What to do when Scouts — or Scouters — use foul language

A Scout is Clean, but what if his mouth isn’t?

Dirty words can soil the reputation of any Scout (or Scouter), but a swift response from you can make the guilty party think twice next time.

But what is that perfect reaction? How do you ban bad language in your pack, troop, team, or crew?

The solutions below will help you decide. I swear!

Dealing with swearing Scouts

Do your ever hear some “choice” words from your Scouts? Here are some proven solutions from our Facebook friends:

  • “I use the phrase ‘pick another word’ quite a bit. That doesn’t apply to the truly foul language, but it does get used when they choose the words stupid, shut up, or any derogatory terms that would offend. For the truly foul language, we try to stick with ‘there are 150,000 words in the English language, so pick one that makes you sound smarter.'” — Marcey M.
  • “I simply say ‘Different Word.’ I can’t remember a time when the Scout didn’t stop and correct himself. It must be working because I was having an issue backing up the Scout trailer one trip and slipped with a ‘Da**.’ I heard three Scouts, in unision, from the back of the truck say ‘Different Word.‘” — Chuck T.
  • “Everything Stops! The language-challenged youth are reminded of the younger scouts who look up to them and that they lead by example. If they can’t manage, the are (as we say) invited to seek success elsewhere.” — Michael J.
  • “There is a code of ethics that the Scout reads and signs before they join the troop. Foul language is in the code of ethics. There is a three-strikes-you’re-out rule. So far this really hasn’t been an issue.” — Jose B.
  • “My father always said that ‘The use of profanity indicates a poor education and a limited vocabulary.’ That usually gets the point across to kids and adults who then start thinking that cursing marks them as ‘stupid’ instead of ‘cool.'” — Gary W.

Handling foul-mouthed Scouters

What happens when it’s a fellow adult leader using four-letter words? Our Facebook friends weighed in on that question, too:

  • “I treat it the same way I would as if a Scout said it. Why should adults be treated differently? If it is not appropriate, then it is not appropriate. Plus, Scouts benefit when they see adults held to the same standards they are.” — Aaron D.
  • “I told the new guy (a former service member) that we do not use that language here. I added I understand how service members speak having been one and that I have to work hard to not use it myself.” — Ed B.
  • “We hear it all the time. We try to not use this type of language at Scout meetings and various outings. We need to keep in mind where we are. Sometimes it just comes out. Be aware!” — John L.
  • “We ask the offending person to recite the Scout Law and when they get to the article of the Scout Law that closely fits the problem then we stop them and ask them to explain what that tenet means and how it applies to what they have done or the incident they are going through. Works very well.” — Chris R.
  • “Remind them that they need to be Scout-like with their language at all times. Even when Scouts are in tents they can hear everything.” — Sherry H.

More tips from our archives

Scouting magazine covered this topic in our January-February 2011 issue. Eleven Scouters offered their proven strategies, including “swear jars” and leading by example. Read the complete story here.

What do you think?

Is foul language a problem in your unit? What’s your solution? Leave your thought below.


  1. Whether it is a Scout, Scouter, sibling, guest or parent, I generally tend to use the phrase “that is not an appropriate word for where you’re at, can you please try saying something else?” It seems to work pretty well.

  2. It’s hard to solve sometimes, by experience in my troop I had boys that came from an special organization that helps the boys that are in the streets and gives them education, jobs and as a reward the Scout movement (I never agree with the movement as reward but that’s a different story), so you can imagine how many bad words they say, yell and think in all the activities, only with patience, leading the troop with a good example and talking to them it was the only way we changed their way to say things! it was a hard work, but at the moment I still talk to some of them and can notice the big change!!! so yep I agree, try to say something else, ethics, respect for them and the others and a great leadership example!

  3. Personally I think foul language deplorable!!!
    It is quit clear or at least implied in the Scout oath and law that a Scout is clean in word, thought and deed.
    I had a HS Freshman English teacher who made this statement. . .”If a person uses foul language to express them selves, it simply shows their ignorance of the English language!” This statement has stuck with me ever since, and I personally pratice it!
    In addition,
    I am personally offended when I hear Scouts or Scouters using foul language.

  4. “Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly.”

    Spencer W. Kimball, November 1974

  5. When it comes to any Scout or Adult leader we ask that they remember that as a leader (and this goes for every Scout in our Troop.. they are all learning to be leaders) you must Model Expected Behavior. It is a part of the leadership develop pillars of our Troop. We do not make a big deal about the language, rather we focus on the behavior. We do not make them sign a code of ethics.. they know the Scout Oath and Law and that should be enough. If the behavior continues we talk with the parents and look to other ways that the Scout can fill his time.
    Has not really been that big a deal as we seem to get a handle on it early. The rest kind of sorts itself out when we bring it all back to the Oath and Law and focus on behavior.
    And no, Education has nothing to do with foul language.. I know many leaders with Masters Degrees that swear like the devil.

  6. When I was a Cub Scout in the 70’s, at resident camp, counselors would put a small piece of soap in anyones mouth tgat said anything worse than Damn. There were few repeat offenders and no triple offenders.

    I wonder if that would be called bullying in our crybaby pc world.

  7. Profanity from adults is inappropriate and offensive whether youth are present or not! If reminding the offenders that we are always to act and speak in a scoutlike manner seems outrageous to them, then they should not be in a position to influence our youth. We are not above the morals we teach our youth.
    As for the youth, I like the “different word” reminder. We need to stand strong on ethical choices, and the use of foul language is one of the poor choices.

  8. Foul language has its place, I suppose
    . When one hits their thumb with a hammer, a ONE word expression is allowed, if kept expressed as a yowl of “NUTS”. Said languange is best used as punctuation, not sentence. My dad felt that “Nuts” was a good substitution for “other” words, and sounded better for younger ears than ” !@#*& “. If it worked for the 101 st Airborn Div in WWII as a response to “Surrender or Die”, I guess it would work for Scouts and Scouters as well.

  9. When I hear them use foul language I remind them where they are and that a scout is clean and it includes their language. If it continues I ask them to go and get their Scoutmaster and we all have a chat. Usually works wonders. The boys in our troop know better the Scoutmaster is one of those who “Speaks softly but carries a big stick” and the boys don’t want to get him mad or disappoint him.

  10. My grandson is 14 and as been a scout from an early age,his sister even has her gold award so it realy is a scout family .how ever the cursing in his scout group is so bad he said he is thinking of leaving or moveing to another scout group.when he reported this to one of the older boys mothers she just said that’s alright as he is allowed to curse

  11. The issue I find, is that the foul language usually comes out when there are no adults around- and I get second hand reports (usually by the parents of a scout that was present- e.g. “Billy said there was a lot of foul language at the meeting on Monday”, with little or no details-)

    Often the scout is ‘showing off’ in front of his peers (trying to appear older or more mature)- or it becomes a game, what can I get away with out of ear shot of the SM and ASMs, where they are called down on it immediately–

    What suggestions does anyone have for dealing with it when you didn’t witness it?

  12. I agree with all I’ve read but I have a question. Can a Council remove someone from leadership for a one time slip of the tongue? Not justifying the incident, just think the punishment doesn’t equal the crime.

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