Simple Tips for Managing Group Behavior
You’ve heard that old saying, “it’s like herding cats.” Our hope is to keep that expression from describing your experience with your Girl Scout troop, so we have asked some experienced troop leaders and educators who work with youth every day for tips for managing group behavior.
Adhere to a Troop Agreement
Set clear expectations from the start to ensure all members (girls and adults!) are on the same page.
A troop agreement is a compliment to the Girl Scout Promise & Law. Items on the agreement should primarily be suggested by girls and be agreed upon by all troop members. This could be agreeing to behaviors such as avoiding the phrase “I can’t,” or respectfully listening to others.
Empower through Language.
If you are looking for a particular behavior, give clear, specific direction and provide positive feedback when you see that behavior. It’s a great best practice to frame a positive action and choice to help guide girls towards the desired behavior.
Another example of empowering language is using the R’s: reinforce, remind, redirect. Reinforce positive or desired behaviors/ choices. Remind girls of the troop agreement or those desired behaviors. Redirect negative choices to provide an opportunity to make another choice.
For example, “I don’t appreciate being talked over (notice we focused on the behavior, not the offender!), show me a better way to listen.”
Sometimes we need a little help pulling the group together. Use these simple attention-getters to do just that.
- The Girl Scout Sign. With your thumb and pinky together hole up your three fingers on your right hand. This is the Girl Scout sign, used in a few instances including a signal to quiet down and wait for further direction.
- Hey, Hey Girl Scouts! Hey, hey (name)! Using call and response is a great way to get the group’s attention. You can get creative and make up your own or use this classic Girl Scout favorite. You can also use rhythms of snaps, caps or stomps.
- Sing a song. Does your troop have a favorite song? You can use this as a signal to pull everyone together and incentivize the desired behavior of focusing the group’s attention.
Rewarding positive or desired behaviors is a great practice, but to take it a step further, try introducing girl-led incentives. These can be used for things such as having the group complete a task within a specified time frame, like cleaning up. You can also use them if you noticed all around great effort, positive attitudes, or other positive choices or behaviors throughout your troop meeting.
Perhaps your troop has voted on a particular thing they like to do together, like sing a favorite song, play a favorite game, have a dance party at the end of the meeting, or simply enjoy some free time. You could also have each girl add an incentive to a jar and choose at random so that eventually everyone gets rewarded in the way of their choosing. You can be even more specific by having each girl write their name and incentive on a popsicle stick, you can refer to that for individual rewards.
Assigning meeting roles and responsibilities through kaper charts or activity sticks is a great best practice to give girls ownership of their troop meeting and help to keep them engaged and invested. This can also be a helpful tool in redirecting behaviors to reflect the assigned responsibility.
Say a girl finishes a task early and you find that she is practicing disruptive behaviors. Can you give her a responsibility in that moment such as helping another girl, or starting the clean up process?
As part of the troop agreement, you may want to set up a few simple consequences to adhere to. This should always include giving troop members the opportunity to apologize and rectify the behavior. It’s also key to remember to focus on the deed or behavior rather than the doer. Try using less accusatory language and instead lead by asking why she made that behavior choice. Follow up with asking if that behavior fits within the troop agreement or the Girl Scout Promise & Law. What can she do to rectify the situation?
Eventually you will run into a situation that may call for some sort of consequential action. We suggest simple actions such as moving to the back of the line or skipping a turn when agreed behaviors have been violated. If a behavior is repeated or escalates, it may be time to have a discussion with her parents/caregivers. This may provide some additional insight into what may be triggering a particular behavior and help you decide the right action take in the future.
Ultimately, it comes down to focusing on positive behaviors, attitudes, and decisions practiced. We need tools to handle some moments, but modeling positive behavior is always the best way to produce positive behavior.
What are some of your best practices for managing behavior in a group setting?