Mac’s Message #49: Dealing With Unruly Boys (Part 1)

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

Sometimes I have no idea why I feel impressed to write a certain blog message at a given time. But I feel impressed to post this message today. This is part one of a three-part series on the topic of dealing with unruly boys in your Scouting unit.

The first time I served as a Scoutmaster I had three brothers in my unit who were very disruptive and difficult to handle. They were always causing problems for the other boys. Their dysfunctional behavior seemed to ruin every meeting, activity, and Scout outing. I was at my wit’s end wondering how to get through to these boys. Silently I hoped they would move out of the ward so I wouldn’t have to deal with them anymore. But the real answer for handling these boys came to me one morning in prayer.

The Savior once was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus answered saying, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-39).

If you were to ask the Savior what is the most important thing you could do in your Scouting calling I know the Lord would tell you to love the boys whom you serve with all of your heart, soul, and mind. On this hangs everything else you might do as a Young Men leader. I know from personal experience that boys will respond well to the things you do and what you teach when they know you sincerely love them. Discipline problems often will be resolved when love, rather than obedience, is your focus.

Several years ago my wife and I lived in what we considered to be a true Zion ward. Everyone in the ward seemed to be “of one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18). There was an overwhelming, tangible love among the members. We loved seeing each other on Sunday. We loved visiting each other’s homes. We loved fulfilling service assignments as a group. We loved getting together at ward activities—held almost weekly—where even the infirm danced or played volleyball as they sat in their wheelchair or leaned on crutches. Mostly we loved just sitting around talking to one another, learning about each other’s lives, and connecting personally. 

I loved the members of that ward because I knew them. I knew their hopes, dreams, desires, problems, fears, and struggles. I knew their strengths and weaknesses. I knew their successes and failures. I knew that, no matter how humble their situation in life might be, they were trying to do their best. They were good people. They were children of our Father in Heaven.

It’s hard to love people we don’t know, particularly if they are a confused, belligerent, irreverent, non-responsive, or disrespectful young man. But the closer you get to a boy, and the more you get to know him, the more you will love him—and he you. When you go to where a boy is—in his home, at his school, where he works, or where he plays—and he sees your sincere interest in him, the barriers will crumble and you and he will see eye to eye. That is when you will be in a better position to bond spirit to spirit and soul to soul. That is when you will be in a better position to deal with an “unruly” boy.

John said of Jesus, “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). This is true of you, too. The boys will love you to the extent they feel loved by you. They will respond better to your counsel and guidance when they know you are doing it in a spirit of love rather than an attempt to discipline.


Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Can you say you truly love each boy under your stewardship? Have you taken the time to get to know each boy personally and individually?
  • Does your love extend to the inactive, less active, or “unlovable” boys entrusted to your care?
  • Can the boys feel your love? Is your love tangible rather than assumed?
  • Are you the type of leader the boys can love in return?
  • Do you go out of your way to visit the boys in their homes or to attend other activities and events in their lives?


Turn Your Reflection Into Action

  • What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?


“I know thy heart, and have heard thy prayers concerning thy [young men]. Be not partial towards them in love above many others, but let thy love be for them as for thyself; and let thy love abound unto all [young] men, and unto all who love my name” (D&C 112:11).  


-Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.

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  1. Michael G. says:

    Getting to know a Scout is a good first step probably essential. Some boys are unruly because they like it and have no intention of being ruly. Others are bored. Some need attention and will take it any way they can even if negative attention.

    In an unusual (for LDS anyway) strategy, we put all the unrulies in the same patrol. Two things happened — the other two patrols advanced with considerably less disruption, but the greatest growth was among the unrulies that now had only each other to disrupt and they were already disrupted. The only direction for them to go was “Scouting” since they were already 100 percent disrupted.

    It is worth remembering that Scouting is a voluntary organization for both leaders and Scouts. If the problem is not quickly controlled you’ll lose volunteers and Scouts.

    The parable of the lost sheep is informative. The shepherd went looking for a lost sheep, and on finding it, returned to the flock to find the other 99 now missing. It was so much fun for the lost sheep getting 100 percent of the shepherd’s attention that it became a daily adventure.

    When I was a boy scout the disruption was total and constant and I dropped out of Scouting as it was doing nothing for me (or anyone else). I did not attend mutual for several years until persuaded to become an Explorer.

  2. Stanley Stolpe says:


    You are spot on. I recall being called as a Scoutmaster in a Ward there was one youth that all the other picked on. He hated going to Scouting and just as soon cut-up as settle in. The other youth made this difficult.

    After prayerful consideration, it occurred to me that by keeping him close to me during meetings and sheltering him under my love for him, the other boys would know that I loved him and they would have to go through me to get to him.

    The net results were that because I loved him and found him acceptable, they could to. It changed the attitude of the boys as well as the spirit of those young men as a whole.

    Excellent topic; excellent article.


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