Author Archives: Joshua Koepp

About Joshua Koepp

Joshua has been serving children and families for over 20 years in Out-of-School Time programs, as a Parent Coach, Inclusion Consultant, and adjunct faculty member at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and Concordia University St. Paul. He holds an MA in Child Development and finishing an M.A. Adlerian Counseling and Psychotherapy. He enjoys fishing, archery, fiddle music and playing with his two sons.

A Cubmaster’s Reflection on the American Flag and the Pledge of Allegiance

By Joshua Koepp

[Shared with the parents of our Cub Scout pack at our den orientation meeting.]

Part of the Cub Scout program is to have a flag ceremony and recite the Pledge of Allegiance at den and pack meetings. In light of recent events, discussions, and peaceful protests, I thought I’d share a bit of my personal reflection so you could know where your Cubmaster is coming from.

The first time I led the Pedge of Allegiance at a Cub Scout meeting, I had an odd feeling. I had to think for a while about where that feeling came from. Why would I feel strange? After all, I had grown up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school. I’d said it so many times that I didn’t even need to think about the words.

So I took some time to really think about the text of the Pledge. What stood out to me the most were the last three words: Liberty and justice for all. To me, that is the heart of the Pledge of Allegiance, and there was no doubt in my mind that I believed in that. Of the five words in that phrase, the one that is the most important to me is the last one: All.

However, I realized that the odd feeling I had when I led the Pledge of Allegiance did not come from whether or not I believed in it. It came from the fact that I was leading a group of wonderful, impressionable boys to recite a script that started with the words: “I pledge allegiance.”

Throughout history sincere, eager-to-please-and-follow boys have been inspired and sometimes indoctrinated to pledge allegiance. They have pledged to many different people, organizations, creeds, and governments. Sometimes the purpose was to benefit the boys, guide their energy, and help them grow. Other times, the purpose was to control, exploit, and profit.

As a father and Cubmaster, it is my mission to, at all times, be working for the positive development of our children. I encourage each adult to talk with your scout(s) about what the ideals of “liberty and justice for all” mean to you, your family, and our country. How do we live that out? How do we change when we find that we are not living it out? Then, when we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, it can be a reminder to recommit to our highest ideals, both individually and as a nation.

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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in Present Moment Parenting


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Northwest District Roundtable Presentation

12790953_10153938923408050_5003491458974357349_n-1Here’s a link a PDF of the slides from tonight’s presentation on boys and brains at the Northwest District (Do Your Best) roundtable. As always, feel free to contact me if you have questions.


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Posted by on January 13, 2017 in Present Moment Parenting


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H.U.L.K. Emotional Intelligence

hulk13I was driving back from a family weekend in Iowa and had some thoughts about the Incredible Hulk. He’s always been one of my favorite superheroes, not because of his uncontested physical power, but rather because of his emotional intelligence. What? You might say. How can The Hulk, a rage fueled master of destruction be a model of emotional intelligence? Here’s what I think.

There is a decisive scene in one of the Avengers movies when Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner says, “That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry.” He then turns into Hulk and tips the balance in favor of civilization.

All superheroes are models of different aspects of the human condition. In the case of The Hulk, Banner starts out with significant childhood trauma and exposure to experimental technology that makes him vulnerable to emotional/biochemical influences. Can anyone identify with that on any level? The beauty is that The Hulk learns to control and manage his explosive power.

So, as I was driving, I wondered if I could figure out a good acronym for H. U. L. K. that would serve as a reminder for me (and maybe others) when my temper starts to take over. Here’s my favorite idea. Let me know if you have others.





This one is my favorite because they are one-syllabus words that can come to mind quickly when thinking of HULK.

“Hold Up” makes me remember to pause and take a breath.

“Laugh” reminds me to smile and chuckle at my situation, which is ipso facto stress relieving.

“Kid” serves a dual purpose. For me, it can remind me that kids are kids (if I’m getting frustrated at my boys) and they aren’t supposed to be perfect yet (or ever). This could also be helpful for children or youth who are putting too much pressure on themselves.

The other application of “kid” is to remember humor. Of course, the word “kid” can also mean to joke. There is humor in everything we go through, and often it’s just downright funny to realize how seriously we take situations.

So, I think it can be helpful for me to Hold Up and Laugh Kid when I start to feel angry and frustrated by what’s going on. Maybe it will be for you too.


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Posted by on December 31, 2016 in Present Moment Parenting


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The Yardstick

Here’s the inspirational piece that I shared at the last roundtable as a parent recruitment tool. When it came time for our pack meeting, I actually ended using it as the Cubmaster Moment at the end. I didn’t use the powerpoint slide show in the meeting this time, but rather read through the script/slides and just let the audience focus on the yardstick (which I pre-scored) as we snapped off the pieces. Pre-score the yardstick at 3 inches, 5.5 inches, 9 inches, and 11 inches. Snap off the sections after slide 7, twice during slide 9, and after slide 10 so you’re left with 2 inches. You can download the whole Powerpoint and put your own Pack number etc. in it at the bottom of the pictures. This is an old, traditional tool that has been used by many organizations. The version I have was originally adapted from Bryan on Scouting, but it didn’t start there.


Download the Powerpoint Here

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Posted by on October 28, 2016 in Present Moment Parenting


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October Pack Meeting Resources

responsibility-color-sheetHere are the resources I shared at the October Northwest District Roundtable for use in the October Pack or Den meetings. The script is from Pack 634’s October 2015 Pack meeting, and is what I use to keep me (Cubmaster) on track as I run the meeting. The theme was Responsibility for the value and Fire Safety. We also had a Bobcat Badge ceremony, but I couldn’t find the script for that one. There are excellent ones online. The color sheet above as well as the song sheet and Cubmaster Script are available as downloads at the bottom.


Here are the songs:

The Smoke Alarm Went Off

Alice, Golden Empire Council

(tune: The Farmer in the Dell)


The smoke alarm went off

The smoke alarm went off

It’s warning you though you can’t see

The smoke alarm went off


You’ll hear the loud beep — beeps

You’ll hear the loud beep — beeps

It smells the smoke, it’s not a joke

You’ll hear the loud beep — beeps


If you see smoke, get low

If you see smoke, get low

It’s cool and clear down near the floor,

If you see smoke get low


You need to go outside

You need to go outside

The meeting place will keep you safe

You need to go outside


Now don’t go back inside

Now don’t go back inside

Just stay and wait and you’ll be safe,

So don’t go back inside.


Bananas, Coconuts And Grapes

Baloo’s Archives

This song is often referred to as the “Cub Scout National

Anthem.’ But I would vote for “Duke of York.”



I like bananas, coconuts and grapes

I like bananas, coconuts and grapes

I like bananas, coconuts and grapes

That’s why they call me:



Sing the song through three or four times:

The first time loudly;

The second time softer

(except for the “Tarzan” part – always YELL that)

The third time even softer

And finally whispering

Remember, always yell the “Tarzan” part; the last time, no

one makes a sound until all shout in unison, ‘TARZAN …






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Posted by on September 9, 2016 in Present Moment Parenting


Boys-Anger and C.A.P. Approach

Fiddlehouse Dad

Attitude © Joshua Koepp

The sixth-grade boy standing 7 feet away from me had just blown through the cafeteria like a tornado. Now he was leaning against the wall with his eyes on the floor looking tougher than Clint Eastwood. I was used to seeing a hard shell on this guy, but today was different. Today he was very angry.

I get asked about angry boys quite a bit. When I present workshops people say things like: “He gets angry so easily.” “He’s seems like he’s ALWAYS angry.” “I don’t know how to help him when he’s angry.” “He was always such a nice kid, and now he’s angry at me and his little brother ALL the time.”

In this post, I’m going to share some of the things that are most useful for me to remember about my own anger, my sons’ anger and when I am with angry children…

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Posted by on December 13, 2015 in Present Moment Parenting


Boys-Anger and C.A.P. Approach


© Joshua Koepp

The sixth-grade boy standing 7 feet away from me had just blown through the cafeteria like a tornado. Now he was leaning against the wall with his eyes on the floor looking tougher than Clint Eastwood. I was used to seeing a hard shell on this guy, but today was different. Today he was very angry.

I get asked about angry boys quite a bit. When I present workshops people say things like: “He gets angry so easily.” “He’s seems like he’s ALWAYS angry.” “I don’t know how to help him when he’s angry.” “He was always such a nice kid, and now he’s angry at me and his little brother ALL the time.”

In this post, I’m going to share some of the things that are most useful for me to remember about my own anger, my sons’ anger and when I am with angry children and youth.

He has lived here, in St. Paul, Minnesota, since he was 8-years-old. Before that, he survived fear, abuse and danger that most of us can’t imagine. His family is from Karen, a small state in Burma, near Thailand where civilian villages have been massacred and burned and many people driven out. They escaped and lived in the forest in Thailand. In order to have access to minimal education he was sent to live in a refugee camp.

Anger is not a solo act. Boys and men have deep, complex emotional worlds, whether we know it or not. Sadness, fear, compassion, pain, we’ve got it all. However, many boys get the message early on that expressing emotion is a good way to get teased, bullied, and shamed…sometimes even by their parents. One emotion, however, is exempt from this treatment: Anger. Anger becomes the acceptable emotion to show, but there’s always others hiding behind it. Many others.

Once he told me about the time when he had to run through the jungle with his dad and hide under branches so Burmese soldiers wouldn’t find them. Another time in the camp he went down to the river and a guard caught him and made him stand still while his shins and calves were struck repeatedly with a bamboo cane. At the refugee camp school, for punishment, he had to hold a stick in his teeth with a weight on the end. When the ache in his jaw allowed the stick to droop, the cane left welts on his body. He was between six and seven years old.

Anger saves face. Boys learn to be stoic. Sometimes that’s necessary for survival and self-protection. We teach it to little boys: “Stop with the tears.” “Take it like a man.” Here’s the problem: Unprocessed emotional energy builds-up over time. When it starts to leak out, acting angry is a great way to mask the anxiety and fear it causes. Anger can look cool and feel powerful, which is the opposite of the way we actually feel when emotions leak out unbidden.

He was standing sideways to me, leaning on the wall. I moved a little closer to him, but not too close. I wanted him to know I was there, but also that I would respect his space. After a minute or two, he changed his posture to angle slightly toward me. I had a connection. I said, “It seems like you’re really angry. Are you mad about something?” He grunted back. It was the “affirmative” grunt.

Anger is language. Most boys and men have not practiced their emotional vocabulary. It is difficult for us to talk about feelings. Showing them comes easier. Especially for the little guys, acting out physically can be the only way they know to tell you that they are in distress. In addition, when we’re under emotional stress, our amygdala hijacks our limbic system and cuts off access to the “thinking” brain. We’re left with our “fight or flight” brain. The language of anger is sometimes all boys have available, especially if they’re still learning English.

Why are you angry?” I asked. He mumbled something I couldn’t quite understand through his heavy accent, but I thought I heard him say something about an iPod. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t understand everything you said. Did you say iPod?”

He mumbled in a voice that seemed exceptionally deep for his size, “Teacher. Take. iPod.” It all suddenly made sense to me.

He doesn’t have much and came from a place where he had even less. His parents figured out a way for him to have an iPod, the quintessential symbol of membership in modern youth culture. Now his most prized possession had been taken by a guard again. How could this not trigger all the fear, helplessness, and panic that he felt in the camps, jungles and other mini-hells he had been through.

Anger is natural. It’s a normal reaction to injustice, having our sense of power threatened, being made to feel small. For many boys, especially teenage boys, have larger amygdala, higher testosterone and lower serotonin. That makes anger hotter, faster and more immediate. That doesn’t mean we have no choice. It does means that it’s a more difficult choice, one we need to practice.

“Wow. I get it,” I said. “If someone took my iPod, I’d be very angry too. If you want, I can help you find out what your teacher’s plan is.” Almost as soon as the words were out of my mouth, he seemed to relax. A few seconds later, he shuffled slowly to the table and sat down.

Anger is sometimes the easiest way to ask for help. Instead of treating his angry outburst as a behavior problem that needed to be controlled or punished, I tried to find out what was behind it. Doing this reduces the need to act out. I like to call it C.A.P.: Connect. Acknowledge. Protect.

Connect: Non-verbally join with him using a non-threatening and respectful presence and body language. If you use words, keep them very limited and kind. If you connect with him, he doesn’t need his anger to get your attention anymore.

Acknowledge: Let him know that you see his emotional expression and know that it means something. “You seem upset. Are you angry about something?” If you acknowledge the message he’s sending with his anger, he will feel “heard.”

Protect: Validate his right to have feelings. Give him a safe place to feel. “I can see why that would make you feel angry.” If you protect his dignity, he will be more able to take off the mask of anger.

Here are a few other tips that help me:

  • Help him learn accurate words and language to describe what he’s feeling. DON’T try to do this in the middle of an angry moment. Rather wait until things have settled down. Model it for him by naming your feelings as you go through your day. Even older boys and teens will need practice at this, since experiences get more complex as they get older.
  • Help him practice basic coping tools like taking a deep breath, taking a break from stressful situations and getting help from someone he trusts. Again, this is most effectively practiced when he’s not upset and easiest to understand if he sees you doing it.
  • Allow for some kind of movement (even if it’s just squeezing something or playing with Legos), outside time, and/or food to help process emotion. Anger happens in the body, not just the mind. Many boys process physically and can talk more easily when engaged with some kind of task.

By no means does what I’ve written here cover all the complex issues that can cause anger for men and boys, nor does it offer solutions for everything. I’m always happy to listen to your story and help out in any way I can.


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Posted by on December 12, 2015 in Present Moment Parenting


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