How to make amends for disruptive behavior in a library?
November 19, 2009 11:13 AM   Subscribe

A group of 11-year-old kids under my wife's supervision got out of control and were disruptive to the library they were meeting in. How can we make it up to the library/ its patrons, and ensure that something like this doesn't happen again?

My wife is a newly-minted Girl Scout leader (in the last couple months or so). The troop that she leads has been meeting at a nearby library for some time (for a few years). At their last meeting, the girls got very loud; their sounds carried from their closed room to the farthest corners of the library. The people working at the library were not happy with the situation, but they gave no indication that the troop was no longer welcome at the library. My wife apologized for their conduct, but she's still mortified, and is too embarrassed to go to the library again without making some sort of change to the situation- either a new method of interacting with the girls, some sort of gesture to the library, or both. She may attempt to find a new meeting spot for the girls, but she still wants to make amends to the library.

Some background (please note that this is almost entirely second-hand through my wife):

The girls are mostly a set of mutual friends that don't see each other much outside of Girl Scouts. They don't seem to see Girl Scouts as a vehicle for learning/ new activities, so much as an opportunity to socialize. An appreciable number of them seem to compete to be the center of attention, resulting in escalating loudness pretty much whereever they go. Among the girls in the troop is my stepdaughter, who is a little loud herself, though by no means the loudest or least controlled of the group.

My wife is frustrated that, for years now, this particular troop hasn't focused around building skills or developing character or anything that she thought the Girl Scouts were about. She's been frustrated with the previous Girl Scout leaders and what she thought was their incompetence, but now that she's in the leadership position herself, she admits that she still has learning to do about how to get these kids to behave more appropriately.

So, back to the question. I suggested to my wife that perhaps she could kill a few birds with one stone by getting the kids to organize a book drive for the library, but after reading this, I'm not sure that's a good idea. What can we do to make it up to the library and avoid causing problems for them in the future? If it's something that encourages personal development for the girls, that's a great bonus, but it's not a necessary component of the question. This question is intended to be fairly open-ended; if you feel the need to question my premises or address something that you feel I haven't given due attention to, that's okay by me. This is my first post to AskMe, so I apologize in advance if this is poorly worded or inappropriate.
posted by a snickering nuthatch to Human Relations (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Handwritten apologies from all the girls to the library. The fault doesn't lie with your wife. 11 years old is old enough to exercise self-control when you're in public. The girls didn't do anything morally wrong, but they did violate a regulation that makes libraries useful to the rest of the population. A book drive is a nice bonus.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:17 AM on November 19, 2009 [14 favorites]

If your kids just disturbed a few people by being loud (kids are loud, big surprise), I don't think you should do anything for the library other than control the girls' behavior next time you go back.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:21 AM on November 19, 2009

I would call or meet with somebody in charge at the library and ask what they need. Perhaps a fundraiser would be great; maybe they need volunteers to do some simple tasks that 11 year olds could easily manage. That would kill several birds with one stone and should include a general apology for the loudness of the last meeting, which will probably go a long way towards making the library feel more kindly towards your scouts. Anyway, I'd ask them before I did anything else.

Oh and 11 year old girls want to socialize more than they want to do anything, so realize that getting the meetings to be about anything other than social time is always going to be an uphill battle.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:23 AM on November 19, 2009

Have them recite the Girl Scout pledge (from memory) to the librarians when they deliver their apology letters.
posted by chocolatetiara at 11:23 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Its about teaching the kids a lesson. An individual or joint letter apologizing will work wonders.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:25 AM on November 19, 2009

An appreciable number of them seem to compete to be the center of attention, resulting in escalating loudness pretty much whereever they go.

Surely this is a common feature of Girl Scout meetings. Could your wife ask some fellow leaders for tips on managing/changing the noise level, and practice implementing the changes with meetings at someone's home until she's confident the girls can keep their conversation at an appropriate noise level?
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:29 AM on November 19, 2009

(My comment above went to your question about avoid causing problems for them in the future--I do like the other suggestions for hand-written apologies from the girls to the library.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:31 AM on November 19, 2009

In all honesty, that just sounds like an iffy troop. The fact that they're meeting in a library shows a disctinct lack of forethought (i.e. PREPAREDness), and/or courtesy; the fact that they don't offer the things you expected is another red flag.

It's going to be near-impossible to change the longstanding culture of that particular troop. Just switch to a better one.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:33 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

There should be resources, training materials, courses, and so forth offered within Girl Scouts to help your wife lead the troop in the direction she hopes for (or at least there ought to be, based on what I know of my father's extensive experience in Scouting leadership).

As for the library staff: after mygothlaundry, I would also suggest that you ask them how they might best harness the girls' boisterous energy to some positive, productive purpose -- not just as 'make up' duty for causing a disturbance, but as an end in itself. As for any formal apology, try to keep it positive.
posted by onshi at 11:35 AM on November 19, 2009

How about setting up some volunteering day with the library where the girls in the troop read stories to younger children and/or teach them about how the library works? I can't find a list of badge projects online (ok, I didn't look very hard), but I'm sure there's something that can adapted to fit that theme.
-the girls get to work on actual Girl Scout stuff,
-they get to organize and plan a volunteer day as a group working with a community organization, which will be a good skill they can use in the future
-they will focus on interacting with others and not just with their friends in the troop
-it will give the library a positive image of them
-it will give the community a positive image of the troop and make the girls enjoy being Girl Scouts
posted by phunniemee at 11:39 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Inspector.Gadget--handwritten apologies would be very nice. Also, ahem, cookies are always a welcome surprise. (I'm joking. Mostly.)

(IALibrarian, but IANYLibrarian.)
posted by teamparka at 11:41 AM on November 19, 2009

The girls are mostly a set of mutual friends that don't see each other much outside of Girl Scouts. They don't seem to see Girl Scouts as a vehicle for learning/ new activities, so much as an opportunity to socialize.

I think the first step is to arrange visits between your step daughter and these girls that aren't structured around Girl Scout meetings. Remember that these troop members don't have their own cars, and so probably can't socialize with one another without some sort of facilitation. Now imagine yourself in the same situation: you don't see your friends often, but when you do, it's only in a professional context where you're expected to get other stuff done. Frustrating, right?

As for improving the troop overall, getting the girls engaged about things that they actually want to do is key. I dropped out of girlscouts right around your step daughter's age, due to two things: 1. The troop leaders were never into doing the activities that I wanted to do (project based stuff like sewing, wood working, painting, ceramics, other arts and crafts as well as camping-oriented stuff) and instead were focused on fashion and community services badges, as well as fundraising and 2. The troop leaders were really bossy and strict about us "behaving" while we did activities that I didn't really want to do anyway, which sapped all of the fun out of it.

Meeting at the library is probably a bad idea, but I wouldn't necessarily assume that because the girls are being loud and/or a bit rowdy that it's not a valuable experience for them. The key is to get them to learn useful skills while they're enjoying themselves.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:46 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

At the next meeting, make the girls aware that their behavior was completely unacceptable, and make them write letters of apology to the library.

If you can't wrangle them into doing that, then I suggest writing letters to the parents. Explain the situation; tell them about the girls' lack of reasonable conduct, and tell them what your intentions are as troop leader: to focus the group around learning skills. Make the girls aware of the fact that you're writing the letters, and tell them what the letters will say. Talking individually with the girls and their parents might help too; you can address each girl on her own, when she's not influenced by the energy level of the group.

The real question is this: are they interested in what the Girl Scouts is all about, or are they interested in socializing? If it's the latter, maybe they could continue to meet, but they should not be affiliated with the Girl Scouts. And it's up to you if you want to be an adult participant of such a group.
posted by cleverevans at 11:52 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Service project benefiting the library.

This link might be helpful. When I went through leader training, it was emphasized that behavior contracts were made for situations like this.

Personally, though, I wouldn't hold meetings at a library. My troop is younger, but we meet at the school. Our meetings are 90 minutes long - the first half hour is dedicated to snacks and socializing, which allows the girls to be more focused for the next hour. We start in the cafeteria and move to a classroom for the "business" part of the meeting, which I think provides a helpful visual cue that it's time to settle down.

Good luck to her, and I hope she sticks with it!
posted by Ruki at 11:54 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Heck, almost any meeting of kids this age can get rowdy. Unless this is the dowdiest dowdy library in dowdy county, they've seen this before.

Apologies, sure, and maybe give the kids some social or physical activity outside library time so they can work together better when they're concentrating on something. Also, good leadership of the meeting, and you tell them that if they get too loud (and don't calm down) then you'll have to end the meeting early.

Better yet though, I'd just have the group meet at a different parent's home each week.
posted by zippy at 11:57 AM on November 19, 2009

Whatever you do, don't do nothing.

Do something. Pretty thank you cards? (Don't be afraid to say "work hard on this!" or to throw away garbage 30 second efforts.

"Troop xxxxx Loves the Blah blah blah county public library!"

Don't do nothing. Doing nothing is telling the girls it was OK and if you're embarrassed you can just walk away and pretend like nothing ever happened, and it shows the librarians that's what they get for hosting youth groups.
posted by TomMelee at 12:06 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

The best thing she can probably do for the library is not take the girls back until they know how to behave.

Apology letters would be good too, or maybe some fundraising for the library.
posted by Solomon at 12:29 PM on November 19, 2009

I was a Girl Scout leader until my daughter chose other activities over Girl Scouts (there are only so many hours in the day, after all). Here are some things that worked for our very large troop:

1/ Set aside time at the beginning and the end of the meetings for socializing. If they know they're going to get time to just talk, they'll be more likely to engage in the troop's activities.

2/ The girls must, MUST be involved in choosing their activities. There are lots of guides and books you can get through the Girl Scouts to help the girls decide what they want to focus on for the rest of the year.

3/ When they're in her charge, she has every right to take control. If, after giving a warning and the girls still didn't quiet down, I would have made the girls go outside the library until they either toned it down or their parents came to get them. And if I was the parent of a girl who made such a disruption, I'd damn well want to know it so we could discuss it at home. Then again, I'm pretty strict about stuff like that

I like the idea of the girls writing apology letters and reciting the Girl Scout pledge when they give the letters to the library.
posted by cooker girl at 12:40 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As a library person, please don't make it about the librarians or the library. I can guarantee you they've seen worse and all they need is to see your wife back in the building with the girls behaving better. Too many people never go back to the library because they were given the impression that they owe something to the staff, on many levels. Please don't reinforce this, many librarians do a plenty good job making people feel guilty about things without help. Many of the responses here are clearly marked by bad librarian experiences of the past. Don't make these girls shame themselves further and then associate that experience with the library and librarians.

Did they shit on the floor? Were they drunk? Did they swear hatefully at the staff then have a seizure? Then it was not such a bad day at the library for the staff despite how embarrassed your wife feels.

The problem as always is about the behavior and its relevancy to the context. It's not about disrespecting this special place, it's about disrespecting the PEOPLE who are trying to use it that are politely adhering to norms the girls are ignoring. The issue isn't that they didn't know how to behave in a library, it's that they were oblivious to the impact their behavior was having on the people around them. This is how preschoolers behave, and 11 year-olds should know better.

So, play the "I can't take you ANYWHERE fun if you can't behave like young women instead of preschool babies" card. Give a positive incentive on a trial run "If you can behave like the young women you are instead of babies today, we'll get to do X afterwards" and if they blow it, follow through by denying X, and so on. Tweens can be motivated into pretending they are adults when the expectations and stakes are high, but in the absence of incentive and the presence of positive social pressure for acting out (center of attention), their behavior will turn for the worse quickly. She needs to use the social pressure to encourage more appropriate behavior instead of less, and with this age, that means lots of carrot and very little stick, especially with someone else's kids.

Also, she shouldn't underestimate the importance of showing strong boundaries with clear consequences now in the aftermath of her embarrassment, because the collective mind of the girls now knows she's weak and cannot control them. She needs to surprise them with her kind-but-firmness and not take a drop more shit from them, and frankly, this will likely require another adult helper to keep the rest on-task if she has to talk outside the room to one who tried to step over the line to see what happened. That's also a powerful disincentive to the other girls, nobody wants to be the center of attention that way, unless they become a rebel martyr, which can be prevented by being a kind-but-firm leader and not a dumb-adult-bullshit leader.

I know this sounds tough, but childhood is all about looking for boundaries and trying to cross them. Especially when dealing with someone else's kids, and without a career of dealing with someone else's kids behind you to guide your hand, it is so critical to show the kids consistently where the boundaries are, and what happens when they're crossed.

Remember, the lesson for the girls is not about the library, it's about being respectful of the humans around you no matter what the situation.
posted by ulotrichous at 1:04 PM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Be sure to inform and involve the parents. I'd even go so far as to send a letter home to each family that says "At a recent meeting, members of the Troop engaged in behavior that was disruptive to other people using the library. This sort of behavior is not only rude, but also reflects very poorly on the Scouts as an organization and our Troop in particular. If this sort of behavior continues to occur at meetings, we may lose access to this space. Below is a list of behavior expectations for future meetings. Please be sure to review these expectations with your child prior to the next meeting on xx date."

And then do the handwritten letters. And then get the girls involved in choosing their activities. Maybe start with a group activity where girls share what they know about the Scouts, and what their reasons are for continuing to be a scout. Have each girl set some measurable goals for the rest of the year (badges, stuff she wants to learn, places she wants to go) and also have the troop settle on a group goal for the year.
posted by anastasiav at 1:07 PM on November 19, 2009

I was a Girl Scout at around that age about ten years ago, and we definitely socialized plenty, but we were also a pretty effective troop that got things done.

For the short term problem with the library, have the girls make some apology/thank you cards at their next meeting and bake some cookies for the library staff. I don't know if reciting the Girl Scout pledge when they present the stuff is really necessary, but definitely have the girls do it themselves. Eleven-year-olds are old enough to take a little responsibility and get the chance to use their judgment.

As for the group in general, could you also mix in some social activities outside the meetings? My troop had sleepovers, lock-outs and -ins, a holiday party/ornament exchange, etc. Making it clear the meetings are for more for getting Girl Scout things done than socializing, while planning some purely social things for the near future might make changing the troop's culture easier.

Is there a park anywhere near the library? You could try adding some physical activity to the meetings- it might get them off track if you do it at the beginning, but doing it at the end might be a nice reward for getting stuff done.

Nthing what someone said above about giving the girls a choice about what sort of badges they earn. If I remember correctly, the official GS guide book thing had badges organized into themed sequences (first aid, camping stuff, technology, community service, etc. etc.). I also remember elements of working towards a goal- bridging to a new level, the various Bronze/Silver/Gold awards, etc. If your wife could plan a few different larger sequences based on things she thinks the girls would be interested, and then gave them a choice, they might feel more invested in the troop. My leader did that to an extent, and it was nice to feel like our activities were part of a larger project and not just random annoyances getting in the way of socializing.

One last note: middle school was about when our troop started to fall apart, mostly through members leaving as they got involved in other things. You might have a few more years, but by the time I was 13 or so I was pretty much over Girl Scouts. Wikipedia informs me that they've changed how things worked for older girls since I was in it, but it's hard to work against the peer pressures of middle school.
posted by MadamM at 1:43 PM on November 19, 2009

The letters, definitely. Might be a chance to make paper, which is easy, fun and involves recycling. I wouldn't tattle to the parents for noise, but I would try to involve parents who had skills. You never know who's a private pilot till you ask.

Look up some activities or badge projects, and present them as a choice. Not, should we do this, but which one? Stuff that allows for socializing but also brings in a new element. Is there a nice walking trail nearby? A visit to an animal shelter will have most girls volunteering in 2 seconds. Once they have fun with 1 activity, they'll be more involved in choosing the next. I purely loved Girl Scouting until Cadets, when we sat in a church basement and talked about hygiene and etiquette.
posted by theora55 at 1:50 PM on November 19, 2009

I agree that writing notes of apology (and thanks!) might help get the point across. Philosophically, I think that creating a service project as punishment (which isn't exactly how its intended, but the girls may think so) sort of goes against the idea of "helping other people because it's a good thing to do".

Until ulotrichous's reminder that librarians deal with this all the time and are probably not too worked up over it, I was worried that a library-help project would quickly turn into a long Saturday of rowdy giggle-Scouts who are no longer confined to the back meeting room, i.e. well-intentioned but maybe not what the librarians want. I'm sure they wouldn't turn down help, but it would make sense to talk with the library about what projects would or wouldn't genuinely help them out before getting too committed to the idea.
posted by aimedwander at 2:31 PM on November 19, 2009

Ditto Inspector.Gadget.
posted by SuzB at 2:48 PM on November 19, 2009

I am a Girl Scout leader. I've been a leader or heavily involved for years, starting when my daughter was a Brownie. Now we are a troop of 13- and 14-year-old Cadettes. I know what your wife is going though. Tell her not to take one incident as a personal failure. :-) If we can get all the girls to sit still for a 10-minute stretch, we feel like it's been a successful meeting. In a few years, those same loud girls will be running the meeting, and your wife will sit there wondering why she ever worried about them. :-)

I was going to suggest a service project as an apology to the library, but ulotrichous' answer makes a lot of sense to me. If your wife still thinks she'd like the troop to do something for the library, might I suggest some bird feeders posted at strategic places so they can be viewed from the comfy reading chairs? The Girl Scout troops in my town have been responsible for 3-4 bird feeders at our town library for years. Some troop in the distant past built them as a project, and various troops have been responsible for keeping them filled ever since. It's a nice project that benefits the library patrons, but doesn't require a huge outlay in time or expense. And the library staff don't have to be involved at all, except to maybe ok you putting something on library property.

Also, your wife's Girl Scout council should have both required and optional training opportunities. I suggest she attend as many as she can, both to learn the Girl Scout approach to handling meetings, but more importantly, to trade tips on what works and doesn't work with other leaders. And maybe another leader has an idea on a meeting place where the girls could run around for 10 minutes to let off steam.

My wife is frustrated that ... still has learning to do about how to get these kids to behave more appropriately.

This whole paragraph could be describing me several years ago. If your wife would like to commiserate or anything, she's welcome to memail or email me.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:56 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

First, show up at the library with cookies and a card for the people who were on duty; apologize in person if they're there, and if they're not, leave the cookies with the card. Acknowledging what happened will give the librarians an opportunity to specify the terms (if any) under which you can return.

Second, cut the Girl Scout Meeting time in half next time, and explain to the girls beforehand that it was due to their noise that you're going to do that, not because the library asked you to but because it's the right thing to do -- and that if they're well-behaved, perhaps next time you can return for the full length.

Third, let the girls know that you'll be looking into other places to meet, places you can be really loud, because you know they want to have fun and a library may not be the best place for that.
posted by davejay at 3:21 PM on November 19, 2009

As far as meeting places, in my experience cub scout dens met after school in shared "wet areas." In retrospect I doubt that term I learned in elementary school means anything, but each pair of grades had shared hard tile area that made a good recreation area. For monthly troop meetings the gym was used and people were expected to be loud or quiet on demand.

I'm not sure how Girl Scouts organizes, but it might help to change venue.
posted by pwnguin at 3:53 PM on November 19, 2009

Best answer: I was a Girl Guide leader (Girl Scouts in the UK) we used to share the our hall with the bridge club. Perhaps the worst combination that could be found (apart from maybe yoga?). I've also been very active in the Scouts in the UK (which is mixed sex, unlike the BSA). In all about 14 years experience.

A library seems like a not very good venue, but maybe your libraries are not like our libraries. The bridge club finished 30 minutes before our Guides did, so we'd try to save our roudy, noisy games till then, but you cannot keep 30 teenage girls at bridge club levels of quietness for any length of time. It was an ongoing source of friction, unfortunately.

There should be a ton of support for your wife out there, official and unofficial, training, books, and internet (I assume this a little bit because I'm not in the US but I know that Scouting/Guiding follows very similar structure the world over). In the UK there are a couple of very active discussion groups for Guide leaders, if your wife is interested and can't find any for the US, there's a Yahoo group called Guiding_UK and if your wife wants to ask them anything, I'm sure they will come up with a lots of suggestions. They do have some international members.

As SuperSquirrel says, your wife's situation is a very common. I've not yet seen an easy way to solve it.

I always start with "this is a voluntary activity" and "this is what Scouting is (Promise, Law, types of activity, etc)" if you're not having fun, don't come. Keep the ones that want to be there for the right reasons.

It's a bit harsh, but it's the truth. Scouting isn't for everyone, and it's isn't for everyone for all time. Some people make it their lives, and grow up through the movement. When I was involved in Scouts in the UK, we worked out that no matter what age a young person joined, whether it was 6 or 16, they usually lasted about 4/5 years and then moved on to other things.

If this means that the troop closes, or that your stepdaughter wants to leave, so be it. Your wife shouldn't feel guilted into trying to keep it open if she's not enjoying it and the girls (or just your stepdaughter, if she's the main reason why your wife is involved) aren't enjoying it.

I don't know this group at all, and I don't know your wife, so it's really hard to know what will work, but from what you've said I would have a discussion with them about all this. Work with them. Find out what they want from Scouts, why do they come? Talk about their behaviour, they should realise that it's not great to behave that way in a library, but you might have to draw that out of them. Talk about ways to make ammends with the library. Talk about ways that they can stop it happening again. Work together to come up with a plan for the future.

And when I say discussion, I don't necessarily mean, all sit down in a circle and talk about it, you may need to do some of that. But there are other ways to get ideas from them. For instance, use graffitti walls, get some big pieces of paper and some marker pens, stick them on a wall, write on top of one "Girl Scouts rocks because..." and another "Girl Scouts sucks because..." (use whatever language works with this group) give them all a marker pen and let them get on with it.

If you want them to make decisions about, for example, what activities they'd like to do, make a list on a big piece of paper and give them all coloured sticky dots, and get them to put dots next to the ones they'd like to do.

If you're worried that peer pressure might be an issue, do some of these things in small groups/pairs/individually.

A few random things: changing the venue might make a huge difference to the group and how they behave, purely because they are in new surroundings. It also sounds like a small group, I don't know if this is typical in the US, in the UK, in my experience, small groups, especially of this age group can be hard to make work. Also, and again, I don't know if this is typical for the US, a mix of ages can make a difference to balance out the group (Guides in the UK are 10-14).

Your wife can change things, but it won't be quick and it won't be easy, and it won't just happen by doing more 'Scouty' activities. Group dynamics have a massive influence here.

Here's how it worked for a friend of mine, who was in a similar situation, I helped her out for a while, but I wasn't there in the beginning so I'm not going to take the credit. My friend agreed to take over the running of the Guide Group, it was small, they weren't really doing 'Guide' activities, and they were a bit of a clique. There are some differences, my friend is an experienced Guide Leader, she didn't have a daughter in the group, we're in the UK. My friend started with "if you aren't having fun, leave". Some left straight away, some took a little bit longer to realise it wasn't for them anymore. She was left with 6 girls. She emphasised what Guides is about. She organised 'proper' Guide activities. She went more formal than she normally would, starting the meeting with parade, finishing with taps, insisting on uniform, emphasing the promise (Guides in the UK can be fairly relaxed about all these things). She kept at it and she was consistent. Slowly, numbers increased, mainly through word of mouth, girls bought their friends along - the best indication that you are doing something right. Three years later, she had 36, the biggest group in the area by a long way, with a really broad cross section of ages and backgrounds. Most of the original 6 stuck with it, and are still involved now.

Feel free to mefi mail me if your wife wants to know anymore, or just wants to chat.
posted by Helga-woo at 4:28 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think one of the messages of scouting is (or should be?) self discipline and self reliance, isn't it? So I really think the appropriate response should come at least in part from the girls themselves. Next meeting "girls, last week things went wrong. this week, we are going to talk about what went wrong and how we are going to move forward from it, followed by you all writing letters of apology to the library."

Don't do anything for them- don't assist their bad behavior by working to find another venue that will tolerate it better. If finding a new venue is what the group decides might be a good alternative, then the group can come up with ideas and you can/should assist them. Don't do anything behind their backs- they are old enough to experience the real consequences and responsibilities of this event.

(Which is to say, don't show up with cookies that you bought, don't pre-apologize to the library people. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, this isn't much of an infraction. But for 11 year olds, it *is* much more serious. They will learn from what happens next. If you make it too hard or too easy on them, the lesson is lost. Let the girls learn how to fix a problem they caused. Sort of the equivalent of making a kid go up to the neighbors house and fess up to breaking a window. Stand behind the kid, tell them what must be done, and let them (in an age appropriate way) figure out and implement the solution on their own.)

That said, when I was in Cub Scouts, we were holy terrors. But we had a church as our venue and each meeting started with a half hour or so of open gym to burn off steam. Then we went to the project room and got down to business. Maybe you can nudge the discussion toward that direction and have the girls work on a project where they figure out a new place to meet where they can socialize as well as get work done.
posted by gjc at 4:36 PM on November 19, 2009

I would advise against asking to do a service project for the library as trying to find something for a bunch of 11 year olds to do might just end up being more trouble for the library staff as they might not actually have any appropriate work for them and will feel obliged to come up with some busywork project.
posted by Jess the Mess at 5:29 PM on November 19, 2009

11 year olds! I look after a group of 12-14 year olds for an organisation similar to Girl Scouts, and yeah, I get the whole behaviour thing.

Girls of this age are not yet ready for sitting and talking nicely. They need to run and play, so the library is probably not the best venue to start with. They are also all talking at once, yeah? And very distractible, tangents everywhere!

My tactic for the boring bits of badge-work is to disguise it. You have to do fun, wacky activities, that do relate to the badgework, but never ever do work sheets. (Unless they are 5 mins, and crazy. To cover first aid I put together a list of things that were useless, useful, and over kill- (plaster of paris, morphine, etc), with fun pictures. That was a quick but fun activity.)

baking is always a hit, eating is a hit, (be careful, sugar highs!) games are good too. Especially at the beginning of the year (for my 12 year olds) we need to RUN! (Surprisingly colouring in was a big hit.) Crafty things are good too.

Girls love to talk, and once the group gels a bit (we have girls that know each other well, and girls who don't know each other well) it's nice for them to be working on something and chatting together about stuff.

Another thing which might contribute to the dynamic- in our group we never ever have the girls in a group led by their mothers/relatives. (One off activities are fine, though.) We find that the girls open up more and are easier to manage without the parent dynamic- I'm unsure how Guides/Scouts does this though.

One year we had the girls break into the church pantry and do shots of sugar (from the coffee/tea supplies) and got really silly. A stern talking to and a written apology later from the girls to the church was all needed for discipline.
posted by titanium_geek at 6:10 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

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