What to do when … A ”hyperactive” boy keeps the group in a state of turmoil

View a list of all the problems covered in this series.


The terms “hyperactive”, “ADD”, and ADHD” have, over the past 30 years, become common parts of our vocabulary, although they are often misunderstood. This is not surprising since there are different opinions about these conditions even within the medical profession. For our purposes, there are two types of hyperactive boys:

1) Those diagnosed by experts

These children may have have a neurological or chemical issue that makes it very hard for them to concentrate. Their excessive physical activity can be purposeless and random and they may have poor motor control. Medication is often necessary to help them slow down. Debate continues on the effect of the nutrition of these children. Some argue that removal of sugar, food additives, or other substances can help calm the hyperactive child. Frequently, these children are placed in special education classes and require the help of qualified teachers.

2) Those who are simply energetic and boisterous.

These boys are also called hyperactive, but simply operate at a fast pace. Sometimes these children are craving for attention, something which they may not get at home. They may desperately need love and affection. But often these boys are …well … simply boys who need our patience as they learn to control their minds, bodies, and passions.

Leaders who have clinically hyperactive boys in their group should work closely with the parents and be supportive of the goals of the parents. Contact with the home is also helpful in the second category. Look for ways to support parents in their efforts and consider ways you may be able to support them.\

Some guidelines for handling the hyperactive boy:

Clear boundaries

Make sure the boy understands and observes the structure and limits of the program. This will require patience and firmness. Be reasonable about the limitations imposed. For example,  “No running in the hallway” is often asking the impossible of a hyperactive boy. Instead tell the boy “wait for a moment until everyone has left the hall and then see how fast you can run to the end, but then you need stop and stand still till I get there. I’ll time you!” Also, normally, leaders will need to permit a certain level of restlessness and talkativeness by the boy and try to ignore it.

Speak softly, slowly and firmly

Trying to shout down the boy will only excite him. Talking quietly will help produce a calmer atmosphere. Using a quiet gesture to draw his curiosity and his attention can be effective in getting him to stop talking and to listen. When a man is exuding a posture of command he rarely needs to shout, especially if clear guidelines have been communicated and enforced. Simply looking at your watch when the boys know that that means they are losing game time can get them to quickly … and almost magically… police themselves.

Work on one-to-one interaction with the boy

Often hyperactive boys will have trouble getting along with others. Teaming him up with other

boys to enjoy some activity is a way of helping him mature in his relationships. If possible, have a leader who can be free to take this boy out of the group if he is creating problems and do something constructive together. Do your best to choose groups with boys who can exercise patience, but don’t place the whole burden on any particular boy. He is there to have fun too.

Don’t frustrate the boy with too many stimulating things to do.

Give him one thing to do at a time. Otherwise, he is likely to get excited and will flit from one thing to the next. His Brigade experience should be one in which he learns the values of fun as well as self-control under the example of men who are modeling those very things.


This series was adapted from a resource that has been used by Brigade leaders for decades.

View a list of all the problems covered in this series.


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