An Anger at Birth (Guest: Dr. John Mayer)

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If you don’t mind getting a scattering of answers to the same question, ask it of counselors and therapists. Differences typically evaporate, however, when you ask them to describe the most challenging youngster they encounter.

It’s the child or teen (or an adult, for that matter) with persistent issues of anger. (One reason for an angry youngster’s resistance to change is that angry behavior is reinforced in the moment of an angry or violent act. Turning that therapeutic corner can be a frustrating challenge, even for the best of specialists.)

JMayerphotoOur guest on this program, Dr. John Mayer, is a psychologist in the Chicago area; his specialty is violent and troubled teens. Through his recent novel, An Anger At Birth, Dr. Mayer sheds plenty of light on youngsters showing existential, pathological anger and rage.

Although the book is fiction, it is based on real circumstances and events. Being fiction, the book allows the reader to know a very angry youngster’s thoughts and motives.

Listen in as your host, Dr. James Sutton, asks Dr. Mayer to share his insights, as well as his experiences regarding treatment for these young people.

JMayerAngerBookcoverHere’s a quick look at the plot of An Anger at Birth.

A city is paralyzed by fear after a series of violent crimes that break an ultimate taboo: the harm of infants and young children. The police suspect a pedophile; the media fuel fears of a violent new gang. Meanwhile, a street-smart shrink and a hard-nosed cop defy the focus of the larger investigation to pursue the real serial killer, a raging time bomb who’s planning an ultimate attack on innocents.

Dr. Mayer’s fast-paced novel pulls the reader into the world of violent, troubled individuals–and what happens when we fail to help them. (28:28) (This site can also take you to Dr. Mayer’s professional website and contact information.)

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Ask the Question: “What Can I Do for You?” (Dr. James Sutton)

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Children and teens can sometimes be suspicious of the motives of adults toward them. Here’s a simple strategy that can be used by teachers, counselors and other child-service professionals to demonstrate good faith and intent. Parents can find it helpful with their own kids or with other youngsters as part of volunteer work. And, of course, some parents are child-service professionals, also.

JohnWoodenLegendary UCLA Coach John Wooden knew people as well as he knew basketball. His authentic generosity endeared him quickly to others. If a young man failed to make the team, Coach Wooden would work with him to find a way he could participate and contribute while a student at the university. “What can I do for you?” is something Coach Wooden asked often.

And he always meant it.


Part of a Good Assessment

JDSphotoAs a school psychologist and later a private-practice consulting psychologist, I did a lot of assessments and interviews with youngsters presenting emotional or behavioral difficulties. In some cases, these kids were referred through law enforcement or the family court. Some kids were NOT excited to see me. (I learned to leave my necktie in the car. It’s no fun being strangled with your own clothing, but that’s another story.) This little strategy worked pretty well with the tough kids, but it worked well with the withdrawn and tender kids, also.

During the assessment, generally near the end of it, I would ask, “If I could do something for you, what would it be?” I would then grin and quickly explain that it had to be something legal, ethical and moral—and cost a dollar or less.



The tough kids were generally caught off-guard by the question. They were expecting me to do something to them, not for them. It was often the case they couldn’t think of anything right away. A little patience would pay off, and I discovered that a youngster’s response was often diagnostically significant.


Doable Stuff

It often surprised me just how doable many of these requests were:

A middle school boy asked if I would teach him how to work the combination to his school locker. He had been carrying all of his books to every class.

Another young man was living in a group home after his mother passed away. He simply asked if I could help him get a small picture of her. Grandmother had taken down all of his mother’s pictures after the funeral. It took almost three weeks to get Mom’s picture from her. It was an obituary card from the funeral. The boy showed it to everyone who would take a look, then he tacked it up on the wall next to his bed.

A young lady began crying as soon as I asked the question. All she wanted was a decorative plate from her grandmother’s house. She had always admired that plate as it hung on the wall in the living room. When Grandmother died, all the children divided her belongings among themselves. They had not given thought to the grandkids. It only took a phone call for the girl to get the plate. How easy was that?

A fifth grader asked if I could get the chain fixed on his go kart. His parents were divorced; the go kart was a birthday gift from his father. Finances being tight, Mom could not afford the repair. We were able to put the touch on a kind-hearted tractor mechanic. He not only fixed the chain in a few minutes, he received a blessing in doing so.

Attempts to honor requests like these might not carry great therapeutic value in every case, but they almost always boost rapport and help with trust. It can make a tremendous difference in future visits with a youngster.

So give it a try. Ask the question.

Gypsy’s Mark: Connecting with a Difficult Student (Donna Burns)

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If you’ve been a teacher for any time at all, you’ve experienced students that are especially difficult. My greatest challenge came during my third year of teaching.

Tommy was a “Jekyll and Hyde” sort of eighth-grader. He could be the sweetest kid in class one moment and a terror the next. I always stressed discipline and compliance in my science class, feeling that a combination of horseplay, carelessness and chemicals could get someone seriously hurt in a hurry. Consequently, Tommy and I butted heads regularly. Our relationship was shaky, even on a good day.

It wasn’t because I hadn’t tried to find a way to reach him, to develop a foundation of a positive relationship; I just wasn’t successful. My one and only “in” with Tommy was our squirrel dog, Gypsy.

Tommy, like my husband and me, was an avid hunter and dog owner. I would share stories of Gypsy with the class, and Tommy and I would swap hunting stories during the “better” moments. But, for the most part, I felt that I was just not reaching him.

All of that changed. I was grading papers on the living room floor one cold and rainy evening. Piled around me were stacks of “Need to be graded,” “Graded,” “Still to be recorded,” and “I don’t have a clue what THIS is!” My husband came into the house with Gypsy close on his heels. Before he could wipe her paws, she tore through the kitchen and landed squarely on top of me and the papers.

At the moment, I was more concerned about her getting mud on the carpet, so I paid little attention to the damage she had done to my students’ papers. I just shoved them all into my backpack.

paw printAs I was returning graded and recorded papers to the class the next day, Tommy cleared his seat with a shout:

“Mrs. Burns, Mrs. Burns … LOOK; a Gypsy print!”

Tommy was grinning from ear-to-ear and, sure enough, planted squarely in the center of Tommy’s paper was a perfectly formed, muddy, paw print.

From that moment on things were different between Tommy and me. We still had our days, but the relationship was much, much better.

It’s been over five years now, and Tommy still asks about my husband … and about Gypsy … who is still very much a part of our family. —

 When she shared this story, Donna Burns was a middle school science teacher from Hillsboro, West Virginia.

Identifying and Cultivating Your Child’s Core Strengths (Dr. Daniel Trussell)

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Most parents want to help develop their child’s strengths but don’t know where to start. It can be overwhelming to determine what your child’s strengths are and then to set up experiences where your child is challenged to activate those strengths.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I ask parents to describe their child’s strengths, I get answers like, “He’s good at getting his way,” or “She excels in soccer” or “He’s a natural artist.” While these are all skills worth cultivating, I want to challenge you to think differently about strengths. In their landmark book, Character Strengths and Virtues ( Oxford University Press, 2004), Peterson and Seligman developed a taxonomy of universal virtues and the strengths associated with each of those six virtues.

Six Virtues
The six virtues found in all cultures include Wisdom, Courage, Humanity Justice, Temperance and Transcendence.

Acting on these virtues not only defines an individual as living a superior life, but also leads to greater life satisfaction both individually and collectively.

Peterson and Seligman assigned different strengths that embody each of the universal virtues. They are listed below.

Wisdom and Knowledge– acquiring and using knowledge



Judgement and critical thinking

Love of learning



Courage– accomplishing goals in the face of opposition






Humanity– strengths of befriending and tending to others



Social and emotional intelligence


Justice–strengths that build community





Temperance–strengths that protect against excess

Forgiveness and mercy





Transcendence– strengths that connect us to the larger universe

Appreciation of beauty






While some of these strengths become evident in the first years of life, others do not develop until adolescence. Although young children can express forgiveness, for example, it is almost always conditional and typically includes an element of revenge. It requires emotional and intellectual development, along with an abundance of life experience to be able to show mercy, forgiveness without revenge.  Young children can  tell jokes and be funny, but humor, the capacity to change another’s affect through bittersweet observation, is often not cultivated until much later in life.

Cultivating Core Strengths

To cultivate a child’s core strengths, that child must be exposed to activities that align with their strengths. No child will have all the virtues and strengths; a good rule of thumb is to determine the top five and the lowest five.  Plan abundant activities that allow a child to use their top strengths and limit activities that require use of their lowest strengths to maximize life satisfaction and general well-being.

If you child is high in appreciation of beauty, you could attend art exhibits, hike to beautiful places or find environments that allow her to get in touch with her appreciation and awe. Conversely, if your child is low in persistence, assign chores that don’t pay great attention to details.

To download a list of activities associated with each strength mentioned here, send me an email to or go to 264 Character Building Activities for Kids

 Daniel Trussell, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, CPCS is author of How Families Flourish, a parenting guide using the constructs of applied positive psychology. To learn more about his program go to


Protecting Kids Most at Risk for Cyber Harm (Guest: Dr. John DeGarmo)

(This podcast is being sponsored in support of young people by Friendly Oaks Publications.)


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JDeGarmophotoFor 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 book imageDr. 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)

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Adults with ODD (Dr. James Sutton)

BTSpReportThis video has been on my YouTube site for several years now. It continues to draw a significant amount of traffic (almost 18,000 views). We thought it would be interesting to publish it here on the Network. –JDS


There’s been a lot said about Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in adults. Until recently, however, ODD as a diagnostic classification was reserved for use with children and adolescents. The DSM-5, the newest diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals, is more liberal in applying the ODD diagnosis across ages. (This video was made when the older manual, the DSM-IV-TR, was the prevailing authority.)

In this introductory video, psychologist Dr. James Sutton offers insights into defiant, argumentative, oppositional, noncompliant and angry behaviors in adults, behaviors often classified as one of several personality disorders. Costs of these behaviors are discussed, and several approaches to interventions are offered. Resources for help and support are also provided.

The interventions mentioned here were ones Dr. Sutton used successfully with patients showing these characteristics in 28-day drug and alcohol treatment.

Dr. James Sutton is a psychologist and founder/host of The Changing Behavior Network.

Gifts and Resources for Parents During International Child-Centered Divorce Month (Rosalind Sedacca)

BTAboutThemJanuary is International Child-Centered Divorce Month. The entire month is dedicated to helping parents minimize the negative effects of divorce on children – by giving them the tools and resources they need to support their kids during and long after a divorce.

RSedaccaPhotoThroughout January divorce attorneys, mediators, therapists, financial planners, coaches, parenting experts and other professionals around the world will be providing complimentary gifts offering advice and insights to help parents best cope with divorce and parenting issues.

More divorces are initiated in January, following the holiday season, than in any other month. That’s why the Child-Centered Divorce Network chose January to commemorate ICCD Month every year. The goal is to educate parents about how to prevent negative consequences for children during and after separation or divorce.

At the special website, parents can access free ebooks, coaching services, videos, audio programs and other valuable gifts by simply clicking links. The website will be available throughout January at: After entering their email address, parents will receive an ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting along with access to all the other gifts and activities from divorce experts.

Intl Child-Centered Divorce Month logo - newParents will also find listings of free workshops, teleseminars, webinars and other special events being held during January on the Events Calendar at the same website.

We are thrilled that divorce professionals around the world will be joining together to bring a heightened awareness to parents about their responsibility to their children’s well-being before, during and after divorce. Our purpose is education and mistake prevention. We want to encourage respectful co-parenting, discuss the painful consequences of parental alienation, teach effective communication skills, and guide parents away from litigation-based solutions.

Parental decisions about divorce can affect and scar children for years – and often for a lifetime. As Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, I want to tell divorcing parents: Regardless of your own emotional state, it is essential to put your children’s needs first when making decisions related to divorce or separation!

Of course, that’s easier said than done. That’s why the Child-Centered Divorce Network provides valuable resources to help parents throughout the year. They can access a complimentary ebook, a weekly newsletter, blog articles, an Expert Interview series, parenting coaching services and weekly video interviews on the Divorce View Talk Show.

The more aware parents are, the more quickly they can address challenges that come along regarding their children’s behavior, getting along with their co-parent, adapting to single life and transitioning into a brighter future. We remind parents they are not alone and encourage them to reach out for help, support and useful resources to minimize stress and maximize success.

For more information about International Child-Centered Divorce Month plus access to all the free gifts and special events taking place in January visit:

Rosalind Sedacca is the Voice of Child-Centered Divorce. She is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of the internationally acclaimed book, How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce, a unique and effective storybook approach to affirming children while helping them understand divorce.

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Improving How Kids Think About Money (Guest: Christy Ziglar)


Christy: I understand the Shine Bright Kids books partly came as a result of your experiences (as a Certified Financial Planner) in putting together a financial literacy program for first and second graders in the Atlanta Public Schools. Since little actual currency (bills and coins) is exchanged now in our credit-card, electronic account world, how has this affected our children’s understanding of the cost of things and decisions regarding spending? Teaching children about money early on is important, but how do we do it?


ChristyPhotoI often wonder what will happen when our children go out into the world and find out that money is not available “on demand.” In our fast-paced, instant gratification, consumer-driven culture, it has become increasingly difficult for children to understand the value of money.

Rare Use of “Real” Money

Who can blame them? They’re not growing up with money in the same way that all of us did, i.e., physically collecting, holding and making purchases with dollars and cents.  When was the last time you paid for something with cash or even a check? The majority of purchases in the United States are now made with plastic and the trend is set to continue.

moneyIn fact many retailers, including major airlines, don’t even accept cash any more. Research shows that using plastic encourages spending, so what does this mean for the next generation?  How will our kids learn to become successful managers of money when they rarely come into physical contact with it?

Even with recent economic difficulties, our American consumer habits and obsession with new products (think of your average suburban home) make it difficult for many children to have a realistic view of money. On a daily basis, we are bombarded by messages that we deserve to have exactly what we want NOW. There is a major disconnect between the access to so much and the hard work, sacrifice, self discipline and responsibility required to sustain certain lifestyles.

For many of us, if we need something, we drive to the closest store (or even more convenient, go online), find it, and pay for it with a plastic card. What message does this send our children? As adults, we appreciate the concept of limits and “affordability” and know that sometimes we have to be patient or simply say ‘no.’ Each of our choices comes with a consequence and a trade-off. But are we teaching this to our children?

“Paying For” is Changing

piggybankMoney has traditionally provided some of our earliest lessons in “give and take.” Do you remember the first time you emptied your piggy bank (or other wallet) and purchased something you really wanted? Perhaps you had been saving for weeks or months? Hopefully once you obtained the desired item, the excitement and perceived benefits outweighed the loss associated with handing over your hard-earned cash.

Reflecting on these experiences, there is an important distinction to make between physical money transactions and the “cashless” transactions children observe now. The physical act of handing over the dollars and coins had an immediate emotional and psychological impact that allowed us to gain a deeper appreciation of the true value of money and provided a context for our first notions of cost and reward. This doesn’t happen in today’s digital age.  The entire concept of “paying for” is changing literally and figuratively. Our children consume, receive and accumulate without experiencing any loss or putting forth of effort.

Creating Teachable Moments

When it comes to kids and money, Prospect Theory and Behavioral Economics present an interesting opportunity for creating everyday teachable moments. Kahneman and Tversky’s research indicates that, when faced with a choice, a perceived loss is more painful than a gain.  As a parent, I’ve found this never to be truer.  If we want to encourage your children to take responsibility, it is much more effective to take AWAY than to GIVE.

For example, we frequently use a point system. Instead of starting at zero, we start them at ten with the potential to earn up to twenty points. With “skin in the game,” having points taken away is a great motivator. This approach works well with an allowance. Consider paying the week’s allowance (or month’s for older children) upfront in dollar and cents and then as chores and responsibilities are not completed, take away some money. Instead of feeling entitled to simply receive more, children are motivated to work and earn.

Needs versus Wants

To encourage good money habits, talk to you children about the things that matter most. Help them write down specific money goals and determine a strategy and a realistic plan for reaching their goal. Great joy (and pride!) comes from achieving a goal that required hard work, patience and discipline. Explain the difference between needs and wants. Try dividing their money into three containers: Saving, Giving and Spending. As an incentive, consider matching your children’s amounts in the “Saving” and “Giving” jar but let them know they’re on their own with “Spending.” Allow them to make age-appropriate choices, and resist the urge to help them out if they make a bad choice.

Get Them Involved

The next time you’re out shopping with the kids, involve them in your decision-making process. Point out the prices of items and talk about the pros and cons of one compared to another (this is also a great way to teach basic math!). Challenge your kids to look for coupons and special offers and then talk about what makes the most sense for your family.

Keeping a budget should be a family affair; it can become fun! (Make a game of completing the grocery list and staying under a certain dollar amount, let kids take turns guessing the costs of certain items or offer a prize to the child who finds the best deal of the week).

ATMTake your children to the local bank and explain how money is deposited directly into your account and is then transferred electronically. Let them insert checks or cash into the ATM. Set up a savings account and log in to check your balance together before and after you make a purchase.

Exciting Opportunities

The digital age presents new challenges for teaching our kids about money, but also provides exciting opportunities.  In the words of my late uncle, Zig Ziglar, “Money isn’t everything but it ranks right up there with oxygen.” In short, money matters a lot. Let’s be creative and intentional in finding new ways to help our kids learn to make better financial choices. People who make good decisions about money tend to make good decisions about life!

 Christy Ziglar, CFP® is the founder of Shine Bright Kid Co., author of the award-winning Shine Bright Kids book series, experienced personal financial advisor and mother of twins. She speaks frequently on issues of financial literacy, character building, instilling wisdom in young children, positive attitude and values-based goal-setting. [website] Also, Christy was very recently featured inThe Huffington Post, a distinguished honor, indeed. [link]

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“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


zigIt’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.

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Four Steps to Help Parents Reduce Holiday Stress (Dr. Thomas Phalen)


The holidays are coming up, and although many parents look forward to having their children home from school, they also find that after a few days it isn’t so easy having the kids underfoot all the time. The youngsters are all excited about Christmas, they start fighting more often, and when they’re not doing that they complain to their parents that they’re bored.

TPhelanphotoThis season is one of those odd times that combine a lot of fun with a lot of stress. It isn’t easy having the children right on top of you again, especially when they’re all pumped up about the presents they’re going to get and can’t seem to leave one another alone. Here are a few ideas for maintaining sanity during these both enjoyable and difficult times.

1. Help Kids Plan or Structure Part of Each Day
With school-age kids, help them plan or structure part of each day, then let the youngsters figure out what they are going to do to entertain themselves for the rest of that day. Do not fall into the trap of seeing yourself as the resident entertainment committee! You might help Emily by allowing her to have a friend over to eat dinner, watch a video and then sleep overnight. The rest of the day your daughter decides for herself what she’ll do. Or you might take Ryan out to lunch and then to a movie, but the rest of the day he entertains himself.

boys_sled2. Be Clear About the Rules from the Start
Make the above rules clear as soon as the vacation starts, so when the kids come up to you and say, “There’s nothing to do,” you can reply, “You and I will be going out at 4, but in the meantime I’m sure you can think of something.” Above all, don’t keep making suggestion after suggestion after suggestion, only to have a child shoot down each idea as soon as it’s out of your mouth. Making a lot of suggestions to your children for what they can do implies that you are responsible for their keeping busy and feeling entertained.

3. Plan Lots of One-on-One Fun
Plan lots of activities one on one with your children. Just you and one child—no spouse or siblings. Not only does this eliminate the fighting, it offers the opportunity for real closeness and bonding. Most parents find that it’s a lot easier to have fun when it’s just you and one child, rather than the whole family together. This may sound funny, but family fun is overrated! Kids love having a parent all to themselves, and under these circumstances each youngster is usually much easier to get along with.

4. Avoid Feeling Guilty
Don’t feel guilty if—two days before December 25—you find yourself wishing the kids were back in school already. You have lots of company! It’s not easy having a lot of wound-up little ones chasing each other around the house.

Dr. Thomas Phelan is a clinical psychologist and the author of 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 (1.5 million copies sold). His most recent book is Tantrums! Managing Meltdowns in Public and Private. Visit for more information.

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