be told I won’t fight it either.  I will just ask that they not talk that way and oh by the way.. you don’t get to camp with us till you decide that you want to watch your mouth.
I had a long talk this last Saturday with the Troop about language.  I was once told that the mark of ignorance is foul language.  You will never be considered “Cool” because you can drop and “F” bomb and you will not be looked upon favorably by those that matter in life when you talk and act like an idiot.  There is not excuse for it and we can’t have it in our program.
I suppose I am taking the easy way out by uninviting young men to camp with us because they fail to live up to a simple part of Scouting… but I am a Scoutmaster not a baby sitter.  I am a parent to my kids and a role model to others and when it comes to the Troop… the many over rule the few.
If you have suggestions or thoughts… please share them.  This issue seems to be getting worse and I know that me and other readers could use some additional knowledge in this area.
Thanks in advance for sharing…
Have a Great Scouting Day!


  1. Hi Scoutmaster Jerry, we had a similar issue this past weekend on our campout. I asked for a Scout if the Scout Law could be used here to help us clarify the expectation that we pledge ourself to as Scouts. The Scouts quickly grabbed a BSA Handbook and read the definition of a Scout is Clean. Then I asked our older Scouts to help us define the behavior of “a Scout is Clean”. Finally I asked our Scouts what language is “appropriate” and what language is “inappropriate”.
    I believe similar to a good coach we need to ask the right questions. A inexperienced baseball coach for example will tell his player to “watch the ball”. This is similar to a parent telling or shouting at their teen to “turn down the music”. Yet a good coach would ask their player better questions for example: “are you watching the ball?” and “what direction are the laces spinning as the ball comes toward you?”.
    It’s amazing to me that when asked of an 11 year old or a 15 year old – they already recognize when foul language is inappropriate. I challenge scouts to articulate their feelings with appropriate words that show the extent of their vocabulary. I find our Scouts can be treated as mature people and when given permission they can find appropriate language to describe their feelings OR they may simply be a little more cautious when camping knowing the Scoutmaster can hear almost everything and will ask an appropriate question. 🙂

    Make it a great day!

    Your friend,



  2. I view language as simply on of the many missteps that provide an opporunity for coaching. Of the many things that teenage boys don’t do perfectly all the time, I think that apply the death penalty for a language transgression is a bit harsh because there are many other things that they might do not in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law that wouldn’t result in them getting sent home. For example, if we’re going to focus on Clean, a no tolerance standard would result in every Scout under the age of 13 being sent home on the 3rd day of summer camp for wearing the same clothes that he arrived in.


  3. Is isn’t just foul language that one needs to consider. Facebook postings is another area of role modeling that needs to be thought about that I feel impacts retention and recruitment. I remembered posting up a joke that I thought was funny only to have a Troop Committee Member questioned me on it from a role modeling position. (I had just come back to Scouting after a 3 year absent and became a new Scoutmaster so several Troop members and their children are on my Facebook list). It really made me stop and look at it from another perspective. I apologized while quickly removing it. Thanked them for the insight lesson and quickly changed my posting ways. (I was never one for foul language but realized some of the jokes/ pictures I posted needed a second look/thought.)

    The next Scoutmaster went through the same thing as me by the same Committee Member and their reaction was so different from mine that I felt they missed a really valuable lesson being taught by a wise Scouter. Many times I’ve been bothered by that Scoutmaster’s posting which included foul language. I got to see the end result of no new crossovers joining the unit and feel that Scoutmaster and their Facebook are one of the factors of consideration in NOT joining the unit that the parents looked at yet they don’t even seem to see that the lesson the wise Scouter was trying to point out. Worse part is while my exchange with the other committee member was worked out quietly (removing the post) and via private email discussion with an openness on my part to receive the lesson in its good intention, the other Scoutmaster blew theirs up on their wall for several days with the wise Scouter at fault and much talk about the wise Scouter ‘defriending’. That wise scouter IS WISE and it pays to be open minded in looking at things from another perspective because sometimes one’s own viewpoint can be narrower than one thought.


    1. Language is not the worse thing that can happen, I agree… and no it is not a death penalty offense in our troop either. It is one of those things that once identified is expected to change though. When there is no change I view it as a lack of respect and that is when the “un invites” come out.


  4. There is school of thought that I like using to teach on foul language:
    Challenge them to be seen as ‘educated and having class’ (not using foul language) rather than ‘stupid/ ignorant and having no class’ (need to use foul language to cover up their weaknesses) because respect is earned through their ‘class’ action of how others see them more than how much foul language they use. (Class = a person of quality) Next time they use foul language, ask them if they haven’t got ‘class’ because if they did they wouldn’t need to use foul language.


  5. I agree with you Jerry, foul language should have no place in Scouts. I’d like to add that “adult” (sexual) topics have no place in Scouts either. I’m interested to know: Have you had any problems with your Scouts making sexual jokes or references? And, if so, how do you deal with it?

    As an 18 year old Assistant Scoumaster who just recently aged out Scouts, I can share some first-hand experiences. For one thing, I notice a trend currently going on in my troop: the youngest and oldest scouts tend to use little to no foul language, while the Scouts in the middle tend to use the most. Now, I’m pretty sure our troop is the exception here, because I’ve heard just how often highschoolers will swear. Normally, the Scouts who do swear do not do so when around the adults.

    Perhaps most surprisingly, I hear approximately equal amounts of sexual references as I do swearing. Now, mind that it’s not constantly brought up, but it is often the topic of jokes. It really angers me when I hear Scouts talk so carelessly about these things. But most of all, I’m ashamed when I hear adults leaders make similar jokes and references.

    I’m part of a group of Scouts (though, as previously stated, I’m technically an adult now) who never swear and never discuss adult topics. It is important to note that we all have strong Christian convictions and have been homeschooled throughout our lives – avoiding the influences of public school swearing that you mentioned. We know that swearing is never appropriate and we believe that all careless talk about sexual topics is immoral. One of these Scouts has approached others about his disdain for their “adult” jokes. Of course, that wasn’t the end of the problem, but it is important for Scouts to be confronted about these things by their peers, and not just by adult leaders.

    Perhaps one of the best things you could do to prevent bad language would be to instill strong morals within your boys, especially the older ones who will inevitably set the example.

    I hope my comments prove helpful to you, Jerry.

    Yours in Scouting,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s