RSS

Category Archives: Present Moment Parenting

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.

boys-and-brains-northwest-district-roundtable

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 13, 2017 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Tags: ,

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.

Hold

Up

Laugh

Kid

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.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 31, 2016 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Tags: , , , ,

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.

slide01slide02slide03slide04slide05slide06slide07slide08slide09slide10slide11slide12slide13slide14slide15slide16slide17

Download the Powerpoint Here

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 28, 2016 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Tags: , , ,

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.”

http://www.boyscouttrail.com/content/song/tarzan_of_the_apes-247.asp

 

 

I like bananas, coconuts and grapes

I like bananas, coconuts and grapes

I like bananas, coconuts and grapes

That’s why they call me:

TARZAN OF THE APES!

 

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 …

 

responsibility-color-sheet

october-pack-meeting-plan

the-smoke-alarm-went-off

 

 
Leave a comment

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…

View original post 1,155 more words

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 13, 2015 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Boys-Anger and C.A.P. Approach

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 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.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 12, 2015 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Tags: , , ,

E. Q. for Boys: The Swim Test

Beach Brothers

Beach Brothers ©Joshua Koepp

“Thank God for your son,” the brown-haired mother said as she walked to stand next to me on the beach.

“Oh? What did he do?” I asked, trying to act oblivious. The truth was, I knew what I had told him to do. I was curious to hear from someone else what he had actually done.

It was the last day of our week at YMCA Camp du Nord, a family camp north of Ely, Minnesota near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. In a matter of minutes, one of the highlights for the kids was about to start: the counselor hunt. On the last day, all of the counselors hide around camp and the children and youth who were their “age group” during the week run around and find them. The whole adventure converges on the beach where campers and counselors attempt to wrestle each other into the water and dump each other.

You can imagine the chaos. It is very fun but also very rough and very wet. With all the pandemonium, some safety measures are prudent. All the young campers are required to take a swim test and receive a wrist-band which designates how far out into the water they can be during the melee. A wise safety measure to be sure, but one that is ready-made to trigger a crisis of status and identity for many young boys in the 7-9 year old range.

According to my son’s logic, nobody really gives a rip if you can’t swim by yourself when you’re six. Some kids can swim when they are seven, but you only feel a little embarrassed if you can’t. Once you’re eight, many of your friends have learned to swim, so it’s kind of a big deal. You’ll be thinking about the swim test and anxious about saving face if you fail. You may even come up with excuses ahead of time:

  • The waves were big.
  • It was windy.
  • I was tired.
  • Someone pushed me.
  • I don’t like swimming in lakes.
  • I’m more used to the pool where I work out with “my competitive swim team.
  • It wasn’t a fair test, etc.

If you’re nine and you can’t swim you’re likely to pick a fight with the troll under Angel Bridge in hopes that he will take a big bite out of your foot, thus making it impossible to go into the lake because of the open wound. Since most boys have done it, it’s easy to recognize a faked or manufactured injury or malady (AKA the losers limp). However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and most of the time the other guys don’t call your bluff.

To make matters even more risky for young and fragile male egos, after the swim test you are tagged with a colored wrist band that identifies you as a non-swimmer, restricted access swimmer who has to stay in the shallow “kiddie” area, or a unrestricted water-competent resident of Atlantis who has spent some time in Aquaman’s private guard.

Most adults have forgotten what it felt like to be a kid and about half of adults have never been boys. To them, it is confusing why a little guy would suddenly lash out, avoid eye contact, be rude to loved ones, retreat into their own little world, and have a complete meltdown if someone tries to pry. They don’t understand the existential crisis that will be caused when he is strapped with a wrist-band below the rank of his peers.

That’s what happened to the brown-haired mother’s little guy. For whatever reason, he didn’t pass the test. He was crushed. He was crying. There was nothing mom could do. He ran down the beach to get away, too embarrassed to even stick around.

I had seen this before. Several times, actually, only a month earlier. That was when my eight-year-old son publicly failed the swim test at Cub Scouts camp, over and over again, in front of his friend (who passed on the first try) and about 50 other scouts and dads who were swimming in the pool. Truthfully, I’m not the kind of parent who tries to rescue my kids from these situations. Failing repeatedly teaches you to keep trying and that it’s not the end of the world if you screw up and embarrass yourself. You’ll survive. Most of the time nobody cares, and if they do, that’s their problem, not yours.

Today, however, my son’s experience had been different. This time he had passed on the first try and gotten a white wrist-band. When we saw the other boy take off, I quickly said to him, “Hey, you know how that feels. Go talk to him. Tell him you failed a swim test too.” Then I left to find my younger son.

I returned a while later to the brown haired lady thanking me. “He was just an angel. He came and told Rider that he had bombed a swim test once too. Then he talked him in to trying again and even went and got the counselor to give them a retest. They took the test together and they both passed. He saved the day.”

When it comes to emotional intelligence, it’s very important for boys to learn to handle their own emotions. However, the next and equally important step is to learn how to respond to the emotions of OTHERS. Sometimes it’s appropriate to simply respect someone’s process and protect their dignity while they feel. Other times we can come alongside and be a brother in time of need. Getting outside ourselves and caring about our fellows is what psychological health is all about. I’m glad my son got a chance to see how facing his challenge gave him the tools to help someone else in the long run.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 3, 2015 in Present Moment Parenting

 

Tags: , , , , ,