It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Discipline Gone Wrong

We MUST be careful about interventions that foster more hurt than benefit―in the home as well as at school.

One evening as I checked my email there was a correspondence from a worried mom. It seemed her 13-year-old daughter had shut down in school. There were other related concerns, but the primary problem was noncompliance. She was not doing, finishing or turning in her work. The girl was not dangerous, nor did her behavior threaten others.

The “remedy” at this school consisted of removing her from her regular school and placing her into a behavioral class in a very tough alternative arrangement. At this facility, youngsters and their things were searched upon entering the school, and they were forbidden to bring a lunch from home (a security issue).

There was a physically demanding, boot-camp-like, component to the program. According to the mother, the girl was traumatized by the whole experience. She lost focus, lost sleep, lost weight and, most importantly, Mom shared her daughter lost hope. Marginal improvement was noted in a few of her grades, but at what price? If the situation was as this mother described (and that is an issue), her concerns seem justified.

I was an educator long before I was a psychologist. I know full well the challenges schools face in providing education that is accountable and fair to all concerned. After all, we’re in the business of growing healthy, happy and functional young people. But in this case doesn’t it seem the school’s “cure” for her noncompliance did more harm than good? Instead of trying to figure out why the girl was having difficulty (something that might respond better to focused intervention than punishment), someone in charge seemed to focus more on how many weapons she might try to pack into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Ignorance, indifference and a one-size-fits-all approach to handling young people and their problems are not the solution―and never have been.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
(800) 659-6628 Email:

January 31, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Making the Best of It

I have a Sunday morning ritual. As my schedule permits, I take my guitar down to a nursing home nearby and hold a small song service.

Today there was a new resident, a woman. I don’t know her circumstances, but I do know that going to a nursing home is no one’s first choice of places to live, especially when it’s pretty clear that it’s going to stay that way. Giving up one’s car is a huge sacrifice of independence, but no longer being able to live in the comforts of the surroundings of one’s own home is often a difficult blow to manage.

I sang some of the old, old hymns. She broke into a smile as her face lit up. She knew them all. The time with her and the others was (and always is) a source of deep blessing for me.

I introduced myself as I was leaving. She grabbed my arm with both hands as she half-rose from her wheelchair. She thanked me for coming, and for knowing the really old songs she grew up with.

“Know what? I thank YOU!” I said to her.

Life had been difficult for her over the last few months or so, but she had made a decision to be agreeable in less-than-agreeable circumstances. She could have sat in her room and sulked. She instead decided to make the best of it.

What better lesson could we teach our children and grandchildren than the one she so poignantly taught me? Things in this world won’t always go our way, and heartbreak might visit when we cannot alter some outcomes.

Be we can choose to be agreeable. It doesn’t cost a dime; yet it’s priceless.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
(800) 659-6628 Email:

January 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sharing “Bring Your ‘A’ Game”

Eric Chester is a member of the National Speakers Association and fellow Certified Speaking Professional. For years, Eric has been speaking to youth audiences, encouraging them and inspiring them.

Eric has a heart for kids.

He recently shared that a 19-year-old rapper from Atlanta went through his ethics training program ( and felt inspired to write a rap about the value of personal ethics, especially in the workplace. The young man, Mardavious Knight (aka Mardy Mar), sent it to Eric as an MP3 file asking nothing in return.

Eric hired an animator to create a video around the rap, and asked that it be shared. That’s what I’m doing. (Okay, not everyone likes rap; but here’s a message kids will listen to.) Here’s hoping you will share it, also.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
(800) 659-6628 Email:

January 5, 2011 Posted by | Inspirational, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

From “Have to” to “Want to”

A big challenge for counselors and therapists is the switch a youngster hopefully makes from feeling like they have to go to counseling or therapy to a decision that to want to go, and for it to continue.

To a great extent, this shift has a lot to do with the patience and skill of the counselor or therapist. Can they “invest” the child or teen into the value of what they can provide and, more importantly, help them achieve a measure of healing the youngster can experience? This is as much a critical skill to a counselor or therapist as anything else.

It matters; a lot.

Years ago, I was a consulting psychologist to a number of school districts, working mostly with the departments of Special Education. One fairly large district not far from Houston had a problem in the high school. There were a number of students who cut classes, stopped attending school and, in general, created disturbance in the community when they were not in school. Authorities in the community were getting pretty tired of it.

A prominent psychologist in Houston offered to come out the school one day a week and work with these students in a group. The school took her up on the offer, and left no stone unturned in getting these kids to school for the psychologist’s first meeting with them. Their difficulties with the school were not held against them if they came to the Tuesday sessions. They meetings continued for the remainder of the school year. Every Tuesday they were there.

Something interesting was discovered. As sporadic as these students’ school attendance was, not a single one of them ever cut school the day the psychologist was there to meet with them.

Did the psychologist’s group sessions create improved school attendance? Some perhaps, but nothing really that significant. Did those sessions show up in better grades and stronger academic achievement in those students? Not enough to be noticed.

So what was the point? The point was that these youngsters saw great value in something that was going on at school, valuable enough to them to be there for it every week. Kids who felt displaced found a sense of purpose, albeit limited: Every Tuesday they felt like they mattered to others to others and themselves; they wanted to keep going to the groups.

Because of the encouragement these kids sensed (not to mention the fact that the juvenile crime rate dropped on Tuesdays) the groups were a success. Even if every one of them dropped out of school when they became old enough to do so, what value could we put on crimes that were not committed or suicides that never happened? And, a generation later, when those students were going to school to visit with the teachers of their own children, might they be a bit more comfortable walking into a building where a few good things happened with them? What would be the value of that?

What did the psychologist say to them? I don’t know; I’ll never know. Those youngster knew, and that’s what mattered. In like fashion, my job would be to create so much value to a child or teen that they would see it as hope and the first baby steps to powerful, positive change.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
(800) 659-6628 Email:

January 4, 2011 Posted by | Counselors, Inspirational, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 22 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 202 posts. There were 8 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 269kb.

The busiest day of the year was November 25th with 391 views. The most popular post that day was Five Kernels of Corn (the Thanksgiving Story).

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for scary stuff, 5 kernels of corn, five kernels of corn, quill, and terminal uniqueness.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Five Kernels of Corn (the Thanksgiving Story) November 2006
5 comments and 1 Like on,


Adults with ODD? September 2008


Helping a Troubled Child Self-soothe (Part One) July 2008
1 comment


First Flight: Scary Stuff August 2007
1 comment


Dealing with Difficult Behavior in Children May 2009

January 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment