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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

A Few Thoughts on Courage and Patriotism (Dr. James Sutton)

Since John McCain passed away last Saturday, I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts of my respect for him, but really couldn’t put them into words. I’m still struggling with it, I suppose.

Especially as a Vietnam vet, I was always moved by what he and the other POWs went through during their captivity in Hanoi for all those years. But it took on new meaning to me when Bobbie and I became friends with retired Navy Captain Jerry Coffee. We met as members of the National Speakers Association.

Jerry was a POW in the Hanoi Hilton for seven years and nine days. His book on that experience (“Beyond Survival,” published by Putnam), and what he learned from it, was a real eye-opener. Jerry has shared his story from the platform, but, more than that, his message always became personal to everyone in the audience. As he shared many, many times, “We all face adversity at some point; how we handle it matters.”

While in prison in North Vietnam, the POWs followed the chain of command. This was strongly against prison rules, so the senior officers had to be discrete while setting policy and issuing orders. Because of their seniority, these men were set aside for additional punishment.

One of them was Brigadier General Robbie Risner, the most senior POW at the Hanoi Hilton. He was a celebrated hero and top ace in Korea; he had been featured on the cover of Time magazine. That bought him a lot of pain and misery in prison, including ten months of solitary confinement in complete and total darkness. (He later said he held on to his sanity by exercising.)

The highest ranking naval officer was Vice Admiral James Stockdale. He and his wife, Sybil, wrote a book about their experiences at the time, “In Love and War.” It was made into a movie; James Woods played Stockdale.

Stockdale set a model for resistance. On one occasion, when told he would be interviewed by a film crew the next morning, he beat his face with a wooden stool until he was so disfigured he could not be used for that propaganda film. In defiance of the severe and sometimes fatal torture POWs were receiving, he inflicted a near-mortal wound on himself. He was revived by the enemy before he bled to death, but he had made his point. Things weren’t exactly easy for POWs after that, but the treatment of prisoners did improve. Stockdale ultimately was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Gerald Ford. Fitting.

I realize that, in all his years of service, McCain’s five and a half years in captivity were but a small part of what he stood for and accomplished. But I do believe experiences like those five and a half years can serve to help us discern who we are and guide us to a purpose that can live long after we are gone.

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August 28, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Communication, Compassion, courage, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, patriotism, Resilience, Self-esteem, veterans | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE FOUR FREEDOMS (Dr. James Sutton)

In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin Roosevelt shared a vision of four freedoms that should be for all people everywhere. They were Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. That address, thereafter referred to as The Four Freedoms Speech, was given on the sixth of January. Before the year was out, of course, we were at war.

A 47-year-old father of three in Arlington, Vermont, was so moved by President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech that he wanted to paint them. His name was Norman Rockwell.

He put together some sketches and approached the US Government about sponsoring the paintings as an encouragement to all Americans and to help the war effort. Unfortunately, he discovered that the Wheels of Progress in Washington, DC, often get bogged down in red tape … lots of red tape.

He waited and waited for a definitive word … he never got it. He then approached the publishers of The Saturday Evening Post. They thought it was a great plan, and things moved quickly from there.

The (1) first painting, Freedom of Speech, appeared on the Post’s cover on February 20th, 1943. A week later, (2) February 27th, Freedom of Worship appeared on the cover. (3) Freedom from Want appeared on March 6th, followed by (4) Freedom from Fear on March 13th, 1943.

The positive response to The Four Freedoms paintings was overwhelming, so much, in fact, that the government finally got excited about it. With the permissions of Rockwell and the Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia, publisher of the Post, posters were made of the Four Freedoms and the paintings went on tour to share them with the public and to raise much-needed funds for the war. $133 million dollars were raised. Adjusted to 2018 currency, that comes to just over one billion, nine hundred and forty million dollars. And it all began as a dab paint on a canvas.

Norman Rockwell passed away in 1978, but the paintings of The Four Freedoms have become a national treasure. They have been on tour a number of times, and, starting last month, June of 2018, and through October of 2020, they are on tour again in major cities across the country. The paintings will also be displayed in a WWII memorial museum in Normandy, France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It will be the first time they have ever left the United States.

Here’s an excerpt from President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech (January 6, 1941):

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor– anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.

July 3, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, courage, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Law & Justice, Parents, patriotism, Resilience, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Responsibility … and a Sardine Sandwich (Dr. James Sutton)

It was a hot, hard day at the construction site. When it was time for lunch, each man grabbed his lunchbox and headed for whatever shade he could find. One man, upon opening his lunchbox, found it contained a sardine sandwich.

“I don’t like sardine sandwiches,” he exclaimed.

On the next day, it was more of the same in his lunchbox: a sardine sandwich.

“I HATE sardine sandwiches,” he bellowed.

On the third day, he opened his lunchbox again to find … you guessed it, ANOTHER sardine sandwich.

“I really do DESPISE sardine sandwiches,” he shouted, as he threw his lunchbox to the ground.

“I can tell you are really upset about this,” said one of his fellow workers. “Why don’t you ask your wife if she would pack something else in your lunchbox, something you actually like?”

“Oh, I’m not married,” was the reply. “I pack my own lunch.”

The Root of Most Troubles

As ridiculous as this little story sounds, it aptly describes the problems and troubles of a lot of folks. Mental health professionals tell us that the majority of individuals coming to them for counseling or therapy are suffering emotional discomfort from circumstances they themselves have created. They then remain stuck in their misery and unhappiness, with their primary method of managing their difficulties consisting of blaming others and offering excuses.

Since blame and excuses have no real power to fix problems (but they can make problems a lot worse), these folks are unable to leave the emotional quagmire that grips them. Their self-talk isn’t good, as evidenced by statements like,“Well, if you grew up in the rotten home I grew up in, you wouldn’t amount to much, either” or, “I’m failing that class because the teacher doesn’t like me.”

In one form or another, I have heard both of these statements many times as a psychologist working with youngsters and adults that had given up. These are prophesies that fulfill themselves. These statements are also evidence of “lazy” thinking, as the people thinking and sharing them are resigned to the fact that the cards are so stacked against them that they are helpless to change anything.

(I don’t mean to suggest that the roadblocks we all encounter from time to time aren’t real; they certainly are that. It’s also true that some get a bad deal early in life. The big difference is a person’s resignation to fate versus a plan to attempt to deal with troubles, if even in a small way at first.)

Responsibility: The Solution

As much as youngsters complain about the obstacles in their way and share how powerless they are to manage them, just try to get them to admit to a sense of helplessness. I promise you, they don’t want to put it in those words, yet it is empowering when they honestly realize that such was their expression. Positive change can start right there; I’ve seen it many times.

A willingness to be honest with one’s own feelings is an all-important first step.

We all know about folks who have bad breaks as a child or teen, yet who have gone on to accomplish much in their lives. What is the difference; what accounts for such a disparity, given similar early experiences that caused others to fold?

The difference is simple, but it can be difficult to put into motion. It’s the willingness to take 100% responsibility for one’s actions, good or bad. It’s no fun at times, but it is empowering. And, like a muscle, assuming responsibility gets better and stronger with use.

Mary’s Big Breakthrough

I was once a consulting psychologist to a residential treatment facility. The public school was across the street, and many of the residents attended it. One girl in treatment there, I’ll call her Mary, was failing high school algebra. When I asked her why she was failing that class, she said (quite predictably), “That teacher hates me, that’s why.” (Sound familiar?)

She agreed to sit down with me and the teacher and address the problem. When the teacher showed her the zeros for homework that was never turned in, the girl’s face lit up. “Those assignments are in my locker!” she exclaimed. “I started them, and didn’t finish, but I think I have them all.” And she did; the teacher was able to give her partial credit, and they worked out a way for her to make up her work.

Although one instance of taking responsibility didn’t turn this girl’s life around at once, it was a great start. She definitely grew in her ability to manage difficulty and challenges.

Maybe even sardine sandwich.###

June 5, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Communication, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress, Success Strategies | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Shouldn’t Bug You … (Dr. James Sutton)

Have you ever been faced with a powerful challenge, or had to make a difficult decision, and, in the stress you experienced, you found it difficult to do much of anything? Well, in concert with the notion that our kids are watching our every move (even the not-so-good ones), here’s a very teachable object lesson involving something we all are quite familiar with: the housefly.

At first glance, the common housefly falls way short on talent and creativity. It can’t sing a song, dance a polka, or recite poetry.

But just try catching one. This little critter comes with an early warning system that all but assures it will see another day … another garbage can. Near 360 degree vision and unbelievable quickness make a sneak attack on a fly virtually impossible.

 

But a fly has one problem: It can respond to danger coming from only one direction at a time. To catch a fly, simply jam its radar. Come in on it with both hands from two sides. Folks that study this sort of thing say the fly will remain frozen in place because it can’t “compute” an escape. One more candidate for Fly Heaven.

I shared this little tidbit once with a group of elementary students. On my next visit to the school, I asked if any of them tried the fly thing. One bright-eyed fifth-grader shared that he told his father about it.

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard of,” was the dad’s reply. About that time a fly landed on the television. The boy, using the new technique, captured the fly and handed it to his father, still wriggling.

Of course there’s a deeper meaning operating here: Human beings aren’t flies. They can take in information from a number of sources, consider their options, and determine how, when and where they will respond.

So, the next time you have a difficult decision to make, try not to let it bug you. Do your best and work it out; don’t freeze.

You’re not a fly.###

May 22, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Communication, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents | , , , | Leave a comment

A Child’s Humble Gift

The purity of a child’s heart can inspire adults to accomplish amazing, unimaginable things. Here’s a beautiful story, beautiful … and absolutely true. It was first published in the fall, 2002 issue of my newsletter, Reaching Out, although it’s been told many times.

In the early 1900s, a young girl stood crying outside a small church. She had been turned away because it was “too crowded.”

“I can’t go to Sunday School,” she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. He saw her shabby and unkempt appearance and guessed the reason. He gently took her by the hand, escorted her inside, and found a place for her in a class.

57 Cents
The child was so happy he found room for her. That night she went to bed thinking of children who had no place to worship.

Two years later, this same child, Hattie May Wiatt, lay dead in a local tenement building. The parents sent for the kind-hearted pastor, asking if he would handle the final arrangements.

As her little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found; it looked like it has been rummaged from a trash heap. Inside were 57 cents and a note scribbled in a child’s handwriting: “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday School.”

She had been saving this offering for two years. As the pastor tearfully read the note, he realized what he must do.

A Dream Became Reality
The following Sunday morning, the pastor carried the little purse and the note with him to the pulpit. He told of her story of unselfish love and devotion. The pastor challenged the church deacons to get busy on finding a way to make the girl’s gift become a reality.

(To get things rolling, the pastor turned the 57 cents into 57 pennies and offered each of them for sale as a fundraiser. Not only did this first gesture raise about $250 for the project, 54 of the 57 pennies were returned to the pastor.)

A newspaper learned of this story and published it. A local realtor read it and made the little church a marvelous offer. He promised that, if they could raise the money to build the church, he would sell them a parcel of land to build it on … for 57 cents.

Church members dug deeply into their own pocketbooks, plus checks arrived in the mail from everywhere. They eventually raised $250,000, a huge sum of money in those days.

Ultimately, it was a child’s love that created a building for what is now Temple Baptist Church in Philadelphia. It seats 3,300 in the sanctuary, and the Sunday School building can handle all who wish to attend.

The inspiration of the girl’s gift and the influence of her remarkable pastor, Dr. Russell H. Conwell, essentially accomplished the impossible. (Dr. Conwell went on to become the first president of Temple University, but that’s another story.)

Not a bad return on 57 cents.###

May 10, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Compassion, Educators, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bitter or Better: A Lesson Worth Teaching Our Children

Kids aren’t adults, of course, but they watch the adults in their lives. Sometimes they even watch them too closely. Our children (and grandchildren) tend to copy the attitudes and behaviors they see right in front of them. How we handle disappointment and conflict with others does matter. We can become bitter or we can become better, and the outcomes easily can reach across generations.
Here’s a story I first became aware of a number of years ago. It makes a beautiful point of how frustration often can be channeled into something very positive. (I shared this story once in a keynote address and was pleased when it was verified by an attendee that had graduated from Berry College.)

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Today, Berry College, Mount Berry, Georgia, rests on 26,500 acres of small-town environment not far from Atlanta. It has grown since its humble beginnings in 1902, the fruition of a dream of its founder, educator Martha Berry.

Berry School was built to serve needy youngsters, and Martha Berry was said to have the “touch” for turning nothing into something. She knew her cause was a good one, so she was never shy when it came to advocating for poor, but promising, young people.

Henry’s Dime
When presented with an opportunity to meet Henry Ford at an important function, Martha Berry did not hesitate to ask him for $1 million for her school’s endowment. (Hey, if you’re going to ask … ASK!)

History has it that Mr. Ford reached into his pocket and presented her with a dime.

A dime? Yes; one of the richest men in the country donated a dime to Martha Berry’s school.

At this point, put yourself in her shoes. What would you have thought or said to what seemed such an insult? What would you have done? (At very least, I would have shuffled him to the bottom of my Christmas card list.)

The 10-cent Challenge
Martha Berry did a marvelous thing. Without changing her expression, she thanked Ford as graciously for the dime as she would have had he given her the million bucks. Then she went home and went to work.

She took the dime and bought ten cents’ worth of peanut seed and set her mountain schoolboys to planting. They took that crop as seed to plant more peanuts, and then they took the peanuts from the second crop and sold them at a small crossroads store. The peanuts brought in enough income to purchase a piano for the school’s music department.

Mission Accomplished
Martha Berry wrote to Henry Ford explaining how she had turned his dime into a piano. He must have been impressed, for he sent Berry a train ticket and an invitation to be their house guest at Henry and Clara Ford’s home in Detroit. He not only opened his home to Martha Berry, he opened his checkbook.

Martha Berry went back to Georgia with Henry Ford’s check for $1 million. ###

April 25, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, confidence, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Parents, Resilience, Success Strategies | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If Your Kids are Okay …” (Dr. James Sutton)

This week my mind was brought to focus on my appreciation of first-responders and the awesome job they often do with our children and grandchildren. It’s a pretty helpless feeling to place your offspring in the hands of a stranger, but that’s what we do when it’s someone trained help them, even save their lives.

Those instances are rare (fortunately), but when we can’t do it ourselves, our gratitude for the training and skill of firefighters, law enforcement folks and, of course, medical specialists, can’t be expressed in words alone. This is precisely where I found myself, as a grandfather, earlier this week.s

TWINS!
Twins, a boy and a girl (our fifth and sixth grandchild) were born in the wee hours of Sunday morning, April 8th, 2018. They were born almost 15 weeks premature, so are being watched constantly in neonatal care at the hospital. They are in the excellent hands of nurses, doctors … and God.

Each baby is in a separate room, as each room is filled up with monitors, ventilators, feeding systems, special lamps, etc. It’s a pretty intimidating and scary set-up at first glance, but it is reassuring to know that this equipment in the hands of skilled specialists has worked many, many miracles. We are SO GRATEFUL.

(That’s our grandson’s room in the photo.)

It was encouraging to see our grand-babies kicking, stretching and squirming, especially considering they had gotten off to a rather difficult start in the world (not to mention the stress it put on Mom and Dad at the time). As I write this, it’s about 62 hours since they arrived, and they are progressing as they should, thanks to skilled care and heartfelt prayer.

“IF YOUR KIDS ARE OKAY …”
It all reminds me of something my father-in-law once said to me: “If your kids are okay, YOU’RE okay!” AMEN to that.

And it never matters how young or old your kids are … “If your kids are okay, YOU’RE Okay.”

April 10, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Communication, Compassion, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Your Sports Team’s Loss is Bad for You (Mike Ferry)

Well, just in time for March Madness, here’s an excellent piece by Mike Ferry explaining how, when our team wins or loses, our overall mood tags along. Why does this matter to one’s overall health (and ultimately the family’s health as well)? Read on. –JDS

This might be considered a character flaw, but I’ll admit it.  My mood depends mightily on the successes (or failures) of the University of North Carolina’s sports teams.  During the fall, I’m elated when the Tar Heel football team wins on Saturdays.  In the winter, I’m crushed when Carolina’s basketball team drops a game that ought to have been a victory (especially when the Heels lose to the despised Duke Blue Devils).  Finally, as temperatures rise and college baseball season progresses, my hopes of another trip to Omaha’s College World Series are aroused.  Perhaps I shouldn’t allow 19-year-olds to determine my emotional well-being, but that’s not likely to change any time soon.

When Carolina wins, I feel happier and more energetic.  On the other hand, after a Tar Heel loss I tend to be grumpy and lethargic.  Fortunately for me, UNC’s sports teams tend to prevail more often than not.  When the Tar Heels let me down, however, it can be difficult to function as effectively as normal.
Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation.  When your baseball team sweeps a series, you’re on cloud nine.  On the other hand, you’ve lost the will to live after your football team surrenders a huge lead and blows a game the whole world thought it had won (sorry, Atlanta Falcons fans).

What Studies Have Found

Recent psychological studies have focused on the impacts that a team’s successes and failures can have on fans.  Their findings have intriguing implications for homes, schools, workplaces, and public health.  One team of researchers explored how soccer games in Greece might affect worker productivity.  The researchers hypothesized that fans’ heightened emotions on game day would carry over to the workplace.  If a team played well, workers would feel enthusiastic and vibrant.  Following a poor showing, however, employees would be withdrawn and morose.  The results of this particular study were in line with these hypotheses.  Fans who were satisfied with their team’s performance in a game showed little change with regards to mood, work engagement, and productivity.  Those who were upset with the way their team played, however, had more negative moods and lower levels of engagement and productivity.

Another study found that sports team losses can actually be harmful to your health.  Researchers investigated the relationship between NFL game results and food consumption in over two dozen American cities.  They predicted that fans of losing teams would experience “self-regulation failures” that drove them to consume unhealthy food.  Supporters of winning teams, in contrast, would make healthier eating decisions.  Again, the results of the study mirrored its hypotheses.  Results showed that people in cities whose football team lost on Sunday ate 16 percent more saturated fat the next day.  Conversely, residents of cities whose NFL teams won ate about nine percent less saturated fat than normal.

Getting Back on Track

These studies illustrate some surprising impacts of our addiction to sports.  Victories increase our brain power and lead us to make healthier decisions, while losses make us less productive and more susceptible to unhealthy behaviors.  In our families, classrooms, and offices, we should realize that external factors like sporting events can influence our moods and abilities to perform.  By practicing happiness habits including gratitude, kindness, mindfulness, and laughter, we can get ourselves back on track.  Even if Carolina loses (gulp) to Duke.

Source: Psychological Science

Mike Ferry is the author of Teaching Happiness And Innovation and a mental conditioning expert.  As an online educator, Mike helps parents form stronger relationships with their teenage children.  As a speaker, he works with businesses and non-profits to boost creativity and productivity.  For more information, visit his website – here.

March 14, 2018 Posted by | ADHD, adversity, anger, Anxiety and Depression, confidence, courage, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Belief Can Accomplish (Dr. James Sutton)

One of the most important things we can teach our students, children and grandchildren is that belief can help or hinder what we wish to accomplish. In fact, I think it was Henry Ford that said something to the effect of “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, either way, you’re correct.” That’s something to ponder. This story is one I read or heard a number of years ago. What is here comes from my memory of it. –JDS

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The young businessman was distraught. Shortly after the Great Depression started in 1929, his business and his dreams began failing rapidly. Customers were not paying and suppliers were demanding their money. He didn’t have many options … except bankruptcy.

In his despondency, he sat down on a park bench, his troubles paramount on his mind. A well-dressed elderly gentleman approached him and sat down.

“Young man, you seem to be carrying the world on your shoulders. Would you care to tell me about it?”

Appreciative of someone to talk with about it, the young man told his story.

“I believe I can help,” the old man shared after listening patiently. “While in my youth, I was in similar circumstances several times. I know what you are going through.” He reached into his jacket pocket and produced a checkbook.

“I’m writing you a check for $500,000; that should get you through this tough spot. Then, exactly one year from today at this very same time, meet me right here on this park bench and tell me what you did and how it went for you.”

The young man was surprised, of course, then dumbfounded when he read the signature on the check as it was handed to him: John D. Rockefeller. He agreed to the Mr. Rockefeller’s terms, thanked him profusely, then ran back to his office to put the precious check in his safe.

Bolstered with the confidence of half a million dollars in his office safe, the young businessman devised a plan to recover his business and put it back on his feet. He negotiated better contracts, collected payments owed and paid off his creditors. In a bit less than a year, he and his business had completely recovered, and, all the while, Mr. Rockefeller’s check remained in his safe. He never had to cash it. Simply knowing he had it gave him the confidence he needed to bring his business back to life.

The young man could hardly wait to share his good news with Mr. Rockefeller at the appointed day and time a year later. And, true to his word, Mr. Rockefeller was waiting for him on the park bench.

The young businessman shared how the year had gone, and how things had turned around completely in his business. Then, as a final touch, he handed the check back to Mr. Rockefeller, sharing how just having it in his office safe made all the difference he needed.

Just as he handed the check back, a woman in a nursing uniform approached them on the bench. With a frown on her face, she spoke to the old man.

“Oh, THERE you are! Now, you know you are not supposed to go traipsing off by yourself. You might get hurt.” As she reached for his hand, she turned and addressed the young businessman.

“And, sir, I’m so sorry if he’s caused you any trouble. You see, the problem is, he just loves to come to this park and pretend he’s JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER!

March 4, 2018 Posted by | adversity, confidence, courage, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pencil Man (Dr. James Sutton)

I recently read something that emphasized the value and importance of dignity in a person’s life, something we should share with our young people often. It caused me to recall something I experienced many years ago.

On Houston Street

As a student going to junior college in San Antonio, I had a part-time job working downtown. Weather permitting, I always saw a familiar figure setting up his tiny spot on Houston Street as I walked to my work from the parking lot.

Jim415smThis man had no legs. He was upbeat and engaging as he set out a cup on a folded blanket and filled it with new pencils. He then put out another cup to receive the kindnesses of those passing by.

I don’t remember him ever asking for anything. I suppose folks just knew the drill: Help the man; take a pencil. If someone put something in his cup and didn’t take a pencil, he generally made it a point to offer them one. Sometimes he would grab eye contact with a passerby, hold out a pencil, and ask, “Can you use a pencil today?”

And that was the extend of his sales pitch. As it appeared, it was the only sales pitch he needed.

He had his “regulars,” of course; most of them knew him by name. Sometimes one of them would bring him a cup of coffee or a donut. For this gesture they received his thanks and … you guessed it, a new pencil.

Giving Something Back

One day a man gave his young daughter some money for the pencil man. She put it in his cup and accepted the pencil he offered.

“Daddy, why is he selling pencils?” she asked, as they continued on their way.

“Well, he’s not really selling them, Becky,” Dad explained. “What you put in his cup back there was worth much more than that pencil. But when you helped him, he wanted to give something back to you. In this case it was that pencil. He wanted to show his appreciation to you because he’s a nice person, but also because it’s important for his dignity. It’s important for us all to keep our dignity. Do you understand?”

As she nodded in response, Becky held up the yellow pencil and watched it catch the glint of the morning’s sun.

“Daddy, I think I know another reason why he gives out pencils.”

“And what would that be?”

“Well, it’s because he knows that no one ever throws away a perfectly good pencil.”###

February 18, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Helping Teens Build Character, Part Two (Guest: Barbara A. Lewis)

Radio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkCharacter does count. In this second of a two-part interview from our archives, former educator and skilled author, Barbara Lewis, helps us gain more insight into ways to help teens identify and strengthen traits of character.

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Barbara A. Lewis, Helping Teens Buuild CharacterSome character traits are optional. For instance, we can choose to be thrifty, punctual or curious. But other traits, like honesty and a respect for life, are absolutely necessary for a society to survive and thrive. It’s that important.

So if character counts, we would do our children a great service by teaching them early how much it does count, wouldn’t we? As teens begin to grow into adults, it’s especially important they develop positive traits of character and practice them regularly in the real world.

What Do You Stand For?, Barbara LewisAuthor, educator, and guest on this program, Barbara A. Lewis, believes strongly that young people need to know not only what they stand for, but how they should put it into action. In fact, that’s the title of Barbara’s book for and about teens, What Do You Stand For? A Guide for Building Character. In this second of a two-part program, Barbara will share her insights on character development and how to share it with teens.

Barbara has won many honors and awards as both an author and an educator. She and her work have been featured often in print and broadcast media, including Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Family Circle, “CBS This Morning,” “CBS World News,” and CNN. (24:29)

http://www.BarbaraALewis.com

TO LISTEN, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK

January 29, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, courage, Educators, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress, Success Strategies | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Helping Teens Build Character, Part One (Guest: Barbara A. Lewis)

Radio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkCharacter does count. In this two-part interview from our archives, former educator and skilled author, Barbara Lewis, helps us gain more insight into ways to help teens identify and strengthen traits of character.

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Barbara A. LewisSome character traits are optional. For instance, we can choose to be thrifty, punctual or curious. But other traits, like honesty and a respect for life, are absolutely necessary for a society to survive and thrive. It’s that important.

So if character counts, we would do our children a great service by teaching them early how much it does count, wouldn’t we? As teens begin to grow into adults, it’s especially important they develop positive traits of character and practice them regularly in the real world.

What Do You Stand For?, Barbara LewisAuthor, educator, and guest on this program, Barbara A. Lewis, believes strongly that young people need to know not only what they stand for, but how they should put it into action. In fact, that’s the title of Barbara’s book for and about teens, What Do You Stand For? A Guide for Building Character. In this two-part program, Barbara will share her insights on character development and how to share it with teens.

Barbara has won many honors and awards as both an author and an educator. She and her work have been featured often in print and broadcast media, including Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Family Circle, “CBS This Morning,” “CBS World News,” and CNN. (20:16)

http://www.BarbaraALewis.com

TO LISTEN, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK

January 20, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Healthy living, Inspirational, Integrity, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Shoes

BTLifesMoments1-300x76Sometimes a small, a very small, gesture on our part can be perceived as a gift of great proportion to the one receiving it. As this short and simple story shows, a moment in time and a gesture of concern and kindness can offer encouragement and hope, often when it is most needed.

 

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The Scene:

Early 1900s

It’s a cold and blustery December day in New York City

 

coldA young boy was standing in front of a shoe store, barefooted, peering into the window. He was shivering with cold as a lady approached him from the street.

“Young man, what are looking at so intently in that store window?”

“I was just asking God for a pair of shoes,” the lad replied.

She smiled and reached for his hand. As she led him into the store, she asked the clerk for several pairs of socks for the boy. Then she requested a basin of water and a towel.

shoesThe lady took the boy to the back of the store, and, removing her gloves, knelt down and washed his feet, then dried them with the towel. She then put some new woolen socks on the boy’s feet and purchased for him a new pair of shoes.

As a finishing gesture, the lady tied up the remaining pairs of socks and handed the bundle to the youngster.

Gently touching him on the head, she exclaimed, “No doubt, my little fellow, you are more comfortable now.”

As she turned to leave the boy reached for her hand. As tears filled his eyes, he gazed into her face and asked a question that tugged on her heart:

“ARE YOU GOD’S WIFE?”

 

January 11, 2018 Posted by | adversity, courage, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Resilience, Special Occasions, Stress | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tablecloth

BTLifesMomentsJim Gentil, my friend in Austin, Texas, published this story about ten years ago in his online newsletter, The Power of Positive Living. It captures the essence of the Christmas season. It was originally written by Howard C. Schade under the title of “The Ivory and Gold Tablecloth.” May this story from our archives bless your soul, as it has mine. –JDS

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At Christmas time, men and women everywhere gather in their churches to wonder anew at the greatest miracle the world has ever known. But the story I like best to recall was not a huge miracle — not exactly.

It happened to a pastor who was very young. His church was very old. Once, long ago, it had flourished. Famous men had preached from its pulpit and prayed before its altar. Rich and poor alike had worshipped there and built it beautifully. Now, the good days had passed from the section of town where it stood.

But the pastor and his young wife believed in their run-down-church. They felt that, with hard work and lots of faith they could get it in shape. Together they went to work.

The Storm

stormBut, late in December, a severe story whipped through the river valley; the worst blow fell on the church. A huge chunk of rain-soaked plaster fell out of the inside wall just behind the altar. Sorrowfully the pastor and his wife swept away the mess, but they could not hide the ragged hole.

The pastor looked at it and had to remind himself quickly, “Thy will be done!” But his wife wept, “Christmas is only two days away!”

That afternoon the dispirited couple attended an auction held for the benefit of a youth group. The auctioneer opened a box and shook out of its folds a gloriously beautiful, very ornately sewn, gold and ivory lace tablecloth.

It was a magnificent item, nearly 15 feet long. But it, too, dated from a long vanished era. Who had any use for such a thing today. There were a few half-hearted bids, then the pastor was seized with what he thought was a great idea.

He bid it in for $6.50.

He carried the glorious gold and ivory lace cloth back to the church and very carefully put it up on the wall behind the altar. It completely hid the hole! And the extraordinary beauty of its shimmering handwork cast a fine, holiday glow over the chancel.

It was a great triumph. Happily, he went back to preparing his Christmas sermon.

The Woman in the Cold

busstopJust before noon on the day of Christmas Eve, as the pastor was opening the church, he noticed a woman standing in the cold at the bus stop.

“The bus won’t be here for 40 minutes!” he called, inviting her into the church to get warm.

She told him she had come from the city that morning to be interviewed for a job as governess to the children of one of the wealthy families in town, but she had been turned down. As a Jewish war refugee, her English was imperfect.

The woman sat down in a pew and chafed her hands and rested. After a while, she dropped her head and prayed.

She then looked up and saw the great gold and ivory cloth. She rose suddenly and walked up the steps of the chancel.

She looked a the beautiful tablecloth with with remembering eyes.

“It is Mine!”

The pastor smiled and started to tell her about the storm damage, but she didn’t seem to listen. She took up a fold of the cloth and lovingly rubbed it between her fingers as tears welled in her kind eyes.

But they were happy tears of recognition.

“It is mine!” she said. “It is my banquet cloth!” She lifted up a corner and showed the surprised pastor that there were initials monogrammed on it.

“My husband had the cloth made especially for me in Brussels! There could not be another like it.”

For the next few minutes the woman and the pastor talked excitedly together. She explained that she was Viennese, and that, in being Jews, she and her husband wanted to flee from the Nazis. They were advised to go separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could arrange to ship their household goods across the border.

But she never saw him again. Later, she heard he had died in a concentration camp.

“I have always felt it was my fault to leave without him,” she said. “Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment.”

The pastor tried to comfort her and urged her to take the beautiful cloth with her. But she refused saying, “No, no, the cloth has found its way to you. You need it. It has purpose here; I want you to have it. I am happy knowing you have it.”

She gazed lovingly up at the magnificent gold and ivory lace cloth, then quietly went away.

The Repairman

As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the magnificent cloth was going to be a great success. It has been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight.

The glorious gold and ivory lace cloth actually glowed in the candlelight. It cast lovely fine designs on the walls and ceilings of the church. Everyone looked around in wonderment, and a tranquil ambiance was cast over all.

After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway. Many people told him the church looked more beautiful than ever before.

chimesFrom the generous donations that were given, a few days later the pastor had the local jeweler, who was also the clock-and-watch repairman, come to repair the church chimes.

The repairman’s gentle middle-aged face drew into a look of great astonishment! As if in a trance, he walked right up to the beautiful cloth and looked upon it intently.

“It is strange,” he said in his soft accent. “Many years ago, my wife, God rest her, and I owned such a cloth. My wife put it on the table (and here he gave a big smile) for holidays and when the Rabbi came to dinner.”

Reunited

The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweler about the woman who had been in the church to get warm, saw the cloth, and recognized it to be hers.

The startled jeweler clutched the pastor’s arm. “Can it be?” he said, through desperate tears.

Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed the woman for the governess position and got her address. Then they both drove to the city.

The jeweler knocked on the heavy, weathered door. As it opened, there stood his beloved wife. The many years of separation were immediately washed away by their blissful tears. They held each other in loving embraces, never to be parted again.

Purpose in the Storm

True love seems to find a way. To all who hear or read this story, the joyful purpose of the storm was to knock a hole in the wall of the church.

So, Dear Ones, the next time something knocks a hole in your dreams or your goals, just remember to have enough faith and enough belief in those dreams and goals to lovingly and creatively hang your own brilliant lace cloth over the temporary mar.

Then watch the miracles come. ###

December 31, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I Believe in Christmas (Zig Ziglar)

BTLifesMomentsOn November 28, 2012, Zig Ziglar passed away at the age of 86. In his career he inspired hundreds of thousands of folks, many of whom were hungry for a message of hope. In 1996, I visited with Zig in his office in Dallas, where we recorded the audio program, The Power of Gratitude. (That interview is in two parts on this site [link1] [link2]. Zig lived that message every day of his life. His son, Tom Ziglar, posted this Christmas message from his dad in the company’s newsletter the year Zig passed away. I share it with you with gratitude for the influence Zig has had in all aspects of my life. MERRY CHRISTMAS all. –JDS

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Why I Believe in Christmas, Zig ZiglarIt’s the first Christmas I can remember. It arrived just seven weeks after the deaths of my father and baby sister. To make matters worse, it was in the heart of the Great Depression. Things were tough. All of us children who were older made what income contributions we could, but the truth was my mother had eight of her eleven remaining children still living at home, and six were too young to work. Understandably, the Ziglar kids were concerned about what kind of Christmas it would be!

The good news is that, although our grief was fresh, we still celebrated Christmas. We received no toys that year, but much to my delight in my gift box I found three English walnuts and something I had never tasted before–raisins! They were absolutely delicious. Mama prepared her wonderful molasses candy and we had a small cedar tree. And my mother read the Christmas story, like she always did.

My sixth Christmas will always have great meaning to me. We celebrated the birth of Christ even in hard times because we believed in Christmas. ###

 

Zig Ziglar was known as America’s Motivator. He authored 33 books and produced numerous training programs. He will be remembered as a man who lived out his faith daily.

 

 

December 23, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Compassion, courage, family, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Thoughts of Veterans Day: Eleanor’s Prayer (Dr. James Sutton)

Here’s a beautiful story about a woman in uniform during World War II … the uniform of the American Red Cross. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt served her country well, always mindful of the sacrifices being made.

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Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t only the most active wartime First Lady, her efforts to improve quality of life, ease human suffering, and promote a more substantial role for women in America went on for many years after her husband, President Franklin Roosevelt, died while in office in 1945.

As First Lady during World War II, Eleanor performed tireless service for her country through the American Red Cross. All of her sons (John, FDR Jr., Elliott and James) served their country, also. (Two were in the Navy, one in the Army Air Corps, and one in the Marines.)

The Pacific TOUR

At one point in the war, the Red Cross wanted to send Eleanor on a tour of the Pacific Theater, so she could meet and encourage the troops, especially those that were wounded and were confined to hospitals and hospital ships.

On Thoughts of Veteran's Day: Eleanor's Prayer

You can imagine Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz’ hesitation about such a gesture. In addition to the logistics of moving the president’s wife to locations in the Pacific, the war was still going on in many of those places. What if she were to be injured or killed, or what if she were to be captured by the enemy? The admiral’s concerns were painfully real.

But, of course, who can say, “No!” to the American Red Cross and the White House? Eleanor Roosevelt did complete the tour. She kept up a schedule that would have exhausted a younger person, and, in doing so, brought an uplifting message of support and hope from the folks back home.

Admiral Nimitz praised her efforts and shared with her and President Roosevelt the positive impact of her visits with the troops. In the end, he heartily agreed her tour of the Pacific was a huge success. All who worked at the mammoth task of getting her where she needed to go were impressed with her energy, grace, and cooperative spirit throughout the entire tour.

Eleanor’s Prayer

There a low granite wall at Pearl Harbor that carries the text of a prayer Eleanor Roosevelt wrote during the war. It was said that she carried this text in her wallet all through the war. It says much about the character of this great and gracious woman:

Dear Lord, lest I continue my complacent way, help me to remember somewhere out there a man died for me today. As long as there is war, I then must ask and answer: “AM I WORTH DYING FOR?”

Psychologist Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. He is a Navy veteran and served two assignments in support of the Third Marine Amphibious Force in Vietnam.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, courage, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Parents, patriotism, Resilience, Self-esteem, Special Occasions, veterans | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching Impulse Control (Christy Monson)

Issues of impulse control in children can create problems that only worsen over time. Quality of life can be seriously affected. Former therapist, Christy Monson, offers doable techniques and tips for helping youngsters manage frustration make better decisions regarding behavior.

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Teaching Impulse Control, Christy MonsonMany articles and research studies have been done concerning impulse control in children. But what about adults that have poor impulse control?

My husband and I are giving service at an inner-city retirement high-rise. Many of these people have never learned to control their behaviors. Some led professional lives, but because of impulsive decisions, lost their businesses and their money. Others have drug and alcohol problem because of their lack of control. They trade drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and money back and forth, according to the impulse of the moment.

Love Hugs and Hope, Christy MonsonI am teaching an addictions class right now and have found limited success with a modified group of behavioral expectations that I used with children in my counseling practice. Because of the struggle many of these people have, and because of the poor quality of life they now participate in, I implore everyone I come in contact with to teach impulse control to their children and grandchildren.

Here are a few of the techniques that have been effective in my class.

1. Look for the primary emotion underneath the anger, fear, eating, or whatever the impulsive behavior is. Discuss it with your child.

2. Set a pattern: STOP, THINK, CHOOSE. Make a visual and talk about this thinking process.

3. Develop clear expectations.

4. Have a daily report in place.

5. Use positive incentives, like a token economy. (Every time a positive behavior happens, put a bean in a jar. As soon as the jar is full, have a party.)

6. Give predictable consequences.

7. Always PRAISE THE POSITIVE

 

Enjoy your children. Raise them according to your standards and beliefs, BUT teach them to control themselves so that they will become healthy adults who are able to enjoy a quality retirement in their later years.###

 

Christy Monson has an M.S. in Counseling Psychology and Marriage & Family Therapy from University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and established a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. Check out her informative website [link].

 

September 17, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, Difficult Child, Discipline, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Protecting Kids Most At Risk for Cyber Harm (Dr. John DeGarmo)

The Changing Behavior Network, Radio Style InterviewDr. John DeGarmo shares how some youngsters are more at risk for cyber harm than others because of their needs, insecurities, and histories of difficulty. Listen in to this program from our archives as he discusses the dangers of unmonitored internet access, the problems it can create, and ways to manage issues more effectively.

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Protecting Kids Most at Risk for Cyber Harm, Dr. John DeGarmoFor most folks, the internet has been a valuable resource and an enormous time-saver. The internet is virtually unlimited in its capacity to provide, in the blink of an eye, needed information and resources. Lives have been saved because of the availability and speed of the internet.

But, as we all know, lives have been burdened and even destroyed through use of the internet, and many of them were children and teens.

Cyberbullying is a serious problem, as are cyber predators looking for vulnerable young people. There are websites showing one how to make weapons and bombs, as well as sites that not only show a young person how to take their life, but convince them to do so. According to our guest on this program, Dr. John DeGarmo, these cyber dangers are just the tip of the iceberg.

Listen in as your host, psychologist Dr. James Sutton, interviews Dr. DeGarmo on the dangers of unmonitored internet access, the problems it can create, and ways to manage issues more effectively.

Keeing Foster Children Safe Online, Dr. John DeGarmoDr. DeGarmo also shares how some youngsters are more at-risk for cyber harm because of their needs, their insecurities and their histories of difficulty. Foster children are especially vulnerable to this sort of harm, deception, inappropriate contact through the internet, but non-foster youngsters can be affected, also.

Dr. DeGarmo provides training nationally to foster parents on how to keep kids safe online. He and his wife are foster parents themselves; they practice these interventions every day. They work!

In addition to a busy speaking and training schedule, Dr. DeGarmo is the host of a weekly radio show, Foster Talk with Dr. John. He also writes extensively on the topic of foster care. Today we are featuring his book entitled, Keeping Foster Kids Safe Online. (27:46)

http://www.drjohndegarmofostercare.weebly.com

TO LISTEN, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK

 

 

July 9, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Discipline, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

7 Ways Childhood Adversity Can Change Your Brain (Donna Jackson Nakazawa)

According to science journalist and author, Donna Jackson Nakazawa, early emotional trauma changes who we are, but we can do something about it. This article, reprinted here with the author’s permission, first appeared in a Psychology Today blog of August 7, 2015.
(Donna wrote this as Part I; Part II offers science-based methods for reversing the changes related to ACEs. Part II can be accessed through a link at the bottom of this article.)

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7 Ways Childhood Adversity Can Change Your Brain, Donna Jackson NakazawaIf you’ve ever wondered why you’ve been struggling a little too hard for a little too long with chronic emotional and physical health conditions that just won’t abate, feeling as if you’ve been swimming against some invisible current that never ceases, a new field of scientific research may offer hope, answers, and healing insights.

In 1995, physicians Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda launched a large-scale epidemiological study that probed the child and adolescent histories of 17,000 subjects, comparing their childhood experiences to their later adult health records. The results were shocking: Nearly two-thirds of individuals had encountered one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)—a term Felitti and Anda coined to encompass the chronic, unpredictable, and stress-inducing events that some children face. These included growing up with a depressed or alcoholic parent; losing a parent to divorce or other causes; or enduring chronic humiliation, emotional neglect, or sexual or physical abuse. These forms of emotional trauma went beyond the typical, everyday challenges of growing up. (For stories of those who faced childhood adversity, see these videos on Laura and John, two patients featured in my newest book, Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal.)

The number of Adverse Childhood Experiences an individual had had predicted the amount of medical care she’d require as an adult with surprising accuracy:

• Individuals who had faced 4 or more categories of ACEs were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer as individuals who hadn’t experienced childhood adversity.
• For each ACE Score a woman had, her risk of being hospitalized with an autoimmune disease rose by 20 percent.
• Someone with an ACE Score of 4 was 460 percent more likely to suffer from depression than someone with an ACE Score of 0.
• An ACE Score greater than or equal to 6 shortened an individual’s lifespan by almost 20 years.

Childhood Disrupted, Donna Jackson NakazawaThe ACE Study tells us that experiencing chronic, unpredictable toxic stress in childhood predisposes us to a constellation of chronic conditions in adulthood. But why? Today, in labs across the country, neuroscientists are peering into the once inscrutable brain-body connection, and breaking down, on a biochemical level, exactly how the stress we face when we’re young catches up with us when we’re adults, altering our bodies, our cells, and even our DNA. What they’ve found may surprise you.

Some of these scientific findings can be a little overwhelming to contemplate. They compel us to take a new look at how emotional and physical pain are intertwined. (For more on why I wrote about how ACEs can change the way we see illness and how we do medicine, see this video.)

[In Part I of this article, we’ll talk about the science of early adversity and how it changes us. In Part II, we’ll talk about all the science-based ways in which we can reverse these changes, and get back to who it is we hope to be, so stay tuned for the good news.]

1. Epigenetic Shifts

When we’re thrust over and over again into stress-inducing situations during childhood or adolescence, our physiological stress response shifts into overdrive, and we lose the ability to respond appropriately and effectively to future stressors—10, 20, even 30 years later. This happens due to a process known as gene methylation, in which small chemical markers, or methyl groups, adhere to the genes involved in regulating the stress response, and prevent these genes from doing their jobs. As the function of these genes is altered, the stress response becomes re-set on “high” for life, promoting inflammation and disease.
This can make us more likely to over-react to the everyday stressors we meet in our adult life—an unexpected bill, a disagreement with a spouse, or a car that swerves in front of us on the highway, creating more inflammation. This, in turn, predisposes us to a host of chronic conditions, including autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer, and depression.

Indeed, Yale researchers recently found that children who’d faced chronic, toxic stress showed changes “across the entire genome,” in genes that not only oversee the stress response, but also in genes implicated in a wide array of adult diseases. This new research on early emotional trauma, epigenetic changes, and adult physical disease breaks down longstanding delineations between what the medical community has long seen as “physical” disease versus what is “mental” or “emotional.”

2. Size and Shape of the Brain

Scientists have found that when the developing brain is chronically stressed, it releases a hormone that actually shrinks the size of the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible of processing emotion and memory and managing stress. Recent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies suggest that the higher an individual’s ACE Score, the less gray matter he or she has in other key areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, an area related to decision-making and self-regulatory skills, and the amygdala, or fear-processing center. Kids whose brains have been changed by their Adverse Childhood Experiences are more likely to become adults who find themselves over-reacting to even minor stressors.

3. Neural Pruning

Children have an overabundance of neurons and synaptic connections; their brains are hard at work, trying to make sense of the world around them. Until recently, scientists believed that the pruning of excess neurons and connections was achieved solely in a “use-it-or-lose-it” manner, but a surprising new player in brain development has appeared on the scene: non-neuronal brain cells—known as microglia, which make up one-tenth of all the cells in the brain, and are actually part of the immune system—participate in the pruning process. These cells prune synapses like a gardener prunes a hedge. They also engulf and digest entire cells and cellular debris, thereby playing an essential housekeeping role.

But when a child faces unpredictable, chronic stress of Adverse Childhood Experiences, microglial cells “can get really worked up and crank out neurochemicals that lead to neuroinflammation,” says Margaret McCarthy, PhD, whose research team at the University of Maryland Medical Center studies the developing brain. “This below-the-radar state of chronic neuroinflammation can lead to changes that reset the tone of the brain for life.”

That means that kids who come into adolescence with a history of adversity and lack the presence of a consistent, loving adult to help them through it may become more likely to develop mood disorders or have poor executive functioning and decision-making skills.

4. Telomeres

Early trauma can make children seem “older,” emotionally speaking, than their peers. Now, scientists at Duke University; the University of California, San Francisco; and Brown University have discovered that Adverse Childhood Experiences may prematurely age children on a cellular level as well. Adults who’d faced early trauma show greater erosion in what are known as telomeres—the protective caps that sit on the ends of DNA strands, like the caps on shoelaces, to keep the genome healthy and intact. As our telomeres erode, we’re more likely to develop disease, and our cells age faster.

5. Default Mode Network

Inside each of our brains, a network of neurocircuitry, known as the “default mode network,” quietly hums along, like a car idling in a driveway. It unites areas of the brain associated with memory and thought integration, and it’s always on stand-by, ready to help us to figure out what we need to do next. “The dense connectivity in these areas of the brain help us to determine what’s relevant or not relevant, so that we can be ready for whatever our environment is going to ask of us,” explains Ruth Lanius, neuroscientist, professor of psychiatry, and director of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Research Unit at the University of Ontario.

But when children face early adversity and are routinely thrust into a state of fight-or-flight, the default mode network starts to go offline; it’s no longer helping them to figure out what’s relevant, or what they need to do next. According to Lanius, kids who’ve faced early trauma have less connectivity in the default mode network—even decades after the trauma occurred. Their brains don’t seem to enter that healthy idling position—and so they may have trouble reacting appropriately to the world around them.

6. Brain-Body Pathway

Until recently, it’s been scientifically accepted that the brain is “immune-privileged,” or cut off from the body’s immune system. But that turns out not to be the case, according to a groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Researchers found that an elusive pathway travels between the brain and the immune system via lymphatic vessels. The lymphatic system, which is part of the circulatory system, carries lymph—a liquid that helps to eliminate toxins, and moves immune cells from one part of the body to another. Now we know that the immune system pathway includes the brain.

The results of this study have profound implications for ACE research. For a child who’s experienced adversity, the relationship between mental and physical suffering is strong: the inflammatory chemicals that flood a child’s body when she’s chronically stressed aren’t confined to the body alone; they’re shuttled from head to toe.

7. Brain Connectivity

Ryan Herringa, neuropsychiatrist and assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, found that children and teens who’d experienced chronic childhood adversity showed weaker neural connections between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. Girls also displayed weaker connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. The prefrontal-cortex-amygdala relationship plays an essential role in determining how emotionally reactive we’re likely to be to the things that happen to us in our day-to-day life, and how likely we are to perceive these events as stressful or dangerous.

According to Herringa:

If you are a girl who has had Adverse Childhood Experiences and these brain connections are weaker, you might expect that in just about any stressful situation you encounter as life goes on, you may experience a greater level of fear and anxiety.

Girls with these weakened neural connections, Herringa found, stood at a higher risk for developing anxiety and depression by the time they reached late adolescence. This may, in part, explain why females are nearly twice as likely as males to suffer from later mood disorders.

This science can be overwhelming, especially to those of us who are parents. So, what can you do if you or a child you love has been affected by early adversity? The good news is that, just as our scientific understanding of how adversity affects the developing brain is growing, so is our scientific insight into how we can offer the children we love resilient parenting, and how we can all take small steps to heal body and brain. Just as physical wounds and bruises heal, just as we can regain our muscle tone, we can recover function in under-connected areas of the brain. The brain and body are never static; they are always in the process of becoming and changing. ###

For Part II, “8 Ways People Recover From Post Childhood Adversity Syndrome,” CLICK HERE.

 

Donna Jackson Nakazawa is an award-winning science journalist interested in exploring the intersection between neuroscience, immunology, and the deepest inner workings of the human heart. In addition to this book, Childhood Disrupted, she has authored The Autoimmune Epidemic and The Last Best Cure. For more information on Donna and her work, visit her website.

 

 

July 2, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stepfamilies: Blessing the Blending (Guest: Valerie J. Lewis Coleman)

Stepfamilies often face challenges, but, according to author and family expert, Valerie J. Lewis Coleman, efforts spent in resolving the issues can make a big difference in blended families.
This interview comes from our archives. It was first aired in August of 2014.

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Stepfamilies: Blessing the Blending (Guest: Valerie J. Lewis Coleman)Anyone, parent, child or teen, who has ever been part of a blended family knows there often are difficulties and obstacles to making a stepfamily work as as it should. Discouragement mingled with frustration shouldn’t be the name of the game, but often it is. The job of drawing together a family across multiple households is a challenge not suited to the weak of heart or spirit.

But it CAN be done, according to our guest on this program, Valerie J. Lewis Coleman. She has, as they say, “Been there!” Faced with the struggle to parent five children from three different households, Valerie was often overwhelmed, almost to the point of giving up.

Blended Families An Anthology, Valerie J. Lewis ColemanLooking back on those struggles, Valerie shares how her experiences of heartaches, frustrations and sleepless nights were but the labor pangs required to birth her passion to help others stop what she calls the “Stepfamily Maddness.” From her own journey, plus the experiences and contributions of others going through similar circumstances, Valerie compiled and edited a book, Blended Families: An Anthology. This work, and the wisdom gleaned from its pages, well-represent this topic of blended families.

With over 20 years of experience in families and relationships, Valerie has given advice on varying stepfamily issues, including Baby-Mamma Drama, defiant children and a really tough one: disapproving in-laws. Also, as an established author in her own right, Valerie encourages and trains new authors through her publishing company, Pen of the Writer. (25:26)

www.PenoftheWriter.net

TO LISTEN, left-click the link. To access the file, right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK

June 11, 2017 Posted by | adversity, anger, Counselors, Difficult Child, Discipline, Divorce Issues, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will a Juvenile Record Ruin My Child’s Life? (Judge Tom Jacobs)

If a youngster breaks the law, does that mistake have to follow them forever? Not necessarily, says author and former juvenile judge, Tom Jacobs, as he offers insights into options for saving that youngster’s future. We present, “Will a Juvenile Record Ruin My Child’s Life?”

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Will a Juvenile Record Ruin My Child's LIfe, Judge Tom JacobsIn February, 2017, two fifth grade students at a California elementary school hacked into a classmate’s tablet. They posted graphic images and offensive language. The boys involved were both ten years old. There was an investigation by school officials.

Should this act affect their future college applications, employment opportunities, or military enlistment? No. Should it become a teachable moment? Of course.

A Serious Situation

This was the boys’ first offense, but one that could result in a criminal record. Hacking into someone’s computer and posting objectionable content may constitute a crime, depending on existing state laws. The act could be considered harassment, intimidation, cyberbullying, or threatening. Whatever category it fits into, the boys could be charged with a felony, misdemeanor or petty offense.

Diversion As An Option

The school district may have a policy of handling first-time offenses internally. The boys could face suspension or expulsion. Or the school could have a diversion program designed to educate students about the importance of being good “netizens” who practice netiquette every time they use social media. Considering their age, diversion is preferable to sending them to juvenile court for formal prosecution. The purpose of diversion is to “divert” the offense away from the criminal justice system. That way, a minor charge does not become a “record” that could follow the juvenile into adulthood.

Diversion is common across the country for first-time offenders charged with minor crimes. The majority of participants in a diversion program do not re-offend. Their brief brush with the law has a lasting impact.

Ask The Judge, Judge Tom Jacobs

Diversion generally involves community service, counseling, or a class about laws and one’s rights and responsibilities. Once the program is successfully completed, the case is closed and there’s no official record of the incident. There is no guarantee, but usually it would not appear in a background check done years or decades later.

Expunging a Juvenile’s Record

When a case is handled in juvenile court, and the court finds the juvenile guilty of an offense and imposes consequences, a record is created. All states have laws regarding expunging (destroying) a juvenile’s record. It’s a simple process and does not require hiring a lawyer. That’s a decision for the applicant and/or the parents to make. The application is a short form that, once filled out, is filed with the court the juvenile was in. A copy of the application is sent to the prosecutor’s office for review. The prosecutor notifies the court whether they agree with the expungment or oppose it. A judge ultimately decides to grant or deny the request.

If you are a teenager or pre-teen and you find yourself in court charged with a minor offense, it’s a serious event in your life. But, it’s not necessarily life-changing or the end of the world. Once you face the music, make amends, and comply with all court orders, the incident will become history and not affect your future. The U.S. Supreme Court commented in the famous Gault case in 1967 that “the policy of the juvenile law is to hide youthful errors from the full gaze of the public and bury them in the graveyard of the forgotten past.” When a juvenile court expunges a minor’s record, he or she can move out of the shadows of this cloud in their life.

NOTE: Many courts have Self-Help Centers where the public has access to legal booklets and forms to assist them navigate the system without an attorney. Such may also be available on the court’s website. In addition, some family and juvenile law attorneys offer free initial consultations. If you contact one for advice, ask about this. A brief consult may be all you need to file for an expungment of a juvenile’s record. ###

 

Judge Tom Jacobs spent 23 years as a juvenile judge in Arizona. From his heartfelt concern for young people, Judge Tom, with assistance from his daughter, Natalie Jacobs, founded and moderates AsktheJudge.info, a teen-law website for and about teenagers and the laws that affect them. It stands as a valuable site for parents and educators who want to stay current with issues that affect the safety and welfare of our young people. Judge Tom has written a number of books for lawyers and judges, as well as for teens and parents, including “What Are My Rights?” Teen Cyberbullying Investigated, and a recent book he co-authored with Natalie, Every Vote Matters: The Power of Your Voice.

 

June 6, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Difficult Child, Discipline, Educators, family, Healthy living, Law & Justice, Parents, Resilience | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love (Michael Byron Smith)

Michael Byron Smith shares how his single-parent mom kept her family together through difficult times, how he managed to keep a promise and fulfill a dream, and why mentoring is so important today. We present, “A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love.”

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A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron Smith)How a child is raised has an undeniable impact on his or her success and happiness. Everyone would agree with that, but many ignore it anyway.

Occasionally, children raised in a stressful or unloving atmosphere achieve while others, raised in the same atmosphere, or even in a seemingly ideal situation, do not. However, I think most experts agree, with little doubt, that having two savvy and involved parents is a huge advantage in the mental health of a child. Children without that advantage can succeed, but they will struggle more than necessary. I lived this scenario and I’ve seen others in my family both fail and succeed, but the successes have been far fewer.

Big Job for a Ten-Year-Old

As I turned ten years of age, I was in a situation that required me to babysit my five younger siblings. My father was absent and my mother had to work to support us. She was only 27 years-old with six children to feed. My youngest brother was not even a year old. Thinking back on this is a frightening picture; back then, it was normal to me!

It wasn’t every day that I had to do this, just on occasions when nothing else would work out for my mother. My memories of these days are not totally clear. What I do know is that my father abandoned us. Where he was in the world at that time I do not know. Where and how he spent his earnings, other than on alcohol, is a mystery. But more mysterious to me is how a person could abandon his young children.

Some may think my mother should have never left us alone, but she was without alternatives. I don’t know how she got through the pressures of being a single mom with a tenth-grade education. All I do know is she did not abandon us and worked to exhaustion to raise and support her children.

Not surprisingly, a ten-year-old placed in charge of his brothers and sisters doesn’t get much respect. My eight-year-old brother would challenge me and aggravate everyone else. My five and three-year-old sisters were typical little girls getting into stuff and fighting. My two youngest brothers were a two-year-old toddler and a baby under a year old. Basically, I was there to keep them from injuring themselves or each other; I’d call Mom if someone got hurt badly.

Why am I writing this, exposing my family’s dirty laundry? It is obviously not to brag, nor am I asking anyone to feel sorry for us, but to share a story of hope. Hope, however, needs action – mostly our own action to meet our challenges head-on. It is up to each individual, but many kids don’t know what to do, or how to do it.

I don’t know where we lived when I was ten because we moved quite often, and I didn’t have many childhood friends. Because of this, I was much more comfortable around women than men. Being a shy, skinny, and often new kid, I was like shark-bait to the local bullies common in poorer neighborhoods. My self-defense plan was invisibility, staying indoors or peeking around corners before proceeding. It wasn’t even close to an ideal upbringing.

Tough Beginnings Mean Extra Work

Needless to say, this was not the best start for any young person. The difficulties my siblings and I experienced pale in comparison to the challenges too many young people suffer. But preventable struggles, like struggles caused by my father’s parental neglect, should never happen.

How did we all do coming out of this situation? Beyond the challenges all kids face as they mature, we all had extra demons to defeat, some struggling with those demons more than others. We’ve had teen mothers, a lack of a high school education, truancy, poverty and some minor drug and alcohol use, with following generations dealing with some of the same problems. Of the six of us, three extended families are doing well, while three families are still struggling to one degree or another.

Fortunately, I did not have any of the problems described above, but I did have others. The most challenging to me was a serious lack of confidence in myself. I believe my five siblings also suffered from this and other psychological issues. I broke out of this cycle of despair more successfully than my siblings because of two things: 1) a promise I made to myself and, 2) a dream.

The Power Of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithThe promise was to never be poor! Not to be rich, but not to be poor – an error I will discuss later. My dream was to be a pilot, a dream of many young boys. But in my case, it was more of a passion. I knew that I would have to do it on my own because I didn’t know how to ask for help. Mentoring was not something of which I was aware, and being shy didn’t help. Certainly, someone would have mentored me had we stayed in one place long enough. (I apologize immensely to those I have forgotten who did give me help and advice, especially my many teachers.)

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Being a mentor is a wonderful way to help anyone who could use advice or guidance! My book, The Power of Dadhood, is, in fact, a mentoring book intended to teach fathers to how to mentor their children. It may be obvious, by now, why I wrote this book.

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My dream of being a pilot seemed so distant, like a star in another galaxy, but I kept my focus. This dream supported my goal of never being poor. It is amazing what one can do when they have a dream as a goal backed up by a promise. I also had two distant people that I looked up to: Jack Buck, the announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jimmy Stewart, my favorite actor and a US Air Force pilot himself. I admired their values and personalities. Never was there a bad word said of either, not by anyone I would respect. It was to my benefit to invent my own mentors because everyone needs role models and teachers.

A Dream, a Promise, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron SmithI succeeded in my keeping my promise and achieving my dream. I have never been poor since the moment I graduated from college. I also became a US Air Force pilot and loved every part of that experience.

But it wasn’t easy! The required steps to make my dreams come true were demanding, but not really the issue. The toughest hurdles in this journey were the exaggerated and fabricated hurdles I put upon myself, thinking I was not worthy! The hurdle of self-worth will also cause one to underestimate their potential. I should have had a goal to be rich; instead, I just hoped to not be poor. I’m doing very well but what if……?

In Closing

My message here is two-fold. The first message is that anyone with a dream can overcome obstacles. That is a common theme of encouragement, but your self-imposed obstructions are the first and most important to overcome. There is no need of having a fifty-pound dead weight on your back when you’re climbing Mt. Everest. This or any other test in life has its very own challenges to conquer and that extra, unnecessary weight could cause you to fail.

The second message is the desperate need today for parents and other mentors to help young people grow. Having proper mentoring and a decent childhood atmosphere will help a child avoid unnecessary burdens. A much easier and effective way to be successful, of course, is to not have those extra burdens in the first place. Children raised in a good, nourishing home will have a head start because their lives have been streamlined, not encumbered with self-imposed friction and speed bumps. If the number one factor in a successful life is self-reliance, a very close second would be the way one is raised and mentored.

I challenge parents and all adults to be aware of the needs of the young people around them. Your help and guidance will save them from being an adversary and/or an obstacle to themselves. It just takes a kind word or a bit of attention. ###

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website]. He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

May 16, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, courage, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Foster Kid’s Dilemma: Wo Gets the Life Raft? (Shenandoah Chefalo)

What happens when youngsters have to make “grown-up” decisions regarding their own welfare? Former foster youth and author, Shenandoah Chefalo, shares this eye-opening, candid account of such an experience and what she learned from it.

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Shenandoah Chefalo, A Foster Kid's Dilemma: Who Gets the Life Raft?Writing for my blog is sometimes problematic for me. I try to be as transparent as possible and talk about the things that are truly affecting my life in the moment. I want it to be honest, of course, but sometimes that means discussing emotions and feelings that are difficult or painful to put into words.

An Unexpected Answer

Recently, I was at an event and a woman asked a question that I hear often: “How did you overcome the abandonment of your mother?” My answer is burdensome and often shocking for audiences. The truth is, I never felt abandoned by my mother. Instead, I felt that I had abandoned her.

I had spent much of my childhood taking care of my mother, worrying about her, and making sure she was okay. When I was 13, she disappeared for a few days, then a few weeks. It wasn’t shocking to me; it was my “normal.”

When she still hadn’t reappeared, and my grandmother was going to be evicted from her housing, I knew I had to call social services. It was a difficult call for me to make; one that I would wish, time and time again, that I hadn’t made. Making that call always felt like I was watching a life raft for one float by, and I selfishly took it for myself.

When people hear this story, I can see a bit of shock come across their faces. It is difficult to put into words the loyalty I felt for my mother, and the betrayal I carry in my heart. As an adult, I cognitively understand my decision, and most do, also, but the betrayal I feel I caused hasn’t lessened.

Garbage Bag Suitcase, Shenandoah ChefaloA Matter of Loyalty

After the most recent presidential election results started coming in, I was struck with the notion of loyalty and how the weight of that emotion can be viewed, oftentimes confused for betrayal. As defined, loyalty is a strong feeling of support or allegiance to someone or something. It is a feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection. As a society, it is a trait we hold in high regard. In fact, any sign of disloyalty is often met with cries of one not being patriotic, a traitor, a crybaby, or various four-letter expletives.

And, that is why, after not seeing my birth mother for over 27 years, I still have feelings of disloyalty toward her and feel as I am the one who betrayed her. Abandonment was never my trigger or emotion. It is also why I have difficulty discussing those feelings; any sign of estrangement or retreat creates feelings (and brings accusations) that I was wrong in my decision to save myself.

Complicated

These emotions are complicated when children enter foster care; old families, new families, changing families … the feelings and questions come to the surface:

How can you be loyal to everyone? Can you ever?

Whom do you betray?

How do you protect yourself?

Is it ever OK to be disloyal? If so, who decides who gets the life raft?

Sometimes you just need to pick up the phone.

Shenandoah Chefalo is an advocate and a former foster youth. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and co-founder of Good Harbor Institute, an organization focused on ensuring sustainable, implemented trauma care within organizations and individuals. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com or www.goodharborinst.com

 

April 10, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, courage, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five String Recovery, Part 2 (Guest: Phillip Wadlow)

A 16-year-old musician wins a national bluegrass championship while secretly battling addiction. Here’s the second of his two-part story about his recovery, his music, and his message to young people.

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Five String Recovery, Phillip WadlowThis is the concluding part of 5-String Recovery with guest, Phillip Wadlow. In this part he tells of moving into adulthood with his drug and alcohol addiction, and how it affected his marriage, his children, his work, and his health. He also shares how he came to realize he needed treatment, and he tells of that experience. Throughout the interview, Phil plays some of the music that was such a significant part of his life, and shares how he’d like to use his music as an avenue for reaching out to young people. (Dr. Sutton, the interviewer, plays back-up guitar, except for the sad, but appropriate, guitar solo that represents one of the lowest points in Phil’s life.)

The original message of this interview was a cassette tape program, thus the reference to the cassette near the end of the program. Because Phil did move around quite a bit over the years, it is not know exactly where he is now, but life goes on. His children are grown now, of course, and it is know that he has remarried and, at last word, he and his wife were managing an apartment complex in Missouri.

There is a powerful message Phil wants young people need to hear, and this is it: Although one can recover from drugs and alcohol and work a program of dedicated sobriety, the costs of addiction impose many losses than cannot be recovered. Unless one takes responsibility for those losses, instead of blaming others, complete recovery is difficult, indeed. (20:40)

To listen, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK

April 4, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, courage, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five String Recovery, Part 1 (Phillip Wadlow)

A 16-year-old musician wins a national bluegrass championship while secretly battling addiction. Here’s his two-part story about his recovery, his music, and his message to young people.

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Five String Recovery, Phil Wadlow, The Changing Behavior Network

If you take a Missouri boy who grew up with bluegrass music and encourage his natural talent for playing it well, you’ll have the ingredients for an awesome career very few can achieve.

Young Phillip Wadlow was that Missouri boy. Everything was falling into place for him, until drugs and alcohol threatened to destroy him and all he held dear. This is his story and his music, in two parts. This interview was recorded in May of 1990, as Phil was completing his first year of recovery and sobriety. It’s a story Phil wants young people to hear, for he hopes they can learn from the wrong turns he took.Five String Recovery, Phillip Wadlow

In this part, Part One, Phil shares how he began using marijuana at a very young age, and how so quickly its use became chronic. But Phil also shares about the music he grew up with and how, at 16, he won a national bluegrass championship. He plays the song that took first place, “Cattle in the Cane.” The joy of being recognized for his music, however, was tainted by the fact he was, by then, completely dependent upon his drug of choice.

Dr. Sutton, the host in this interview, picks up his guitar and accompanies Phil on most of the songs in both parts on the interview. The banjo solo at the opening is an original composition of Phil’s, “Dusty Roads.” (22:12)

To listen, left-click this link. To access the file, right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE.

 

March 28, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Divorced Parents: Made Mistakes You Regret? It’s Not Too Late to Make it Right! (Rosalind Sedacca, CDC)

Divorced parents can make mistakes they regret. Divorce & Parenting Coach, Rosalind Sedacca, offers insightful ways for making it right.

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Divorced Parents: Made Mistakes You Regret? It's Not Too Late To Make It Right, Rosalind SedaccaDivorce drives some people crazy. Because of that, they make many poor decisions. Their judgment, integrity and credibility are easy to question. Their decisions regarding taking responsibility for their children come under scrutiny.

Learning From Mistakes

There is much we can all learn from these mistakes. And wisdom we can take away that is important for all of us to remember: It’s never too late to get it right – when your children are at stake!

In the heat of the divorce drama, we may have settled for a decision or two that we later regretted and still feel resentful about. Or we made a child-related agreement that, in hindsight, was not in our child’s best interest – but we don’t know quite how to remedy the situation.

Perhaps we lost our tempers at an inappropriate time and watched our children painfully internalize the experience.

Maybe we referred to our ex in a rather unflattering way only to find our child get very upset and storm away in anger.

Take Action

While some legal issues can only be handled through legal resolution, there are many post-divorce relationship decisions involving our children that we can remedy! And, of course, it’s never too late to make amends.

If you have found that your children are suffering or hurting due to a decision you made when you were more motivated by anger than by positive parenting and are now having regrets – take action.

That can mean having a heart-to-heart with your children and apologizing for behavior or statements you made that created pain in their lives. Take responsibility, own those choices, and humbly explain that you made an error and now want to make some changes.

That may translate into letting them spend more time with their other parent … no longer bad-mouthing your ex in front of the kids … inviting your ex to a holiday or school event with the children … encouraging the kids to have a visit with their “other” grandparents … you get the idea.

Perhaps it means a straight-talk conversation with your ex that opens the door to better, more cooperative communication, trust and co-parenting. Or it could mean apologizing for harsh words and insults.

Sometimes Difficult, But Worth It!

Yes, this can be amazingly difficult to do from an ego perspective. But when you think about how much joy it can mean to your children when they see both of their parents getting along – it’s more than worth the swallowing of your pride. Chances are your ex will swallow some too – and be receptive to working things out in a more mature manner.

If you have nothing to “own,” and all the tension and mistakes rest solely on the shoulders of your ex, try approaching them in a different way, focusing exclusively on the emotional needs of the children, and reaching out a hand in peace.

There’s no guarantee this will work – and we all know there are some certified jerks out there of both genders! But don’t give up – ever! Times change, people can change, and change may be just what your family needs so you can create a better outcome for your children.

When you take the “high” road and model responsible, effective behavior, you are giving your children the gift of learning how to do that themselves. It’s a gift that will pay off for you and them many times in the years ahead. One day your children will thank you for making things “right.” They’ll acknowledge you for being such a model Mom or Dad, despite the challenges you faced. And believe me, you will be proud of the parent you worked so hard to become.

It’s never too late to heed this advice and start taking constructive steps that move you in the right direction – to honor the children you love. And if you need a helping hand, reach out to a professional for that support and guidance. We’re here to help you make a positive difference for everyone in the family.###

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of the internationally-acclaimed ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.

 

March 19, 2017 Posted by | adversity, anger, Counselors, Discipline, Divorce Issues, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable? (Michael Byron Smith)

How do we identify and instill confidence and determination in our children? Author Michael Byron Smith offers insights into positive change. We present, “Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?”

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Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?, Michael Byron SmithIf ever there were two heavyweight fighters in the world of self-development, they would be called CONFIDENCE and DETERMINATION. Looking at these two characteristics as a parent, which would you emphasize for your child?

Certainly, anyone who has both of these characteristics will likely become whatever they choose to be. However, a child may have confidence but not determination, or vice versa. And if only one exists, which would be best to have?

Having confidence will make life and its challenges appear easier to attack, allowing one to charge ahead with little reticence. On the other hand, having determination will give one a voice shouting encouragement in their ear: “Keep going–keep going”!

Of course, we want our children to have both characteristics and to use them wisely. If they have one of these attributes, we concentrate on the other. But getting back to the question, if they are weak in both, which would you choose to emphasize–confidence or determination? Before we choose, let’s consider the traps that exist in both confidence and determination.

The Challenge of Confidence

Confidence can trick you. It can prevent one from preparing properly, or from trying hard enough. Too much confidence can defy your true abilities and displaying it can put off others a bit. Confidence is best worn on the inside showing through, not draped callously upon your personality.

I discuss confidence in my book, The Power of Dadhood:

Self-confidence can be nurtured by introducing your child to challenging experiences, such as hiking the Grand Canyon, cleaning a fish, or joining a drama club. Kids become self-confident when they get over the fear of the unknown, when they overcome an inhibition, and when they accept that they don’t have to be good at everything, because no one has ever been good at everything.

The challenge must not exceed their capacity, or their confidence could diminish. Nor should you mislead them into falsely thinking they’ve achieved a significant success when it was too easily attained. Success does build confidence, but success built on sand will not contribute to your child’s confidence in the long run. Confidence gained by easy victories can be shattered by reality.

It may not be wise to convince your children that they are great artists or athletes if they will be judged more honestly in school or by friends. A more realistic view will not set them up for a fall, a fall from which recovery could be difficult. But, of course, praise any real talent and encourage any talent that shows promise.

Confidence works both from within (how you feel about yourself), and from without (how others see you).

Determination: ‘Intend’ is a stronger word than ‘Can’

Determination is a great characteristic to possess. It can, however, be brutal on your overall happiness. Your determination can make you go off in directions for all the wrong reasons. For example, it’s not good to be determined to get even with someone. Nor is it good to go after a prize or be vindictive just because you want to prove a point. Determinism must have properly chosen goals. While misplaced confidence has the most failures, misplaced determination has the most stress.

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithOnce again, from The Power of Dadhood:

Knowing you ‘can’ makes your intentions that much easier, without all the gut-wrenching anxiety. However, many people can, or think they can, but never do. People with a can-do attitude have their wheels greased, but they have no engine if they have no intent. If we Dads and our children have both the engine (intention) and the grease (confidence), we have what we need to move forward. Not only can we get somewhere, but we can get there with little friction.

‘Determination’ is the backbone of persistence. ‘Determination’ can help you to focus and to overcome a lack of confidence.

Which is it?

So, if your child needed both confidence and determination, which would you choose to emphasize? In my experience, if you’re not confident, then at least be determined and confidence will come. If you’re not determined, your confidence is like pajamas—comfortable as you lay around. What saved me was my determination! I was not confident about becoming successful, but I was determined to be so. I was, at the very least, determined to improve my situation in life, that being the only thing about which I was confident.

Although you can nurture a child to have confidence, you can’t let them wallow in it. Again, that’s when having determination can help. Push them when you have to be on task. It’s how the military gets many of their recruits through basic training. That’s how the voice in your ear does its job, telling you to “keep going”! Mantras are voices at work, expressing through repetition what you want to achieve. When a goal is met with your determination, an increase in confidence will follow. You can ask any graduate of basic military training, any mountain climber, or any Olympic athlete.

There is no wrong answer to my question because we will always want to encourage our kids to have determination, and nurture them to have confidence. Vince Lombardi once said, “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” Confidence can be with you one day and gone the next, but with determination, one will bridge those gaps. Never stop encouraging or nurturing either characteristic. That’s what makes a mother a mom, and a father a dad!

And someday, you may hear these precious words: “Because of you Dad, I didn’t give up!

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website] He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

February 19, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Counselors, courage, Discipline, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eating and Self-Injury Disorders: Finding the Door to Recovery (Melissa Groman, LCSW)

BTRadioIntDisorders of eating can affect both young and old. Their self-abusive characteristics are difficult to understand and, at times, can be even more difficult to manage and treat effectively. Melissa Growman, LCSW, shares valuable insights in this interview from some of our most popular programs in the archives. –JDS

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Eating and Self-injury Disorders: Finding the Door to Recovery, Melissa Groman

Beliefs, and the thoughts they bring on, can either guide a person’s life and keep it on course, or they can erupt into feelings that torment an individual without mercy. When that happens, any behavior that covers and soothes emotional pain and anguish is an option.

Difficult to Address

According to our guest on this program, eating and self-injury disorders are difficult to address because they serve their purpose, at least in the short-term. Like other behaviors that can become addictive, bingeing and starving, or the compulsive cutting of one’s own flesh, provide welcomed distraction and relief from much deeper pain.

These behaviors can become a cycle of self-abuse that occurs in more adolescent girls and young women than you might think. Ultimately, the cycle becomes a trap.

Is there hope for change?

Ambivalence is an Issue

Better is Not So Far Away, Melissa GromanOur guest on this program, Melissa Groman, psychotherapist and specialist in eating and self-injury disorders, suggests that, although recovery from these disorders is possible, ambivalence toward recovery can be a major obstacle. In this program, Melissa will share with us why this is so, what it takes for recovery to become a reality, and what caring parents, other relatives and friends can do to help.

Melissa Growman, LCSW

Melissa’s trademark warmth, sensitivity and profound understanding of human nature permeate her work. She has more than 25 years of experience helping people live healthy, satisfying lives. Although she maintains a busy private practice, Melissa writes regularly for a number of magazines, websites and blogs. This program features her book, Better is Not So Far Away: Decide to Recover from Bingeing, Starving or Cutting. (27:43)

www.melissagroman.com

TO LISTEN, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK

 

 

February 13, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Ways to Manage Your Unruly Child (Peggy Sealfon)

3 Ways to Manage Your Unruly Child, Peggy SealfonIf your child is continuously combative and disrespectful to you, imagine that same child at the age of 17 driving off in a car. If you do not reign in behaviors from early ages, you are dooming your child’s future and you are destined for a troubled relationship. Would you let your child eat bad foods, drink poisonous substances, or play with dangerous toys? Allowing out-of-control behaviors is toxic to the family and the child.

Always Testing Limits

Children are always testing their boundaries; a parent’s job is to define those limits clearly within the family structure. As a parent, you must be confident, kind and committed to what’s acceptable regardless of a child’s emotional reaction.

Know that crying is not a death sentence, it’s a growing experience. Discipline and accountability are key elements in raising well-balanced, well-adjusted children. If you allow unruly behavior at any age, your kids will assume it’s acceptable. Remember you’re not their friend, you’re their parent and you need to mentor them.

Three Ways …

Here are a few recommendations:

1. Develop family rules and be consistent in adhering to them. For instance, children should have chores around the house appropriate to their age. They should keep their rooms tidy and help with meals, cleanup, etc. When they do these tasks, offer positive reinforcements, such as saying, “I’m so fortunate to have such a thoughtful child who did all the dinner chores tonight without even being asked…Thank you.”

On the other hand, if they fail to perform the requested activities, you need to activate consequences. Be firm without raising your voice. If they misbehave at the dinner table or with their siblings, they lose privileges such as play dates, no TV, no games, no phone. Depending on the severity of the infraction, they may be confined to their room for a period to think about what they’ve done.

Consider a young adult who got fired from his job. Did he understand what would happen when he got caught with drugs on the drug test? It is important to teach children accountability: If you do something wrong, there are penalties. It’s okay if they learn to use an excuse with their peers for avoiding bad choices such as “My Dad will kill me if I do that.”

Escape from Anxiety, Peggy Sealfon2. Teach respectfulness and kindness. Help your child recognize feelings of gratitude. With young children, reinforce positive moments. For instance, if one child shares a toy with another, say aloud how happy and grateful the receiving child appears so it becomes a teachable moment.

Create a gratitude jar. Ask your child to write one thing they are grateful for each week and put the comment in a beautifully decorated jar. At the end of the month, spend time together as a family reviewing the entries. Words and notes of thanks should also be encouraged and can help children explore feelings of gratitude further.

When your child exhibits positive behaviors, take time to give a compliment.

Make volunteering part of your life by donating family time to help a charitable organization. Use such an opportunity to bring awareness about others who are less fortunate.

When Countess Stella Andrassy was growing up in a privileged household in her native Sweden, every Christmas her parents made sure that she and her siblings visited several homeless shelters to distribute gifts before they were permitted to enjoy their own holiday gifts. “It gave me greater appreciation for all that I had,” the Countess once shared with me. There are few things comparable to the feeling one experiences by helping someone else. Selflessness and kindness are important lessons so children aren’t always thinking about just themselves. You can help them expand their awareness so they’ll learn to enjoy doing things for others.

3. Be conscientious about setting a good example. Walk the walk by exhibiting values and integrity. Let them catch you doing the right stuff. For example, a cash machine delivers $120 when you requested $100. Exemplify the behavior you want to encourage by giving back the $20 in front of your children. Hold the door open for others so that you teach them respect and awareness.

Let children witness you taking care of yourself and dealing with life’s challenges in constructive ways. Show them how to relax with what is. Instead of focusing on problems, withdraw from any immediate dramas and pause for a time out to be able to see a clearer, more productive solution.

More than likely, you have all the basics for your survival. You may want more or are improving yourself but in this very moment, you’re okay. Let your children know that they’re okay. Create a sense of safety and security for your child full of love and support. In this parental environment, children thrive and grow to be valuable adults who contribute to a better world!

Give Yourself a Break

If you’re having difficulty getting centered yourself, try my free audio at 3MinutestoDestress.com. By taking a brief mental pause, you will refresh your mind and body. It will help you think more clearly, feel more energized, function more effectively, and ultimately reduce stress so that you’ll be more present and available for your children! ###

Peggy Sealfon is a personal development coach and author of the best-selling book, Escape from Anxiety—Supercharge Your Life with Powerful Strategies from A to Z. CLICK HERE for a free consultation with Peggy, or visit her website at PeggySealfon.com.

 

 

February 6, 2017 Posted by | adversity, anger, Difficult Child, Discipline, family, Healthy living, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better Living Through Chemistry? (Dr. Larry F. Waldman)

Our children are watching us, always. With little effort or fanfare, they typically adopt our characteristics, mannerisms, behaviors and beliefs. This can be a good thing, or, as psychologist Dr. Larry Waldman cautions, it can be a path to trouble. A collective desire to always “feel good” seriously can harm us and our most precious relationships. We present, “Better Living Through Chemistry?” –JDS

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Better Living Through Chemistry?, Dr. Larry WaldmanAll living things, human and animal, strive for homeostasis, the ability to keep things in balance. For instance, when they are hungry, they eat; when thirsty, they drink; when sleepy, they nap. Humans, though, take this one step further. Not only do we want our biological processes balanced, we want to feel good. (We feel good when the pleasure center in our brain is stimulated.) Things like alcohol, drugs, fatty and greasy foods, jewelry, fancy cars, expensive clothes, sex and intense video gaming have little to do with balance but everything to do with seeking pleasure. It’s a feeling good movement of epidemic proportion.

To a very large degree, our health care system operates in similar fashion. If the patient doesn’t feel well, a pill is prescribed with the hope they will feel better in the morning.

Dangerous lifestyles

Unquestionably, the number one killer of adults in the United States is lifestyle: bad diet, overeating, lack of exercise, drinking and drugging, and smoking. All these habits are aimed at, that’s right, “feeling good.” Approximately 50% of US adults today are overweight, and, accordingly, there is an epidemic of diabetes and hypertension. How much will the next generation of adult men weigh when most of them spent their entire adolescence seated staring at a video screen? Interestingly, the recreational use of marijuana for purposes of inducing pleasure, has been legalized in several states; it stimulates binge eating.

The response to this situation has been bariatric procedures and, yes, more pills. I distinctly remember a fertilizer/chemical company in the 60s named Monsanto. Their business motto was, “Better Living Through Chemistry.”

We had no idea how true that would become.

The Primary Treatment

The primary treatment today for depression and anxiety, the two most common mental health issues, is, again, medication. Antidepressants certainly have a role in the treatment of these major maladies, but pills should not be the only intervention, but that’s often the case. Changing behavior and thoughts have been shown to be quite helpful in managing depression and anxiety, but they rarely are used.

Recently a friend of mine noted he was depressed and his doctor (a general practitioner) had prescribed him Zoloft, a common antidepressant, several weeks ago. He was not yet feeling well.

I asked him, “What is the number one thing you would like to have happen that would might make you feel better?” He answered he would like to be in a relationship. When I next asked him, “What have you done to find a relationship?” he admitted he had done nothing. (I was unaware that Zoloft can bring you a girlfriend.)

Who's Raising Whom, Dr. Larry WaldmanWe discussed ways to increase his odds of finding a partner. A few weeks later, he reported he was feeling better. He had met a woman and they were about to have their third date.

Was it the Zoloft or the behavior? I don’t know for a fact, but my vote is for the changed behavior.

As a long-term behavioral psychologist, I am fond of the statement, “It is easier to behave your way into a new feeling than to feel your way into a new behavior.” I submit lots of people today are taking pills and/or drugs simply hoping to feel better.

A Better Way

Suggestion: The next time you wish to feel better, don’t pop a pill, down a beer, or smoke a joint. Instead, tell your significant other you love them; read a story, take a walk, have a bike ride with your child; stroke your pet; call your parent and tell them you were thinking of them; go to the gym; write a letter of gratitude to someone who has been kind or helpful to you; meditate; do a yoga practice; do some rhythmic breathing. All of these examples, and there are many more, are healthy, natural behaviors that can effectively change our feeling state.

“Better Living Through Chemistry” has led us down a dark and dangerous path. It is time to take a new direction.###

 

Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for 38 years. He has worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples. He also provides forensic consultations. He speaks professionally to laypersons, educators, corporations, and fellow mental health professionals. He teaches graduate courses for Northern Arizona University. He is the author of five books (currently) involving parenting, marriage, personal wellness, and private practice. His contact information is: 602-418-8161; LarryWaldmanPhD@cox.net; TopPhoenixPsychologist.com.

January 29, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment