Anger vs Bitterness: Understanding the Difference (Rosalind Sedacca & Amy Sherman)

BTCounselorOne of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of being a parent may be getting along with your child’s other parent. We all understand that parents are parents for life – regardless of whether they are married, separated or divorced. The better you get along with one another, the easier you make life for you and your children – not only for this month, but for years and decades to come.

Rosalind Sedacca and Amy ShermanIt’s a safe bet that you and your child’s other parent are quite good at pushing each other’s buttons. It’s not difficult to bring one another to a state of anger – and then to feel frustration and resentment in return. For that reason, learning how to handle and manage your anger is an excellent and very productive skill to master.

Unfortunately people in our lives hurt us and do things we feel are unfair, resulting in anger, frustration and resentment. These feelings may be longstanding and hard to release.

The Challenge

We all get angry. The challenge is not to let it fester so it moves into bitterness. Anger is an experience, but bitterness is a state of mind we carry with us at all times.  Bitterness keeps us trapped in the feeling, making it hard to let go. It lingers in our minds and overflows into all aspects of our life. People may regard us as moody and arrogant and want to keep their distance. When consumed with anger, we may not even care.

Anger can be healed through forgiveness, but bitterness may be beyond our ability to resolve. While chronic anger is bad enough, chronic bitterness is worse. It can be more destructive, contributing to marital discord, divorce and physical as well as emotional abuse.

Embittered people are their own worst enemy because they are filled to overflowing with paranoia, cynicism and mistrust. They often believe they are the victim of a profound injustice and become obsessed with revenge and retribution.

Managing Anger Effectively

How can we avoid falling into this unhealthy state of mind?

1. Recognize the role anger is playing in your life. We cannot change what we don’t first acknowledge. So ask yourself some pivotal questions. Has your anger become so blown out of proportion you cannot focus on anything else? Is this feeling worth all the energy you are putting into it? Are you prepared to keep living like this, jeopardizing your own well-being as well as the happiness of those close to you?

 2. Acknowledge that you may be mentally pitting “yourself” against “them.” This requires considerable awareness because sometimes we can be very stubborn about whom we blame for our lives. The bottom line is that you’re not in a contest. No one is keeping track of your pain except you. It’s time to explore the possibility of changing your attitude. Is this bitterness putting your life in a better place? Are you deriving satisfaction from seeing yourself as a victim? Does being accountable for your actions and behavior take the burden of responsibility off your shoulders? Is that fair to others?

Ultimately, you may be paying the price of missing the joys of life because you feel you’ve been wronged by another. You don’t want to be stuck in a mindset that causes you to be a bitter and resentful person. The difference between a moment of anger and a lifetime of bitterness is the desire to free yourself from the bondage of hurtful hate.

Learning how to manage anger, especially in parenting and divorce relationship issues, is an important component of a creating a healthy future for everyone in your family. The pay-offs, in terms of harmony, cooperation and peaceful days for your children, make anger management skills worth mastering. You will never regret learning how to diffuse anger and tension in your communication with your child’s other parent. We encourage you to give it a try.

To learn more about managing anger as a co-parent, CLICK HERE.  For help with anger issues related to parenting, domestic violence, co-workers, neighbors and others in our lives, CLICK HERE.

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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT and Amy Sherman, LMHC are co-creators of two programs for handling anger: Anger Management For Co-Parents and Anger Management To Cope With Life Challenges. Sedacca is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. Sherman is a licensed therapist in private practice as well as a Dating & Relationship Coach. For more information on anger management programs, go to



Restorative Justice: Reviewing the Evidence (by Ken Johnson)

BTSpReportIn 2012, Judge Steven C. Teske, a juvenile court judge for Clayton County, went before a Georgia Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights to testify about law enforcement efforts in the school system. According to Judge Teske, there were only 49 students referred to juvenile court the year before police were placed in the schools. Just eight years later, the judge noted a 2,757% increase as that number skyrocketed to over 1,400 students being sent to court each year. The judge somberly noted how the prosecutor attentions have diverged  from “the more difficult evidentiary and ‘scary’ cases – burglary, robberies, car thefts, aggravated assaults with weapons” to “ prosecuting kids that are not ‘scary,’ but made an adult mad.”

KJohnsonphotoA Case in Point

This was evidenced just recently in November of 2014 when Kayleb Moon-Robinson, an autistic sixth grader in Virginia, was arrested not once but twice with the judge even ordering an officer to show Kayleb a jail cell so that he could see where he was headed. What was his offense? What terror was this autistic child perpetrating? According to a Public Radio International report, his first offense was a disorderly conduct charge for knocking over a trash can. A few weeks later, a principal called in the same officer to arrest the child when he refused to go to the end of the line of children exiting the class. Reports say the cop grabbed Kayleb around the chest, threw him to the ground, and handcuffed him.

This sounds horrible. But, would your opinion change if you knew Kayleb was Black? In a recent Stanford research study, “Two Strikes: Race and the Disciplining of Young Students,” Professor Jennifer Eberhardt and graduate student Jason Okonofua found evidence to support race matters significantly when talking about patterns of willful defiance. In their research, the two showed teachers discipline files of various children. When a racial-invoking name such as “DeShawn” vs “Greg” was used, perceptions changed drastically with teachers expressing feelings how Black students should be disciplined more severely than White students after only two infractions – many of which expressing a feeling that the Black students should be suspended.

Okonofua and Eberhardt correlated their findings with other social relationships such as police and civilian, employer and employee, prison guard and prisoner, etc. The same race-based escalation effect is seen when all evidence but race is the same. Their suggestion is to use intervention strategies with teacher training so they will view behavior as something malleable rather than one of fixed disposition.

Effects on Relationships

According to Edward W. Morris, a sociologist at the University of Kentucky, “Schools should really be about relationships.” In a joint research study of more than 17,000 students by researchers at both Indiana University and the University of Kentucky, students are mentally and emotionally harmed when they see their peers being suspended. In “Suspending Progress: Collateral Consequences of Exclusionary Punishment in Schools,” it was noted how lower math and reading scores were found in schools with high rates of suspensions.

It’s for this reason that California became the first state in the nation to ban suspensions of any kind for children in Grades K-3 as well as a ban on any and all expulsions for students charged with willful defiance. In the Pasadena Unified School District, they went a step farther to extend AB420 to ban any and all willful defiance suspensions for children in Grades K-12. Public Counsel’s Ruth Cusick noted, “It’s not about taking something away from our teachers or administrators but actually being honest together about what works and what’s going to increase your attendance and increase academic achievement in schools.”

Restorative Justice

KJohnsonbookSo, what works if status quo is failing so badly? According to many school districts, Restorative Justice is one promising answer.

Thanks to Restorative Justice practices, the state of California now reports suspensions are down by over 50,000 students. The Oakland Unified School District reports, since establishing some RJ sites, a significant difference between schools. In particular, RJ sites showed a 60% increase in graduation rates, a 128% increase in Grade 9 reading scores, a 24% drop in chronic absenteeism, and a 56% decline in the dropout rate. Meanwhile, non-RJ sites showed only a 7% increase in the graduation rate (57% below that of RJ sites), only an 11% increase in Grade 9 reading scores (117% below that of RJ sites), an increase of 62% in the chronic absenteeism (an 86% difference from RJ sites), and only a modest 17% decline in the dropout rate (39% below that of RJ sites). The OUSD noted how racial disparities in school discipline reports have also declined while noting how Blacks used to be referred in far greater numbers than Whites for similar offenses.

Today, a number of Restorative Justice practices are being used with great success. In my book, Unbroken Circles for Schools, I noted the top five research-proven strategies for reducing conflict and wrongful behavior while also increasing student performance and civic behavior. These strategies involve daily circles, peer mediation, justice panels, conferences, and justice circles. Through the use of atonement and Reintegrative Shaming Theory, the focus is placed squarely on a malleable perception of behavior much as Stanford researchers suggest. Meanwhile, overlapping layers of “best suited” practices places a focus on relationships much as the University of Kentucky and Indiana University researchers suggest using. ###

Ken Johnson is a private researcher, writer, lecturer, and consultant on issues of culture and conflict. Organizational architecture and anabolic (positive) conflict are just some of the key issues he investigates. Though written for the school system, his book, Unbroken Circles for Schools, has core concepts which can be applied to various life applications. (Click on the photo of the book above for more information.) To learn more about Ken and his work, CLICK HERE to visit his website.



Whatever Wanda! The Importance of Attitude (Guest: Christy Ziglar)

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CZiglarPhoto2The late Zig Ziglar believed strongly in the power and benefits of a positive attitude. He was quick to add that, although a positive attitude won’t solve every problem one encounters in life, it will help them accomplish considerably more than a negative attitude. Besides, as we will see in the book we’re featuring on this program, folks with a negative attitude steal their own joy. And life’s too short to for that, isn’t it?

Zig did more than just talk about the need for a positive attitude. He lived it, and, in doing so, he touched the lives of many with his own special brand of encouragement.

Zig’s message and influence now reach out to young children in the award-winning picture-story books authored by his niece, Christy Ziglar. In fact, this latest book, the third one in the Shine Bright Kids series, Whatever Wanda! is about ATTITUDE.

Wanda CoverIn this beautifully crafted and brightly illustrated children’s book, young Wanda is in need of a serious attitude adjustment. She struggles to understand why everyone in her town goes so crazy over the Annual Rubber Duck Days Festival and all things rubber ducky! She refuses to participate in any of the events until she realizes she is the only one not having fun. After a pep talk from the parade mascot, Wanda decides to change her mind and her outlook, and ends up having the best time of all!

Christy Ziglar is the President and Founder of Shine Bright Kid Company in Atlanta. Books in the series have been award-winning successes in their focus on choices, values and now attitudes. All of them feature a special highlight, a favorite and memorable quote from Zig himself. So, in a very real sense, Zig Ziglar’s legacy lives on in the pages of these Shine Bright Kids books. (26:44)

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What is Self-Confidence, Anyway? (Dr. Frank Sileo)

BTSpotlightWe are featuring the work of psychologist Dr. Frank Sileo of Ridgewood, New Jersey in this post. His latest book, a children’s picture book entitled, Don’t Put Yourself Down in Circus Town: A Story About Self-Confidence touches on a very important topic regarding many children and teens today. For more information about the book, click on the photo of the cover in this post.


FSileophoto2Parents and other caregivers in the life of a child play an important role in developing self-confidence in that youngster and others. When parents and others accept their children, even when they make mistakes, it provides the groundwork for children to develop positive feelings and thoughts about themselves. When parents do this, they are providing the foundation for self-confidence.

As a parent or caregiver, it is very rewarding to see children exhibit self-confidence in various areas of their lives, from academics to sports to playing a musical instrument, to name just a few. Children who possess self-confidence tend to do well in school, take on challenges, do their best, persist in activities, and have an overall more positive view of themselves.


Self-confidence can be defined as our beliefs or thoughts about our skills and abilities. Examples of self-confident thoughts might be, “I am good at math,” “I am a good singer” or “I do well in school.” Children with self-confidence trust in their abilities, have realistic expectations, know their strengths and weaknesses, and are able to adjust to difficult or challenging situations. Children who possess self-confidence tend to jump into new situations with realistic thoughts about being successful at a task.

Self-confidence is built through repeated practice over time. When children practice in small steps, they build self-confidence. Persistence in a task, even when mistakes and mishaps happen, builds self-confidence. Confidence builds through action.

CircusTown_72dpiWhen There’s Difficulty

Children who lack self-confidence typically rely on the approval of others, such as parents, teachers and coaches, in order to feel good about themselves. They may avoid things or be reluctant to try new things. They may engage in self-deprecating statements or negative self-talk like, “I’m stupid,” “I’m no good at anything,” or “I’ll never succeed,” which results in feelings of anxiety, depression or despair. Children with low self-confidence often compare themselves to others constantly because they believe they do not measure up. Moreover, less confident children may be more prone to acting-out behaviors such as temper tantrums, crying, avoidance, and withdrawal from others and from tasks.

It should be noted that self-confidence is not a universal experience. For instance, children may feel confident in certain areas of their lives, while feeling less confident in other domains. An example of this might be a child that is confident as a reader, but has lower self-confidence in his or her math skills.

Building Self-Confidence

How can parents and other caregivers build self-confidence in children and teens? Here are several suggestions.

Communicate with your children. When children engage in self-deprecating statements, don’t be too quick to counteract them. Teach them coping and solutions to their problems. Problem-solve with them.

Model self-confidence for your children. Be mindful how you handle your own disappointments, obstacles and failure.

Focus on effort, not on results. When we focus on the effort, we are praising the steps needed to reach a goal, ultimately building on self-confidence.

Encourage kids to practice. The more they practice, the greater their chances of success and greater confidence. When kids don’t do this, they give up, act out, feel anxious and consequently display low self-confidence.

If you find that your child continues to struggle with confidence issues to the point that it interferes with academics, activities or relationships, it is recommended you consult with a mental health professional for further help. ###

 Dr. Frank Sileo, founder and Executive Director of The Center for Psychological Enhancement, LLC, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, is a licensed psychologist specializing in work with children and adolescents. He has written five books for children on topics including lactose intolerance, Crohn’s Disease, winning and losing, homesickness and self-confidence. His most recent book is entitled, Don’t Put Yourself Down in Circus Town: A Story About Self-Confidence. [Dr. Sileo’s website]



Building Strong Children (Keith Zafren)

BTSpReportIn a few weeks, the Changing Behavior Network will be posting an interview with Keith Zafren, founder of The Great Dads Project. Keith has an inspiring story to share, one mixed with heartbreak as well as joy. Fathers play an important role in the lives of their children and in society. Their impact can never be overstated, nor can the costs of children growing up without a father in the home be put aside or ignored.

KZafrenphotoThe National Fatherhood Initiative published a powerful article of Keith’s back in March of 2015. It’s entitled, “The Best Way to Build Strong Children.” Be warned; it is powerful.

As we prepare to hear from Keith himself on this issue so important to young lives and the society they will make, please read this article and share it with others.  [The Best Way to Build Strong Children]

KZlogoKeith Zafren is the founder of The Great Dads Project. Men who want to be great dads love the stories Keith Zafren tells, the practical skills he teaches, and the personal coaching he offers. Keith has spent seventeen years learning firsthand how to raise three great teenagers and stay close to them, no matter what. He coaches busy dads to not repeat the mistakes their fathers made, but instead, to create fantastic relationships with their kids. Check out his free video training course for men who want to be great dads.

150 Years of Character: Something to Share with Our Children (Dr. James Sutton)

BTLifesMomentsApril, 2015, marks the 150th anniversary of the official end of the Civil War. The more we know about General Robert E. Lee, the more his character comes through. In addition to being a stalwart military mind and arguably as fine a general as ever came out of West Point, General Lee had unusually strong dedication and insight into what mattered most.


As he made his formal Farewell Address to the Army of Northern Virginia, at least one of his officers didn’t want to hear it. He advocated for General Lee to let him take to the hills and countryside with his men in a guerrilla war instead of surrendering.

Lee refused, saying that the soldiers “would be compelled to rob and steal in order to live. They would become mere bands of marauders … we would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from.”

That officer later shared his reaction to the general’s response. “I had not a single word to say in reply,” he said. “He had answered my suggestion from a plane so far above it that I was ashamed of having made it.”

The formal surrender of the soldiers of the Army took place two days later.


The Science of Happiness & Positive Family Psychotherapy (An Interview with Dr. Daniel Trussell)


The Changing Behavior Network caught up with Dr. Daniel Trussell to ask him about his very successful approach to family therapy. Here is what he shared with us.

Daniel, you practice positive psychotherapy and positive family psychotherapy. How is that different from traditional forms of psychotherapy?

Rather than looking at the pathology of the family and treating symptoms like behavior or attitude problems, the focus in on teaching the activities and behaviors that flourishing families exhibit. This changes the family dynamic and reduces the likelihood of future mental health problems.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, is positive family therapy your invention?

Not at all. All the work I do is scientifically based on leading academic research found in the discipline of Positive Psychology – the Science of Happiness.

You practiced within a CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) model before shifting to Positive Psychology. Why did that happen?

I still find a lot of value in using interventions embedded in cognitive behavioral therapy and DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) as well. But over time I saw the limitations of CBT. A lot of my work has to do with attachment, family system dynamics and increasing family life satisfaction. I understood the importance of including a richer therapeutic experience than just diagnosis, symptom management and support to maintain treatment compliance if I wanted to help a family acquire the skill set to build resiliency, improve well-being, support self-determination and reduce tension.

What is the focus of positive family psychotherapy?

The Science of Happiness demonstrates that those who report optimal well-being and highest life satisfaction share common characteristics. Seligman found that optimal well-being only occurs when there are an abundance of positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and purpose and accomplishment. Langer determined that people with highest life satisfaction share the traits of being generous, loving, authentic, direct and open to new experience. Emmons et al show the health benefits from expressing gratitude. Altogether there are eight primary themes in positive psychotherapy.

What is a typical course of treatment in positive family psychotherapy?

First I help the family identify the activities that support optimal family functioning and those that cause the family to flounder. Next, we explore parental expectations and family attitudes along multiple dimensions and push aside barriers that keep the family from functioning well. This requires careful negotiation from each family member. Typically this includes an analysis of family rules, consequences for not following the rules, tasks that each member routinely performs to maintain household harmony and a reward system for successful outcomes. We look at how each individual’s unique strengths contribute to healthy family functioning and insure that activities are set up so each family member thrives.

How can our readership learn more about the Science of Happiness and positive family psychotherapy?

UC – Berkeley provides a fantastic free online course on the Science of happiness. You can go to to register for this self-paced course. You might also want to pick of a copy of the How Families Flourish Workbook by Daniel Trussell for step-by-step instructions on optimizing family functioning.

Dr. Daniel Trussell can be reached at for more information on positive family psychotherapy. [website]
To access Dr. Trussell’s radio-style interviews and articles on The Changing Behavior Network, use the search box on the right, typing in “Dr. Daniel Trussell.”


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

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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.

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?

MGromanbookOur 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’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 recent book, Better is Not So Far Away: Decide to Recover from Bingeing, Starving or Cutting. (27:43)

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Feeling Invisible? Try This! (Dr. Tom Phelan)




Dr. Phelan: Much too often, I feel that nothing I do or say to my children is making the slightest bit of difference. It’s like I’m invisible in my own home. Any thoughts?


If you’re a parent living with small children, you may often feel like you’re invisible to your kids. After spending a day cajoling, reasoning, threatening and even screaming in an attempt to get your kids to behave, you may feel as if they never listen to you, much less respond.

TPhelanphotoBut all that talking is precisely the problem. If you feel like you’re invisible, you’re probably way too audible. When it comes to discipline, silence often speaks louder than words.

One Problem: An “Extra” Goal
Many parents complicate the job of discipline by setting for themselves two goals instead of just one. Their first goal is to get the kids to do what they’re supposed to do, which is fine. But when kids don’t respond right away, many parents add a second goal: getting the youngsters to accept, agree with, or even like the discipline. So Mom and Dad start reasoning, lecturing and explaining.

One Explanation Should Suffice
All this extra talking accomplishes only two things, and both of them are bad. First, it aggravates the kids, and second, it says to the children that they really don’t have to behave unless you can give them four or five reasons why they should.

One explanation is fine. But the mistake many parents make is trying to reason with their kids as if they were “little adults,” and too often adult logic does not impress or motivate young children. Once you say “No” to obnoxious behavior, you should save your breath. Further pleading will irritate you more and give the child a chance to continue the battle … and the behavior.###

Dr. Tom Phelan is an internationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist. He is the author of the aclaimed bestseller, 1-2-3 Magic! His website is


Teens, Cyberspace and the Law (Guest: Judge Tom Jacobs)

BTRadioIntThere’s little doubt that cellphones and the internet have created convenient and lightning-quick ways to communicate in a complicated world. Many lives have been saved because these tools were available.

But it’s also true that irresponsible, even unlawful, use of cellphone communication has cost people their dignity, their reputation, their livlihood, and even their lives.

???????????????????????????????Although the inappropriate use of cellphones and the internet is not just a problem among young people, evidence points to the fact that these tools in the hands of our children can be concern. Parents should monitor their use and take action, when needed.

But what sort of action? Overreaction can damage relationships, completely shut down communication and drive the problem even deeper. So the question remains: What are the potential problems (ranging from excessive calling and texting to sexting and cyberbullying), and what can parents and educators do to address them effectively?

Our guest today, Judge Tom Jacobs, has some thoughts on the matter, thoughts, suggestions and interventions compiled during the 23 years he spent as a juvenile judge in Arizona. As they say, Judge Tom has “been there.”

From his heartfelt concern for young people, Judge Tom founded and moderates, a teen-law website for and about teenagers and the laws that affect them. And, of course, it’s 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 several books for lawyers and judges, as well as for teens and parents, including “What Are My Rights?” and Teen Cyberbullying Investigated. (28:20)

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