It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Grandma and the Train Ride (Dr. James Sutton)

Time spent with grandparents is the stuff of both memories and character. The Changing Behavior Network host, Dr. James Sutton, shares one such experience.
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For a number of years I was the only grandchild on my mother’s side of the family. For that reason, my grandmother and I shared a very special relationship. Hey, when you’re the only grandchild, you get lots of attention.

One of my favorite memories about my grandmother goes back to the time when I had spent most of the summer with her and my aunt’s family in Minnesota. I was about nine at the time. After summer vacation, Grandma and I made the return trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, by train. Those were the days when only the well-to-do could even think of traveling by air.

We were well-prepared. Dressed in our Sunday best, and armed with a couple of sacks of books, games, and plenty of snack food, Grandma and I boarded the train and settled into our seats for the two-day trip. I can still remember watching the scenery go by, occasionally drifting in and out of sleep to the steady rhythm of the clickity-clack of steel wheels on steel rails.

For those riding through the night in coach (instead of the much more expensive Pullman sleeper cars), the porter would make his way down the aisle renting pillows. We only needed one for me. Grandma, an experienced rail traveler, always carried a big, down pillow with her.

In the morning the train made a stop (in St. Louis, as I recall), so Grandma treated me to a hearty breakfast in the station’s cafeteria. When we re-boarded the train, we discovered that the porter had taken up all the pillows, including Grandma’s!

Grandma insisted that, since her pillow was so much better than the others (it really was), he would sort through the piles and piles of pillows until he found the fine pillow that belonged to her. He finally brought her a pillow, but it wasn’t THE pillow (something he heard about all the way to Tulsa).

Very few folks today can recall traveling by rail through the night. Thinking back, however, I suppose what stands out the most in that experience of traveling by train with my grandmother was that it was a special adventure of just the two of us.

GRAND-Stories, Ernie WendellThrough the years, Grandma ad I did a lot of things together. She even taught me how to embroider a little and to bake sugar cookies. (We decided once to triple the recipe, and had more cookies than we could find jars, can, and boxes to put them it; but that’s another story.)

I was home on leave from the US Navy when my grandmother passed away in 1968. It was a few days before my scheduled departure for a two-year hitch in Japan (including two assignments with marines in Vietnam). She was very sick, but she knew I was there, that I was still home. To this day, I believe she picked her time to go.

I’ve heard of these things happening. ###

Dr. James Sutton is a former educator, a semi-retired psychologist, and the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. This story is from the book, GRAND-Stories: 101+ Bridges of Love Joining Grandparents and Grandkids, edited by Ernie Wendell.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Approach to Noncompliance: A Meeting That Never Happens! (Dr. James Sutton)

BTAboutThemHere’s a strategy to use with an uncooperative youngster that lets her THINK her way back into compliance. Best of all, it comes out looking like HER idea.

Oppositional and defiant sons and daughters already think they are equal to the task of playing compliance games with their parents. And, more often than we’d like to admit, they’re right. Here’s an idea for setting up a situation whereby the youngster decides the best solution to the problem is to DO what needs to be done.

Jim415smIt applies across most any tasks, but let’s say Dad has already had a discussion with Sally about rolling the trash container out to the street on pickup day. It’s a quick and easy task she can do before she goes to school. She has even agreed to do it; no problem there.

The problem is the chore is NOT being done. The container is brimming over, as is Dad’s frustration in Sally’s neglected chore and a broken promise about doing it.

If Dad confronts Sally directly about the chore, he knows she could turn the whole thing into an uncomfortable argument. Here’s one thought on how he might approach it. Keep in mind the chore could be anything; the trash container is just an example.

trashcanDad makes it a point to speak with Sally the evening BEFORE the trash is to be put out on the curb:

Sally, I’ve noticed that the trash has not been moved out to the street for a couple of weeks now. It’s becoming a problem. You promised me you’d put it out every Wednesday morning before you went to school. So far, it looks like the plan isn’t working very well.

Let’s do this, Sally. Let’s see what happens with the trash in the morning. If it doesn’t get put out, we’ll meet tomorrow evening to work on a different plan. Sally, what would be a good time for you to meet with me tomorrow night? Six o’clock? Six thirty? Seven? You pick it, Sally. What time would work for you?

Although it’s very possible Sally will say she will take the trash around in the morning, Dad should continue to press for a time to meet the next evening. She only has to give him a time, and she can pick it.

Sally quickly realizes that, although the time is set for a meeting tomorrow night, it can be avoided completely. All she has to do is PUT OUT THE TRASH in the morning. (Of course, the fact that she has already set the time to meet with her father “helps” to move the trash around.)

One benefit of this intervention is that it approaches the issue as a problem to be solved rather than a confrontation. Additionally, it puts Sally in complete control of making certain the meeting DOESN’T happen … by complying!

(Teachers: This same approach could also work with a difficult and “forgetful” student, also.)

Psychologist Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. His book, Resolving Conflict with Your Children, contains a step-by-step process to use to address compliance issues in the home.

 

March 7, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Difficult Child, Discipline, family, Parents | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving (Dr. James Sutton)

The Changing Behavior Network, Radio-style InterviewThis short program doesn’t feature the typical interview with an author. Instead, Dr. James Sutton, the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, turns on the microphone and simply shares his thoughts on giving, receiving, and the importance of youngsters to have a positive and active purpose, especially when idleness can stir up a LOT of trouble. Presented here is “A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving.”

A Valuable Lesson

A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving, The Changing Behavior NetworkListen in as Jim shares a lesson he learned when he was seven or eight, and how, almost five decades later, he experienced that same lesson, a lesson in receiving, being used very effectively. Isn’t there always a place for learning to receive well?

A homeless clown? Yes; it’s sad, but true. But in this case, the clown played an important part in teaching a group of at-risk boys how to receive a less-than-attractive gift.

Dr. James Sutton

Improving a Youngster's Self-Esteem, Dr. James SuttonDr. Sutton is a “mostly retired” child and adolescent psychologist that started off as a Special Education teacher. He has worked with children and adolescents in the school and clinical settings, and has lectured extensively in the US and Canada regarding ways to effectively reach, teach, manage and treat youngsters with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

Dr. Sutton has authored more than a dozen books, including the e-book we are featuring here, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised). (12:23)

Learn More About THIS BOOK

 

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

 

January 1, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Counselors, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Evaluating a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (Dr. James Sutton)

Special Report, The Changing Behavior NetworkIssues and concerns related to self-esteem can create significant difficulty for a youngster’s overall development and progress. Answers to these five questions will give you a pretty good idea of where a particular child or teen might be in terms of self-esteem. These are taken from one of Dr. Sutton’s latest, downloadable e-books, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised). The book obviously contains more information regarding followup, intervention and treatment. CLICK HERE to learn more about the book. We now present, “Evaluating a Youngster’s Self-Esteem: Five Questions.”

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Dr. James Sutton, Evaluating a Youngster's Self-Esteem: Five QuestionsThere are five questions that pertain to the evaluation of a child or teen’s self-esteem. It is probable that a child with low self-esteem will have difficulty in several of these. Answers to these questions and observations can be helpful in determining management and treatment.

Question 1 of 5:

HOW DO YOU BELIEVE SHE (OR HE) VIEWS HER OWN IMAGE AND ABILITIES?

It’s not unusual for youngsters to have issues with their physical appearance; our bodies stay with us for life. The body is an individual’s direct connection with the outside world, and the only part of a person that others can see, hear, and touch.

Is she confident regarding her physical appearance? If she is not comfortable, is the problem an authentic one, perhaps even one that could be repaired (like crooked teeth)? Or is her issue with her appearance primarily in her own perception only, such as an attractive child believing somehow that she is ugly?

Does she put herself down when it comes to appearance and physical characteristics? What is the nature of her complaints and concerns?

Does she feel up to the challenge of comparing herself and her abilities with age and grade peers?

Sports is another area which showcases a youngster’s abilities, or lack of them. How is she in this area? Competitive sports like soccer and Little League come into a child’s life early on and continue through school and non-school functions and events for years. For some youngsters, the pressure to perform is anything but fun.

Question 2 of 5:

HOW WELL DOES HE HANDLE FRUSTRATION?

Can he handle quite a bit before he “loses it?” Can he creatively use setbacks as challenges to try even harder, or is he overly reactive to aggravation and setbacks?

It’s easy to see how the behavior of an angry youngster can bring about consequences that only create more frustration when the consequences are applied. The frustrated child finds himself in a hole that moves only in one direction deeper, then deeper still.

If self-esteem is a container from which we manage our stress, then some folks carry buckets while others have thimbles. You can size them up easily during moments of frustration. Said another way, a low tolerance for frustration is almost always a tip-off to low self-esteem.

Question 3 of 5:

HOW DOES SHE HANDLE CRITICISM, EVEN CONSTRUCTIVE, WELL-INTENDED CRITICISM?

Does she accept criticism graciously and use it as a springboard for improvement, or does just about ANY criticism bring about a response like, “How come you’re always picking on ME?”

Some youngsters feel they have long since met their quota of mistakes for the rest of their lives! So, when one more is held up in front of them, they’re not exactly happy about it.

Sometimes there is an opposite effect. This is the youngster who had difficulty accepting compliments. This situation is actually part of the same concern.

We all have an image of ourselves as a total person. If that image is a poor one, compliments will be in conflict with it. In other words, the compliment can’t find a place to “fit.” Consequently, the youngster might reject a compliment in order to maintain consistency of a poor self-image and of low self-esteem. One might say that this is self-defeating and that it doesn’t make much sense at all, but it is consistent.

Improving a Youngster's Self-Esteem, Dr. James SuttonQuestion 4 of 5:

IS HE WILLING TO TAKE APPROPRIATE RISKS?

Life involves risk. The very hope of progress, just about any kind of progress, demands that we take risks; not fool-hearty risks, of course, but age and situation-appropriate risks.

Examples of risks include sports and other areas of competition, the sort of classes a high school student signs up for or seeking that first after-school job. Then there’s the big one for a guy asking a girl out for a date. Life requires risk all the time.

The bottom line of risk-taking is always the same: fear of failure. If that fear is strong enough, one will not risk. But there’s a paradoxical quality to it. Since one cannot experience success UNLESS he takes a risk, a paralyzing fear of ultimately creates more failure.

We might consider here a pattern of an opposite effect: fear of success. The whole notion of success doesn’t fit well with a poor self-image or a low self-esteem. Many youngsters will strive for a consistency of a poor self-image rather than a successful life-style. That seems to run contrary to the laws of personhood, but in more than three decades of working with young people, I have seen it happen over and over again.

Question 5 of 5:

HOW DOES SHE HANDLE RELATIONSHIPS, BOTH WITH PEERS AND WITH ADULTS?

Does she seem to have a number of meaningful friendships that have lasted, friendships into which she is invested? Does she speak easily and comfortably with adults?

At the other extreme we find youngsters who seem socially isolated and withdrawn. They might possibly say things like, “No one likes me!” They might even make friends easily, but have difficulty keeping them.

This youngster might either be uncomfortable with adults or spend all of their time with just one friend or one adult, like a favorite teacher. This might appear to be a very positive relationship, but the deeper message could be avoidance of other relationships. This can become a real problem, especially if that one intense relationship falls apart. And generally, if the relationship is one-sided in its intensity, it will eventually fall apart.

There are underlying issues in such an unfortunate scenario, such as two kinds of fear: the fear of closeness and fear of being socially “exposed” For an adolescent, a stage of growth where peers are such an important part of psychosocial development, just the thought of being “exposed” is quite disturbing. This youngster can be terrified that, if others get too close, they might not like what they see. One way of dealing with this problem is to never, but never, let anyone get too close. But, just like the problem of risk, not letting anyone get close is also self-defeating. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberA nationally recognized (and now mostly retired) child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. For more information about the ebook featured in this Special Report, CLICK HERE.

 

November 30, 2016 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Minute Solution: Counseling a Difficult Youngster (Dr. James Sutton)

BTCounselorEvery counselor, clinician or therapist knows of the challenge of working with a youngster that is determined to be uncooperative and resistant. Here’s a strategy that can get things started; it come from Dr. James Sutton‘s book, 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child. We present, “10-Minute Solution: Counseling Difficult Youngsters.”
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Let’s face it. If you happen to be working with an oppositional and defiant youngster, it’s highly likely the child will show up at your door with a bit of “encouragement” from some authority figure that has maxed out on this kid’s behavior. They are not exactly candidates for self-referral.

10-Minute Solution: Counseling Difficult Youngsters (Dr. James Sutton)Most of these youngsters are expecting just about anything except a positive experience from you. The bright ones have already planned their next three or four moves based on how they assume things are going to go. Here’s an idea that shakes up what they expect while it stack more control on your side. In the process, it also supports a stronger counseling relationship (what clinicians call a “therapeutic alliance”). I call this little intervention the “10-Minute Solution.”

10-Minute Solution

The “10-Minute Solution” recognized that short visits, especially initial ones, can be more productive than longer ones. Ten minutes skillfully used by the counselor can cover a lot of ground and build a bond with a child or teen. I’ve used it many times.

How It Works

Here’s how it works. When a youngster shows up for the session, the counselor (clinican, therapist, etc) says something like this:

You know, I’m VERY sorry. I have a meeting I must to go to in ten minutes, so this visit will need to be a short one. I only have ten minutes to spend with you today. Is that alright?

clock(This example mentions a meeting to go to, but it can be anything that presses on your time. Obviously, a little planning here can make this an authentic statement.)

Is it alright? OF COURSE it’s alright. This kid didn’t really want to be there in the FIRST place. He’s already anticipated a ton of questions he didn’t want to answer. Shorter to him definitely is better. Heck, I’d even seat him where he can watch the clock click down those ten minutes.

Why It Works

It’s always amazed me how much a youngster will say and share when he knows there’s already an up-front limit to it. In other words, he’s thinking: “However tough this gets, I only have to tolerate ten minutes of it.”

It’s been my experience that a youngster will share a lot in a short period of time using this approach, and he generally will be more direct and honest in those responses. As always, my aim with this approach is to collect material that can be addressed in subsequent session.

The best interventions are always high in “next time” value. ###

 

SixtyWaysCounselDr. James Sutton is a semi-retired child and adolescent psychologist and the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. For more information about 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child, the source of this intervention, CLICK HERE.

 

August 19, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Kids STAY Angry (Dr. James Sutton)

BTSpReportHere’s a video Dr. Sutton originally posted on his YouTube channel in 2009; it has drawn a lot of traffic and interest. It’s on a topic that continues to frustrate and confuse a good many folks as they attempt to work with a child that’s angry … and chooses to stay that way.

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Jim415smAnger in children and adolescents is one of the toughest behavioral issues to manage and “fix.” In part, this is because the expression of anger tends to “feed” the next angry outburst.

In other words, angry behavior is self-reinforcing as it creates “benefits” for a youngster. For instance, the child or teen who’s uncomfortable with peers being close to them might engage in behaviors designed to push others back to a more “comfortable” distance. If closeness bothers a youngster enough, any behavior that is obnoxious enough to produce the distance probably will be repeated. It’s tough on one’s social life, but it provides immediate relief.

(Although we’re talking about kids here, there are plenty of adults who do the very same thing, aren’t there?)

Consequence for poor behavior won’t do much to slow down a youngster who acts out to achieve relief. After a behavioral episode, this youngster easily can tell you all about the consequences to follow. For that reason, piling on more consequences isn’t always the answer.

I made this video in 2009 to better explain the characteristics, issues and behaviors of anger in young people, to share why I believe they are sometimes so resistant to change, and to offer insights into how we can better address the needs of the chronically angry child or adolescent.

The blog, ebook and newsletter mentioned at the end of the video have all been combined into this site, The Changing Behavior Network. The website is correct [link]. An updated telephone number is on the website.###

Dr. James Sutton is a nationally recognized psychologist that started out as a Special Education teacher. He is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. His most current bookis Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised).

 

August 5, 2016 Posted by | adversity, anger, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit of Forgiveness (Dr. James Sutton)

Dr. James SuttonAnger is the proverbial two-edged sword. When we are emotionally vulnerable, one edge stands ready to protect us from additional hurt and harm, but the other edge can rob us of our joy and, over time, steal our health and vitality as well. The Spirit of Forgiveness offers us one way to deal with long-term anger.

Like a Suit of Armor

Like a knight’s suite of armor, anger does a good job of protecting us from additional hurt. It covers our delicate emotional flesh, but, if worn too long, the armor itself can hurt us. If we choose never to remove the armor, others will see us as strange and even difficult. And when the summer sun does its number on the armor, we will have a new problem: heat stroke.

suit of armor, Kroejsanka Mediteranka, the spirit of forgivenessAt some point, the armor needs to come off, right?

Forgiveness, A Delicate Issue

Authentic forgiveness requires a vulnerability, an emotional risk … without armor. One of the things that makes forgiveness difficult is the fact that, in order to truly forgive, one must make contact with what they are forgiving. That can be difficult, often causing forgiveness to stop before it even begins.

(This is precisely who insisting a child, teen or adult forgive someone is so ineffective, even harmful. We cannot mandate matters of the heart, especially when the heart is packed in armor!)

Waiting to Forgive

Even when one is willing to forgive, what happens if it is never sought? Is one stuck at that point, just waiting to forgive? What happens if they can’t or won’t wait?

For ten years I was the consulting psychologist for a residential treatment facility for children and teens. They had been removed from their homes because of ongoing abuse and the emotional damage it created. These kids inspired me in their growth and in their willingness, over time, to step out of their armor. In the process, however, some of them attempted to forgive family members when that forgiveness had not been sought. For the most part, the results were quite predictable: Disaster.

The Spirit of Forgiveness

There is a way to help a youngster or an adult to get to the point of forgiveness even if it is never sought. I call it The Spirit of Forgiveness. It involves a “What if …” that can lead very closely to the same sort healing if a person is ready for it.

The Spirit of Forgiveness starts with a question:

You are right; it seems very unlikely that person will ever seek your forgiveness. But what if they DID ask you to forgive them, and you were absolutely convinced they were 100% sincere is doing so. Would you consider forgiving them then?

 

The Changing Behavior Book, James SuttonAlmost to the youngster, the kids I worked with in treatment initially would respond with something like, “I wouldn’t believe them!” “That would never happen!” or “They would never ask that!” At that point, my aim would be to coax them toward a “Yes” or “No.”

I understand. But what if someone you trust a lot, someone like your grandmother, were to tell you they were sincere in seeking your forgiveness, what would you do?

 

If the youngster elected to stay with their previous response or say they would NOT forgive that person, I would stop right there. They were not ready; they still needed their armor. They were neither right nor wrong; they just were not ready.

If, on the other hand, they were to say they would forgive that person under those circumstances, I would explain to them how very, very close that is to actual face-to-face forgiveness. The results often would be obvious in their eating and sleeping habits, behavior, relationships and school performance. I was privileged to observe youngsters use The Spirit of Forgiveness, a predetermined answer to a question that might never be asked, to make significant progress in their recovery.

Acceptance: An Alternative

I have communicated with adults that felt even The Spirit of Forgiveness was too difficult for them to conceptualize in terms of their own experiences. In one way or another they all shared that they moved past the pain and hurt by reaching a point of acceptance and moving on from there.###

Dr. James Sutton is a former teacher, a child and adolescent psychologist and the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. His website is DocSpeak.com

 

July 22, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Compassion, Counselors, courage, family, Healthy living, Integrity, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Be Patient with Me …” (Dr. James Sutton)

Dr. James Sutton“Be Patient with Me …” Growing tomatoes in south Texas can be a challenge. You have to get most of your harvest in the spring, as the blistering sun will cut them down in July.

“This one’s finished,” I said to myself, as I prepared to yank a plant up by the roots and throw it into the compost pile.

It was then my fingers, not my eyes, discovered it: a perfectly formed, fist-sized tomato. Fastened near the bottom of the plant, it was green and growing, resting against the picket fence where it had been shielded from my view.

Be Patient with Me“Be patient with me; I can still contribute,” the plant seemed to be saying to me. I left it.

In that moment I was struck with the notion that people sometimes are like that heat-battered tomato plant. It could be the student who is painfully shy in the classroom. It could be the hard-working immigrant who struggles to learn a strange, new language. Or it could be the kind soul who must live out her days in a nursing home. Circumstances differ, yet the message remains the same:

Be patient with me;
I can STILL contribute.

Only the Master Gardener has all the answers.

“… For man looketh on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7b (KJV)

 

The Changing Behavior Book, Dr. James SuttonDr. James D. Sutton is a (mostly) retired child and adolescent psychologist. His most recent book is The Changing Behavior Book, and he is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. [website]

 

 

June 10, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Compassion, courage, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience | , , , , | 1 Comment

A Father’s Day Tribute, 2009

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

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

James Sutton, Psychologist http://www.docspeak.com

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