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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

When Outbursts Mask Depression in a Teen (Dr. Laurie Hollman)

Dr. Laurie Hollman, Unlocking Parental Intelligence, When Outbursts Mask Depression in a TeenOn one of many Saturdays, a thirteen-year-old spent the day screaming, throwing things, criticizing everyone for hours then slamming her door to her chaotic messy room and sleeping for hours.

Barely revived for dinner, she complained about the food, yelled at her mother for not knowing she was a vegan, and tossed her full dishes in the sink.

Her mother was angry, tired, and felt disrespected. She didn’t deserve this treatment and took it personally. Was this what the beginning of teenage life was going to be? Could she tolerate it?

Have you ever experienced this kind of scenario?

Earlier in the day this distraught mother had yelled,” What’s wrong with you?” sarcastically fed up and beside herself with her incorrigible child. Her husband was no help: “Now you’ve done it. She’ll never speak to you again.”

They had an argument about how to raise kids, something they’d done since she was a baby.

Something was “Hidden”
But by the end of the weekend, the thirteen-year-old’s mother shifted her tone and asked once again, but in a gentle voice, “Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” To this change of maternal voice, her daughter let forth a torrent of tears.

“I have no idea!” she said. “I wake up with a weight on my shoulders and force myself out of bed. Everybody and everything irritates me. I don’t want to be this horrible person, but I think I’m going crazy.

Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, Laurie Hollman PhDThis was the opening her mother needed to understand that the outbursts were hiding a deep insidious depression overtaking her daughter. There were no outward stressors beyond the norm of lots of homework, dramas with girlfriends, and frustrations with teachers. Her grades were decent, she got to school on time, and nothing traumatic seemed to be happening, or had it ever that she could remember.

This mother, however, was reminded of the depressions that crept through the female side of her family; now she knew it was her daughter’s turn.

Signs of a Struggle
The outbursts were just outer signs of a deep internal struggle with a biological base that made everyday life seem like a torrent of wounds. Her child’s revelation opened the door to a wish for help that had been conveyed indirectly through all the complaints, messes, and screams.

They weren’t bids for attention; they were demands for support and help. And once this mother no longer felt personally provoked, she could see with different eyes that the baby she had nursed and cuddled needed her warmth and strength again without judgment or accusations.

Learning, Help and Love
That cold weekend turned into a warm one as mother and daughter shuddered and cried together. Regaining composure the mother explained depression to her daughter. They google searched the signs and symptoms and knew this was beyond her daughter’s immediate control. She needn’t be blamed or accused of anything. They would work it out with help and kindness. This surely wasn’t about discipline, messy rooms and outbursts; it was going to be about learning, professional help, and above all … love.###

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. has a new book out, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius, and wherever books are sold.

May 25, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching Virtue in an Election Year (Dr. Daniel Trussell)

Dr. Daniel Trussell, How Families FlourishNo matter which candidate you support, there is no better time than a presidential election year to teach older children and adolescents about civic responsibility, critical thinking, and integrity. These activities all characterize people who live the good life, those who report the highest level of life satisfaction and happiness. Therefore, teaching virtue in an election year is very much worth the effort.

A “Themed” Family Meeting
If you’ve read my articles in the past, you know I am a strong advocate for regularly scheduled family meetings. Family meetings are a time to celebrate successes, compliment achievements, problem solve challenges and explore individualized family values. You might consider a family meeting themed around the presidential election.

One way to approach the discussion is to ask your child what they observe about each candidate’s performance during debates, forums, news bites and advertisements related to character traits the candidates’ exhibit rather than on their political platforms.
While this may seem a daunting task, here are some tips to help you guide the conversation.

Six Societal Virtues
Seligman and Peterson identified six virtues that can be found in virtually all societies. These include:

WISDOM- acquiring and using knowledge
COURAGE – accomplishing goals in the face of opposition
JUSTICE – building community
HUMANITY –befriending and tending to others
TEMPERANCE – protecting against excess
TRANSCENDENCE – connecting to the larger universe

Each virtue is demonstrated through consistent character strengths of an individual. Let’s look at those strengths.

How Families Flourish, Dr. Daniel Trussell, Daniel Trussell, PhDFor WISDOM, the strengths are a love of learning, discernment, curiosity, originality (approaching problems in new ways) and perspective.

COURAGE includes integrity, persistence, bravery and vitality.

JUSTICE involves teamwork, fairness and leadership.

HUMANITY manifests through generosity, loving and being loved, and social/emotional intelligence.

TEMPERANCE embodies forgiveness and mercy, humility, self-control and prudence/discretion.

TRANSCENDENCE encompasses appreciation of beauty in all things, gratitude, hope, spirituality and humor.

While no person exemplifies all the strengths mentioned above, it is helpful to identify the top and bottom strengths of an individual. For your family meeting conversation, you might want to look at the top three and bottom three strengths of each candidate from both parties.

A Few Ground Rules
If your family is not skilled at family meetings, some ground rules are worth mentioning. Family meetings need a rigid start and stop time where all family members are present. Once the meeting time is set, it can’t be changed unless there is a life or death emergency, so plan accordingly. No personal devices are to be used during this or any other family meeting (turn off TV or music, don’t answer phones etc.)

Each member gets an opportunity to identify the strengths of each candidate, without interruption, comment or judgment from the other family members. After everyone has had a chance to talk, a more general discussion can begin.

The time factor in family meetings is very important. There is much less resistance to family meetings when they start and stop promptly. If time runs out before everyone has finished, it is better to schedule an additional family meeting (same time, next week) than to extend the meeting.

A Nice Surprise
You might be surprised to learn how your kids are reacting to and absorbing the campaign information they are exposed to. The purpose of this family meeting is not to persuade anyone to come to your way of thinking but to learn about each individual’s personal reaction to this exciting electoral process. It only happens once every four years so let’s grasp the opportunity!

 

Daniel Trussell, Ph.D., MBA, LPC, NCC, CPCS is author of The How Families Flourish Workbook and How Families Flourish. He is a certified Professional Counselor supervisor and conducts training for both professionals and families in incorporating the findings from positive psychology into daily life. He can be reached at drdanieltrussell@gmail.com. [website]

 

May 19, 2016 Posted by | family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ten Ways to Boost Creativity (Mike Ferry)

Mike Ferry, Teaching Happiness and Innovation, Ten Ways to Boost CreativityCreativity is a path to happiness. The more time we spend being creative, the happier we’re likely to become. In addition, creativity is an essential aspect of innovation, which will propel us to a brighter future. As kids many of us are naturally creative. Unfortunately, our creativity tends to be eliminated as we enter school. So, here are ten ways to boost creativity.

The really good news is that we can reclaim our creativity. In addition, we can help our kids preserve and develop their creative capacity.

Teaching Happiness and Innovation, Mike FerryHere are ten (hopefully fun) activities designed to engage your skills of creativity. Using each group of words, compose a short story, skit, poem, song, movie, dance, etc. Let your mind roam free. If this becomes hilarious and a bit chaotic, so be it! Maybe you could try this exercise the next time you need an icebreaker in the office, the classroom, or anywhere else. Plus, you might learn a thing or two by looking up the meanings of any people, places, or things you don’t know about. The more we learn, the more creative we can be!

 

Submarine
Giraffe
Tampa
Violin
Superman

 

James Bond
Walla Walla, Washington
Skunk
Hula hoop
Nutella

 

Onion rings
Portland
Candles
Chinchilla
Millard Fillmore

 

Tuba
Vatican City
Thin Mints
Al Capone
Poker

 

Golf cart
Beard
Mars
Guinea pig
Ronald Reagan

 

Oak tree
Porsche
Suitcase
Lebron James
Aardvark

 

Pufferfish
Sphinx
Popcorn
Babe Ruth
Glockenspiel

 

Walrus
U2
Sled
Kabbadi
Napoleon

 

Molars
Ottawa
Silk Road
Flip flop
Olaf

 

Louis Armstrong
Iguana
Starbucks
Columbus Zoo
Hello Kitty pencil

This is a recent blog post of mine that has been getting some attention on Twitter. I’ve tried a few of these with my students, and the process has been lots of fun. ###

Mike Ferry is the author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation. A middle school history teacher in Richmond, VA, Mike is raising four (mostly happy) children with his wife, Jenny. For more information about teaching happiness to children, visit www.happinessandinnovation.com. Twitter @MikeFerry7

 

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Humor, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Parents Can Instill a Thirst for Learning (Michael Byron Smith)

Michael Byron Smith, The Power of Dadhood, Helping Fathers to be DadsHave you ever witnessed the look in a child’s eyes when the light bulb comes on? Adrenaline rushes in the moment he or she understands something which once puzzled, frustrated, or mystified them, accompanied by a great boost to their confidence. These moments are so important because success always begets more success. However, a child will have few opportunities to feel that rush or become more confident if not properly challenged intellectually. Let’s look at how parents can instill a thirst for learning.

photo by Michael Byron SmithBy challenged, I mean being introduced to new things which have to be studied to be understood. To a toddler it could be putting shapes in similarly shaped openings. As they mature, it could be building their own shapes, or houses, or cars with Legos and Lincoln Logs. Learning, like infinity, never ends. Experiencing it, like infinity, you may need a rocket ship. Parents can be rocket ships for their children for there will always be new discoveries to be found, studied, and conquered.

The stars of our galaxy are a wonderful way to stir the imagination. It could be explained that the North Star, the Big Dipper or other constellations helped early travelers find their way. Chemistry sets and microscopes are great tools to learn science, such as how to make slime or crystals, or how to see microscopic objects invisible to the naked eye. Each step of learning advances a child to a higher level of knowledge and a stronger desire to learn more. And don’t forget to take your kids to the local zoo or science center! Better yet, teach them about animals before you go. They will be fascinated.

I remember how astonished I was when I learned I could measure the exact height of a tree without climbing to the top and dropping a tape measure from the top branch to the ground. It was simple trigonometry. By finding a point away from the tree where the top of the tree was at a 45-degree angle from the ground, I knew the height of the tree was the same as the distance to the tree. I then wanted to learn more ways trigonometry worked to solve more mysteries.

Photo by Michael Byron SmithI haven’t even mentioned to greatest tool to a child’s imagination, that being reading! Reading to toddlers, or even babies fascinates them. They see the writing and the pictures and know they are related. Even the comfort of being on your lap and having your attention relates reading to being safe and loved. What better way to introduce a child to learning. As they get older, children want to be able to translate a written string of letters to understandable thoughts and descriptions, just like mom and dad can do.

Late Starts in Learning Can Be a Terrible Burden
But what about the child who is never read to, not to mention never having a learning tool like a chemistry set with simple experiments any parent can teach. They are left unaided to stimulate their imaginations which become a distinct disadvantage compared to their peers, those who have had loving attention and mentoring. Even though some children are born with more active imaginations than others, every child will be helped by outside stimulation. And although their schools are a key place to stimulate the imaginations of kids, the real joy of learning is discovered in the years prior to formal learning. Not surprisingly, it is the parents who are the key parties in challenging their children during these early years.

Very important in raising more than one child is to understand their different paces in learning and varied interests. Some kids will be more challenging than others, but they must not be compared. You want to challenge the fast learner and the slow learner at different rates but with similar degrees of challenge, i.e. where they will succeed, but not too easily. When over challenged, kids will get frustrated and want to quit. If under challenged, kids will be bored and disinterested in moving forward.

photo by Michael Byron Smith, parents are key teachersIf you are lucky, your child will find a passion. A child with a passion is like putting them in cruise control towards their love of further discovery. They will be driven by their interest and not by your prodding. With a passion comes a desire to learn more and more. A passionate child will more often live in the moment and not brood about the past or future.

The Dry Sponge Theory
Lastly, remember this when your child complains about not quite understanding a subject in school. Have him take the next higher level course and while he may struggle again, he will look back at the last level with more understanding. For instance, let’s say your child struggles with multiplication. If they graduate and then learn algebra, it follows that when she looks back to multiplication, multiplication won’t seem as difficult any longer.

I call this the ‘Dry Sponge Theory.’ (I discuss it in more detail in my book, The Power of Dadhood: Become the Father Your Child Needs.) A dry sponge absorbs quite a bit of moisture. However, when a sponge is totally wet, it won’t absorb anything more. A larger sponge will have room for more absorption. Taking algebra makes your learning sponge for multiplication bigger, allowing a capacity for more understanding. It follows that no one is an expert at the level they are studying. They become experts at a level two or three steps lower than where they are currently studying. For instance, sixth graders would be considered experts in fourth-grade subjects…and so forth.

Michael Byron Smith, The Dry Sponge Theory

Your kids may not be convinced of the ‘Dry Sponge Theory’, but hopefully you will be convinced to push them forward. The ‘Dry Sponge Theory’ works similarly for topics that may bore your child like Art Appreciation or History. They may not become historians, but their learning sponge will have increased in size and, therefore, in capacity. Other topics will fall more easily into place. I am convinced of this.

Summary
Parents are key teachers in the most important early learning years–when the sponge of a child’s brain is insatiably thirsty. Introduce interesting things to them. Challenge them. Make learning fun and look for a passion that may pull them forward. And finally, if they aren’t passionate about learning, keep pushing them. Knowledge and the thirst for learning are so important for their futures! ###

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

 

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Educators, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Kindness Cookies (Dr. James Sutton)

James Sutton,Dr. James SuttonMy wife and I love to eat out at a certain hamburger place that lets you “dress” your own hamburger. How can you complain when everything but the meat and bun are put there by you?

I was busy making the rounds between the lettuce, pickles and mayo when I saw a youngster, about six years old or so, having fits with the ketchup dispenser. He had more ketchup on him, the counter and the floor than he had in the little paper container. I told him that, since I had one free hand, I would pump the ketchup out for him if he would hold his container under the spigot.

Mission accomplished, as I returned to fixing my burger. But as the boy turned to walk away, he looked back at me and smiled.

“Thank you!” he said softly.
I’ve got to tell you, his thanks trumped the heck out of a little ketchup in the cup. I almost felt guilty that I hadn’t done even more for the lad. In fact, this little 30-second scenario caused me to remember something my grandmother taught me when I was about the same age as the ketchup boy.

Winters in Texas
One of my greatest thrills as a youngster came in the winter when my grandmother would stay with us in south Texas. Her husband, my mother’s father, died when I was an infant. Consequently, loneliness and the tough Oklahoma winters convinced Grandma to go south by train to stay with us through the coldest months.

I always cherished our time together, albeit those opportunities slackened a bit as my sister and cousins came along. On one occasion, however, it was just Grandma and me. We had the whole house to ourselves and a grand plan on what to do with the opportunity: We were going to make a batch of cookies.

A Cookie Problem
Now, Grandma’s sugar cookies were legendary. With a bit of pleading, I convinced her to quadruple the recipe. As cookies came out of the oven, I soon realized there were not enough jars in the house to hold them all.

True to her sensible ways, Grandma solved the cookie problem. She had me put the excess cookies into sandwich bags while she cleaned the kitchen and grabbed her sweater. We then called on neighbors up and down the block, sharing our bounty with them. It was an exercise in kind giving and appreciative receiving that has remained with me all these years.

Never Out of Style
In reading this, I’m sure there are those that would say this sort of kindness has gone out of style, that it would no longer work. Who would dare take those cookies from a semi-stranger at their door today? And, even if they took them, would they actually eat them? Who’s to say?

Still, if she were with us today, I believe my grandmother, by example, would be teaching her grandkids, great-grandkids and great-great grandkids that any kindness, however small, still counts.
Perhaps that even includes a couple of squirts of ketchup. ###

 

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. Dr. Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, a popular internet blog and radio-style podcast dedicated to supporting young people and their families. www.thechangingbehaviornetwork.com

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Healthy living, Human Interest, Humor, Inspirational, Parents | , , , , | 1 Comment

Instilling Positivity in Children and Teens (Peggy Caruso)

Peggy Caruso, instilling positivity in children and teensUnderstanding the subconscious mind will help us to focus on the importance of instilling positivity in children and teens. Your conscious mind is your reasoning mind; therefore, once you accept something to be true at the conscious level, it then goes into the subconscious mind and that is what produces your results. Your subconscious mind produces your actions. So, if you want to change the results you are getting then you must begin to alter your thought process.

Understanding Developmental Periods

You can alter behavioral patterns in children as well as adults. In doing so you must understand the developmental periods of a child’s life.

From birth to seven is the imprint period; in which everything is absorbed from the environment. Parents and relatives have the most impact on the child during this particular time.

From seven to fourteen is the modeling period and this is a very crucial stage. They break away from the parent and model the behavior of other children, movie stars, singers, etc. Many parents will ask me how it is possible to raise two children the same way and have them turn out so differently. That’s because they go in different directions and are influenced by others.

From fourteen to twenty-one is the socialization period. This is where they become individualized. So it doesn’t matter what influences they have encountered because you can always alter behavior. Understanding these periods helps us identify where the obstacles surfaced.

Altering Behavioral Patterns

One way to alter behavioral patterns is to implement techniques of Neurolinguistic Programming. It involves the systematic study of human performance. It is a multi-dimensional process that involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior. NLP is:

Neuro: Derived through and from our senses and central nervous system
Linguistic: Our mental processes are given meaning, coded, organized, and then transformed through language
Programming: How people interact as a system in which experience and communication are composed of sequences of patterns

Peggy Caruso, Revolutionize Your Child's Life, Neurolinguistic Programming, positive affirmations, implement success principles, Attitude of GratitudePositivity and Gratitude

Your subconscious mind doesn’t reason; therefore, you must be very careful as to what you plant. We are made up of energy, so it’s important to get our children in a positive energy flow so they are able to attract positivity.

There are many ways to get that energy flowing in the morning. I talk frequently about the importance of gratitude. Most people tend to focus on the negatives of life. Positive and negative can’t occupy the mind at the same time, and, since negative is the dominant emotion, one must work very hard to replace it with positive.

Another key tool is to teach them the importance of positive affirmations. Get them in the habit of saying positive statements such as…”I can…” or “I will…” Repetition is key, so, as they get in the habit of saying them, the greater positive influence they will have.

Get your children excited about their goals and have them create a vision board. It’s another powerful exercise of the mind that will keep them in a focused and positive environment.

Implementing Success Principles

Finally, implement success principles within your child. I’ve written many articles about the importance of this. It is a redirection of negativity and instilling entrepreneurial skills in children aids in them becoming successful adults. Teaching them the 4 C’s will make a difference when they become adults. They are:

Communication: Sharing thoughts, ideas and solutions
Collaboration: Working together to reach a goal
Critical Thinking: Looking at problems in a new way
Creativity: Trying a new approach

So develop an Attitude of Gratitude and get that positivity flowing! ###

 

Peggy Caruso can be reached at pcaruso@lifecoaching.comcastbiz.net for more information. www.lifecoachingandbeyond.com

 

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Counselors, Educators, Healthy living, Human Interest, Humor, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rebuilding Parental Self Esteem After Divorce Takes Its Toll (Rosalind Sedacca)

Rosalind Sedacca, Child Centered Divorce NetworkWe all know divorce can be devastating on many levels. But sometimes we forget the emotional toll of divorce. In addition to the physical and financial stress on both partners, divorce can also wreak havoc on one’s self-esteem. Even those who initiate the divorce process can experience tremendous emotional turmoil resulting in guilt, anxiety and insecurity. Those who were not expecting or in any way desiring the break-up can come away feeling psychologically battered, confused and questioning their own worth. A focus on rebuilding parental self-esteem is worth the effort.

It’s hard to tackle these burdens alone. A support group, private coach, professional counselor or other similar resources will be very valuable in reminding parents that 1) you are not alone in your experiences or feelings and 2) there is a brighter future ahead for you – if you take proactive steps in that direction.

While family and friends are usually very well-intentioned, their support may not always be valuable for you. They have their own agendas, perspectives and values about marriage, family and divorce. What parents most need at this difficult time is a support system that is dispassionate, compassionate and knowledgeable about responsible behaviors that will move you into a more positive chapter in your life.

Here are a few suggestions to guide parents in boosting their self-esteem during the divorce and its aftermath.

child centered divorce network, emotional toll of divorce, rebuilding parental self esteem, life is about choicesBe Committed to Releasing the Past

If you stay stuck in reliving and clinging to what no longer is your reality, you will not open the door to the next chapter in your life. There will be better, brighter days ahead – if you allow that awareness into your experience. Make space in your life for new friends, relationships, career options and fulfilling activities. Look for and expect new opportunities in new places. See the future as a positive beginning for you and your children. You’ll be pleasantly surprised about what you can create when you anticipate good things ahead.

Choose Your Company Wisely

We can’t easily change other people, but we can change the people we associate with. If your social group isn’t supportive of you, or tends to wallow in self-pity, realize you have a choice in your life about who you spend time with. Choose instead aware, introspective people who accept responsibility for their own behavior and proactively move ahead in transforming their lives. Move out of the blame game and put yourself in the company of positive people with high self-esteem who can appreciate you, with all your assets and baggage, as the wonderful person you are. You may find these people where you least expect them. So step out of your comfort zone – and be receptive to new friends and new experiences.

Be Flexible about Change

Life is always filled with changes, not just during divorce. Get comfortable with the unknowns ahead and accept that change is inevitable. While dark periods are tough to handle, realize they too will fall away and be replaced with better days and new relationships. Listen to your self-talk. Let go of limiting beliefs about yourself. When you catch yourself in doubt, fear or put-down language, become aware of that message and consciously refute it:

I am a worthy parent.

I can attract a new loving partner.

I deserve to be happy in my relationships.

My children love me and know how much I love them.

 

Determine what you want to change about yourself from within and relax about controlling circumstances around you. When you come to accept the reality of changes in your life, you’ll feel more at peace with yourself and those around you.

Life is about choices and decisions. Use your divorce as a catalyst for positive change. Choose to be the person and parent you most want to be. Then watch how circumstances around you settle into place more harmoniously than you ever expected.###

 

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right!, coaching services, and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.

 

April 7, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, courage, Divorce Issues, family, Healthy living, Self-esteem | , , , , | Leave a comment

Respond to Your Child’s “Getting On With Growing Up” Responses (Greg Warburton)

The following article is excerpted from Greg Warburton’s book, Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance.

……………………………………………

Greg Warburton, Ask More, Tell Less

I can live for two months on a good compliment. —Mark Twain

…………

Responding to the child’s response is a dynamic, interactive process between parent and child. Begin your continuous praise practice now. Children behave in myriad ways; sometimes what they do is troubling, and at other times it is positive, exciting, and transformative.

Getting Out of The Compliment Desert
Unfortunately, our busy, attention-fractured world can lead us into a compliment desert because we often take our children’s positive behaviors for granted. Or parents may believe that their children just know how to do certain things and behave in certain ways and no longer require any recognition for their positive ways of being. Vigilantly practicing responding (verbally and nonverbally) to your child’s getting-on-with-growing-up behavior response, and no longer taking good behavior for granted, can quickly put your family on a positively different pathway and provides an esteem-boosting oasis. Begin right now to consider how you too can move your family onto this pathway as you review the story below.

Greg Warburton, Ask More, Tell LessThe Meeting
I had been asked to meet a family with four children, ages five, seven, nine, and 11 who had been removed from an abusive home while living with their father and stepmother. They were now living with their mother, she seemed frantic and overwhelmed. She started our meeting by telling me that the children were not behaving for her and she didn’t know what to do to “bring them back into control.”

Picture me sitting in a room with all four children and their mother to talk about troubling behavior and adjusting to their new home, when all the children really wanted to do was play. How do I begin to engage them, to cause them to become attentive, curious, and active participants and, most importantly, begin to change the direction of their lives?

I started by noticing all of the growing-up things I saw them do or heard them say from the moment we began our meeting, and told each of them about what I was seeing. The instant anything positive happened, I responded with verbal praise.

Early in the meeting, I heard seven-year-old Abby say, “I have an attitude.” I immediately asked, “Did you notice the growing-up thing you just did?”

She shook her head to indicate that she didn’t know what I was referring to, but she seemed curious and engaged by my language and my excitement.

Me: Well then, I’m sure glad I saw it so I can tell you about it. Are you ready to hear what it was?

Abby: (Nods her head to mean “yes.”)

Me: I just caught you telling yourself and your family the truth about how you act sometimes.

To help her identify how this behavior connects to successful growing up, I continued:

Me: Does telling the truth help kids grow up or grow down?

Abby: Grow up.

Once I had acknowledged and reinforced her positive behavior with verbal praise, I moved on to externalizing the problem (from Chapter 13):

Me: How big does this attitude seem to be?

When she didn’t answer right away, I suggested candidate sizes:

Me: Does it seem bigger than you, as big as the room, as big as the world?

Abby (seeming amused): As big as the world.

Me: How much do you want to shrink the attitude?

Abby (clapping her hands together with excitement): All the way to ZERO!

As you analyze all that happened in the moment of interacting with one of the children, imagine the path we would have traveled had I responded to Abby’s statement by asking, “WHY are you having an attitude?”

My experience teaches me that Abby would typically have responded, “I don’t know, and I don’t care!” This predictable response usually leads the adult to telling the child what will happen if she doesn’t change her attitude and/or believing the child is being resistant: “Well, you know what will happen if you keep showing this bad attitude. You will stay in trouble and you won’t get any privileges, and you won’t have any friends” (and so forth). Instead, Abby was now engaged and curious. She was listening, thinking, and deciding about what she was going to do to fix the attitude trouble.

Build Awareness

One thing parents always have complete control over is which behavior they pay attention to. As you build your awareness, you will notice that there is always some good and appropriate behavior occurring, no matter what troubling and inappropriate behavior may be going on at the moment. But in our always-too-busy modern world, it is easy to take compliant, cooperative behavior for granted and confine the big energy and attention to behavior trouble. The problem with this approach is that any behavior that gets a parent’s main mental and emotional focus will tend to be repeated.

Remember, you do get to choose what behavior you will respond to day in and day out throughout your child’s adventures in growing up. In my 30 years counseling with kids, teens and parents, I have vigilantly chosen to see the socially successful behavior(s) and “catch them and praise them for getting-on-with-growing up.” ###

Greg Warburton is an experienced mental health professional who believes that children and parents grow as they become more self-reliant. For more information about his work and this book, go to his website [link].

 

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Parents, Resilience | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Your GPS for “Perfect” Parenting (Kirsten Siggins)

perfect parenting, institute of curiosity, family values, Kirsten Siggins

Being a parent these days is tough. So often I coach people who find their life as parents to be overwhelming. In our hyper-connected world of smartphones and social media, society has created an image of perfection in aspects of our lives, including how we are ‘supposed to’ show up as parents, which very few feel they are able to achieve. This societal expectation can create impossible challenges for many, leaving a wake of frustration, anger, judgment, shame, and even blame. I think we can all agree being a parent is hard enough and no one welcomes the pressures of trying to achieve “perfect” parenting.

Curiosity is at the Core

So what can we strive for as parents? At the Institute of Curiosity, we believe curiosity is at the core of being the best parent you can possibly be, whatever that looks like for you. Each of us, based on our upbringing, experiences and education can use curiosity to better understand ourselves and understand others, which supports us in being a better, stronger and happier self.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder and like conflict, it begins with our values. When you have clarity around your personal values, you can co-create family values that will help you navigate the challenges of being a parent. This also helps your family in conflict! Developing joint values around parenting supports a unified approach when dealing with issues with your kids. These values create a GPS for you to stay focused in all aspects of your lives including challenges that arise for your family and help you align with your vision of ‘perfect’ parenting.

3 Steps to Creating Your GPS for Perfect’ Parenting

1. Identify and define your values. Get curious to understand what’s non-negotiable for you. Ask yourself right now, “what are my values?” If you don’t know, that’s OK and it is time to start exploring them. Explore them personally and with your partner. As you explore them, it is important to define what they mean to you as we all define our values differently.

For example, adventure may be the movies for one and skydiving for another. Until you are clear on what adventure means to you it is difficult to live in alignment. Once you are clear on your values, you will gain clarity around what holds importance for you, what the non-negotiable are in your life. You will also gain that same clarity around your partner and how you want to show up together as parents. If you need some help exploring your values, check out a step by step process here: http://www.instituteofcuriosity.com/what-do-you-value-what-you-need-to-know-to-be-successful/

2. Identify your family values. What holds importance for you as a family? Working with your partner and kids, using the same steps as above, identify and define your family values. Once defined, clarity will be gained around how you and your family want to navigate life together. These values will support your kids in how they behave, make decision and manage expectations. Family values will also support you as a parent navigating the many challenges with continuity, and create consistency your kids can rely on. These values will also come in handy when in conflict!

The Power of Curiosity, curious questions, staying curiousAs an example, let’s say safety is a family value. Your teen wants to go to a party and you are concerned about their safety, you don’t want them to go. Rather than an all out war of “I am going/ No you aren’t” you can use that value as the focal point of your conversation when discussing the party to learn about your teen and their approach to the party. It could sound like: ‘Safety is one of our family values and we wonder, how do you plan to ensure you are safe while at this party? What strategies do you have in mind if you find yourself in a situation where your safety could be at risk?” Questions like these take the focus off you and your teen so you can both focus on your joint value of safety. Together you can decide if strategies need to be developed to ensure safety in order for your teen to attend the party.

3. Stay open and curious. As you discuss what is important to each other ensure that you stay open and ask curious questions to learn (focus on questions beginning with WHAT & HOW). We are each unique and just because you are a family, it doesn’t mean you all value the same things OR define your values the same way. Your definition of safety may be very different than your child’s, making it difficult to align and cause conflict. Be present to listen to your kids and spouse as they discuss what they value and how they define that. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it does allow you to better understand their perspective and experiences, and creates a framework that helps each family member make choices in their every day interactions.

This navigation system ensures you stay the course and support each family member in the challenges that present themselves each day. Sounds pretty perfect, right?

For more tips and tools to stay curious & connected, even in conflict, visit: www.instituteofcuriosity.com

Kathy Taberner & Kirsten Siggins are a mother/daughter communication consulting team with a focus on curiosity and founders of the Institute Of Curiosity. Their book, The Power Of Curiosity: How To Have Real Conversations That Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding (Morgan James 2015), gives parents or leaders (or both) the skills and the method to stay curious and connected in all conversations, even in conflict.

March 24, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Video Games: The New Plague (Dr. Larry Waldman)

Larry Waldman, video games, addictive video gamesVideo games are like crack cocaine to today’s youth. Many children, especially boys between the ages of 11 and 16, spend untold hours involved with these electronic games, often from the time they come home from school until they finally go to bed. Far too many kids spend essentially entire weekends (and most of their holiday and summer breaks) playing these “games.” I regularly hear reports from parents that their children engage in “gaming” to the neglect of homework, reading, eating with the family, or going out with the family. No-shows to college classes are at an all-time high due to students missing class to play video games.

Addictive

To say that video gaming is addictive is not an exaggeration. These addictive games are brightly colored, quite visually and orally stimulating, very life-like, and, most importantly, are self-regulated. Kids whom are unable to sit and concentrate for 15 minutes in school will spend an entire afternoon alone in their room intensely focused on a video game.

Promotes Lethargy and Obesity

Children of previous generations watched too much TV—this writer included. Nevertheless, those TV-watching kids managed to occasionally pull themselves from the “boob tube” to get out and interact and socialize with peers. Today’s “gamers” are socially isolated. “Virtual friends”–other kids who play along remotely–are considered “best friends” by many “gamers” today, though they have never met in person. Because of video games, today’s kids do not have the same opportunities to learn social skills as did children of previous generations.

Data on the epidemic of obesity in US adults (60%) suggests that the early bad habit of excessive TV-watching may be part of the reason many adults today fail to exercise. If the majority of the previous generation of TV-watching kids are now obese as adults, even though they got some exercise as children, what can we expect from the current generation of kids whom are not active even as children?! In 15-20 years we are going to see some of the largest “tushes” known to man—but their thumbs will be long and lean. (Some newer games encourage activity, interestingly, but their use is in the minority.)

Promotes Violence

Finally, and most significantly, we must consider the medium of these games to which are kids are addicted. The overwhelming majority of these video games involve violence—graphic violence, replete with screams, life-like blood, and gore.

In the 1970’s and ‘80’s many research studies were conducted which documented the negative psychological effect excessive TV-watching—and its associate violence–had on kids. Today’s “gamer” views more violence in an afternoon than I did throughout my entire childhood of watching TV.

WRWI firmly believe it is no coincidence that many of the young men who were responsible for some of the recent shootings we all have heard about were reported to be active “gamers.” I am not about to argue that video games caused these tragedies, but I have to wonder if electronically killing thousands of “aliens,” monsters, or “bad guys” over hundreds of hours of video gaming, could distort a young person’s reality or desensitize them to the value of life?

Pilots learn to fly via simulation. Maybe we should start calling this process video “training”—not gaming. I am waiting for the first defense attorney to use the “Gamer’s Syndrome” as a means to defend their client.

The Result

Every older generation thinks the younger generation is “going to hell in a hand-basket.” I remember when I got into the Beatles and my mother thought I had “lost my religion.” Having worked with hundreds of children over the past 40 years, I have become truly worried about the impact video games are having on our youth. I am fearful that soon we will have a generation of under-socialized, impulsive, impatient, entitled, apathetic, aggressive, obese young adults. To this health professional, video games are the newest plague.

What to Do

Parents, please toss out the X-Box or, at least, limit its use. Take a walk or hike with your child. Take a bike ride. Do something fun, active, and interactive; go to the gym together. It will be good for you and your child.###

Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for 38 years. He has worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples. He also provides forensic consultations. He speaks professionally to laypersons, educators, corporations, and fellow mental health professionals. He teaches graduate courses for Northern Arizona University. He is the author of five books (currently) involving parenting, marriage, personal wellness, and private practice. His contact information is: 602-418-8161; LarryWaldmanPhD@cox.net; TopPhoenixPsychologist.com.

 

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coaching Our Kids Through Anxious Moments (Dr. Kristen Costa)

Dr Kristen Costa, Reset, keyed up, anxious moments, anxious child, traps to avoidWhen our kids are walloped with anxiety, it’s usually not pretty.

They rant. They rave. They make blanket statements on the condition of their lives.

Sometimes they emotionally throw up on us. And it’s likely that we are getting the worst of it, with their raw emotions spilling out, and even perhaps setting off our own anxiety.

Dr. Kristen Lee Costa, Reset: Make the Most of Your Stess, keyed up, anxious moments, anxious child, traps to avoid

Keyed Up

We can just as easily feel keyed up when they are keyed up. As parents and caregivers, it can be difficult to choose our words wisely and offer counsel that helps an anxious child know that they are resilient, and capable of coming up for air and regrouping once they’ve regained their footing.

Traps to Avoid

Beliefs born out of anxious moments can catapult us into an avalanche of messy cognitive distortions and self-sabotage. Here are some traps to avoid; they are well worth teaching our kids (and ourselves) to avoid in those messy moments:

Trap # 1: Bolting. The quick exit is so tempting when things go awry. Even though the instinct to try help make it better for our kids, tough moments are powerful teachers. Helping them confront what is happening and work through it can build grit and stress resistance, which are essential through every stage of life.

Trap # 2: Trying to problem solve in the heat of the moment. When we’re clobbered with stress, we want to make immediate sense of things. Unfortunately, high anxiety levels can interfere with rational thinking. Teaching our kids when to problem solve and when to hold off is a valuable skill.

Trap # 3: Keeping it a secret. Letting anxiety and negative emotions fester and go untended only makes matters worse. Anxiety is part of life. When we normalize this for our kids, they are more likely to open up and reach out for help. Creating a space where kids can vent and admit they are struggling is vital.

Coaching our kids through anxious moments takes finesse. By helping them see these common anxiety traps, we support them in creating habits that cultivate resilience. ###

Dr. Kristen Costa speaks not only from her 20+ years as a mental health clinician and educator, but as a parent. Known as “America’s Stress and Burnout Doc,” Dr. Kris is the author of the award-winning book, RESET: Make the Most of Your Stress, and she’s a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Psychology Today. [website]

March 10, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Real Conversation with Your Teen: Make It a New Norm (Dr. Laurie Hollman)

real conversation, Laurie Hollman, talking to teensThe next time you talk to your teen, notice how often he or you share your attention with your smart phone. How long can you talk without an intervening text? What is the impact of these diversions on your parent-teen relationship? What might be the value of real conversation?

Remember …?
Remember the day your daughter came home with a dismal look on her face? Head down, she walked right past you without much of a hello while glancing at a text on her phone. Did you think to question what that dismal expression meant or were you deterred by her texting or your own phone ringing? How many days passed before you found out her boyfriend had just broken up with her and she felt lost and alone?

Remember when your son threw down his backpack as he marched into the house? Except for the cell phone in his hand, the silence toward you plus his grim exterior suggested he had abandoned all traces of connections with others. He raced upstairs and you didn’t see him until you called three times that dinner was ready.

When he said he wasn’t hungry, you got a text from your husband that he’d be late and so you ate alone while texting your friend. How many days passed before you were informed by email from a teacher that your son was failing both English and math, the news that silenced him that day and made him lose his appetite.

Heed the Warning
When texting is primary and talking is secondary, heed the warning that you and your teen are growing distant. You can blame the smart phone, but be a smart parent and call a halt to this progression. Talking to teens requires all your attention.

real conversation, Unlocking Parental Intelligence, Laurie Hollman, talking to teensThis doesn’t mean moving in like an army captain to take away your kid’s phone. After all, you’re also carrying out the same smart phone diversion tactics interfering with your relationship. It does mean giving your child your full attention when needed, not googling for more data about what’s being discussed. It does mean having real conversations without interruptions. Stop googling and start talking!

8 Tips for Real Conversation

1. Put your cell phone far away. The very presence of the phone may change the tone and content of the conversation.
2. Maintain eye contact. This means you are fully present with complete attention.
3. If you’re getting bored and have that cell phone urge, listen more carefully and closely to what is being said and respond in kind.
4. Keep your mind in the present, not diverted elsewhere if the image of your phone comes to mind.
5. If you feel the desire to go find your phone and not stay in the conversation, consider that what’s being discussed is a bit disturbing. All the more reason for a parent to stay in the conversation with your teen! Maybe you are about to hear something distressing but important.
6. If you miss your phone, it’s a clue you have just lost empathy toward your teen. Why would you choose your phone over your child? Something’s off and you need to attend to your feelings.
7. Real conversation without interruption builds bonds because it fosters connections. It’s like hugging with words when you really listen to your teen.
8. Now make face-to-face conversation a priority. Engage your teen at least once a day for at least ten to twenty minutes. It will be rewarding because you will understand your child better and your child will feel he or she is loveable to you.

As parents, we owe it to our kids to keep phones away from the dinner table, the living room, and the car. They deserve to be listened to with our full attention. The time is now to make real conversation the new norm. ###

Laurie Hollman, PhD, [website] is a psychoanalyst with a new book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius and wherever books are sold.

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seven Ways of Teaching Happiness to Your Kids (Mike Ferry)

Happiness is the “Holy Grail” of parenting. While all of us want our kids to be happy and successful in life, we may not know exactly how to achieve this goal. Fortunately, the “science of happiness” can show us the way to teaching happiness.

teaching happiness, science of happinessYears of research have revealed certain habits and beliefs that make us happier, more creative, and more effective in everything we do. Rather than waiting and hoping that emotional well-being will descend from the heavens, we can show our children how to forge happy lives.

Since learning about this branch of psychology, I have been on a mission to share this knowledge with parents. I wrote a book, Teaching Happiness and Innovation, to help parents identify the habits of happiness and teach them to their kids. We are all thirsting for guidance in this department, and I hope that my efforts make a difference.

teaching happiness, science of happinessI’d like to give you seven ways to point your children towards lives of joy and meaning. These ideas come from my free 21-day “Happy Family” challenge. As is the case in other areas of life, practice makes perfect if you want to form the habits of happiness!

1. Write down the names of three people, places, or things you are grateful for. If you want to learn more about the importance of gratitude, please sign up for my email list. As a thank-you gift, you can download the “Gratitude” chapter from my book for free.

2. Spend some time in quiet prayer or meditation. Nurturing our spirituality is an important aspect of happiness.

3. We feel better when we are creative and thoughtful. Create and send a homemade card to Grandma, Grandpa, or another special person in your family’s life.

4. Challenge yourself to learn something new. Do you know the countries of Europe? If not, start learning them here.

5. Combine these five words to form a short story. If your story is hilarious and unrealistic, that’s just fine.

Miami
Santa
Banana
Anteater
Wagon

6. Think about a time when someone was kind to you. Give yourself a quiet space to reflect on this happy memory.

7. Bake cookies for a neighbor. When you deliver them, talk about the fun you’ve been having with the “Happy Family” challenge! Maybe your neighbor will enjoy the experience as well.###

Mike Ferry is the author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation. A middle school history teacher in Richmond, VA, Mike is raising four (mostly happy) children with his wife, Jenny. For more information about teaching happiness to children, visit www.happinessandinnovation.com. Twitter @MikeFerry7

February 25, 2016 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter: A Time For Introspection and Renewal (Dr. Daniel Trussell)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs the dark nights seem to stretch forever and days are cold, still and short, Winter is a time for reflection. It’s the perfect opportunity to fine tune desires, goals and accomplishments planned for in the coming year. Winter offers a time for refreshment and renewal as outdoor activities, social functions and overburdened schedules slow down to create a less frenzied routine.

With less hectic schedules, fewer time constraints and reduced daily routine, we find more time to reflect on the past: lessons learned, accomplishments gained and new strategies for “getting it right this time.”

 

snow, snow days, winter is a time for reflection, winter renewal

Families spend more time indoors together, providing the gift of time to spend with one another. Opportunities abound for increased intimacy, improved communication and the intentional making of positive memories with one another.

Yet many of us fail to embrace this auspicious time of year that encourages us to look inward, feast on the harvest of experience the preceding seasons provided and foment plans to increase engagement, meaning and positive relationships.

Snow Days as Grow Days
My wish for families I interact with during the Winter is that they will have several snow days – those days when everything shuts down, kids can’t get to school, parents can’t get to work and there is general quiet and beauty. Of course, in my vision, there are no disasters to contend with, the heat and lights stay on and a deep blanket of pristine snow covers the driveways and highways, inviting play and merriment.

Dr. Daniel TrussellBut what happens during snow days? Kids may go off on their own, parents worry about not getting work done and there may be a general sense of restlessness, boredom or dread.

However, snow days can provide a unique set of circumstances that gathers the family in one place at the same time. It’s the perfect time to hold a family meeting, learn a new skill, begin a family project or foster family bonds through creating positive memories, engaging in positive family activities and improving relationships.

A little planning now for those snow days can help structure activities that promote better family well-being and put every family member on notice that a snow day is a grow day.

While the promise of renewal lies shortly ahead when trees leaf out, daffodils bloom and the first Spring crops emerge, Winter is truly a time to celebrate. Take advantage of this Winter to not only plan for the future but to review the past and change the present. You are in charge of creating the future you want to have. Winter is the springboard. ###

 

Daniel Trussell, Ph.D., MBA, LPC, NCC, CPCS is author of The How Families Flourish Workbook and How Families Flourish. He is a certified Professional Counselor supervisor and conducts training for both professionals and families in incorporating the findings from positive psychology into daily life. He can be reached at drdanieltrussell@gmail.com. [website]

 

February 18, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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)

CMonsonphoto

(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

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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]

 
  image          
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].
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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.

www.PenoftheWriter.net

 

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)

REFRAMING LIFE’S PROBLEMS; MUD SPLATTERS OR POLKA DOTS?

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.

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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
Email

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
Email

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
Email

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

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