For No Name-Calling Week, a reminder that words can hurt

Idiot! Retard! Geek!

Has a Scout in your unit called another Scout one of these names—or worse? If so, did you take action?

No Name-Calling Week begins today, so it’s an excellent time to remind Scouts and Scouters that these “harmless” insults can do real damage to a boy or girl.

In October, during National Bullying Prevention Month, I shared four ways to raise awareness about the kind of bullying that may be happening in your pack, troop, team, or crew. Click here to read that important message.

But this week, I’m zeroing in on name-calling, the one-word attacks that might not seem like bullying but can still harm your Scouts.

In an informal survey earlier today, I asked our Facebook fans whether they’ve ever heard a Scout call another Scout an insulting name. As of the time of this writing, 83 percent of respondents said yes.

So it’s a problem, but what do you do when you hear it at a meeting or outing?

Here are three ideas from your fellow Scouters:

  • “Nip it in the bud. I ask the offending party where the name calling fits into the Scout Law. And of course, when they can’t come up with an answer…” — S.M.
  • “While some degree of teasing is expected at this age group, ‘name-calling,’ that is comments that are hurtful to another, must never be tolerated. The Scout Law guides here and if boy leaders do not step on it, then adults must.” — S.H.
  • “It happens in my team. I remind them that they are brothers in Scouting and should love one another.” — C.F.

Seven more ways to stop name-calling in your Scout unit

  1. Intervene whenever you hear an insulting name. This can be as simple as saying, “We don’t use that word in our troop.”
  2. Set specific rules in your pack, troop, team, or crew that say name-calling isn’t tolerated. Let the Scout Law be your guide.
  3. Ask an older Scout to be your unit’s  “name-calling” watchdog. When he sees it, he should speak up or inform the Senior Patrol Leader or Scoutmaster.
  4. Get parents involved if a Scout’s name-calling doesn’t stop or gets out of hand.
  5. Treat Scouts and other Scouters with respect, and don’t do any name-calling of your own.
  6. Put up anti-bullying signs or posters at your unit meeting site. Have Scouts create them.
  7. Play a game, such as this clever apple activity developed by the Kamaron Institute.

What else has worked to stop name-calling in your unit? Share your tips below.

10 thoughts on “For No Name-Calling Week, a reminder that words can hurt

  1. You’re getting a bit of press for this post on gay-related news blogs. Can you elaborate on your concerns, if they exist, regarding name calling related to gay epithets? I expect a short-load of communication coming your way in that regard. I humbly suggest it might be best to address quickly in this thread.

    • Scot,

      As your may know, the concept of “no name-calling” is discussed in the Boy Scout Handbook. For 100 years, Scouts have been instructed to use respect in dealing with others and to live by the Boy Scout Oath and Law, which teaches Scouts to be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”

      Scouting respects everyone’s right to have and express different opinions and teaches its members to use courtesy and respect at all times — even with those with whom they may disagree or who are perceived to be different. In Scouting, to disagree does not mean to disrespect and is never an excuse to “call names.”

      I hope this answers your question.


  2. I would submit that calling an entire group of people “not morally straight” without regard for the personal behavior or character of the individuals in the group is a form of name-calling. I agree that Scouts should stop doing it.

  3. name calling is an issue that you would like to stop…but what about the issue of LGBT people not worthy to be in the boy scouts? How can you sit there and say that name calling is harmful but discrimination against a group of people is not?

  4. The problem with the BSA (not Scouting) is that it has, for some years, been hijacked by right-wing religious groups, namely the Mormon Church and the Church of Rome. I have no legal problem with the BSA – it being the private group SCOTUS has found it to be – discriminating as much as it cares to, even though I find it disappointing. However, if BSA wishes to continue so operating, it must move away from the public trough and should have its Congressional Charter revoked. If you want to be private, quit acting like you’re an “inclusive” organization. I am an Eagle Scout and very much dislike what the BSA has become under its current and recent theocratic leadership. Most Scouting organizations around the world do NOT discriminate. If the present policies continue, I see the BSA becoming more and more irrelevant.

    • As BSA has become more conservative since the 1980’s, it has gradually moved more and more away from the public trough. Ironically, movement away from public funding has served to make BSA even more conservative, not less. The BSA now operates almost entirely from funds gained from its relationships withe the LDS, Catholic, and Methodist churches. Any change in BSA’s anti-gay policies would almost certainly result in the loss of at least one of those funding sources, if not all three. Such a loss of conservative church funding would be a financial catastrophe to the BSA. The BSA would cease to exist in its current form it it lost this funding.

      Starting the the 1980s the BSA made a conscious decision to re-focus on the needs of conservative churches. That decision reached a tipping point in 2000 with their argument to the Supreme Court that BSA teaches that homosexual behavior is immoral. Since then, BSA has lost a majority of its public funding, and is now almost completely financially beholden conservative churches.

      If you want to know the future of the BSA, just examine the future of the LDS, Catholic, and conservative Methodist churches. The fait of the BSA is now tied to these churches. Chances are, the BSA will be around for a long, long time, because these are strong and well-established churches that won’t go away for the foreseeable future, if ever. But close ties to such churches means that BSA can no longer serves the needs of all boys the way it used to, especially in the increasingly religiously pluralistic society of the U.S.

      Myself, as an Eagle Scout, am sad that there is no longer a BSA that serves the needs of my family and that I can send my three boys to. Fortunately, there has been an explosion of other youth development options, so my boys are doing alright. But I do wish BSA was still available an option for us.

  5. I think the BSA should lead their own program on bullying, not follow one run by GLSEN. The KKK may one day have good ideas on nutrition, but I would not want to partner with them. Tolerating and accepting are two different things. Values are something one should stand for. Again, the BSA should be leading their own way, not follow.

    • I’d argue that the BSA is leading the way on this issue. Though we could all do more, the Scout Oath and Law has been the guiding principle for decades. If a boy is being Loyal, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, and Brave, he shouldn’t be bullying.

  6. I find your topic very interesting in light of what appears to be happening in my grandson’s troop. What happens if the bully is also the Senior Patrol Leader, the only scout who wanted the position? What happens if that Senior Patrol Leader has assured a younger go getter scout (not my grandson) that he will NEVER be elected to Order of the Arrow and he (the Senior Patrol Leader) will insure it NEVER happens? What happens if the Scoutmaster and the Assistant Scoutmaster are never arround when the bullying happens and say “Well, I’ve never observed it?” What happens if the Senior Patrol Leader’s mother is also on the board and has a very similar personality trait? What happens if the Senior Patrol Leader wants the authority but none of the work, but has been elected for a year?
    Eagle Scouts run in our family–great grandfather, grandfather, uncle, and now our grandson who wants to be a scout, but it seems to me that something very basic has changed in scouting with the “Scout run” troop. That concept is dependent on boys who have strong leadership qualities. If the Boy Scouts of America want to recruit more scouts, then they are going to have to address the scout leadership problem. Anyone elected to Senior Patrol Leader should already have had leadership training as a Patrol Leader, as well as leadership training to take on the responsibility of being a Senior Patrol Leader. None of this is happening in my grandson’s troop here in Michigan.
    I would welcome your thoughtful response to what appears to be a disappointing trend in scouting. Sincerely, Donna Burk

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