At your first den meeting sit down with the boys and discuss what a den meeting will be like and what you hope to accomplish. Introduce the cubs to the Cub Scout sign. Let them know that you have no intention of wasting your time screaming an hollering at them ( the boys will appreciate that too!) and you will only be using the sign to get their attention. (A whistle is nice to use for rowdy outdoor games)
Have the boys tell you what rules they think would be appropriate for den meetings. You'll be surprised, the boys will be harder on themselves than you would be. They'll be delighted when you decide to throw a rule or two out. Here's a sample Den Code of Conduct written by boys:
- Don't interrupt
- No nasty jokes
- No punching or kicking
- Listen to Akela and don't talk back
- No cussing
- Don't stick your tongue out or spit
- No talking ugly about other people
(You might add a few things, like:)
- Wipe your feet at the door.
- No running or yelling in the house.
Write all the rules on a poster board and display them at every meeting. You might find you need to add something later. You may also wish to review them from time to time.
Once you have your den rules established, you need to find a system to enforce it that will work for you. One system that works well is "THREE STRIKES - YOU'RE OUT". The first time a boy breaks a rule, he gets a warning. The second time, the boy spends 5 minutes in Time Out. (Time Out is an interruption of a child's unacceptable behavior, by removing him from the scene of the action.) A chair off to the side, out of the activity of the den meeting, can serve as the Time Out area. After 5 minutes the boy is asked if he is ready to return to the group. If a boy doesn't control himself in Time Out, he moves on to his third strike. When a Cub commits his third infraction of the Code of Conduct, he is excused from the meeting and must call a parent to come and get him. Have a conference with the boy and at least one parent before he can return to the next den meeting. Be sure to explain the Den's Code of Conduct and the consequences of breaking the rules to the parents of boys in your den at each of our den parents meetings.
There are a variety of ways to keep track of each boy's conduct. The best are the ones which will accentuate the boy's positive behavior instead of the negative.
TICKETS - Use carnival tickets or homemade ones. Give each boy three tickets when he arrives and have him sign his name on each ticket. When he breaks a rule, he has to give you a ticket. For each ticket lost, follow the procedure in the "Three Strikes--You're Out" format. The tickets he has left at the end of the meeting can be placed in a bank. At the end of each month, count how many tickets each boy has in the bank. Reward the boy with the best behavior (most tickets) with a special treat.
MARBLES JAR - Give each boy 3 marbles at the beginning of each meeting. Take marbles away for unacceptable behavior. At the meeting's end, the boys put their remaining marbles in a jar. When the jar is full, take a den field trip as a reward. Don't make the jar too big. The goal will be too hard and the boys will lose interest. A month is about the right amount of time to work toward a field trip. Adjust the size of the jar accordingly.
CARD PUNCHES - Give each boy an index card at the beginning of the den meeting. Have him sign it. If he breaks a rule, ask to see his card and punch a hole in it with a paper punch. If he has no punches at the end of the meeting, give him a special treat.
DEN CANDLE - Light a candle at the beginning of the den meeting. The goal is to keep the candle burning. If a boy misbehaves, the candle is blown out. When the candle has completely burned down, you can celebrate with a field trip or a special treat. The disadvantage with this method is that one boy's misbehavior can spoil it for the whole den. Also, it's hard to keep the candle lit if you are meeting outdoors.
COUP AND BEADS - An Indian coup and beads can be used in conjunction with any of the above methods. The boys can make their own coups out of leather or vinyl. They could be worn on their belts or around their necks. The boys can earn beads for:
- Attending a den meeting
- Coming in uniform with their books.
- Pack meeting attendance
- Participation in pack events (Pinewood Derby, fund raisers)
- Participation in district or council events
- Having no "strikes" at the end of a den meeting
Here are some proven methods that you may want to try with your den:
Use the Cub Scout sign. Don't raise your voice! If you use the sign consistently, the boys will respond to it. If they seem to be becoming lax in their response, make a contest out of it. Se who will respond to the sign first by becoming quiet and holding up their own sign. You could give a special treat at the end of the meeting to the boy who was first the most times.
Make den awards really special. Have a ceremony for Instant Recognition, Passing of the Denner Cord, etc. Just because these awards are made at a den meeting doesn't mean they aren't special and important.
Have a special opening and closing ceremony for each den meeting. This can set the tone for the meeting as well as signal the boys that the meeting has started.
Know your boys! Knowing them will help you understand him better. REMEMBER, every boy is different.
LET BOYS BE BOYS! Let them be rowdy when appropriate. Be sure to give them a chance to let off some steam through songs and games (especially if you meet right after school).
Use a TALKING FEATHER (or stick). A talking feather is a large feather that the boys can pass around. Only the person with the feather may speak. The boys really respect this because they all want a turn.
Make sure your projects are suited to the age and ability of the boys in your den. Don't make it so easy that they could become bored. On the other hand, don't make it too hard.
Supervise ALL activities. Don't just send the boys outside to play. Utilize your assistant den leader and or den chief.
Deal calmly and reasonable with any problems that may arise. Give the boys a chance to tell their side of the story. Your example of fairness will carry over into other aspects of their lives.
Explain the reasons for your rules. Let the boys know there are choices that are made by the leaders and choices made by the boys.
Be aware of your limitation. As a leader you may never know what an impact you could have in a boy's life. However, some things are beyond your control. Do whatever you can do to help a boy but realize that you can't do everything. He will be aware of and remember your kindness and caring.