Managing Behaviour

The behaviour of young members and of volunteers is an important factor in providing a positive experience in your Woodcraft Folk group. Leaders and helpers at our groups have an important role in modelling and promoting behaviour that:
 
is in line with our Aims & Principles
creates a safe environment at the group
enables the group to participate in a range of enjoyable and educational activities.
 
In any Woodcraft Folk group it is inevitable that leaders will have to manage the behaviour of young members. Your approach to planning the group’s activities is important, as there are many things that you can do to reduce the risk of challenging behaviour. Leaders will also need a range of strategies to manage challenging behaviour when it does arise.
 
Promoting positive behaviour
 
Groups should work to develop clear and consistent expectations about how their members should behave. Young people should be closely involved in this process, so that everyone can support each other to create a positive culture in the group.
 
Creating a group agreement that sets out guidelines for all members helps everyone to understand what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable, and supports leaders to be fair in their approach to managing difficult behaviour. When discussing what the group agreement should consist of, you may wish to explore with young members why certain behaviour isn’t acceptable. A group agreement is only an effective tool if young members feel ownership of it, so you will need to review the guidelines as children join and leave the group.
 
Before agreeing on a set of group guidelines, it may be helpful for the group to explore what they value about being part of Woodcraft Folk, and how it differs from other settings in which they spend time (e.g. school, family, sports clubs).
 
Managing challenging behaviour
 
Despite our best efforts to create a group agreement that young members feel ownership of, challenging behaviour will occur in every group from time to time. It is important that it is managed effectively by the volunteers working with the group – otherwise it can impact on everyone’s enjoyment, wellbeing and safety.
 
It is helpful to discuss with other volunteers how you will manage behaviour within the group. If at all possible it is best if someone other than the person leading the activity takes responsibility for addressing any challenging behaviour so that the activity can continue for the other young people. Some groups, where the majority of volunteers also have their own children in the group, have agreed that parents should not be responsible for addressing their own child’s behaviour, and should instead discretely ask another leader to deal with the situation if it involves their own child.
 
Understanding challenging behaviour
 
 It is important to consider what is driving a young member to behave in a certain way, particularly when this behaviour is disruptive to the group or poses a threat to the safety of the child or others.
 
Within Woodcraft Folk, we often use the ‘Choice Theory’, developed by William Glasser, which is suggests that:
 
Individual behaviour is momentary, but we are always behaving
We are driven by basic needs for survival, love & belonging, power, freedon and fun
We are constantly behaving in order to fulfil one or more of our needs
You can only control your own behaviour, but you can influence the behaviours of those around you
 
Glasser describes four categories that make up our behaviour, i.e.:
 
 
An individual can only directly control what they are thinking and doing, but through this can influence their physiology and their feelings.
 
If you can use apply Choice Theory to try and understand what is motivating a young person’s behaviour, you use this understand to shape how you respond.
 
Addressing Challenging Behaviour
 
A useful strategy for addressing challenging behaviour when it arises is Challenge – Ignore – Divert. This outlines your three basic options for dealing with the behaviour. Bearing in mind what you believe might be motivating the young person to behave as they are doing, and any immediate risks that the behaviour poses, you should select the most appropriate of the three options:
 
Challenge – warn them that the behaviour is not acceptable, ask them what they are doing and why
Ignore – continue to give your attention to the rest of the group who are behaving well
Divert – start another activity with them, or ask them to do a different task (e.g. help prepare the snack for the rest of the group) 
 
In the case of serious or repeated behaviours, it is important to follow up with the young person afterwards. They might not understand what is motivating them to behave in a certain way, but by applying Choice Theory you can gain insight into what needs drove the behaviour, and together identify alternative ways of addressing these.
 
There is more information to support you in the Managing Behaviour section of the website, including session plans for volunteer training.
 
Transition & group cohesion 
 
Over time, Woodcraft Folk groups (as well as the individuals in them) can grow and change, and this can present particular challenges for group leaders. Groups of young members preparing to move up to the next age group, or a group that becomes split between a group of older and younger members, can pose additional challenges. Maintaining a focus on regular recruitment of new members can help to address this, but most groups will experience challenges like this from time to time.
 
Moving between age groups

As young members approach the top of an age range, you should give consideration to what will happen next. Woodcraft Folk aims for as many of its young members as possible to stay a part of the organisation through their teens to adulthood – but in reality we have many more Elfin groups than we do Pioneer and Venturer groups. You may be fortunate enough to have an older group that meets in the same venue or nearby. Alternatively, the nearest group for the next age range may be some distance away – a large town may support several Elfin groups, but only one Venturer group. If you have a large number of children about to ‘grow out’ of an age group, and no obvious destination, it may be time to start a new Pioneer or Venturer group in your District.
 
As young members reach the top of an age group there will be different factors affecting their feelings about moving up:
 
Getting ‘too old’ for Elfin activities, or having done similar activities too many times
Not wanting to be split up from friends who are younger
Keen to do more exciting/adventurous activities
Ready to have more of a say and take more control of the group
Having developed key skills (listening, co-operating) and being ready for a new setting
Fed up with being in a group led by their parent
Apprehensive about becoming the youngest in an older group
 
Woodcraft Folk’s approach to age ranges is not rigid, and many groups employ some flexibility with regard to age ranges, which can help ensure that the numbers within groups remain viable, and that friendship groups can move up together. Some groups will move children up at the start of the school year, others on a termly basis, or in a more ad hoc way.
 
It is important that leaders consider the needs of young members, both individually and as a group, and invest time in preparing them to make the transition to the next age group. This could be by:
 
Arranging a taster session for the older children in the new age group
Running joint sessions once a term, perhaps with older children taking some leadership
Both age groups having a game together at the end of their session (or, for example, for the last 15 minutes of Elfins and the first 15 minutes of Pioneers)
 
Some groups choose to mark the transition to the next age group, or welcome new children into the group, by creating their own ceremonies. In districts where children typically move up at the start of the school year, the transition can be formally marked during summer camp (and so perhaps with a later bedtime!)
 
Group leaders should remember that there is no obligation to volunteer with the age group that their own child is part of. If you are happy and confident leading an Elfin group, it should be entirely up to you if you, possibly in discussion with your child, whether you continue to support the Elfin group or become a Pioneer leader (this is obviously easier if groups meet at the same time/venue).
 
Using ‘clans’ to manage a large group
 
Currently, the average size of Woodcraft Folk groups is between 12 and 15 children. Smaller groups can provide a great experience for children and young people, but they can be hard to sustain. Most groups will find they need at least 20 children paying subs to cover the essential costs (group registration and hall rent) without external funding, and groups of this size are less vulnerable to becoming unstable if one or two members leave the group or move on to the next age group.
 
Managing a larger group can seem daunting, but creating two or three sub-groups, often known as ‘clans’, can help make things more manageable – there are lots of ways that this can help the group:
 
Children can have a sense of belonging to a smaller unit than the whole group
Children can have ownership by voting on a name for their clan (a theme might stop things getting too surreal, e.g. Foxes, Badgers…)
Doing a news circle in clans can stop it going on too long, while still allowing children the opportunity to listen to and be heard by their peers
If the same adult volunteers work with the same clans each week, children can build a strong relationship with one or two leaders/helpers
Leading/supporting a clan can allow newer volunteers to build confidence before running activities for the whole group
Mixed age clans can encourage older children to support and encourage younger ones – this can be particularly helpful to encourage greater cohesion in an ‘open’ age group where young members span a wider age range than normal
Putting older children in one clan and younger children in another allows them to do slightly differentiated versions of the same activity, or maybe be a step on the way to creating a separate Elfin and Pioneer group
Clans can be used to separate sibling pairs, or to ensure that groups are gender balanced
Children whose parents are leaders in the group can be allocated to a different clan from their parent to give both some breathing space
 
It is probably best if children don’t spend the whole session in their clans – a sensible approach might be for children to start in clans for news, then come back together for the main activity. Conversely, the session could start with a circle game for the whole group, divide into clans for the main activity, and come back together for the closing circle.
 
 
Manging cliques and friendship groups
 
It is natural for children to form strong friendships with a small number of others within the group, and this can develop into a clique, which can become disruptive to the group. Frequently, cliques within in Elfin and Pioneer groups may develop on gender lines, which can provide a further challenge for leaders.
 
It is clearly important than children learn to work with everyone in the group, and therefore leaders should encourage children to mix when engaged in group work. Techniques to make this easier can include:
 
Using the group agreement
 
Children will often agree in principle that it’s important to work with everyone in the group, even if they find it difficult in practice. Young members are more likely to follow a groundrule that they have ownership of than one they feel is being imposed on them by leaders.
 
Mix up group sizes
 
Plan your activities so that different size groups are needed for different activities. If you always ask for children to form fours or fives for the main activity, they will begin to gravitate towards the same group of friends each time.
 
The random element
 
Children may easily identify, and resist, obvious efforts at social mixing. An activity such as a Line Sort, where children have to get into a line ordered by some characteristic, enables leaders to create randomised groups of the required size. You can ask young people to sort themselves by name, height, birthdate, or any other factor. For an added challenge you can ask them to do it without talking, or standing on a circle of chairs without falling off!