It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

A 20-Year Father’s Day Tribute (Dr. James Sutton)

For Father’s Day, 2009, I posted on YouTube a song I wrote and dedicated to my father, J. Fred Sutton. He passed away in October of 1998 after a long and difficult struggle with cancer. It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years.

My sister, Janeane, and I were fortunate to have been born into a family of Christian values and practice. Our parents held strongly to the old values that family was to be cherished, valued and protected.

In my memory, the six years or so that we lived in Abilene (from age 6 to 12 for me) were special to me because we had no extended family there. Unless we took a trip to Oklahoma, where our parents were from, we celebrated seasons and holidays just among the four of us. That, I believe, made our bond even stronger.

This song is titled, “He Was a Good Man,” and he certainly was. In the introduction, I share about the experience of going over to house after he passed away and found that my stepmother (Dad remarried after Mom died in 1986) had his belongings laid out on his bed. It was a life chronicled in just a few square feet. The impact of that impression, of his life laid out on his bed, inspired into this song of love and gratitude from his children.

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, family, Parents, Self-esteem, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Long?” (John Wooden)

There’s no question that the late John Wooden remains a legend in college men’s basketball. From 1964 to 1975, he coached the UCLA Bruins to 10 National Championships, seven of them consecutive. But many folks agree (and I’m one of them) that Coach Wooden was even more a legend as a human being, which may be one reason why he was graced to live just a few months short of age 100 years.
Coach always shared it was his aim to teach what his father had taught him: “Be true to yourself; help others; make each day your masterpiece; make friendships a fine art; drink deeply from good books (especially the Bible); build a shelter against a rainy day; give thanks for your blessings; and pray for guidance every day.”
I had the pleasure and opportunity to work with Coach Wooden on a book project in the late 90s. It was a collection of stories about grandparents. (Grand-Stories was compiled and edited by Ernie Wendell of Durham, North Carolina; I was the publisher). Coach Wooden was one of the first to send in a story; he submitted it in his own handwriting. —JDS


When I took my great-granddaughter, Lori Nicholson, shopping on her 11th birthday, the following conversation ensued as we reached the Northridge Mall:

“PaPa, I know it is hard for you to walk, and it’s not fun to watch me shop, so please sit here on this bench and wait for me.”

“That will be fine, honey.”

“Good. Now don’t worry about me. I can run, and I can yell, and I won’t talk to strangers.”

“Fine, honey. I’ll wait for you right here. Don’t rush; I will enjoy watching the people.”

She returned after a while with some packages and said, “There are some other stores at the other end, and there are benches there where you can rest and wait.”

We moved slowly down the mall until we reached the area where she wished to go. Then she said, “Sit here, PaPa. I won’t be gone very long. Don’t worry about me. I can run, and I can yell, and I won’t talk to strangers. However, PaPa, I do need some more money.

Some time after we had left the mall and were driving home, she said, “PaPa, how long are you going to live?”

“That’s an odd question, honey,” I replied. “I can’t really answer that. People are living longer today, and I’ve already outlived my parents by over 20 years. Why would you ask?”
“I hope you live a long, long time, PaPa, but at least for 5 more years.”

“Why 5 years, Lori?” I questioned.

“Because I’m 11 today, and in 5 years I’ll be 16. I want you to take me to get my driver’s permit!” ###


Permission was granted by Friendly Oaks Publications to post this story and the illustration. The artist is Tim Wiegenstein.

March 30, 2018 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Parents, patriotism, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make Memories: Work and Play with Your Family (Christy Monson)


(Here’s an excellent article by Christy on the “togetherness” of extended family members. The parents of these now elderly cousins gave their children a priceless gift. Enjoy. –JDS)


This past summer, my husband and I hosted a reunion of his childhood cousins. As kids, these wonderful people loved being together. Some of their families lived in Idaho and some in central California. The parents made a special effort to spend time with extended family, even though they didn’t live close. Every summer the cousins worked together on one farm or another, weeding, feeding livestock and irrigating.

Eventually everyone grew up and went their separate ways. They became doctors, international business men, teachers, and engineers in many walks of life. They saw each other at weddings and funerals, if their busy schedules permitted.

As they reached retirement age, they felt the need to reconnect. At the reunion this summer, they spent three wonderful days reminiscing and getting reacquainted with each other.

Family Talk BookSome of the memories they shared were of a crabby uncle, but most of the stories were told about work and play with hard-driving parents, struggling to eke out a living. No one focused on the barn being full of hay or the price of the potatoes each year. They remembered the time they spent together, filling the irrigation ditches, chasing an errant calf or eating pancakes until they were about to burst.

They talked about the ball games they won, the horses they rode, and the pranks they played on each other. Their reminiscence was about the pleasure they experienced in interacting with each other as kids—their communication and relationships.

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.

Greg Anderson


The parents of these cousins are not with us anymore, but here are some of the principles we can take away from their child-rearing practices:

1. Spend time with your kids

2. Work and play together

3. Give them a sense of family

4. Enjoy your extended family


Most of us don’t have to fill the irrigation ditches or milk the cows anymore. Life has changed. But we can still build relationships with our children through work and play.

A happy family is but an earlier heaven.

George Bernard Shaw


As adults what do you remember of your youth? What memories mean the most to you? ###

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].




January 28, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Praise a Difficult Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


James Sutton, Psychologist

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

“We’re Together, and That’s What Matters Most”

On my last trip out of state, I experienced something that caused me to reflect on the value of family. (This seems to be a recurrent theme in many of my blog posts, but I can’t think of anything that has more inpact on the development of our young people today than an emphasis of family and spiritual values.)

I was in the Cincinnati airport trying to catch a ride home. My American Airlines flight had mechanical trouble, but, fortunately for me, there was a straight flight on Delta that got me home even earlier. I was waiting for the flight when I noticed a family of three next to me. There was Dad, Mom and a very young girl. Their airplane was delayed.

Dad sat with the daughter while Mom took off to do a bit of shopping. (Terminal “C” at that airport is a world in its own.) She had been gone only a short time when the gate announced that their plane was ready to board.

The little girl sensed this was a problem. How could she get onto the airplane without Mommy? She began to cry.

“Honey, it’s okay,” her father soothed. “We’ll wait as long as we can,” he said calmly. “But if Mommy doesn’t get back in time for us to catch this plane home, we’ll get the next one. We’re together; that’s the main thing.”

The mother did show up in time for them to catch the plane home.

What the father said to his daughter was sage wisdom–and right on target. There are things much worse than missing a plane.

I shared this little story with my wife when I got home, and she agreed. When you have your loved one(s) with you, home is with you also, wherever you are. We thought back through the years where the same kind of thing happened to us, like the time when the four of us had a bit of trouble getting home from Jaimaca. We were together, and that’s what mattered the most. When 9-1-1 caught us in Las Vegas trying to get home when no planes were flying, our son’s company bought a new Lincoln for him so he could get home with his wife and his parents. But we had to do it quickly, because they had to close on a house. Now THAT was an adventure–a rocket-quick trip from Nevada to San Antonio with only potty and fuel breaks.

We were together, and that’s what mattered the most.

“We’re together, and that’s what matters the most.” What a powerful and comforting message to share with our children.

 James Sutton, Psychologist

November 29, 2007 Posted by | adversity, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Two-duck Thanksgiving

I don’t recall eating turkey for Thanksgiving as a kid. Our family was pretty small: just Mom, Dad, Sis and me. Mom would always buy a large chicken hen, then she would prepare it like a turkey.

It was always like that for as long as I could remember because we had that meal to ourselves. Dad would be off for the day, of course, and it was family time–very precious family time.

(Christmas was much different. We’d pile in the old Chevy and go to Grandma’s in Oklahoma, where there was always PLENTY of family. Grandma lived in a small duplex, so there were kids sleeping on the floor all over the place. One bathroom, too; I don’t know how we survived the holidays. But we did.) 

One Thanksgiving stands out in my mind. It was the time Dad brought home two ducks for Thanskgiving dinner. Someone at work had gone duck hunting and shared the bounty.

These weren’t dressed ducks; they arrived feathers and all, wrapped up in newspaper. I was spellbound watching my father remove the feathers and prepare the ducks for the stuffing and roasting.

My sister and I EACH had a wishbone that year. Pretty cool.

The most important thing about those small Thanksgiving gatherings was the coming together of our family with love and gratitude in our thoughts and hearts. Obviously, that kind of family tradition and closeness is still around, but there also seems to be so much so much more around to distract us from both family and thankfulness.

Our children need generous helpings of both. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

PS: My blog, “Five Kernels of Corn-The Thanksgiving Story,” has received a ton of hits, and I’m at a loss as to why. But it was neat to see it. It would make a great story to read before you dive into the turkey on Thursday. Blessings.

 James Sutton, Psychologist   www.docspeak

November 16, 2007 Posted by | family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Dose of Reality in the Vegas Airport

I recently spoke at an association conference in British Columbia (Canada), and was coming back home through Vancouver. We boarded the connecting flight to Las Vegas right on time, only to sit in the airplane as a mechanic worked on one of the engines.

We sat there for over two and a half hours. When we finally took off and made the flight to Vegas, I missed my connection. I gave the ticket agent at US Airways my story, but there was nothing they could do except book me with another carrier early the next morning. (But I did get two meal vouchers in the deal.)

I was stuck in the Las Vegas airport from 1:00am until my flight at 6:45am. It wasn’t much fun.

So there I was, trying to sleep with my head resting on my luggage. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw what was obviously a homeless person. She was dressed in several layers of clothes, and she shuffled along carrying two good-sized plastic bags.

She took a seat and reached into one of the bags for a large envelope. As I watched her out of the corner of a half-closed eye, she opened the envelope and looked through the contents. She then replaced the envelope into one of the bags.

I was snoozing lightly at this point. I was awakened by what seemed to be the sound of soft chuckling, laughter. I searched for the sound. It was the homeless lady, only she wasn’t chuckling; she was sobbing. She wiped at her eyes, grabbed her bags, and slowly walked off.

“If you’re homeless, there’s no place to go,” I whispered to no one in particular. I felt a sense of sorrow for her and her plight. But it also caused me to realize how minor my overnight residence at this airport really was.

She returned and again sat down. Again she took out the envelope, and again she sobbed softly. In fact, she sobbed herself to sleep.

I’ve spent time away from loved ones, once for two whole years, but I always knew there were a number of folks who loved me and cared about me and how I was doing. I cannot begin to fathom what it would be like to be completely alone, destitute, aged and probably sick.

And I don’t care to ever find out. Maybe, just maybe, this whole existential “detour” was intended to wake me up to smell the “coffee” of God, family, love and purpose.

It’s gotta be the best smell goin’.  Oh, I also learned something else.

Luggage makes a lousy pillow.

James Sutton, Psychologist

November 7, 2007 Posted by | adversity, Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment