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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Father Hunger: Needing a Father’s Love (Keith Zafren)

a father's love, father hunger, psychological effects of father absenceFather Hunger is a phrase many psychologists, authors and poets use to describe the universal and life-long yearning children have for a father’s love and involvement. Sometimes loving dads satisfy that hunger. Other children continue to yearn when their need is not met by engaged fathers. Some starve for lack of fathering.

Psychological Effects of Father Absence

Fatherlessness leaves children hungering—craving for dad’s affection, affirmation, and loving presence. Father hungry children tend not to grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted and happy adults. A host of studies link fatherless to many serious social problems. Children from fatherless homes account for:

63 percent of youth suicides
71 percent of pregnant teenagers
90 percent of all homeless and runaway children
70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorders
80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger
71 percent of all high school dropouts
75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers
85 percent of all youths sitting in prison.[i]

father's love, father hunger, psychological effects of father absenceResearchers Frank Furstenberg and Kathleen Harris reveal that more important than a father’s presence or even his living at home is how close a child feels to his or her father. That feeling of closeness, they argue, is most predictably associated with positive life outcomes for the child even twenty-five years later. Based on these findings, Dr. Kyle Pruett notes, “Children who feel a closeness to their father are twice as likely as those who do not to enter college or find stable employment after high school, 75 percent less likely to have a teen birth, 80 percent less likely to spend time in jail, and half as likely to experience multiple depression symptoms.”[ii]

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in the mid 1990s confirmed that “doing lots of activities together is not the crucial variable in the relationship between parent and child; rather, it is a sense of connectedness.”[iii]

Satisfying the Hunger

Ultimately, it’s how close a child feels to their dad that makes all the difference as to how satisfied their hunger. If you’re a dad, that means that your focus ought to be, as much and as often as possible, and as intentionally as you can focus, on creating that feeling of closeness with your kids.

May our children never go hungry, as some of us did.

Great Dads Shape Great Kids.
Be a Great Dad Today.
[i]Reported in John Sowers, Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 36-37.
[ii] Cited in Kyle D. Pruett M.D., Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child (New York: Broadway Books, 2000), 38.
[iii] Cited in Gail Sheehy, Understanding Men’s Passages: Discovering the New Map of Men’s Lives (New York: Balllantine Books, 1998), 166.

Post by Keith Zafren, founder of The Great Dads Project and author of the award-winning book, How to Be a Great Dad—No Matter What Kind of Father You Had.

Men who want to be great dads love the stories Keith Zafren tells, the practical skills he teaches, and the personal coaching he offers. Keith has spent seventeen years learning firsthand how to raise three great teenagers and stay close to them, no matter what. He coaches busy dads not to repeat the mistakes their fathers made, but instead, to create fantastic relationships with their kids. Check out his free Great Dad Video Training.

February 12, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Make Memories: Work and Play with Your Family (Christy Monson)


(Here’s an excellent article by Christy on the “togetherness” of extended family members. The parents of these now elderly cousins gave their children a priceless gift. Enjoy. –JDS)


This past summer, my husband and I hosted a reunion of his childhood cousins. As kids, these wonderful people loved being together. Some of their families lived in Idaho and some in central California. The parents made a special effort to spend time with extended family, even though they didn’t live close. Every summer the cousins worked together on one farm or another, weeding, feeding livestock and irrigating.

Eventually everyone grew up and went their separate ways. They became doctors, international business men, teachers, and engineers in many walks of life. They saw each other at weddings and funerals, if their busy schedules permitted.

As they reached retirement age, they felt the need to reconnect. At the reunion this summer, they spent three wonderful days reminiscing and getting reacquainted with each other.

Family Talk BookSome of the memories they shared were of a crabby uncle, but most of the stories were told about work and play with hard-driving parents, struggling to eke out a living. No one focused on the barn being full of hay or the price of the potatoes each year. They remembered the time they spent together, filling the irrigation ditches, chasing an errant calf or eating pancakes until they were about to burst.

They talked about the ball games they won, the horses they rode, and the pranks they played on each other. Their reminiscence was about the pleasure they experienced in interacting with each other as kids—their communication and relationships.

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.

Greg Anderson


The parents of these cousins are not with us anymore, but here are some of the principles we can take away from their child-rearing practices:

1. Spend time with your kids

2. Work and play together

3. Give them a sense of family

4. Enjoy your extended family


Most of us don’t have to fill the irrigation ditches or milk the cows anymore. Life has changed. But we can still build relationships with our children through work and play.

A happy family is but an earlier heaven.

George Bernard Shaw


As adults what do you remember of your youth? What memories mean the most to you? ###

Christy Monson has an M.S. in Counseling Psychology and Marriage & Family Therapy from University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and established a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. Check out her informative website [link].




January 28, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Harder You Work, the Bigger the Snowman (Michael Byron Smith)

Here’s a great piece from my friend Michael Byron Smith on what the winter brings us as families and kids of all ages.–JDS


There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.

Mahatma Gandhi

It starts around October. People, almost exclusively adults, start complaining about the onset of winter. I understand their point of view. Their focus centers on being cold, dealing with icy roads and often dreary weather. I don’t like those things either, but not enough to worry or complain about them.

Few of us have to be in the cold air longer than it takes to walk from our toasty car to our toasty home or office, at least not often. Slippery roads are a nuisance, but where I live in the Midwest, there may be only 10-15 days all winter when the roads are seriously snowy or icy for part of a day. In more northern states, they really know how to deal with their more frequent snowy days and they do it efficiently. There isn’t much you can do about dreary days, but I’ve seen dreary days in every season. With those realities said, I believe any adult that doesn’t like winter has the right to complain about it or move to a warmer climate. But it is also my opinion that children who are raised in areas that have seasons are advantaged in experiences and learning.

Cardinal in WInterNow I admit that winter comes in last in my list of favorite seasons. Spring, fall, summer, then winter is how I rank the seasons. But I LOVE seasons! In winter, I thoroughly enjoy watching the snow fall while I sit by a fire. And there is certainly beauty in winter if simply a red cardinal resting on a branch with a snowy background.

One of my favorite sensations ever was at my farmhouse in the country, waking in the morning after a heavy snowfall had blanketed the earth the night before. The wind was completely still in the bright morning sunshine. I walked outside and it was the most profound silence I have ever experienced. It was as if the snow had muffled every possible sound, except the squeaky sound of my boots sinking in the snow. The scene was truly a Norman Rockwell painting.

I accept winter and look for those experiences that only winter can provide. This brings me back to children. You rarely hear them complain about winter. They pray for snow and run around outside so much they don’t get cold. When they come in, a little hot chocolate will put the exclamation point on a fun and memorable kid experience. I have many memories of playing outside with friends, coming in with my hands so numb that the cold water from the tap felt warm, and I loved it!

You can join in the fun with them. Have a snowball fight or take them on a hike in the woods. The exercise and cooler weather make it comfortable and invigorating with views no longer obstructed with leaves. And you can sneak in a few life lessons occasionally using tricky little metaphors that may stick with them longer than a boring lecture.

Teachable Moments in Winter
Build a snowman with your children. Maybe you can have a competition for the best snowman. The teachable moment may be, ‘the more you work on your snowman the bigger and better he will be–just like anything else you will ever do’. But working hard isn’t the entire answer to success. You have to work smart also. It’s impossible to make a good snowman with very dry snow, even if you work very hard at it. With a little patience, a warmer sunny day will melt the snow wet enough to be able to build your snowman. The teachable moment: Patience and smarts will often save you a lot of time and effort with better results.

Go sledding with your children. Find a nice long hill and feel the thrill of zooming down. If they want to ride down again, they will have to trudge up the hill. The first ride down is free, after that they will have to work to experience it again. Going down is easy. Going up is work! The teachable moment: Nothing worthwhile is really free. There is always effort required by someone. The only ones who sled down for free are those that don’t have the strength and need the help of others to get back on top. Which of those would you rather be?

Not only are there life lessons to teach, but there are science lessons that will be remembered when they are in school. Take your children ice skating. Skating is best when there is very little friction, allowing them to glide effortlessly. But when they need to stop, they want some of that friction back so they dig into the ice. Friction is like fire. It can save your life or ruin it. How people use it makes all the difference!

Some history lessons can be best expressed in the winter. The strength of our forefathers and ancestors can be demonstrated, when there were no furnaces to warm them up with a push of a button; or when their home was a teepee or mud hut. No snowplows helped them out. Grocery stores were rarely nearby and food had to be grown or hunted. Traveling for just thirty miles would take half a day or more and the only heat was from the horse if you were lucky enough to have one. Not until one thinks about how tough conditions were for others in the past will they understand and appreciate the fortune they have today.

But maybe the most important of all these moments, whether you stop to teach or not, is to be actively engaged with your children, having fun, creating everlasting memories, and making connections to them that will serve both you and them forever. I already mentioned a couple of winter activities, but there are others you can enjoy with your kids including baking things together, movie nights, reading books, crafts, snowball fights, going to sporting events, and so much more.

Take advantage of every opportunity
I wish everyone a great winter season! Make the best of every day no matter the season, and never miss a chance for a teachable moment for your children. And for you older folks out there who hate winter, just think about how fast time passes for us! It’ll be spring before you know it; the recent contrast of winter causing it to be even more appreciated. I can almost see the tulips and crocuses popping through the ground already. Another teachable moment! ###

Article and photographs by Michael Byron Smith, author of The Power of Dadhood [website]
“Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog


January 21, 2016 Posted by | family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Parents, Special Occasions | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

National Popcorn Day

popcornMy friend in Austin, Jim Gentil, sent this along. Popcorn, a family favorite, has been a favored treat for kids, adults … even pets. I thought this story was quite interesting and uplifting. (As a kid, I remember my dad making popcorn in a large pot on the gas stove. Anyone remember having the job of vigorously shaking that pot as the corn popped, so it wouldn’t burn? Dad’s popcorn was always the best. He made great waffles, too, but that’s another story.)–JDS

National Popcorn Day is celebrated annually today, January 19th.

This time-honored treat can be sweet or savory, caramelized, buttered or plain, molded into a candied ball or tossed with nuts and chocolate. However it is enjoyed, enjoy it on National Popcorn Day, January 19th.

Popcorn started becoming popular in the United States in the middle 1800s. It wasn’t until Charles Cretors, a candy-store owner, developed a machine for popping corn with steam that the tasty treat became more abundantly poppable. By 1900 he had horse-drawn popcorn wagons going through the streets of Chicago.

About the same time, Louise Ruckheim added peanuts and molasses to popcorn to bring Cracker Jack to the world.

The national anthem of baseball was born in 1908 when Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer wrote “Take Me out to the Ballgame”. From that point onward, popcorn, specifically Cracker Jack, became forever married to the game.

Today, Americans consume 13 billion quarts of popcorn a year, more than any other country in the world. A majority of popcorn produced in the world is grown in the United States. Nebraska leads the corn belt in popcorn production. ###

January 19, 2016 Posted by | family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can you raed tihs? So far aolt of plepoe can

You know, the human brain is a pretty sophisticated thing. This came from my friend in Austin, Texas, Jim Gentil.
James Sutton, Psychologist


i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.

The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Healthy living, Inspirational, Resilience | , | 1 Comment

A 12-Year-Old’s Memory: “I’ve never wanted to be an American more than on that day!”

(It concerns me we don’t have the name the author to post with this article, but perhaps he preferred it that way. In any case, this piece touched me profoundly. –JDS)

This 1967 true story is of an experience by a young 12 -year-old lad in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. It is about the vivid memory of a privately rebuilt P-51 from WWII and its famous owner/pilot.


In the morning sun, I could not believe my eyes. There, in our little airport, sat a majestic P-51. They said it had flown in during the night from some U.S. airport, on its way to an air show. The pilot had been tired, so he just happened to choose Kingston for his stop-over. It was to take to the air very soon.

p51bI marveled at the size of the plane, dwarfing the Pipers and Canucks tied down by her. It was much larger than in the movies. She glistened in the sun like a bulwark of security from days gone by.

The pilot arrived by cab, paid the driver, and then stepped into the pilot’s lounge. He was an older man; his wavy hair was gray and tossed. It looked like it might have been combed, say, around the turn of the century. His flight jacket was checked, creased and worn; it smelled old and genuine. Old Glory was prominently sewn to its shoulders. He projected a quiet air of proficiency and pride devoid of arrogance. He filed a quick flight plan to Montreal (“Expo-67 Air Show”) then walked across the tarmac.

After taking several minutes to perform his walk-around check, the tall, lanky man returned to the flight lounge to ask if anyone would be available to stand by with fire extinguishers while he “flashed the old bird up, just to be safe.”

Though only 12 at the time I was allowed to stand by with an extinguisher after brief instruction on its use — “If you see a fire, point, then pull this lever!” he said. (I later became a firefighter, but that’s another story.)

The air around the exhaust manifolds shimmered like a mirror from fuel fumes as the huge prop started to rotate. One manifold, then another, and yet another barked — I stepped back with the others. In moments the Packard -built Merlin engine came to life with a thunderous roar. Blue flames knifed from her manifolds with an arrogant snarl. I looked at the others’ faces; there was no concern. I lowered the bell of my extinguisher. One of the guys signaled to walk back to the lounge. We did.

Several minutes later we could hear the pilot doing his preflight run-up. He’d taxied to the end of runway 19, out of sight. All went quiet for several seconds. We ran to the second story deck to see if we could catch a glimpse of the P-51 as she started down the runway. We could not.

There we stood, eyes fixed to a spot half way down 19. Then a roar ripped across the field, much louder than before. Like a furious hell spawn set loose — something mighty this way was coming. “Listen to that thing!” said the controller.

In seconds the Mustang burst into our line of sight. It’s tail was already off the runway and it was moving faster than anything I’d ever seen by that point on 19. Two-thirds the way down 19 the Mustang was airborne with her gear going up. The prop tips were supersonic.

We clasped our ears as the Mustang climbed hellishly fast into the circuit to be eaten up by the dog-day haze. We stood for a few moments, in stunned silence, trying to digest what we’d just seen.

The radio controller rushed by me to the radio. “Kingston tower calling Mustang?” He looked back to us as he waited for an acknowledgment.

The radio crackled: “Go ahead, Kingston.”

“Roger, Mustang. Kingston tower would like to advise the circuit is clear for a low-level pass.”

I stood in shock because the controller had just, more or less, asked the pilot to return for an impromptu air show! The controller looked at us.

“Well, What?” He asked. “I can’t let that guy go without asking. I couldn’t forgive myself!”

The radio crackled once again, “Kingston, do I have permission for a low-level pass, east to west, across the field?”

“Roger, Mustang, the circuit is clear for an east to west pass.”

“Roger, Kingston, I’m coming out of 3,000 feet, stand by.”

We rushed back onto the second-story deck, eyes fixed toward the eastern haze. The sound was subtle at first, a high-pitched whine, a muffled screech, a distant scream. Moments later the P-51 burst through the haze. Her airframe straining against positive G’s and gravity. Her wing tips spilling contrails of condensed air, prop-tips again supersonic. The burnished bird blasted across the eastern margin of the field shredding and tearing the air.

At about 500 mph and 150 yards from where we stood she passed with the old American pilot saluting.

Imagine. A salute! I felt like laughing; I felt like crying; she glistened; she screamed; the building shook; my heart pounded. Then the old pilot pulled her up and rolled, and rolled, and rolled out of sight into the broken clouds and indelible into my memory.

I’ve never wanted to be an American more than on that day! It was a time when many nations in the world looked to America as their big brother. A steady and even-handed beacon of security who navigated difficult political water with grace and style; not unlike the old American pilot who’d just flown into my memory. He was proud, not arrogant, humble, not a braggart, old and honest, projecting an aura of America at its best.

JstweThat America will return one day! I know it will! Until that time, I’ll just send off this story. Call it a loving reciprocal salute to a country, and especially to that old American pilot: the late-JIMMY STEWART (1908-1997), actor, real WWII hero (Commander of a US Army Air Force Bomber Wing stationed in England), and a USAF Reserves Brigadier General, who wove a wonderfully fantastic memory for a young Canadian boy that’s lasted a lifetime. ###

January 10, 2016 Posted by | courage, Inspirational, patriotism, Special Occasions, veterans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Beans and a Cup of Broth (Dr. James Sutton)

Five Beans and a Cup of Broth

As we commemorate Veterans Day, 2014, it’s important that we stress to our children that freedom is never free. However we choose to share that message with our sons and daughters, it should be noted that the liberty we often take for granted was bought and paid for with the courage and the blood of those who’ve gone on before.

Journalist Tom Brokaw said it best in his book, The Greatest Generation, when he heralded those Americans that brought us through World War II. Today, we are still recipients of all they accomplished seventy years ago. For the majority of the men and women who served in the Pacific and European Theaters in WWII, as well as many of those on the home front sending a steady stream of support and supplies, it’s too late to say, “Thank You,” to them one more time.

Hardly any of us are without relatives who served their country during a time when their contribution was so vital. My father-in-law was part of the invasion of Normandy, while a former next-door neighbor manned a minesweeper that helped clear the waters for that landing. Another next-door neighbor fought in the Pacific for the retaking of the Philippines. (I didn’t know until his funeral that he had been awarded two Bronze Stars.)

WWIIposterAnd my uncles played a part. One of them faithfully patched up bombers on Guam so they could go out again, while another uncle flew desperately needed supplies over the Burma Hump. (Dad had joined the Army Signal Corps, but was badly injured in a workplace accident before he could be activated.)

A Special Bond

Ask anyone who’s ever been in or near combat about their greatest fear. Their answer might surprise you. It’s NOT the fear of being killed; it’s the fear of letting down one’s comrades, of losing their trust and respect.

Stephen Ambrose’s book, Band of Brothers, gave us an accurate feel for this unique brand of bonding. During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101st Airborne was completely surrounded by the Germans near Bastogne, Belgium. They were told to hold their positions until help arrived … no matter what. (Which they did, with heavy casualties, becoming the ONLY full division to ever receive the Presidential Unit Citation.)

Five Beans …

According to Ambrose’s account, a former company commander, a Captain Richard Winters, had shown exceptional leadership under fire. He was promoted to a staff position with battalion.

Christmas Eve dinner of 1944 was relatively comfortable for the staff officers as they gathered at division headquarters. They had a Christmas tree, a tablecloth, real silverware and turkey with all the trimmings. But Captain Winters elected to dine alone, eating instead what his men in the foxholes were having that night: five white beans and a cup of cold broth.

11 Days Old

I was 11 days old that night, the eve of my first Christmas. I was clean, dry and well-fed; Mom saw to that. I didn’t know about the Men of Bastogne who braved the bitter cold and the shelling of the German big guns as they thought, I’m sure, of loved ones so far away on the night that mattered most.

I didn’t know about them then, but they were as real as if they had been guarding my crib that night, because, in essence, they were.

I didn’t know about them then, but I certainly know about them now.

God Bless ‘em.

Dr. James Sutton is a Vietnam veteran and nationally-recognized child and adolescent psychologist. He is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network and monthly publishes The Changing Behavior Digest [website].

November 10, 2014 Posted by | adversity, courage, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Integrity, Parents, patriotism, Resilience, Special Occasions, veterans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Thoughts on Forgetting

TWO THOUGHTS ON FORGETTING: Difficulty with remembering specific things can be associated with anxiety or worry, or it can be a veiled form of defiant behavior. Most counselors and therapists have dealt with these kinds of issues. Let’s take a look at both types of forgetting.

Thought #1: Forgetting That Causes Worry and Anxiety

What about the person who leaves for work or an extended trip only to worry later if they closed the garage door, unplugged the curling iron or left the front door unlocked? To some degree, we’ve all been there, right? Kids can experience much the same thing.

I recently went to some training on the treatment of anxiety disorders. While there, I picked up a little intervention that makes a lot of sense. It’s based on the fact that added cognitive impression at the moment of “storage” improves memory exponentially.

It’s simple, really. As you close the garage door say loudly, “I am now CLOSING the garage door!” Your neighbors might think you strange, but, even hours later, you will KNOW you closed that door. (And the same goes for unplugging the curling iron, feeding the cat, locking the front door, putting the overdue library book in your school backpack or whatever.)

Thought #2: Passive-Aggressive Forgetting

Forgetting is a convenient way to say, without the risk of saying it, “I didn’t FEEL like doing that; so there!” Passive-aggressive adults can turn a workplace upside down with this behavior, while oppositional and defiant youngsters can brew up a ton of frustration in teachers and parents with forgetting. Then they wiggle off the hook with a less-than-sincere, “I’m sorry.”

But, of course, nothing changes.

The solution to addressing intentional forgetting is to attack the intention. So, the next time you give the child or student an instruction or direction to be completed later, ask them this question (and do it with a straight face):

Do you think that is something you’ll forget?

(Regardless of the look on their face, it’s my guess the question will catch them off-guard. If they stammer a bit, it’s probably because they KNOW they’ve stepped into a bit of quicksand.)

For them to say, “Yes,” would be to expose more of their intent that they care to show. (But if that’s what they say, my next step would be to ask them to come up with a strategy for remembering, then hold out until I get it from them.)

In most cases, the youngster will say, “No,” just to end the conversation. Then, if they DO forget, I’ve created an opportunity to remind them what they told me earlier. Since these kids don’t really like to give adults the upper hand at their expense, you just might have a different outcome when you ask the same question (“Do you think that’s something you’ll forget?) next time.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
(830) 569-3586 Email

October 9, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Helping Kids Battle for Mental Health (Guest: Mike Bushman)

LISTEN to an excellent interview with Mike Bushman on The Changing  Behavior Network [link].


There is so much I know today that I wish I understood as a 15-year-old sitting on railroad tracks in my hometown, borrowed weapon in hand, trying to generate what I thought was courage to end my pain. Fortunately, I decided that night to give it one more chance. Thirty-five years later, my two college-age children, wife of 26 years, successful career and new writing endeavor remind me how fortunate I am to still be here.

I can’t share what I know today with my younger self, so I share what I’ve learned with others at that early, sometimes painful, stage of life. I also think it’s critical to help parents understand important roles they can play in helping children through the roughest of months and years. The following three actions stand out as particularly critical to my recovery.

Help Your Child Recognize What Makes Them Special

An important point in my healing came from a youth group exercise (attended at my mother’s intense insistence) in which we went around the room and shared something we liked about each person. I was stunned and moved that others saw good in me that I couldn’t see in myself. Ask your children to tell you what they believe are their greatest abilities. If they can’t see any value in themselves, you have reason to be concerned. Recognize their strengths and validate their importance to the world, even if these strengths are very different from yours.

Find Out What Your Child Needs and Change YOUR Routines to Help

Coping mechanisms to fight mental health challenges often involve behavioral change. Healthier diets provide the nutrients many of us need for proper brain function. If that’s the case for your child, adjust your family diet as well as the food kept in the house. Exposure to outdoor elements is nourishing for many individuals. If exercise and outdoor activity lift your child’s mood, build it into your family’s routine. Sleep deprevation and addictions easily can deter mental health improvement. Remove access to substances and distractions from sleep.

Be Available for Kids Who Aren’t Your Own

I found it easier to open up to other adults than to discuss some issues with my parents. Discussions with other adults were lifesavers. Kind words can make an incredible difference to a troubled teen. Just after the night where I took that weapon to the tracks, someone I only knew casually praised work I had done. It was said with enough sincerity that I actually believed the compliment. Do that for your children, of course, but do it for others as well. Besides, you never know when others you influence will be important sources of support to your family.

There are many great resources, including throughout The Changing Behavior Network, to assist parents in aiding children facing mental health challenges. You should also encourage local schools to create forums for mental health discussions aimed at reaching students who need hope that their pain isn’t permanent, knowledge that coping strategies can help, and proof that a happy life is possible.

Read, listen and engage as as aggressively as you would act if you had a child battling cancer. It can be a matter of death, or successful life. ###



Following a successful career in the political and corporate environments, Mike Bushman retired to return his first passion: writing. He has written two successful novels followed by a recent novella, Suicide Escape. Every page in this captivating story carries a message deeply felt and shared by Mike. [website]

Future-focused Solutions: Looking Past Today’s DivideMike Bushman offers fresh solutions to lingering challenges
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James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
(830) 569-3586 Email

August 30, 2014 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, Educators, family, Healthy living, Resilience | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stepfamilies: Blessing the Blending (Guest: Valerie J. Lewis Coleman)

NOTE: This post announces a 25:26 minute talk radio interview with Valerie on The Changing Behavior Network [Interview with Valerie J. Lewis Coleman].
Anyone, parent, child or teen, who has ever been part of a blended family knows there often are difficulties and obstacles to making a stepfamily work as as it should. Discouragement mingled with frustration shouldn’t be the name of the game, but often it is. The job of drawing together a family across multiple households is a challenge not suited to the weak of heart or spirit.

But it CAN be done, according to our guest on this program, Valerie J. Lewis Coleman. She has, as they say, “Been there!” Faced with the struggle to parent five children from three different households, Valerie was often overwhelmed, almost to the point of giving up.

Blended Families An Anthology CoverLooking back on those struggles, Valerie shares how her experiences of heartaches, frustrations and sleepless nights were but the labor pangs required to birth her passion to help others stop what she calls the “Stepfamily Maddness.” From her own journey, plus the experiences and contributions of others going through similar circumstances, Valerie compiled and edited a book, Blended Families: An Anthology. This work, and the wisdom gleaned from its pages, well-represent this topic of blended families.

With over 20 years of experience in families and relationships, Valerie has given advice on varying stepfamily issues, including Baby-Mamma Drama, defiant children and a really tough one: disapproving in-laws. Also, as an established author in her own right, Valerie encourages and trains new authors through her publishing company, Pen of the Writer.


To listen as Dr. Sutton interviews Valerie J. Lewis Coleman, click this [Interview with Valerie J. Lewis Coleman].

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
(830) 569-3586 Email

August 22, 2014 Posted by | Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Self-esteem, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reframing Life’s Problems: Mud Splatters or Polka Dots (Guest: Christy Monson)


One rainy, spring day Megan and Melissa, twins age four, played in the water-soaked grass near the sidewalk. An older boy on his way to school stomped through the puddles next to the girls, splashing mud on them.

Megan ran into the house sobbing, “Mother, I’m all dirty!”

After Megan calmed down, Mother hurried out to check on Melissa.

Melissa twirled in the rain. “Look, Mother, I have brown polka dots on my raincoat. Aren’t they pretty?”

Perspective is EVERYTHING!

Positive Reframing

All of us want our children to become healthy and optimistic adults. Positive reframing helps us all find the good in our not-so-perfect lives. No matter how hard we try, all of us, including our children, get splattered with mud at times.

Sometimes children are just born positive thinkers, like Melissa. Others, like Megan, must learn that skill. Optimistic thinking can reduce anxiety and alleviate depression in children. Kids that can find the good in their lives develop confident feelings.

Creating a Hopeful Outlook

Reframing difficulties teaches children to look for that good in their lives. Here are some thoughts for creating a hopeful outlook.

1. Listen to the child’s concerns and problems.

2. Empathize with them. Hear what they have to say and let them know you see their point.

3. Allow them to release their feelings, if necessary, through journaling, art or exercise.

4. Help them put events in perspective and ask how they will handle the situation next time.

5. Reframe the incident in a positive light.

When Megan ran into the house crying, Mother hugged her and listened to her. She let Megan cry her feelings out, then asked, “What can you do differently next time?”

“I can wade in the puddles close to the house so no one will splash me,” said Megan.

“I’ll bet that boy was having just as much fun stomping through the rain as you and Melissa were.”

Megan giggled and ran back outside to join her sister.

Reframed Spaghetti

Mary hurried to finish draining the spaghetti noodles for dinner. The baby had just thrown his bottle on the floor as her husband, Hank, walked into the house from work. As she carried the noodles from the sink to the table, Mary slipped on the discarded bottle and noodles splattered all over the floor.

Mary knelt down to clean up the mess. “Oh, no! Dinner is ruined!”

Hank crouched beside her and put his arm on her shoulder. “Let me change my clothes, and I’ll help you.”

“What a MESS!” said Mary.

He chuckled. “You’re just giving us a chance to brush up on our floor-scrubbing skills.”

Mary smiled.


Veteran therapist, Christy Monson, is the author of the new book, Love, Hugs and Hope: When Scary Things Happen. [website]


To hear an interview with Christy Monson, CLICK HERE.

April 6, 2014 Posted by | Counselors, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | , , , , | 1 Comment

“This Stove is Filthy!” Teaching the Value of a Job Done Right

The title of this post is an exhortation I distinctly remember coming from my mother. It addresses the subject of finishing what you start.

Dishes, Dishes, Dishes

We didn’t have a dishwasher at our house when I was a kid; we all took turns. When it was my turn, it always seemed to me that the dirty dishes were in piles and piles and piles on the sink.

There were three parts of this task, as outlined by my mother’s expert job description:

1. Wash the dishes, dry them and put them away.

2. Wash and dry the old cast-iron skillet as best you can, then put it on low flame on the stove to remove all moisture so it wouldn’t rust. (It was also important to remember to turn the fire OFF.)

3. Clean the top of the stove.

A Shortcut

I was a reasonably bright kid; I knew the drill. I just didn’t like the job. I felt enslaved to the sink as all the best TV programs were pelting the airways on our new (black and white) Stewart Warner television . (There was no cable or satellite TV in those days, but Dad had put up an antenna that could pull in stations from six states. But that’s another story.)

One day I took a shortcut. The stove looked clean enough to me; I let it go.

I got caught.

“This stove is filthy. I thought I told you to wash the dishes.” (It had occurred to me that the dishes and the stove were separate items, and from a kid’s viewpoint it was unfair to combine them. Fortunately, however, I managed to keep those thoughts to myself.)

I cleaned the stove, and I don’t remember cutting the dishes job short again. Now, I’m not suggesting I did everything perfectly after that, but I do believe I managed to capture a pretty decent work ethic. For that, I thank a pair of hard-working parents who lived their integrity every day of their lives.

Not Automatic

It’s not an automatic thing. If our children are to gain the satisfaction of doing a job well, they have to learn it somewhere.

(And isn’t it interesting how a young person with the people skills of smiling, showing respect toward and delivering their best efforts to the customer can’t stay at the counter at McDonald’s. They’re prompted to supervisor before you can blink.)

Willingly doing a job right is not only right, it eventually translates into all kinds of success, financial and otherwise.

In a way, it was unfortunate that our children had a dishwasher for most of their growing up years. But one day one of those old tapes ran through my head and out my mouth. It sounded a lot like Mom; a bit different, but still the same:

“Son, this mower needs oil. I thought I told you to cut the grass.”

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

March 5, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Behavior as a Way to “Fix” Problems

BEHAVIOR AS A WAY TO FIX PROBLEMS: The behaviors of young people, what they DO, can be one of the best indicators of what’s going on inside of them. More often than we realize, their behaviors are an attempt to “fix” issues and situations in their lives. Reading this behavior is not especially difficult, but it does take a little practice.

An Interesting Dynamic

A boy is fearful his parents will divorce. How does he stop them? I’ve seen youngsters find their way into so much trouble at school their parents had to come together to deal with it.

Now that’s an interesting dynamic, isn’t it? As long as the boy is in trouble, Mom and Dad are actually communicating and working together on something involving their son. And, as long as they are working together, they are together. With that kind of payoff, how do you propose to stop the lad’s behavior?

Getting Dad Off the Road

By way of another example, I once had the opportunity to work with a high-school girl from a single-parent family. (Her mother had died of pancreatic cancer, one enormous and unaddressed source of the girl’s pain and anger.) Dad’s work kept him on the road all the time. The girl shared with me she felt she had lost both of her parents.

She found an effective way to get her father off the road: She began failing in school. It worked! Dad had countless meetings with her teachers and he begged her to bring up her grades. Clearly capable of passing, the girl failed the ninth grade. In fact, since Dad was a slow learner, she failed it THREE times.

In both of these examples the youngsters considered the consequences of their behavior preferable to letting the problem continue. As obvious as these situations seemed, they were NOT obvious at all to the folks in the middle of them. Effective intervention, therefore, should address the problem the behavior is trying to “fix” (if possible), then addess both it and the behavior.

Dr. James Sutton, is a psychologist, author and former Special Education teacher. He is the founder of The Changing Behavior Digest and The Changing Behavior Network, and the author of The Changing Behavior Book.[website]

October 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To a Vietnam Vet: “Thank You for Your Service”

I was having surgery at the VA hospital. The prep nurse spoke to me reassuringly as she got me ready. As she wrapped up her tasks and prepared to roll me into surgical holding, the nurse paused and gently placed her hand on my chest.

“Thank you for your service.”

I smiled, swallowed and tried to acknowledge her kindness, but nothing came out. She seemed to understand, as we continued our way over to holding.

Sharp Contrast

As a Vietnam vet, I am always touched whenever my service is recognized; I always will be. It stands in such sharp contrast to the reception many Vietnam veterans experienced when they returned home in the 60s and 70s. They were called murderers and baby killers. They were screamed at and spat upon.

I knew of a marine who had barely survived an explosion. He was in desperate shape. It took many months and surgeries, including, as I remember, the amputation of at least one limb, to put him back on his feet.

A few years later, he caught a cab in a large city. His injuries being quite obvious, the cabbie asked him about them. When he shared that he had triggered a mine while on a combat patrol in Vietnam, the cabbie became livid and threw him out at the next corner, luggage and all.

“Put it in the Closet”

Nothing about my own story is that graphic, but, when I was being discharged in California, I was instructed to waste no time in getting home. I was strongly encouraged to remove my uniform, put it in the closet, and leave it there. “No need to borrow trouble,” they told me.

I was proud of that uniform and what it meant to me. To walk away from it broke my heart.

Times HAVE Changed

Times, of course, have changed. Vietnam veterans are being honored, and rightly so. As more and more of them suffer a plethora of diseases and conditions brought on by the long-term effects of Agent Orange, they are receiving support.

So, when the prep nurse said, “Thank you for your service,” it felt good. It felt VERY good. And, although I would no longer fit into the uniform I came home in 40+ years ago, it’s still there in the closet.

I would be ever so proud to wear it again. ###

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064 Email

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, patriotism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Dollar in the Case

For the past several years, I have held a Sunday School service at a local nursing home. I take my guitar and spend an hour or so singing, playing and visiting with the folks there. It has become an activity that charges my battery for a week.

I miss it when I miss it.

Recently, I was wrapping up a visit. I opened my guitar case to put it away, but was distracted a moment when one of the residents drew my attention. In the time while my guitar case was open, a stately gentleman rolled his wheelchair up to the case and deposited a dollar into it.

Before I even discovered the dollar in my case, he was making it down the hall to his room.

For a moment, I considered stopping by his room and giving his dollar back to him. But my second thought was the right one: He WANTED to give it, and it brought him a blessing to do so.

I took his dollar back up to the church with me, and I put it in the offering plate.

His blessing stayed, and grew, didn’t it?

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

August 5, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lurlene Saves a Life

When he was only one day old, Noland was doomed. His mother rejected him. Fortunately, Lurlene took Noland in; she is today raising him with her own family.

Touching, right? But the story’s even more touching when you understand that Noland is a pit bull puppy and Lurlene is a mama cat with a litter of her own newborns. So far, they’re all doing just fine at the Cleveland Animal Protection League. The nuruturing and nutrition Lurlene provides Noland are giving him a chance at life. Even his litter mates have accepted him. Although Noland is much larger than any of the kittens, it doesn’t seem to matter.

“It’s really crazy what animals can do to give us hope,” said Sharon Harvey, president and CEO of CAPL. “Talk about acceptance.”

Yes, Lurlene, teach us a few things about acceptance.

(The story of this piece was published online June 20th, in”The Sideshow,” copyright 2013 by Yahoo! and ABC News Network.)

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

June 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Still Have the Key? The Value of a Child’s Trust

Years ago, my 17-year-old stepped into my office at home and noticed a pair of handcuffs sitting on my desk. He picked them up and gestured, “What are you doing with these?”

I explained I had borrowed them from the sheriff. An artist friend was going to make a graphic of them for use in a training program I was doing on codependency.

“So you have a key for these, Dad?” he asked.

“Yes; I do,” I mumbled as I hit “Save” on what I had been writing.


handcuffsImmediately, he slapped the handcuffs down over both wrists.

“Jamie!” I gasped. “I do have the key for those, but I never said I had it WITH me. What on earth are you going to do if I tell you the key is in my office in San Antonio?”

The boy never blinked. He held out his hand.

“Dad, you would NEVER let me slap these cuffs on myself if you didn’t have the key with you.”

I dug into my pocket and passed him the key.

Risky Business?

I’m not suggesting every kid get the feel of a pair of handcuffs. (After all, some risks are better than others.) But here was an example of a reasonably safe and spontaneous venture into risk-taking.

Spontaneity in our children can be a good thing. It means they’re not so consumed and careful with planning their every move that they drain life of every drop of fun. (Kids that are always overly cautious don’t make happy campers and, as adults, they don’t change much.)

If a kid can’t enjoy being a kid, what’s the point in being one?

A Deeper Message

In this handcuff-modeling scenario, my son demonstrated something I would never want to see tarnished: He trusted me absolutely.

How valuable is that? How precious is a son’s or daughter’s absolute trust? It’s valuable enough to help a youngster feel a little more secure in a world that’s pretty shaky sometimes. It’s also valuable enough for a child to know that, through all the normal ups and downs of being part of a family, a parent’s intent and desire for his or her well-being rests on solid ground.

Isn’t it fortunate we don’t have to be graduates of The School of Perfect Parenting in order to have that kind of trust from our children?

But I do recommend you keep that key in your pocket, just in case.



A nationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is in demand for his expertise on emotionally and behaviorally troubled youngsters, and his skill for sharing it. He the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, a popular internet radio program supporting young people and their families, and every month he publishes The Changing Behavior Digest, offering tips on managing difficult children and teens. Both resources (and others) are available at no cost through his website,

May 8, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

You BECOME What You Think About

YOU BECOME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT: If you wanted to purchase music in 1956, your options were limited. There were no downloads, CDs, cassettes, Ipods, personal computers or anything like that. You had two choices: phonograph record or reel-to-reel tape.

It was in that year, 1956, that the first spoken-word record to become a GOLD RECORD (selling over one million copies) was recorded and distributed. It was a recording by the late Earl Nightengale, entitled The Strangest Secret. (He was one of only 12 marines aboard the USS Arizona that survived as the ship sank during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, but that’s another story.) Here’s the main point of Nightengale’s message that caused that record to sell over a million copies:

You BECOME what you think about.

A few other folks said much the same thing:

King Solomon, known for his great wisdom, said, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)

Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right!”

Shakespeare said, “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

But Earl Nightengale nailed it in only six words: “You become what you think about.”


Pleasant thoughts, all.


James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Love Rode on a Dime

WHEN LOVE RODE ON A DIME: I was always eager to welcome the west Texas summers. School would be out; I could leave my shoes under the bed. One of my dearest summer memories, however, was watching for the mailman to leave something special in our mailbox.

Two Dimes

It would be a letter from my grandmother in Oklahoma. The letter was always addressed to my mother, but my sister and I were not forgotten. There would be two dimes taped to a card inside Grandma’s letter; one for each of us.

These dimes meant one thing: ice cream! If my sister or I heard the ice cream man on the next street over, we’d rush inside to grab our dimes and stand patiently on the curb until he came down our street. If our tastes weren’t too fancy, a dime would be just enough.

Long-distance Love

It was a given that Grandma loved us, but using the US Mail to deliver ice cream in the summer was a creative way to send the message. It was long-distance love, and we experienced it for many years.

But something always puzzled me about those dimes. They were ALWAYS brand-new and shiny; uncirculated. Many years later, Mom shared the story how, near the first of the month, Grandma would ride the city bus downtown with her modest check in hand. She would stop by the bank to cash it, always asking for a roll of new dimes. No old dimes for her five grandkids; they had to be NEW ones.

Too Much?

Today it’s possible for grandparents to video chat with their grandkids in real time. Cell phones and the internet give instant access anywhere and anytime, and gift cards can buy just about anything a grandchild could possibly want.

But that’s just the point, isn’t it? I sometimes wonder if we lavish TOO much on our children and grandchildren.

Can expensive gifts cloud a deeper message? Can love be diminished by extravagance? Might we return to a time when the heart of the giver was more valued than the giver?

When love sometimes rode on a dime?

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment



On November 28, 2012, Zig Ziglar passed away at the age of 86. In his career he inspired hundreds of thousands of folks, many of whom were hungry for a message of hope. In 1996, I visited with Zig in his office in Dallas, where we recorded the audio program, The Power of Gratitude. Zig lived that message. His son, Tom Ziglar, posted Zig’s Christmas message in the company’s newsletter. Part of it is shared here. –Jim Sutton

zigziglar“It’s the first Christmas I can remember. It arrived just seven weeks after the deaths of my father and baby sister. To make matters worse, it was in the heart of the Great Depression. Things were tough. All of us children who were older made what income contributions we could, but the truth was my mother had eight of her eleven remaining children still living at home, and six were too young to work. Understandably, the Ziglar kids were concerned about what kind of Christmas it would be!

“The good news is that though our grief was fresh, we still celebrated Christmas. We received no toys that year, but much to my delight in my gift box I found three English walnuts and something I had never tasted before–raisins! They were absolutely delicious. Mama prepared her wonderful molasses candy and we had a small cedar tree. And my mother read the Christmas story, like she always did.

“My sixth Christmas will always have great meaning to me. We celebrated the birth of Christ even in hard times because we believed in Christmas.”

I could not think of a better message or messenger than this one today. Merry Christmas, all.


James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

December 25, 2012 Posted by | adversity, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents, Special Occasions | Leave a comment

“I Just Got Back From the Moon!”

“I JUST GOT BACK FROM THE MOON!” Before you laugh too much at this one, you must know it actually happened in a counseling session of mine. I asked an 11-year-old how his weekend went. He launched into quite a tale.

He told me his folks were divorced and that his father lived outside Houston. When he went to visit his dad over the weekend, they took a trip to the Manned Spacecraft Center. The boy told me they had a rocket there all fueled up and ready to go, so they asked him if he was up for a two-day trip to the moon. He said, “Sure!” and blasted off.

There’s a lot I don’t know about NASA and the whole business of space, but I’m pretty sure Houston folks only track flights; they don’t launch ’em. But I sensed that confronting him would be more harmful than productive. Besides, he already knew he didn’t really go to the moon.

Why would a youngster say such a thing (assuming he wasn’t thought disordered)? I believe it was a cover for his own sense of insignificance. Perhaps he was really saying, “If you really knew how dull and lackluster my life really is, you wouldn’t waste either your breath or your time on me. But if I can tell some really far-out stuff, perhaps I can hold your attention a little longer.”

I know there are kids out there who are starving for just five unconditional minutes with us. A little affirmation can work wonders, and it will slowly bring reality back into view and into discussion. It’s not a race. Take your time with a youngster like this one.–JDS


For 59 other interventions and ways to develop rapport and redirect youngsters effectively, get Dr. Sutton’s book, 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child. Just one or two of these great ideas can help create more successful outcomes as it reduces your stress and frustration. What is that worth? For more information or to order this book, CLICK HERE.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

October 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Free Hugs!

FREE HUGS: If the weather’s decent on a Saturday morning, and if the tourists are out and about, you just might find him near Alamo Plaza in San Antonio, Texas. He’ll be the one wearing a bed-sheet cape, holding a sign that reads, “FREE HUGS.”

The man is 27-year-old Christopher Webster. For the past six years he has taken part in the “Free Hugs” social movement started by an Australian in 2004. But the really hug-worthy part of the movement is Christopher himself. He has Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition that makes interaction with others quite uncomfortable and difficult.

“It was stepping out of my comfort zone,” Christopher shared with news reporter, Vincent Davis. “Once I started, it became natural.”

Most of us know full well the best way to deal with things that make us uncomfortable or fearful is to face them head-on. The problem is we just don’t want to do it.

So look for the guy in the bed-sheet cape. He’s leading the way. –JDS

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

August 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Be Patient with Me …”

“BE PATIENT WITH ME …”: Growing tomatos in south Texas can be a challenge. You have to get most of your harvest in the spring, as the blistering sun will cut them down in July.

“This one’s finished,” I said to myself, as I prepared to yank a plant up by the roots and throw it into the compost pile.

It was then my fingers, not my eyes, discovered it: a perfectly formed, fist-sized tomato. Fastened near the bottom of the plant, it was green and growing, resting against the picket fence where it had been shielded from my view.

“Be patient with me; I can still contribute,” the plant seemed to be saying to me. I left it.

In that moment I was was struck with the notion that people sometimes are like that heat-battered tomato plant. It could be the student who is painfully shy in the classroom. It could be the hard-working immigrant who struggles to learn a strange, new language. Or it could be the kind soul who must live out her days in a nursing home. Circumstances differ, yet the message remains the same:

Be patient with me;
I can STILL contribute.

Only the Master Gardener has all the answers.

“… For man looketh on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7b (KJV)

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

June 23, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“If You Want Something Done …”

“IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE … “: As colonial Philadelphia rapidly grew, Ben Franklin saw a problem developing. Streets became busier and more crowded, clogged with pedestrians, horses and carriages. Traffic was bad enough during the day, but at night it was DANGEROUS. People were getting hurt; the streets needed light at night.

Franklin pleaded with the city to put out street lamps for the safety of the people. He was told there were no funds for such a project. Lighted streets were a good idea; there just wasn’t any money for it.

Being a man of action and considerable influence (except with the city, apparently), Franklin addressed the part of the problem that was in front of HIS home. He commissioned the crafting of a beautiful, ornate post and had it placed at the street in front of his house. He ordered a clean lamp be lit and placed on the post every day at dusk.

Folks nearby admired their neighbor’s lamp post so much they did the same in front of their homes. It didn’t take long before streets were safer all over Philadelphia.

It is better to light one candle than

to curse the darkness.

Chinese proverb

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

June 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Turning Disability into Destiny

TURNING DISABILITY INTO DESTINY: Early in my career as a school psychologist, I met a man who had no arms from the elbows down. As I recall, his name was Bob. As an electrician, he was involved in an accident that left him permanently disabled.

Bob eventually became the CEO of a very large nonprofit organization dedicated to putting physically disabled folks back into the workplace. When Bob spoke, people listened. His influence and his service to thousands was beyond measure.

Here’s another story. It’s different, yet it’s really the same. –JDS


Young Louis loved to tinker with the tools in the leather shop. His father, a master leather smith, had a strong reputation across the French countryside as a maker of the finest horse tack.

One day, Louis was attempting to punch through a piece of tough leather with an awl, a sharply pointed tool. The awl slipped and struck Louis in the eye. The wound became infected, then the infection spread to his other eye, also. The boy quickly became totally blind.

He was sent to a school for the blind in Paris. It didn’t take long for his teacher to discover that Louis was quite bright. Although Louis enjoyed learning, he became frustrated with the method used for teaching blind students to read. Heavy sheets of wet paper were placed over wire or wooden cutouts of letters. When the paper dried, students could read the words by feeling the raised parts of the paper.

Louis didn’t like this system much. It worked, but it was slow and cumbersome. Books made in this fashion were huge, heavy and hard to handle. And they were expensive to make. Besides, they accounted for reading only. Trying to write using this system was next to impossible.

As a young teen struggling to come up with a better way for blind classmates and himself to read and write, Louis heard about a system of night writing that had been developed by a French army captain. It was an alphabetical arrangement of raised dots and dashes pressed into paper. With it, military communication was possible even in total darkness.

Louis liked the idea of night writing, but felt that it, also, was too cumbersome to be practical for the blind. So, armed with the very same awl that had blinded him, Louis set out to improve on the captain’s system. He needed to come up with something that was simple, functional, and easy to use in both reading and writing.

He developed an alphabet consisting of two narrow columns of up to three raised dots each. These one to six dots in the columns represented a specific letter. Best of all, it could be read instantly with a single touch.

His improved system of reading and writing for the blind gained support by the time Louis was fifteen years old. It seemed paradoxical that the same leather worker’s tool that had blinded him played such a role in the ultimate education, literacy and independence of many millions of sight-challenged individuals. His work carries his name to this day.

That fifteen year old boy was Louis Braille (1809-1852).

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

April 14, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Turning “I Can’t” into “I Can”


Perception is a close relative of belief; it “colors” everything we do … and everything we don’t do. When we perceive we can’t do something, like ride a bike, ice skate, or stand on our head, we essentially affirm that perception regardless of ability or skill. In other words, we simply “talk” ourselves out of that ability.

Perception easily overrides reality, although it eventually constructs a reality of its own. The good news is that negative, unproductive and unhealthy perceptions can be changed through the careful and methodical “adjustment” of behavior. The two are linked into a never-ending cycle; perception influences behavior, and behavior influences perception. Want to change one? Well, just work on the other!

Changed Behavior Changes Perception

A middle school coach once shared with me how he taught a student to remain in his seat when students were working on assignments.

This boy was in constant motion. He would, on occasion, come completely out of his seat. The coach had an idea.

“I’ll bet I can convince you that you can stay in your seat for ten minutes with no problem at all.”

The boy didn’t think such a thing was possible. Staying seated had always been difficult for him at school, at home, at church, everywhere.

The coach smiled and left. In a moment he was back with a jump rope and a timer. He folded the jump rope a couple of times and placed it across the boy’s knees.

“In a moment, I’m going to set this timer for ten minutes,” he said. “All you have to do is keep the jump rope in your lap, without touching it with your hands, until the timer goes off.”

When the timer went off, no one was more surprised than the young man to see the jump rope still across his lap. He grinned at the coach, handed him the jump rope, and reset the timer for ten more minutes. When the timer went off for the second time, the boy was still in his seat.

Change Perception Changed Behavior

Once the boy was convinced he could remain in his seat, he became certain he could repeat the challenge, even without the jump rope.

Have you ever thought you couldn’t do something, only to watch another person do it, perhaps a person of less skill or ability than yourself? Did it ever cause you to think, “Well, if he can do it, I know I can?” That’s behavioral change that grew from a changed perception. It’s a powerful component of all sorts of learning.

Why Was the Coach’s “Experiment” Successful?

This is a question I ask when I share this story in teacher training. It brings some interesting responses, but two reasons stand above the others:

1. The instruction was simple and doable. The coach designated ten minutes, not two hours. Also, he instructed the boy to simply keep the jump rope on his lap. He didn’t bog the youngster down with multiple directions on how to do it (“Keep your feet on the floor;” “Keep your back straight and your hands on the desk,” “Don’t rock back in your chair;” “Just concentrate;” “Don’t look around the room”).

2. There was a focal point that gave the boy ongoing feedback. He could watch the timer and know precisely where he was in the challenge.

Another Reason?

Some folks suggest there was another reason why this experiment was successful: the attention, positive belief and affirmation of the coach. It certainly didn’t hurt. In terms of a long-term skill, the success with the jump rope was probably the most important, most useful and most remembered lesson he taught that student.

Closer to Home

Okay, this example involves a coach, but a parent can accomplish the same thing. In fact, every day parents demonstrate to doubting children what they can accomplish.

My first bicycle was a full-sized, three-speed English racer; no training wheels. Even with my father walking behind me hold onto the back of the seat, I felt overwhelmed. Knowing he was there with me helped me practice my balance.

When Dad thought I was ready to handle the bike on my own, he took me to a part of the street that had a slight downhill grade. I got some speed going and felt pretty good about it, especially knowing my father was right there behind me.

Only he wasn’t, of course. When I got to the end of the street and looked for my father, he was half a block behind me, grinning. He had “proven” to me I could manage the bike just fine. From that day on, that bike was my magic carpet over my small part of the world.

Is There a Life Lesson Here?

If you look back over the scenario with the jump rope, you’ll note the boy did not remain in his seat for ten minutes; he remained in his seat for 20 minutes; his choice! More importantly, he knew he could do the same anywhere and anytime for the rest of his life.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

March 29, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jack: a 104-Year-Old Inspiration

While wrapping up a speaking engagement in Sacramento, I boarded a plane for home. I was going to San Antonio, with a stop in San Diego.

Jack was in front of me, being wheeled through the jetbridge by an attendant. A young lady, a social worker, accompanied him. He certainly was a delightful fellow and, in conversation with him and the social worker, I discovered he was 104 years old and moving to San Diego.

The attendant asked if I would hold boarding the plane until he could come back with the wheelchair; he needed the room to turn the chair around. They seated Jack on the front row, and we resumed boarding.

As we were landing in San Diego, a flight attendant announced that Jack was their special guest for that flight, that he was 104 years young, and that he was moving to San Diego. He also shared that, as folks got off the plane, they might want to shake Jack’s hand and wish him the well as as they passed by.

As I said, I was a through passenger, so I got to watch everyone as they spoke to Jack before getting off the plane. It was special, indeed. “They are making his day,” I thought to myself. I was wrong, of course.

He was making THEIR day!

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

February 26, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Can a Child ENJOY Being in Trouble Constantly


Sometimes I believe my son actually ENJOYS all the negativity his oppositional and defiant behavior brings upon him. Could that possibly be the case? Can a child really “enjoy” being in trouble constantly? If so, what can I do about it?

The short answer is, “Absolutely!” Like so many facets of behavior, however, there are deeper issues that play into what’s going on.

One huge issue is the power and control a youngster like your son experiences when he can control the emotions and behavior of an adult. Early on in my practice, I had a young patient who had his father by the throat (figuratively speaking, of course). He could make a lot of stuff happen by squeezing on that hold. Unfortunately, Dad played right into the son’s game. All the boy had to do was forget a chore, for instance, and Dad would go into a tirade.

Just imagine this picture. All the boy had to do was neglect taking out the trash and he got a first-rate floor show, and he knew he made it happen, and could make it happen any time he wanted. Although the boy didn’t like the hard edge of Dad’s wrath (consequences bordered on abuse), part of him delighted in the power and control he had over the old man.

Your situation probably is not as severe as the example I just shared, but I strongly believe that an adult’s response to oppositional, defiant and noncompliant behavior has a great deal to do with those behaviors happening again and again. It’s not the sort of payoff you can reach out and touch, but it’s a powerful, intangible payoff that a youngster can grow to prefer. Why? Howard Glasser and Jennifer Easley say it well in their book, Transforming the Difficult Child:

“The energy, reactivity and animation that we radiate when we are pleased is relatively flat compared to our verbal and nonverbal responses to behaviors that cause us displeasure, frustration or anger.”

How Do We Change Things?

1. Refuse to become overly upset. If there is a consequence to be applied, apply it, then physically remove yourself from the situation, if you can. Youngsters don’t like consequences. If you hang around, they just might go through their entire script of unhappiness.

2. Work out all the consequences in advance, and write them down. Discuss with your child what would be reasonable consequences for forgotten tasks or inappropriate behaviors. When they are not in a defensive mood or “on-the-spot,” many youngsters will come up with excellent consequences as you consider what would be reasonable and fair for a given situation. (These are called “elicited” consequences. If the youngster helps you with the consequences, he’ll be less likely to say they are unfair when you later have to apply them.) Type all this up on the computer (better yet, let the youngster do it). Go over it again with them, and give them a copy of the signed document. Later, instead of telling them the consequence for a behavior, produce the list, and ask them to read it to you. There’s something about a child or teen stating a consequence in their own voice that takes a lot of the fight out of the situation.

3. Attend to your child when he’s NOT in trouble. Although this makes a lot of sense on the surface, we live in a busy, busy world. When our kids create trouble, we have to attend to it, but it’s easy to let relationships slide when there’s no emergency. Make a commitment just to be with the youngster for a few moments on a regular basis. A parent’s physical presence, especially in those few moments before their child goes to sleep, is a powerful and positive thing.

4. Consider ways to provide additional empowerment. For some kids, getting adults worked up into a full lather appeals to them because they feel that’s the only way they have any power at all. A simple way to increase empowerment is to offer more choices, where appropriate. In assigning chores, for instance, give them five tasks and explain they can give two of them back to you if they do three of them by a certain time.

5. Learn to live more calmly in an imperfect world. This one certainly applies to all of us. I have to work on it every day.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP
Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Parents, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The 72-hour Challenge

As a parent, have you ever had “the-child-you-would-die-for” become “the-kid-you-can’t-live-with?” Even if your experiences were not that extreme, it’s not at all difficult to see how things between parent and child can take an uncomfortable turn.

That uncomfortable turn doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, that is precisely the issue, really. The problems we don’t see coming are the toughest ones to fix. Too often, our response is to wait and see if things will improve, or simply do nothing at all (except complain), as we wait not-so-patiently for everyone else to change.

The 72-hour Challenge

Here’s an idea that just might help. Imagine that, starting right now, you had only three days left here on Planet Earth. That’s a 72-hour deadline to settle ALL your business. What’s more, you couldn’t tell anyone you had only three days left.

Would this shift your priorities? Would the actions and habits of loved one that used to irritate you suddenly not matter anymore? Would such a challenge move you to take action to do some things that got lost on the back burner labeled “Later”? Obviously, I don’t know what would be on your three-day “To-Do” list; it would be different for every person. But I’m pretty sure what would be at the top of most every list: the repair, revering and deepening of one’s closest relationships.

(Although this might seem like a far-fetched “What if …?” on your behavior, it’s a reality for some folks. Randy Pausch, professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, lived it until he died in the summer of 2008 from pancreatic cancer. His best-selling book, The Last Lecture, and the actual lecture itself, continue to challenge us to dream big and live abundantly, starting with those we love the most. Randy’s biggerst regret was that his three children were much too young to understand the things he so much wanted to tell them before he died.)

If you accept the “72-hour Challenge” and take action to change some things, knowing you can’t explain the circumstances to anyone, you will discover how the results of those changes will be positive in essentially every instance. And all it takes is a reason and the resolve to something now, rather than the “later” that might never happen at all. ###

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064

January 14, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where to Buy a Watch in 1880

Here’s a great story sent to my by my friend in New England, Dan Spry. It speaks well to free enterprise and what you can accomplish living in the good old US of A.–JDS


If you were in the market for a watch in 1880, would you know where to get one? You would go to a store, right? Well, of course you could do that, but if you wanted one that was cheaper and a bit better than most of the store watches, you went to the train station! Sound a bit funny? Well, for about 500 towns across the northern United States, that’s where the best watches were found.

Why were the best watches found at the train station? The railroad company wasn’t selling the watches, not at all The telegraph operator was. Most of the time the telegraph operator was located in the railroad station because the telegraph lines followed the railroad tracks from town to town. It was usually the shortest distance and the right-of-ways had already been secured for the rail line.

Most of the station agents were also skilled telegraph operators and that was the primary way that they communicated with the railroad. They would know when trains left the previous station and when they were due at their next station. And it was the telegraph operator who had the watches. As a matter of fact they sold more of them than almost all the stores combined for a period of about 9 years.

This was all arranged by “Richard”, who was a telegraph operator himself. He was on duty in the North Redwood, Minnesota train station one day when a load of watches arrived from the east. It was a huge crate of pocket watches. No one ever came to claim them.

So Richard sent a telegram to the manufacturer and asked them what they wanted to do with the watches. The manufacturer didn’t want to pay the freight back, so they wired Richard to see if he could sell them. So Richard did. He sent a wire to every agent in the system asking them if they wanted a cheap, but good, pocket watch. He sold the entire case in less than two days and at a handsome profit.

That started it all. He ordered more watches from the watch company and encouraged the telegraph operators to set up a display case in the station offering high quality watches for a cheap price to all the travelers. It worked! It didn’t take long for the word to spread and, before long, people other than travelers came to the train station to buy watches.

Richard became so busy that he had to hire a professional watch maker to help him with the orders. That was Alvah. And the rest is history as they say.

The business took off and soon expanded to many other lines of dry goods.

Richard and Alvah left the train station and moved their company to Chicago — and it’s still there.

IT’S A LITTLE KNOWN FACT that for a while in the 1880’s, the biggest watch retailer in the country was at the train station. It all started with a telegraph operator:

Richard Sears and his partner Alvah Roebuck

December 21, 2011 Posted by | Healthy living, Inspirational | Leave a comment


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