It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Where There is Hope, There is Life

This title sounds a bit heavy, but it’s so true. As a child and adolescent psychologist, I have worked with youngsters who had lost hope. Some wanted to die, feeling that nothing would ever come of their lives. They were at a low point and from there, everything looked low or lower to them. When suicide is better than living through the next five minutes … well, that’s bad.

 You need only look into the eyes of one of these youngsters once to place a high value on hope.

A few months ago, Diane Sawyer of ABC (a “Good Morning, America!” regular) did a piece on the effects of poverty. I only caught a glimpse of the show as I was passing through the living room, but it was vivid. Diane spent the night in the home of a poor family (in New York City, I assume), a single mom with a young boy about four years of age. (According to Diane, it was a rough experience all night long. I’ll spare you the details.) 

Diane interviewed the boy, a good-looking kid. He was clear on the fact that nothing would ever be any better for him and his mother, that this is how it will ALWAYS be.


Folks, if that doesn’t break your heart, you have a serious problem.

We should all be hope merchants, realistic but encouraging, especially to youngsters who don’t know that, if they can just make it around the next bend, the road improves.

We can look to the future by knowing about the past. The late Stephen Ambrose, author of “D-Day” and “Band of Brothers,” said it well:

The past is a source of knowledge;

The future is a source of hope. 

I got to checking. I don’t know if he intended it so our not, but Mr. Ambrose’s quote was amazingly close to another one … from the Bible. It’s from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans:

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,

that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.  Romans 15:4 KJV

One purpose of keeping track of history is to learn from it, and to teach the lessons learned. Experience and learning can put a shine on the future. And the better the future looks, the better the hope. I’m not sure every four-year-old will grasp all of that, but they can read the hope in the one sharing it.

“Hope Merchants” … I like the sound of it.

 James Sutton, Psychologist

June 24, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 1 Comment

Sometimes “MY WAY” Doesn’t Work

water toolwater toolwater toolwater toolWhen our automatic sprinklers were installed in our yard a couple of years ago, I was given a handy little tool for adjusting them. I really never gave it another thought until I turned on the back-yard sprinklers one morning to see how they were doing. One of them was shooting water over the fence and into the neighbor’s yard! As expensive as water is where I live, I was darned if I was going to give it to the neighbor!

I looked around for the handy-dandy adjustment tool (pictured here). Remembering bits and pieces of what the sprinkler man told me, I stuck the tool into the sprinkler head and gave it a twist in the “-” direction (to decrease the arc). Nothing happened at all. I twisted it some more. Nothing.

Now I was getting frustrated.

I took the little tool and poked it into some of the other sprinklers and turned. It had no effect whatsoever. “What’s wrong with this stupid tool,” I said to myself.

I sailed right past frustration and into anger. I dug up the ground around the sprinkler and took the whole unit out of the ground. I carried it into my shop, put two bright lights on it, and literally took it apart to see why I couldn’t adjust it.

The answer came quickly. There was nothing wrong with the sprinkler. There was nothing wrong with the tool. I HAD BEEN POKING THE WRONG END OF THE TOOL INTO THE SLOT. The Hunter company had designed a product that worked perfectly. They naturally assumed that a reasonably bright homeowner would at least glance at the instructions on how to get the most from their product.

Lesson learned, but since this blog is about how we can best teach our children good lessons in all aspects of life, let me draw three teachable conclusions from my water sprinkler escapade:

1. We don’t have all the answers.

2. Some of the answers we do have are wrong.

3. It’s not a bad idea to take a peek at the instructions.

James Sutton, Psychologist

June 18, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents | 1 Comment

In Your Face!

I’m quite fond of this quote by one of our former US presidents:

“The face you have up to age thirty five is the one you are born with; after thirty five, it is the face you have made.” Abraham Lincoln

It’s true, isn’t it. Life leaves its traces on our faces. Who would know better than Abraham Lincoln? If you examine photos of him when he took office and photos of him late in his presidency, you’ll see vivid evidence of how the Civil War played across his face.

 I’ve often wondered if we can see worry and pain, or peace and contentment, on a person’s face, does the rest of their body carry the same message? I believe it does, and all I’ve read and learned tells me that we not only can have a worried face, but a worried liver, heart, lungs, etc. as well. No wonder so many folks get sick before their time. And it shortens their time, maybe a bunch.

Sometimes it’s not so much what you eat, but rather what’s eating you.

To turn this concept over on the other side, does this mean that folks with a deep serenity that shows in their faces have happy bodies and organs as well? Does this conribute to longevity and a life-long sense of health and purpose? I believe it does.

Not many folks in our society reach an age that has to be recorded with three digits, although there are societies where ages of 100+ are fairly common. And, when you look closely at these societies, they are comprised of folks who live simply, naturally and very close to the land.

It’s hard to convince our children that long life begins with good habits early on; they generally think they’ll live forever anyway.

But good habits will show up alright–in your face.

 James Sutton, Psychologist 

June 13, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 1 Comment

When You’re Selling HOPE, Business is Good

“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, and I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I’ll be able to realize them!” Anne Frank 

Many folks, myself included find it difficult to understand Anne Frank’s optimism that the onslaught of the Nazi war machine and the devastation it left in its wake would ever leave. Just remember this: She wrote these words when things were at their worst, when there was not a breath of a hint of change. Now that’s hope. No, that’s HOPE.

On several occassions while stationed in Vietnam, our compound took a hard shelling. That, with the communications workload causing us to work longer and harder hours during those days of maximum enemy activity (directing the fire back at the enemy), caused us to lose massive amounts of sleep. We (I) just wanted it to stop. But in the middle of it all, it seemed it would NEVER stop. But, of course, it did eventually cease.

Adults have a distinct advantage over children and adolescents when it comes to enduring hard times: They know from experience that the bad stuff subsides eventually (not always a given). Youngsters don’t really grasp this; they need caring, loving, sensitive and insightful adults to give them a little history lesson.

“It’s tough right now, but this too shall pass,” we might say. And it generally does.

 Kids learn this as they advance a few years. Then they in turn, encourage younger ones.

That’s the way it works.

James Sutton, Psychologist

June 6, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 2 Comments