Nature abhors a vacuum – and so do strong leaders. When your senior patrol leader doesn’t react quickly enough to get the troop’s attention or deal with some minor problem, there’s always an adult around who’s all too happy to step into the breach with an authoritative “Signs up!”
The problem with that (other than the fact that the Scout sign is supposed to be a silent signal, of course!) is that when an adult takes over, the Scout doesn’t learn how to lead and a little more of his already precarious leadership perch is chipped away.
So what can you do? Try the “Happy Birthday” method. When you see a problem that’s not a genuine emergency, sing “Happy Birthday” under your breath. Chances are, the SPL will spot the same problem and take action before you get to the second verse.
If that doesn’t work, try tag-teaming him next time. While you sing “Happy Birthday,” have a second adult sidle up to the Scout and quietly ask him if he has noticed the problem. That may be all the prompting he needs to take action.
As a last resort, sing “Happy Birthday” out loud. The other Scouts may wonder if you’ve gone nuts, but your SPL will get the message and appreciate the chance you’re giving him to learn how to lead.