Bright idea: How a ‘good conduct candle’ can improve den meeting behavior

Two Cub Scouts leaders talking to a group of Cub Scouts

Imagine if those weekly meetings at your office had a “good conduct candle.”

Blake’s texting and missed a question from the boss? Candle goes out. Rhonda brought her breakfast? Bye-bye, flame. Peter forgot the PowerPoint? Poof.

But if the candle burns all the way down, it’s reward time. Everyone! Gets! Ergonomic keyboard trays!

OK, so your workplace might not be ready for a “good conduct candle” just yet.

But there’s one place they’re proven to mitigate mayhem: Cub Scout den meetings. Good conduct candles are cheap, simple to implement and give the Cub Scouts a persistent visual reminder to follow the rules.

Here’s what to do.

1. Start by creating a den code of conduct.

It’s unfair to tell your Cub Scouts that they broke a rule if you haven’t yet defined those rules.

Those rules should start with the Scout Oath and Scout Law, which can be displayed using the Den Code of Conduct chart.

Beyond that, it works best to have your Cub Scouts create their own rules. You can nudge them in the right direction, but let them make the big decisions. You’ll be impressed as they come up with good rules and police themselves.

They might come up with rules like:

  • No talking when a leader is talking
  • No running around the room
  • Be quiet when the Scout Sign goes up
  • Wait your turn
  • Raise your hand if you’d like to speak

2. Display the code of conduct where all can see.

Put these rules on a poster board and make them a part of every den meeting.

When necessary, remind the Cub Scouts that they came up with these rules themselves.

3. Introduce the good conduct candle.

The BSA recommends you purchase a candle with a burn time around two hours.

Go to a home improvement store or look online for a candle that advertises a short burn time — or buy a couple of options and time it yourself at home. (See the photo above for an idea of the size.)

So why two hours instead of, say, this 144-hour monster candle?

With a two-hour burn time, the Cub Scouts will see the candle burning down during the meeting and realize that a reward is within reach.

4. Have the Cub Scouts choose their reward.

The Cub Scouts defined the rules, so they should get to select their reward.

They might pick a pizza party, ice cream treat or special activity, like a fishing outing for the entire den.

Finalize the reward selection before lighting the candle.

5. Light the candle at the start of your meeting.

After you light the candle, proceed with the plan for your meeting. If all goes well, the candle keeps burning until the meeting is over.

If a rule is broken, blow out the candle. Some den leaders give a warning after the first rule violation and then extinguish the candle after the second. Others use a one-and-done method.

Whichever you choose, make it known from the start and stick with it.

6. Remember it’s about more than a candle.

With a good conduct candle, you’ll see your Cub Scouts’ behavior improve.

But a candle isn’t magic. Your best bet for boosting behavior is to plan den meetings that are fun and active. If you use and follow the BSA’s den meeting plans, your Cub Scouts will be having so much fun that conduct won’t be an issue!

Need even more den meeting tips?

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About Bryan Wendell 3043 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.