On a children's camp we have a group of 4 boys (around 12 years old) with no appointed leader. One of the boys is naturally trying to lead the others, but they are lazy, so it's not easy for him. The problem is that one of them is not just lazy, but he's intentionally sabotaging games and other activities. This behaviour makes the one who's trying to be their leader very angry, to the point he gets a tantrum and we have to forcibly move him away and hold him till he calms down.

There is a second boy group (around 1-2 years older), whose members get on very well.

The children could choose their groups themselves.

My question is, what can we do about this problem? Shall we put the "leader" to the other group? Or should we move the troublemaker there...?

Based on anongoodnurse's comment:

They have been together in their groups for about 11 days. Mostly, they spend together about 3-4 hours a day (during some games or other activities). Of course, we always try to explain the troublemaker that he should behave, but it's difficult because he isn't demonstrably doing anything wrong; it's just the way he "unintentionally" slows down the others etc. We haven't tried anything in order to prevent this problem yet; it only happened 2 times so now we're just begining to think what to do about it. The other boys take the "leader"-in-the-making as an actual leader - they follow him, mostly; when he gets angry, they don't laugh, they take it quite seriously, although they don't do anything about it (they just stay back).

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    How long do they have to be together? Is the troublemaker's behavior being dealt with? What methods have you tried? Why is it not working? How do the rest of the boys (other than the "leader"-in-the-making) feel about the troublemaker (e.g. do they think it's funny? Annoying? Frustrating?) Have the boys in the group discussed this problem among themselves? Lots of questions, I know. but this is not so cut and dry. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Jul 11 '17 at 16:40
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    A 12 year old needing to be held down is a fairly big deal. – user26011 Jul 11 '17 at 17:26
  • @anongoodnurse Thanks for your reaction. I've added some more details. – Martin Heralecký Jul 12 '17 at 8:47
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    The trouble with "natural" leaders is that they will take lead even when not asked to. Some will welcome this as seeing them take initiative to get things moving, others will see the behavior as bossy & unwanted. The "leader" becoming so angered by someone not stepping in line tells me he is erring toward bully behavior versus leadership. In true leadership you aim to inspire others to optimize what they're capable of. I'd be very troubled to ever have to physically restrain my 10 yr old, much less a 12 yr old. I think the leader is more troubled than the troublemaker in this case. – threetimes Jul 12 '17 at 12:46
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    The fits have happened twice or the 'trouble-maker' has slowed the group twice? I would definitely take steps to reduce your leader's leadership role if it's frustrating him past endurance; letting people follow because they are scared of his anger is a bad lesson to teach for both sides. I would also watch for signs of leadership from your trouble-maker, they may not align with your goals. If it's a leadership contention problem directly interfering misses a great teachable moment, but it might not be worth risking more physical confrontations. – user26011 Jul 12 '17 at 16:01

Commend him for his leadership. If his behaviors seems "bossy an unwanted" it's because he hasn't learned how to use his natural leadership effectively yet. Teach him. Explain that leadership is not about forcing people to do things, it's about setting an example, being a pioneer among his peers. These skills take years to perfect.

And whatever you do, please ignore people who want to treat your little leader like a burden. He has a special talent that requires some nurturing, not a behavior problem.


Perhaps more structure is needed from the adults in this situation. Another possibility would be explicitly to rotate leadership between the children, so they get to see the issues from both sides.

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