It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Resolving Conflicts with Your Children

Here is a complimentary e-book that addresses the sort of damaging conflict that can occur between parent and child or teacher and student. It offers a ten-step, problem-solving intervention that can be used with a child or adolescent.

I wrote this 17-page e-book over the past weekend, while in the same “thought set” that prompted my previous post. More to come later, but check out this link, and feel free to pass it on:

James Sutton, Psychologist

August 28, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Parents, Self-esteem | 3 Comments

Don’t Blame the Thermometer

I have put quotes from a lot of folks on this blog, mostly quotes from folks you’d know just from their name. Well, this time I want to try one. It involves a topic that’s been on my mind for the last few weeks:

Blaming a child for the problems of a poorly functioning family or classroom is like blaming a thermometer for the weather. –James Sutton

 Unfortunately, I have sat through meetings in my office or at a parent conference at school and have heard a parent (or a teacher in some cases) blame their every problem on the child. And, as often as not, the child was present when this was shared.

If they say these things about the child and to that youngster  in your presence, what on earth is going on at home?

Unfortunately, I think it happens a lot, this emotional abuse that can cut so deeply. In thinking about it, I’m really amazed that kids turn out as well as they do.

Here’s the sad part. What if a child begins to believe it? What if a youngster starts to believe that they are the source of all the misery in this world? (Those of you who work in this business know I’m not exaggerating here.)

If they hear it enough, why wouldn’t they believe it?

I once worked with a 14-year-old boy who came to live in a group home simply because his new stepmom hated him. She stayed on his case until one day he did mess up behaviorally. That was the opening she needed to ship him out.

He was a good young man, and I was fortunate to work with him at the group home. He was assigned to a great cottage with other boys, where he grew and developed into a very decent, kind and responsible person. But he retained a tiny bit of that “I’m a piece of crud” thinking his stepmom had insisted on pounding into him.

Just after he arrived at the group home his grandmother was at the point of death. The stepmom would not come and take him to see her, nor would she allow her husband (his father) to do it. So someone from the children’s home took him to see his grandmother one more time.

I’m told her face lit up when she saw him come through the door. I’m also told that she held onto his hand, called him by name, and told him that the problem with his stepmother was not his fault. She then gestured toward the staff member from the children’s home that had driven him to the hospital and said, “These people care about you, and they will always tell you the truth. Believe them.”

It was like he had been cut free from a dungeon. He really grew from that point. One of the lucky ones, huh?

My guess is that the stepmom was damaged as a child herself. Few people aspire to be a hateful and spiteful person. It just happens. (And my guess is, if you took a “hard” approach at working with her, she would push back just as hard.)

Good or bad, kids accurately reflect with their behavior much of the state of their tiny chunk of the world. But they’re only the thermometer.  They don’t make the weather.

James Sutton, Psychologist

August 25, 2007 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 3 Comments

A Demonstration of Caring

I don’t believe I ever put up TWO posts in the same day, but this one couldn’t wait.

I’m a member of the National Speakers Association and regularly participate in our CSP listserv. (CSP means Certified Speaking Professional, an earned credential roughly equivalent to a doctorate in professional speaking. Because it is a demanding and rigorous, five-year program, less than 10% of NSA’s members have it.)

Today, Brad Montgomery, CSP and humorist mentioned that he was to speak Monday at the opening of the schools in the area in Utah were the miners were trapped. He was asking for input on how he should approach his program, and he got some great feedback.

Chad Hymas, CSP responded also. Chad lives in the Huntington area, where Brad will be speaking. (Chad is an inspirational speaker and a world-record wheelchair athlete). Chad obviously had some powerful input, but what touched me was this from Chad’s email:

My family and I attended last night’s opening Emery High School football game. I got to be on the sidelines with the team. Before the game, the opposing team presented Emery High School with a HUGH bouquet of flowers and a check for $2300 that the team had collected for the affected families. It was most incredible.”

You know what, that’ll never make the front pages, but it ought to.

Pass it on, and God Bless.

(and Brad, you’ll do just fine!)

James Sutton, CSP  Psychologist

August 18, 2007 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Educators, family, Humor, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | Leave a comment

First Flight: Scary Stuff

First FlightMy wife and I had a pair of barn swallows build a mud/grass nest on our back porch. They were about half-way through the building of it when our pest control guy came to do his quarterly.

“I can knock the nest down if you like, but those little birds will take care of the mesquitos,” Daniel shared. Faced with the choice of bird poop or mesquitos, we let the nest stay. (I’m a softy; I wasn’t going to destroy their hard work anyway.)

Would you believe it? I don’t recall one single mesquito this summer on my back porch. Next spring, I’m hanging out a “FOR RENT” sign on that nest. 

Bobbie (my wife) and I were amazed at just how fast this whole circle of life took place. There were eggs, then baby birds (four) and then … FLIGHT DAY.

I have to plead ignorance; my knowledge of barn swallows is quite limited. On the day that was apparently flight day, the birds’ parents, with help of some other swallows, were dive-bombing anyone and anything that stepped out into our back yard.  I guess they were running a bit of interference for folks and cats who might try to catch a young fledgling in their most vulnerable moment.

Two of the barn swallowettes had already left the nest, and two were still in it. I saw one of them was perched on the edge, apparently contemplating that first flight (see the photo). Apparently, he thought about it for a long, long, long time. He (or she) was perched on the edge of that nest for over an hour, just thinking it over (or whatever goes through a young barn swallow’s mind). To that little bird, I’ll bet diving off that nest and negotiating the slope of the porch and the terrain of the back yard would look to us like jumping head-first into the Grand Canyon.

Obviously, the little bird DID make that first flight. Instinct took care of that. 

We can probably remember as kids our FIRSTS: the first time off the big diving board, the first time on the bike without the training wheels, the first time we drove the car all by ourselves and, for the guys, a first of firsts: the first time you asked a girl for a date. (How many weeks did you perch on the edge of the nest on that one, fellas?)

Life’s firsts … sometimes they’re scary stuff!

James Sutton, Psychologist

August 18, 2007 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents | 2 Comments

Thank You AGAIN, Dr. Einstein

Dr. Arden Bercovitz (Einstein Alive) graciously responsed to my last post about Dr. Albert Einstein (you can read it in the comments). In his response, he offered another quote that gives even more insight into the humanity of the man that Time magazine named the most famous person of the 20th century. That, folks, covers a LOT of waterfront.

Thanks, Arden, for this quote from Dr. Einstein:

“We can live our life in two ways. One as though nothing was a miracle. The other as though everything were.”

That’s an interesting quote from a man of science, but Dr. Einstein acted on it. He was, in his time, a Zionist, a strong proponent of the establishment of the Land of Israel. This included the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in that land. The miracle, of course, DID happen, but not without some difficulty, even today. It is my understanding that Dr. Einstein was even asked to be president of the reestablished Israel, but he graciously declined.  

You see, Dr. Einstein was ALWAYS  in the miracle business, one way or the other.

Thanks, Arden. I checked you out on the YouTube site. The look of wonder on those kids’ faces is, I think, part of Einstein’s ongoing miracle.

James Sutton, psychologist

August 15, 2007 Posted by | adversity, Educators, Inspirational | Leave a comment

Thank You, Dr. Einstein

Here’s an interesting quote I came across this morning.

 Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”  Albert Einstein

 In addition to being a brilliant physicist, Albert Einstein was quite the philosopher. And, according to this quote, quite a man of values.

I have an acquaintance in the National Speakers Association, Dr. Arden Bercovitz. Arden is Albert Einstein on stage; he brings Dr. Einstein to us in a contemporary, living way. It’s refreshing.

At our recent convention in San Diego, I reminded Arden that he and I were in the same “class” in 1998 in Philadelphia, where we received our Certified Speaking Professional credential (after five years of hard work). Knowing that some of the character specialists in NSA choose to live in the area where their character either lived or did a major work (for instance, Ralph Archbald, who characterizes Benjamin Franklin and looks more like Franklin than Franklin, lives in Philly), I asked Arden if he had ever presented at Princeton University.

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you,” he replied, “but no, I haven’t. Einstein was such a global, universal personality. He’s everywhere, and just about everyone knows who he was.”

Arden’s job is to expand our knowledge not only of Albert Einstein, but on how we can use our minds and energies creatively, abundantly and … unselfishly.

James Sutton, Psychologist

August 10, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 1 Comment

Slip, Slipping Away

This will be a sad post. My wife’s cousin is dying with pancreatic cancer. She’s at his house right now; the end for him is very close. VERY close.

All of this got me to thinking, and I’d be interested in your thoughts also.

My wife grew up with this cousin, who is the oldest grandchild on my wife’s side of the family. What I’m saying is … this is OUR generation; not the parents or the grandparents … the kids.

He was a hulk of a man, a football star in high school. He saw combat action in Vietnam and came out of the Army and followed a career in law enforcement. He was the beloved Chief of Police in our community until his health caused him to retire much too early. He served as a deacon in his church and was the rock his family always counted on. He dearly loved his grandchildren and loved nothing better than spending time with them.

I know him, of course, but he and my wife were especially close. To see her go through this imminent loss is dificult for me to take. That might be second-hand grief, but it hurts just the same.

The intensity of events like this is rare, thank God. But they do cause us all to take a moment to realize that a bad day for us could be a wonderful day for folks who truly are hurting in a massive way. It also causes is to reflect on how we would react to these kinds of circumstances in our own lives.

And, since this is a blog about young people, how do we help children deal with loss? I think we do it by telling them the absolute truth, but from a perspective of understanding and unfaltering support. I would encourage you to tell them that, no matter what, we live in a country that will see children are taken care of one way or another. (I believe that’s still true.)

Well, I told you it would be a sad post today. So, if you have a moment during the next day or two, you might send some thoughts or prayers by way of this good man and his family.

His name is Keith.

James Sutton, Psychologist

August 6, 2007 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 3 Comments