It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

How to Praise a Difficult Child

As a parent, have you ever tried to compliment your difficult child, only to have it turn into an argument or fight? (ODD kids especially are good at trying to analyze your motive or drag you into a conflict on their turf: words.) If so, here’s a little strategy that is very effective because … well, because after the compliment you’ll disappear! (It’s quite difficult to argue with someone who isn’t there.)

There are two components to pulling off this intervention. First, you’ll need a pre-planned, quick exit. Second, you’ll need an argument-resistant compliment or expression of thanks, something that can be objectively verified. (“Thank you for being nice today” is not an objective statement and, with some youngsters, it can turn into a noose around your neck. “I noticed you put the lawnmower back in the garage” would be objective and verifiable.)

Here’s an example of a father speaking to his teenage daughter as he is standing at the front door, car keys in hand:

Oh, Terri, I wanted to tell you something. I’m headed to the store to get some whipped cream for dinner, but I didn’t want to neglect to mention this. It’s important. Every day this week you’ve gotten out your homework and attended to it without your mother or I needing to remind you at all. That’s wonderful, Terri. Thanks. Gotta go.

And he leaves quickly, before there’s even an opportunity for Terri to say anything.

Now, if she really wants to say, “Thanks, Dad, thanks for noticing,” she can say it when Dad returns. It’s up to her, but there’s no need for an obligatory response on her part, nor is there an opening for her to whip up an argument or “attitude.” The good stuff happens in the silence as Dad is driving to the store.

The beginnings of positive change don’t make any sound at all.


James Sutton, Psychologist

June 30, 2009 Posted by | Difficult Child, family, Parents | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Father’s Day Tribute, 2009

Here’s a YouTube upload of a song I wrote following the loss of my father, Fred Sutton, in 1998. The lyrics of it are in an earlier Father’s Day post on this site. This posting is my Father’s Day, 2009, tribute to him. More than that, it’s for all the fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers that have lovingly guided our lives in so many ways.

Thanks, Dad. Thanks for always being there for me.

James Sutton, Psychologist

June 15, 2009 Posted by | family, Inspirational, Parents, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Wishes, Alyssa

The front page of the San Antonio Express-News captured my attention this morning. It was a huge photograph of St. Mary’s University sophomore, Alyssa Trevino and her mother, Edna, fullfilling a longstanding wish to meet the pope. (In the photo, he seems as delighted as she is.)

Alyssa, a native of Harlingen, Texas,  is 19, but six years ago, she had open-heart surgery. The Rio Grande chaper of the Make-A-Wish Foundation sent Alyssa and her mother to the Vatican for this memorable moment.

But there’s more. Alyssa is currently majoring in biology, with plans to become a pediatric cardiologist. Something tells me she’s going to make it.

We live in a time when young people collect a lot of bad press. Some of it’s their fault, some not. But is refreshing to reflect on the fact that there are plenty of good kids out there.

James Sutton, Psychologist

June 11, 2009 Posted by | adversity, family, Inspirational, Parents | , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on D-Day, 65 Years Later

Precious few of those who survived the invasion of Normandy and eventually broke the back of the Nazi regime are still with us. It’s been 65 years.

Their sacrifice and their unfaltering resolve stood in the gap at a time when the Allies were assured of nothing. I don’t know if there was a back-up plan to the invasion, but I doubt it. Had the invasion failed, our world would be much  different today.

The decision to invade the beaches and thrust through France and eventually onto German soil had to be sheer agony  for Allied Supreme Commander General Eisenhower. He was aware of the cost. I’m sure that, as he looked into the faces of the men of the 101st Airborne as they were preparing to be dropped behind enemy lines as a component of the plan, he knew full well a good many of these soldier would ever see their families and loved ones again.

But mostly, it was not the generals, but rather the privates, corporals and seamen whose resolve made the defining difference. They weren’t fighting for glory; they were fighting for absolutely everything they held dear. 

We could use a little of that sort of resolve today.


James Sutton, Psychologist

June 6, 2009 Posted by | adversity, family, Inspirational, patriotism, Special Occasions | Leave a comment

Why Kids STAY Angry

Anger in children and adolescents is one of the toughest behavioral issues to manage. This is partly because the expression of anger “feeds” the next angry outburst. In other words, angry behavior is self-reinforcing because of the “benefits” it creates for the individual. Consequences alone usually don’t slow down the angry youngster much at all. Nationally recognized psychologist and author, Dr. James Sutton, explains the issues of anger in young people, why they are so difficult to address, and how we can better address the needs of the angry child or adolescent.

It might take a moment for this video to load. Here’s a link of this video you can email:

James Sutton, Psychologist

June 5, 2009 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Parents | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment