It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

We Are NOT The Only Experiment

“Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us. We are not the only experiment.”  R. Buckminster Fuller

Mr. Fuller said it, and just about every counselor or therapist I know would affirm it. We are not the only experiment.

One sure sign of psychological and emotional anguish is a turning inward. Children are no different from adults. When they are hurting, they are apt to feel they are the only persons on this earth, and that it is the job of everyone else to soothe them. Frankly, it’s not good for a child or adolescent to be the star, producer and director of their own personal movie. Such a inward turn is rarely a good thing.

The secret is to get the youngster to focus on someone else, if even briefly. It puts the child in a much better place and increases his or her emotional vision.

Years ago our son, Jamie, was a child care worker at a residential treatment facility. He worked with boys up to age 10. That week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day was awful. There were no more presents to open and there was no school. It was a “down time” of the worst variety.

The following year the staff took the boys over to a shelter for the homeless early in that same week to teach them a little lesson about the plight of others. They were given small jobs to do around the place. As they focused on the needs of the homeless around them, they began to put their own situations into a more positive perspective.

There was even a homeless clown at the shelter. He offered the boys unwrapped candy that had been collecting lint in his pockets for weeks.  One-by-one, Jamie pulled the boys aside and instructed each of them to accept the candy from the clown, BUT NOT TO EAT IT. He promised to trade them out a piece of wrapped candy when they got back to the unit. (It’s okay to accept the kindnesses of others, so long as they don’t poison you!)

The staff had little trouble with those boys for the rest of that week. I guess the lads figured out, for awhile anyway, that they were not the only experiment.

And that topped any present they got that Christmas.

James D. Sutton, Psychologist

March 30, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem, Special Occasions | 1 Comment

Pure Joy: 25 Cents!

Happy as a clam!Last Saturday my wife got a call from our three-yeard-old granddaughter, Ireland. It seems she she had been cruising garage sales with her mother (our daughter) when her eyes fell on a bonifide, authentic Barbie Doll jeep!

“Would you like to have that little jeep for your Barbies,” my daughter asked her.

“How much is it, Mommy.”

“It’s twenty-five cents.”

“Wow, Mommy, that’s a LOT of money! Are you sure?”

“I think I can handle it,” Katie assured her. The deal was done, and Ireland couldn’t wait to call her grandmother about her new jeep. She was delighted beyond words as she described the jeep in deep detail. And she played with it for four days straight, hauling her Barbies and whatever to the moon and back.

All for twenty-five cents.

I’d personally call that the bargain of the decade.

I suppose that, as Ireland gets a little older, it will be a REAL jeep that will catch her eye. And the price will go up.  

But, for now, this garage sale bargain is reaping a bumper crop of absolute joy. 

Got a spare quarter? Make an investment into someone you love.

James Sutton, Psychologist 

March 24, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents | 2 Comments

Do They Come When You Call?

While doing training in Nebraska this past fall, I visited with a school counselor in the audience who noted how much teaching young people is like raising horses. She went on to share plenty of examples.

One example involved new colts. If you chase after them in the corral, you’ll be chasing them when they get bigger. The emphasis with a new colt is to get the animal to approach you, to come to you. That, of course, establishes trust and a relationship with the colt.

Although our young people are more sophisticated and infinitely more valuable than horses, don’t we still want them to be comfortable in approaching us? Shouldn’t we have the sort of relationship with them that causes them to see us as a resource in their lives, and not an obstacle? Wouldn’t that make a different in their lives … and ours?

Tom Smith, masterful trainer of the famous horse, Seabiscuit, had this to say:

Learn your horse. Each one is an individual, and once you penetrate his mind and heart, you can often work wonders with an otherwise intractable beast.

If you know the Seabiscuit story and the state of this animal before Tom Smith convinced Charles Howard to buy him on a sure-bet hunch, you know that Smith was capable of practicing what he preached.

It’s a good reminder for us who daily touch the lives of young people.

James D. Sutton, Psychologist


March 17, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 1 Comment

A New Cell Phone; One Way to Mess Up Your Day

My wife and I got new cell phones this week. The old ones still worked, but we were ready for the new ones that will do just about anything, including cook your breakfast.

 After waiting for almost two hours to renew a contract, we were given phones that take your picture, play you tunes, let you surf the net and even watch television. Oh yeah, I hear if you work ’em right, you can even make a call on ’em.

Thursday was a complete wash because both my wife and I spent most of the day with our phone in one hand and the manual in the other, trying to figure it out. We’re both reasonably bright people, but this was a frustrating challenge. We literally killed the day fidgeting with the phones.

Maybe the Amish people in Pennsylvania have the right idea after all, a life uncluttered with technical trivia (although I DO consider flush toilets a basic staple of life). Without the added distractions, they are free to focus on faith, family and relationships.

And they do it well.

I recall a time when our children were small and we took them on an overnight camping trip to a little state park. We sat around the fire toasting marshmellows and telling stories. We all slept like babies that night.

Not a single phone rang on that trip because we left them all at home.

Our children really want us, not our “stuff.” 

James Sutton, Psychologist 

March 10, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents | 5 Comments

When Your Word Was All You Needed

In our present days of contracts and paper ligitation, it’s refreshing for me to remember a time when business could be conducted on the strength of a handshake alone. If a person later didn’t like the deal they had made, they simply said to themselves, “Well, there’s no changing it; we already shook on it.”

And that settled it.

 I also remember a term kids like me used to use: “Indian Giver.” It described a person who gave someone something, then asked to have it back. Had I only known then that I was as wrong as I could be. I was being unkind to a people who have exercised more character through the decades than anyone. This was brought to my mind when my teacher friend in Georgia, Frank Bird, put the following quote up in his daily newsletter. It doesn’t reflect specifically the honoring of agreements, but focuses more on our interconnectedness one with another. Come to think of it, interconnectedness has a lot to do with keeping promises, living in harmony, and raising our children accordingly.

What better legacy could there be?

 “… I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.” Lone Man (Isna-la-wica) Teton Sioux  

March 3, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 1 Comment