It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Trust and Honesty are Where You Find Them

My wife and I have completely enjoyed a trip from Texas to Idaho to see our daughter and her family there. (We took two grandkids on the plane with us, creating a total of four very happy youngsters.) She lives outside Orofino near the Lewis & Clark Trail. Beautiful country!

We took the grandkids to see the federal fish hatchery there, and the dam that is close. There’s a spot below the dam where water sports abound, including a swimming area. (This is good, because there are few public swimming pools in the area.) Swimming there is an awesome experience, and the water and the sights couldn’t be any better.

I noticed a small kiosk that had life preservers. It was suggested that young children wear one for good measure, as the water drops off deeply pretty quickly. The life preservers were … are you ready for this … FREE. That’s right, no charge at all. Everything was on the honor system: you borrowed what you needed and returned them when you were finished swimming.

As we were driving back to where my daughter and her family lived, my wife commented on the “free” life preservers, and marveled how there were still plenty of them hanging on the hooks in the kiosk. Perhaps a willingness to trust, a very transparent, no conditions, willingness to trust fosters the sort of honesty they apparently draw from folks. I commented that it was likely that someone takes a life preserver with no intention of returning it once in a while, but it apparently was such a seldom happening that the folks running the place chose not to complicate the process with deposits or by putting an employee on the kiosk.

My guess is, the system works well just the way it is. It was refreshing to see it in person.

James Sutton, EdD, Psychologist

July 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Management Digest (July, 2010)

ODD Management Digest

(July, 2010)


The July, 2010, issue of the resource for parents, teachers and counselors, the ODD Management Digest, has been published to the web. For a complimentary (free) subscription, CLICK HERE. (If you miss the July, 2010, issue, subscribe anyway. Any current Digest will direct you to archived issues.)

Here’s what in the July, 2010, issue:



Discipline Problems at School, Part Two: This is the second part of a two-part series on discipline issues at school. In this issue, a “collaborative” approach to intervention is discussed.


Celebration of Learning Day: A teacher in Kansas shares how her husband encourages achievement in his classroom by getting everyone involved.


Ask! We can learn a lot about a youngster by simply asking. Three suggestions for asking are discussed.


The Kid Who Wants to STAY Angry, Part Two: This is a second part of an answer to a parent’s concern. This part offers ideas for intervention into the four most typical reasons why children and teens elect to remain angry rather than resolve it.


A Special Interview: The “freebie” for this issue is a strikingly candid and informative interview with the author of the bestselling book, The Defiant Child.


Digest Archives: Dr. Sutton discusses how back issues of the Digest have been archived, and shows readers how to access them.


How Long? This is Dr. Sutton’s tribute to the late John Wooden, the legendary coach of the UCLA Bruins. Included is a wonderful great-granddad story Coach Wooden sent to Dr. Sutton for inclusion in the book, Grand-Stories. Don’t miss this one!

For a complimentary subscription to the ODD Management Digest, CLICK HERE. The Digest will appear monthly in your email as long as you want, and you can cancel it at any time.

July 12, 2010 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents, Self-esteem, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Discipline Problems at School: Part Two


In Discipline Problems at School: Part One, the issue of discipline problems at school was discussed. A primary concern with bad behavior was for an intervention effective in creating positive and lasting change.

Discipline, of course, varies according to the philosophy of the person administering it. On the one hand we have a rather rigid approach, an imposing of will. It employs fear and the promise of uncomfortable consequences for future infractions. It’s an effective approach in some instances, provided we keep in mind that fear is a motivator only when it continues to be applied. It’s not exactly the ideal way to develop a long-term relationship.

But would there be occasions to use it? Of course. It could well be the intervention of choice when a behavior poses an immediate threat to the safety of the youngster or others. If I caught my three-year-old grandson running out into a busy street, I’d impose my will; no questions asked. It would not be a time for lengthy negotiation.

On the other hand, we have an approach that is more problem-solving than will-imposing.  Dr. Ross Greene calls this sort of disciplinary approach “collaborative”. It stems from his belief that bad behavior is the result of an unresolved problem or lagging skill. Solution: Solve the problem; teach the skill.

(In his book, Lost at School, Dr. Greene offers this mantra: “Children will do well if they can.” Although I certainly agree with him in principle, I have worked with a few students who knocked the top out of achievement scores but weren’t doing enough to pass the grade they were in. They had no deep-seated problems I could discern other than being difficult and defiant from the day they first entered this world.)

Let me draw from the expertise of folks like Doctors Ross Greene, Becky Bailey, Marvin Marshall, William Glasser and myself in suggesting a three-step outline for resolving discipline issues with a youngster whose bad behavior is chronic. (Remember, this is an outline. For more information on any of these folks and their work, try a Google search.)

Step One: Dissect episodes of the bad behavior to see if there are any patterns … elements that are repeated in each occurrence. If so, breaking down the patterns would be an initial intervention. The youngster’s skills in social, emotional, and cognitive functioning should also be assessed. Are there any areas that could use some work?

Step Two: Interview the youngster in a manner that authentically draws his insight and interpretation of the bad behavior. This step is for gathering information; it should encourage the child to “open up”. I see this step as being very similar to Motivational Interviewing, a nondirective approach to what might be fueling the behavior.

(Be mindful there are some kids who struggle with words for describing emotional experiences. There’s a term for this condition: alexythymia. It’s no secret that youngsters who can’t express their frustration verbally often do it physically instead. This is how some bad behavior happens in the first place.)

Step Three: Jointly work with the youngster on how he might change his behavior to create a more desirable outcome. This might include role-play, social skills training, or structured plan for how the youngster could handle the same provocative situation better “next time”.

(Hmm … if that “next time” business sounds a bit like Glasser’s Reality Therapy from the 60s and 70s … it is! If a great idea is still holding its charge 40+ years later, it’s got to be a classic!)

Regardless of whether you call it Reality Therapy (Glasser), Collaborative Problem Solving (Greene), Conscious Discipline (Bailey), the Raise Responsibility System (Marshall) or Constructive Confrontation (Sutton), the “secret” is making the youngster an active component to the solution. 

To the fullest extent possible, use any ideas for change the youngster provides. This serves to ensure he is more “invested” into the intervention used. It also lets him know you take his thoughts and suggestions seriously.


NOTE: This two-part piece on discipline at school was taken from the June and July, 2010, issues of the ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)Management Digest. This monthly publication does not claim to have all the answers, but it is a valued resource for parents, teachers and counselors who find themselves in a battle of wills with a difficult youngster. This resource is provided at no charge, and subscribers have the option to receive it monthly as long as they want, and to opt-out at any time. There are also archives of past issues.

To subscribe to the ODD Management Digest, CLICK HERE, and follow the instructions.

July 9, 2010 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, Parents | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment