BULLIED TO DEATH: Bullying, Cyberbullying and Youth Suicide, Part 3 (Guests: Judge Tom Jacobs & Dr. James Sutton)

BTSpReportThis special report, done in interview format, is presented in three parts. It addresses issues of bullying (traditional and cyber) and resulting instances of suicide in young people. Suggestions for intervention are also offered.


JacobsSuttonIf a suicidal youngster is being seen by a counselor, therapist or clinician, what is the focus of treatment?

(Sutton) I can only outline an approach I would take. First of all, it’s critical I keep in the front of my mind the one thing most capable of preventing a youth suicide: the presence of at least one positive, meaningful relationship. It’s a sobering thought, but true, that I might be that one relationship, at least until I can help the youngster re-attach to others.

To this end, the development of a genuine and caring rapport with this child or teen is paramount, as would be my expectation of the youngster that they would not take their life while I am trying to help them. (This might sound a bit egotistical on the surface, but, if a youngster has little or no regard for his/her life, thoughts of the effect of their suicide on others, certainly including family members, could be an excellent, short-term deterrent.)

One of the first questions I would ask of this youngster is one I borrowed from my psychologist friend in Virginia, Dr. Doug Riley: “Do you want to die, or do you just want the pain to go away?” That one question might stop them in their tracks because they’ve always felt that death is the only way for their pain to stop.

Early on, I would want to assess the degree and depth of the youngster’s sense of hopelessness and their level of impulsivity in the face of their distress. It would also be important to address the causes of this youngster’s difficulties and obtain some sort of immediate relief where and when possible. (One example might be a schedule change at school. It’s not a total solution, but it is a start, and it signals to the child or teen our willingness to act on their behalf.)

Although treatment approaches will vary from one youngster to the next, my primary goal would be to help them with the insight and skills for regaining control in his/her life. I would give them “homework” and expect them to comply, especially since their resulting actions, or lack of them, can be therapeutically significant.

(For instance, I told one young man to take a lap around the football field before he walked home after school. My intent was twofold. First of all, some kind of activity almost always helps with depression. Second, a willingness to follow well-intended directions is an investment in one’s own healing.)

At some point, this youngster might be a good candidate for group work, if I can arrange it.

What is the parent’s role in this phenomenon? What can they do to minimize the bullying (traditional or cyberbullying)? 

(Jacobs) Parents need to build trust with their children from an early age regarding all things digital. The child needs to understand they can go to their parent anytime something they read or see on the screen upsets them. Once trust is built and ingrained in their psyche, monitoring their cyber life in later years won’t become a major issue.

As the child matures and is allowed greater use of digital devices, parents should monitor all of their accounts closely and regularly. You can’t protect your child if you don’t know what they’re exposed to. Communication about cyberspace should be ongoing while encouraging the child to report any and all cruel messages or anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Regarding sexting, the “sext” talk should be done while in middle school and continue throughout high school. This isn’t like the sex talk that many dread and can’t wait to get over. It should be ongoing.

Because kids have access to smart phones and other mobile technologies earlier in life, is cyberbullying a problem among elementary-age children? 

(Jacobs) Although not a major problem, elementary schools are addressing the issue by teaching and practicing tolerance and kindness. Books and posters are available to K-5 students and teachers from children’s publishers. I am not aware of any court cases or prosecutions of elementary school students for cyberbullying.

 What are the legal options open to youngsters who are severely bullied? 

(Jacobs) The victim and his or her parents can and should take action. If the bully is known, the parents may attempt to discuss the situation with him and his parents. The parents should also notify the principal with a request that the school’s bullying policies be adhered to. Schools have addressed cyber-bullying of classmates and teachers through suspension and expulsion in the appropriate case.

Schools are charged with providing a hostile-free learning environment and failure to do so may have legal consequences. Some recent cases have resulted in civil lawsuits brought against the bully, parents, school districts and administrators. Depending on the facts of the case, a variety of legal theories may be pursued including negligence, physical or mental harm, invasion of privacy, defamation of character, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Another way to deal with a cyber-bully is to seek an Order of Protection from a court. Sometimes referred to as a restraining order or injunction, a violation of the order may result in contempt and possible jail time. The order can restrict a person from all contact with another person or set limitations on the type of contact, frequency and location. Once in place, a protective order will last a specified period of time but may be renewed if necessary.

Finally, if the acts of the bully constitute a crime under relevant statutes, the police may become involved. Criminal charges including intimidation, threatening, harassment, stalking, or impersonation may be filed against the bully in juvenile or adult court. Penalties for conviction include probation, community service, counseling, jail, or prison.

Do you have any recommendations, legally and socially, regarding action against bullying of all sorts?  

(Jacobs) Generally, regarding cyberbullying, don’t respond or engage the bully, make copies of all messages and block further messages.

Then, if the bullying continues, see the legal options discussed above.

(Sutton) I would only add that bullying, like poverty, disease, hunger and other issues that affect people’s lives, is very much a social problem. We all have a responsibility to deal with it, not only for the sake of a bully’s victims, but for the sake of decency in society as a whole. ###

 Tom Jacobs spent twenty-three years in family and juvenile court before retiring in 2008. He moderates AsktheJudge.info with his daughter, attorney Natalie Jacobs. AsktheJudge is a free, interactive resource for teenagers, parents and educators about the laws that affect teens and youth justice issues.
A nationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, a popular internet blog and radio-style podcast dedicated to the positive growth of children, teens and their families.

BULLIED TO DEATH: Bullying, Cyberbullying and Youth Suicide, Part 2 (Guests: Judge Tom Jacobs & Dr. James Sutton)

BTSpReportThis special report, done in interview format, is presented in three parts. It addresses issues of bullying (traditional and cyber) and resulting instances of suicide in young people. Suggestions for intervention are also offered.


JacobsSuttonWhat’s new in cyberbullying? What are teenagers and young adults doing online that constitutes cyberbullying? 

(Jacobs)Videotaping friends and classmates at social events is common. However, the line is crossed when an embarrassing incident is filmed and broadcast for the world to see. This happened to Tyler Clementi who was 20 years old when he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in New York after a video of him in his dorm room with another male went viral; or to 14 year-old Matthew Burdette in 2013 when he was taped masturbating in a bathroom at school. After two weeks of torment by classmates and students from other schools, Matthew ended his life.

There have also been incidents of videotaped sexual assaults of teenagers  placed on YouTube to the humiliation of the victims. Some have led to suicide  as in the case of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons of Nova Scotia, Canada and 15-year-old Audrie Pott of California.

Rehtaeh was raped by classmates at a party when she was 15. The incident was filmed and photos were released on social media sites. After a year and a half of torment, Rehtaeh hanged herself at home. Audrie suffered a similar fate. She was 15 when she was assaulted at a party by three teenage boys. Photographs of the assault went viral and Audrie hanged herself a week later in 2012.

Blackmail has also been used by online perpetrators against teens who have sexted photos to others (sometimes referred to as “sextortion”). The perp demands additional, more graphic photos or money with a threat of public disclosure for failing to comply. If this happens to you, report it to your parents as soon as possible. A crime has been committed and you need to be protected.

How big a problem is cyberbullying compared to other criminal behavior committed by juveniles? 

(Jacobs) Comparatively, cyberbullying is not a major problem in the juvenile justice system in the United States. Other low felony or misdemeanor crimes take up the bulk of the juvenile court’s workload. Crimes including shoplifting, minor drug offenses, truancy and runaway incidents account for higher delinquency and incorrigibility statistics than cyber-crimes.

Recent studies indicate that 25% of students have been cyberbullied while 16% admit to cyberbullying someone else. (www.cyberbullying.us) Most of these incidents were handled within the school system as opposed to being referred to juvenile court for processing.

Is the law keeping up with cyberbullying? What are the consequences imposed on our youth for engaging in cyberbullying? 

(Jacobs) Because of the nature of digital technology and the speed with which new apps and platforms evolve, the legal system is unable to keep pace with cyberbullying and its aftermath. The legislative process is slow and not necessarily the best method of addressing all social ills.

Laws regarding communication exist in all states. Those who harass, threaten, stalk or intimidate others may be prosecuted under local criminal laws. There may not be a need to create a cyberbullying classification to cover behavior that is already proscribed by law. Consequences for juveniles adjudicated guilty of cyberbullying range from participation in a diversion program to detention at a juvenile facility or prison.

It is not uncommon for a juvenile to be placed on supervised probation for a period of time with specific conditions. That may include a restriction on internet use, contact with the victim and victim’s family, and possibly restitution to the victim for counseling undertaken as a result of the bullying. Judges tailor penalties to the crime committed and injuries sustained by the victim.

What’s the connection between cyberbullying and actual physical bullying? Is there usually in-person contact between a cyberbully and his/her victim at school? 

(Jacobs) Online bullying gives the perpetrator the opportunity to anonymously target his or her victim. Cyberbullying from home, for example, allows the bully to hide behind a computer or cell phone without risk of being identified in a face-to-face meeting in public. Consequently, most cyberbullying eliminates the need for real-time traditional bullying in the school hallway or elsewhere on campus. In addition, the bully can invite others to join in, thus creating a cyber-mob. There is also some evidence of bullying victims becoming bullies behind closed doors: an easy way to vent without detection.

(Sutton) The whole cyber-mob mentality is especially devastating because, although a victim might be able to handle the abuse of one or two bullies, the damage created by many classmates (a cyber-mob) can be, and has been, deadly. It’s easy for a suffering child or teen to perceive it as a message from the whole world.

How are schools typically dealing with the bullying issue? 

(Jacobs) Many states have laws that require anti-bullying programs and education for all students. Schools are complying through a variety of measures. Some address bullying at the beginning of the school year at assemblies and individually in classrooms. Bullying posters may be placed throughout the school including the gym, classrooms and cafeteria. Schools have also included their bullying policies in the Student Handbook, Code of Conduct and on the school’s website.

Following either state law or district policy, reports of traditional or cyberbullying are investigated and appropriate action is taken. That may include meetings with the parents of those involved, disciplinary action by the school (suspension or expulsion), or referral to law enforcement when a crime has been committed.

(Sutton) Judge Jacobs is on the mark. I would add that there is also a movement to teach potential victims the skills for dealing with bullies when they encounter them. Here’s the premise: If a potential victim can learn to refuse to be bullied, they gain a life skill, bullying is reduced, and a victim mentality is avoided. Although it’s not a solution for every case and situation, it’s an idea that’s gaining traction.

Another idea that’s catching on in some schools is the active practice of social inclusion. One way of accomplishing this is through the use of daily peer circles. The concept is built around proven Native American restorative practices whereby every member is brought into and included in the events of the tribe or culture. I have never done peer circles in the schools myself, but I have done something very similar with young adults in drug and alcohol treatment. The overall results were nothing short of phenomenal.

This concludes Part 2. The third and final part of this interview with Judge Jacobs and Dr. Sutton will appear in the next post.


BULLIED TO DEATH: Bullying, Cyberbullying and Youth Suicide, Part 1 (Guests: Judge Tom Jacobs & Dr. James Sutton)

BTSpReportThis special report, done in interview format, is presented in three parts. It addresses issues of bullying (traditional and cyber) and resulting instances of suicide in young people. Suggestions for intervention are also offered.


Retired Juvenile Court Judge Tom Jacobs of Arizona received this anonymous plea for help on his Ask the Judge website [link]. (Go to this link to see his response [link].)

 I am very suicidal and I am bullied very bad and I really need help I have asked teachers and I have talked to the therapist and it does not help and I have been feeling more depressed lately and I have been thinking about ending it but can I file against the people who bully me (sic)


JacobsSuttonOur young people are our most precious resource. With that in mind, Judge Jacobs and Texas child and adolescent psychologist, Dr. James Sutton share their insights into this growing concern and offer some ways to address it. (Dr. Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network [link].)

What are some of the latest incidences of suicide attributable to bullying and cyberbullying?

(Jacobs) It is important to note at the outset that most teenagers and young adults who are bullied don’t commit suicide. However, some do. Statistics show that suicide notes are the exception, not the rule. Consequently, the motivation and final thoughts of a suicide victim remain undisclosed. Traditional bullying or cyberbullying may have been a contributing factor in each of the following incidents.

Rebecca Ann Sedwick of Florida was targeted on Facebook and in text messages. “You’re ugly,” and “Why are you still alive?” were some of the taunts she received. She changed schools and stopped using her Facebook account. However, she signed on to new apps where the bullying continued. In September, 2013, the 12-year-old jumped to her death.

Hannah Smith lived in England and was 14 years old. In August, 2013, she hanged herself after relentless bullying about her weight and a relative’s death.

Charlotte Dawson was a model and television personality in Australia. Twitter trolls led to a suicide attempt in 2012. She became an advocate against bullying but succumbed to the weight of cyberbullying in 2014 by hanging herself at home. Charlotte was 47.

Why are some youngsters more susceptible to being bullied than others?

(Sutton) The short answer is they are more capable of being bullied, often being withdrawn, unsure of themselves and uncomfortable in social encounters with peers. Students showing these characteristics can be easy targets for bullies, especially when they are the new kid in the school and classroom.

Not surprising, some of these youngsters have a troubled home life or can even be foster children that have been removed from their home of origin. These children and teens may have been suffering in silence for a long time. They don’t feel very good about themselves, so they are uncomfortable with any efforts to deal with the bullies on their own. Bullies pick up on this and pour it on even more.

(Jacobs) Evidence presented in court cases where someone is charged with a bullying-related crime points to several common factors shared by the victims: a disruptive home and/or school environment; isolation; and a history of depression and mental health treatment.

Why would a bullied youngster begin to think of suicide?

(Sutton) It’s because their misery and pain are trumping their will to live. That’s saying a lot, because the will to live is innate; it’s an incredibly strong drive in all of us. So a youngster thinking seriously of taking his or her life is saying that living another hour, day or week in their current state of distress is unacceptable.

Consider this, also: Suicide always occurs in a low moment. The thought in that moment is that things will NEVER be any better, ever. In reality, this is rarely the case, but a youngster on the cusp of self-destruction can’t see it. The youngster that contacted Judge Jacobs was asking for help, but many kids don’t know how to ask, or they feel they are too far gone for help, anyway.

Are there any clues youngsters might give us regarding thoughts of suicide?

(Sutton) The first thing we think of is that a youngster “looks” depressed and down, but that’s not always the case. Some kids don’t show it on their faces, or they attempt to disguise it so no one will ask them questions they don’t want to answer.

It’s important to look at grades, relationships, and eating and sleeping habits; these can’t be disguised for long. Grades in school, especially when they drop quickly and dramatically, are a strong barometer of a problem somewhere. These youngsters might also pull away from friends and even family members. There also might be changes in eating habits and they either can’t sleep well at night, or they want to sleep all the time.

There also might be clues in a youngster’s conversation, much like the words of the youngster contacting Judge Jacobs. In visiting with a child or teen, I listen closely for evidence of the Three “I”s: Intolerable, Interminable and Inescapable. Although they won’t use these exact words, youngsters can express them clearly in other ways: “I can’t take it anymore (Intolerable),” “It’s never going to stop (Interminable),” and “I just can’t get away from it (Inescapable).” The Three “I”s are huge red flags.

Another strong clue is a youngster’s general level of impulsivity. In other words, how reactive are they in the moment they become upset? Impulsivity exists on a continuum, and it generally fits in with one’s overall temperament. It only makes sense that a highly impulsive and reactive child or teen is in trouble even when they are experiencing a small or moderate amount of distress.

Here’s an analogy that’s easy to share. Imagine getting an email that really upsets you. You compose a scathing response and are ready to hit “Send”. Hitting “Send” is an impulsive act in that instant of frustration and anger; it’s irreversible once done. Later, you might wish a million times you had not hit “Send”, but you did, and you can’t take it back. By contrast, you might read your email once more and decide to save it as a draft, giving yourself some time to think about it. Chances are, once you cool down a bit, you might tone down that email, or not even send it at all.

The email represents suicidal thought; hitting “Send” quickly represents a suicidal act. Fortunately, a less impulsive youngster (like the one who contacted Judge Jacobs) might still be having thoughts of suicide, but they are not in an immediately lethal state.

(Jacobs) Parents who monitor their kids’ use of social media may notice a sudden lack of communication on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. This may be because their child has opened new accounts on sites unknown to the parents such as Voxer, Yik Yak, Ask.fm, etc. There have been teen suicides where the bullying continued on these hidden sites all the while telling Mom and Dad that everything is okay – “I’m fine.” Rebecca Ann Sedwick did just this unbeknownst to her parents.


This concludes Part 1. The interview continues on Part 2.

Getting Into the “Process Praise” Habit (Mary Jo Rapini)

BTAboutThemNo matter where you are, if little ones are around, it won’t take long before you’ll hear, “You’re so smart,” “you’re so pretty,” as well as, “You’re the best on the team.”

Mary Jo RapiniIt’s normal to think your child is more brilliant, better looking and more capable than anyone’s child you know. Taken to extreme, however, that attitude might be moving us toward creating a society of kids who feel entitled.

Surveys from freshman classes show that kids work less in college than they did ten years ago, and that they think more highly of themselves. The majority of freshman college students score high on narcissism.

What did we expect? These kids have been raised by parents who praised their every move. With that praise, they have instilled an attitude of ENTITLEMENT. Kids actually believe they deserve a high-paying job, a beautiful home and exotic trips. When you talk to them in depth and ask them how they plan to acquire these privileges, they have no plan other that knowing their parents had it; so they will, too.

Praise Doesn’t Build Confidence

But the sad part is … they won’t. In fact, they cannot because they have not suffered the consequences of not being good at something. Their weaknesses have been overlooked or brushed aside in an attempt to build their confidence with praise.

But praise doesn’t build confidence. In fact, too much praise makes a child less motivated to take risks and try new things. If you continually tell a child how well she spells, she expects and is motivated to get more praise for spelling. Forget the other subjects or sports, because they get praised for spelling well. This narrows the child’s world to the point they don’t branch out or build confidence by trying new things … and even failing at some.

“Process Praise”

A much wiser approach is something we call “process praise.” Process praise means you begin to notice and comment on the strategy the child used to figure something out. You focus less on natural talents and more on efforts. You teach them that the brain, just like the other muscles, can grow, which helps the child understand that the more effort they make, the more success they are likely to experience. This helps children learn that challenges are good, and that the brain can learn new ways of doing things.

Three Ways to Start

Here are three suggestions for starting a plan of process praise.

Don’t praise as much as you may have in the past. When you do praise, begin with praising effort or attempts at trying new things. Telling a child you like the way they tried something new is going to be more helpful to them than praising them for something at which they are already good.

Praise their strategy or thinking. Consider saying things like, “Wow, you really had to use your out-of-the-box thinking to come up with that plan!”

NEVER lie to them or tell them they are good at something they are not. Kids know the truth. If you say it’s a good job and it isn’t, they will stop trusting you or believing you.

Kids eventually become discouraged when parents give blanket praise such as, “You’re so smart” or “You’re such a good pitcher;” they begin to think this is what they are or do. But a child can be compassionate, smart, musical and so much more. When parents teach kids to accept challenges, try new things and risk not being the best, they challenge them to grow and exercise their brain.

In a world of entitlement and everyone being a winner, we’ve gone too far. Everyone has natural talents and weaknesses. The key is to help a child feel confident enough in their strengths to risk appearing weak in areas that need more strengthening.

Let’s bring back good, old-fashioned effort and teach our kids the value of working toward their dreams.

Mary Jo Rapini, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman of Start Talking, A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.starttalkingbook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.


The Privacy Desk (Contributed by Karen Ledet)

BTClassroomShare this great tip with a teacher you know. It just might help a lot!


From Dr. James Sutton, your CBN host: Personal space and boundary issues can kindle classroom disruption. Youngsters of all ages differ in the amount of space they need around them in order to be comfortable. It’s not a matter of how things “look,” it’s a matter of how things “feel.” Added to this is the fact that some students don’t need much distraction at all before they unravel. In situations like this, the prevention of problems is the preferred way to go … and it preserves everyone’s sanity.

(This is not just an issue with children and adolescents. I spent two years in Japan when I was in the service. I lived in a Japanese-style house near Yokohama; four families lived within arm’s length. I survived, of course, but I NEVER got use to it.)

While on a training trip to Florida a number of years ago, I picked up this idea from a teacher there.


Karen Ledet shared a great idea with me;  she called it The Privacy Desk. Although this intervention often is used with students who can be “delicate” emotionally and behaviorally, Karen presents The Privacy Desk as a positive alternative only. Here’s how she describes it:

deskUnassigned desks or small work tables are placed along perimeter walls to provide privacy (not punishment) for students who are having difficulty working next to others, are off-task, or experience moments of distress. These desks or tables are NOT used for full-time seating. On occasion, I might “recommend” a move, but mostly students decide to do it on their own.

Angry students especially seem to enjoy having a place to “cool down” without a big commotion. Most of the time their work is completed and they return to their regular seat.

Low attention is given to this. The Privacy Desk idea needs to be presented as something to help them be successful, not a place to be sent when they are in trouble.

Karen went on to share with me that she never uses a traditional teacher’s desk in her classroom. Instead, she has a long table. One end of the table is cleared off, available as another Privacy Desk spot.

Karen Ledet was teaching fourth grade at Vernon Elementary School in Vernon, Florida, when she shared this intervention with Dr. Sutton.

Understanding the Contributions and Challenges of Blind People (Guest: Donna W. Hill)

BTRadioInt(Email Subscribers: Go to the website to see the many “freebies” offered by our guest experts and to listen to radio-style interviews on the podcast player.)


Donna and Hunter

Very few children are born blind; blindness affects the majority of individuals as the result of disease or a degenerative condition. For this reason, children, teens and young people know precious little about what it means for a person to be blind, and what blind individuals can and cannot do. That lack of awareness and knowledge can affect them later if they, or someone they know, becomes legally blind. (SUGGESTION: Please share this interview with those who can share it with school-aged youngsters.)

According to Dr. Sutton’s guest on this program, Donna W. Hill, blind Americans remain an under-served minority as they continue to be affected by low expectations. She shares in this interview, for example, how there are still issues with Braille literacy, as well as major concerns regarding meaningful employment and careers for blind individuals.

Listeners will be touched as Donna shares her own story of being the only blind student in her whole school district. As she explains, that experience came with numerous difficulties.

To her credit, Donna continued her education and earned her college degree while developing her abilities in music, performing and writing. Starting out as a street performer in Philadelphia, Donna later appeared onstage, where she opened for a number of performers and groups, including the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. (In fact, this interview concludes with Donna singing an original song, “The Rules of the Game,” from her album, The Last Straw.)

Donna Hill BookAs a journalist and publicist, Donna has tirelessly advocated for blind Americans. In fact, she was the first blind representative of a radio reading service to receive national press credentials to cover a presidential inauguration. (Note: Donna has prepared an informative quiz and fact sheet about blindness; it’s with our free, guest expert materials on this site.)

Donna’s recent book, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, is fiction, but it packs a big punch. In fact, professionals in education and the arts have endorsed the book as a diversity and anti-bullying resource for middle school through college. It’s a story about a young teen named Abigail, a refugee without her family in a new place where some are kind and some are not. While going blind, Abigail must navigate an enveloping plot in this adventure and mystery novel.

Before she moved to the country air of Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, Donna was a regular guest at schools, universities and other gatherings of young people throughout the greater Philadelphia area. She and her guide dog, Hunter, still enjoy opportunities to inform, inspire and encourage young people. (34:19)


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


In the Spotlight (Christy Monson and Dr. Frank Sileo)


Christy Monson

Christy Monson, LMFT, retired, built a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. During that time, she worked with children as well as families. She found that opening up a communication in families made a world of difference in the well-being of the children as well as the parents.

CMonsonphotoThe Sandy Hook school shooting rocked the entire nation with grief. At this time, Christy felt it was important to give parents and children everywhere a vehicle to talk about and to share their feelings. Familus, a family-friendly publisher, was eager to print the book. So the picture book for children, Love, Hugs and Hope: When Scary Things Happen, was born.

This book is not only an important tool for helping parents and children through national disasters, it is also an excellent vehicle for aiding families with personal struggles, such as divorce, death of a family member, loss of a pet, or any other crises that might occur.

LHH Small2In times of difficulty, Love, Hugs and Hope helps kids:

1. Identify their feelings

2. Share them with someone safe

3. Find a way to release them

4. Reframe them in a positive way

5. Find love and emotional support


The Midwest Book Review had this to say about Love, Hugs and Hope:

A beautiful two-part message is embedded at the core of this

lovely book, with perfectly balanced text and illustration. It

proclaims: “Love chases away hate (on a valentine held by a

penguin) and light chases away the dark (with a lit candle held

by a duck in the darkness with stars).”


Other self-help books by Christy Monson include Becoming Free: A Woman’s Guide to Internal Strength and Family Talk: How to Organize Family Meetings to Solve Problems and Strengthen Relationships, both published by Familius. They are available at Amazon and on her website.

Visit Christy’s website [link] for free downloads on helping children through divorce, death and tragedy, along with other pertinent information for helping children become the best the can be.

To access Christy’s radio-style interviews and articles on The Changing Behavior Network, use the search box on the right, entering “Christy Monson.”


Dr. Frank Sileo


FSileophoto2Dr. Frank J. Sileo is a licensed psychologist specializing in work with children and adolescents. He is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Psychological Enhancement, LLC, located in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Not only has he been in practice there since 1995, he has been consistently voted one of New Jersey’s Favorite Kid Docs by readers of New Jersey Family magazine since 2010.

Dr. Sileo has taught counseling and psychology courses at the college level and he currently supervises doctoral students in the clinical psychology program at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He’s also currently on the Health Advisory Board for Bergen Health and Life magazine as a Child/Adolescent Psychology expert.

A thorough researcher and gifted writer and speaker, Dr. Sileo has written extensively both professional and general interest articles that have been published and quoted in psychological journals, national newspapers, magazines, podcasts, websites, radio and television. He speaks and keynotes with authority on the subjects of bullying, self-esteem, stress management, coping with chronic illness, and the psychological aspects of  Crohn’s disease.

SallySoreLoserCover2Dr. Sileo’s was on the Support Group Task Force for the National Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. His expertise on this topic, as well as his skill for communicating with young people, shows through in the first books ever written for children on Crohn’s Disease and lactose intolerance: Toilet Paper Flowers: A Story for Children about Crohn’s Disease and Hold the Cheese Please! A Story for Children about Lactose Intolerance. He then wrote Bug Bites and Campfires: A Story for Kids about Homesickness and Sally Sore Loser: A Story about Winning and Losing. (Sally Sore Loser was awarded the Gold Medal Award from the prestigious Mom’s Choice Award.)  His most recent book is Don’t Put Yourself Down in Circus Town: A Story about Self-Confidence.

To learn more about Dr. Sileo’s work, books and press, go to his website [link]. (He has also contributed complimentary materials to our “Freebies” section on this site.)  To hear Dr. Sutton interview him regarding the books he has written, use the search box on the right by entering “Dr. Frank Sileo.”



Handling Behavior: Think Like a Video Game (Howard Glasser)

BTAboutThemPlease know I am not a fan of video games, but there is a secret to the programming of these games that seems to stir youngsters at a level of greatness and, fortunately, the magic is completely transposable.
As a psychotherapist, I have heard versions of the following many times:

Why can my child be so darned focused on his video games, yet he can’t be a fraction as focused on the important stuff like his chores and his school assignments?


HGlasserphotoAs you know, these kids don’t just play these games, they play like stars. They not only play to be the best in the world, all they want to do is achieve level after level of success, mastery and accomplishment.


Why Kids are Drawn to Video Games
Here’s what these games have in common that differs drastically from much of what kids encounter in real life:

1. In video games the incentives of a game are crystal clear and timed precisely always to be transmitting the energy of success. All these games have deliciously energized “time-ins” or, as I now prefer to say, “games-on.” These games never forget to confront the player with the juicy energies of success. Score, score, score, and all the bells and whistles let you know about it; the game never misses an opportunity. The successes are always connected to discernible experiences that the child can link to events of the game done well.

videogame2. These games are always in the moment, never in the past or future. The game never claims to be too busy to notice success; success is the default setting. Even if a rule is broken the child is right back into the game after the consequence is over, and the game always resets to seeing and expressing the energy of success. It never holds a grudge about a rule that was broken in the past or for an anticipated rule broken in the future. It is always present, and it always delivers.

3. The rules and consequences of these games are super-clear and super-simple. When a child breaks a rule, even a little bit, the game delivers a consequence every time. The game never looks the other way, nor does it cut any slack for the child just learning. The game’s programming never gives warnings, only consequences. We look at these consequences as puntive and drastic, such as heads rolling and blood spurting, but who’s back in the game a second or two after it’s over? This is so different from real life where time-outs are only considered to count when they are one minute for each year of a child’s age.

Kids play these games with passion and verve. All they want to do is go level, level, level of greatness. They want to be the best in the world, and the game’s programming is what consistently inspires this. The child comes out of the ridiculously short time-outs even more determined never to break that rule again, and even more inspired to go further into mastery and accomplishment.

“Game-on”/”Game-out” in REAL Life
The secret is that “game-on” is so powerfully energized that “game-out” feels like an eternity, even if it’s just a second or two. In the parlance of the Nurtured Heart Approach, we call this kind of time-out a “reset.” Even tough teens thrive with short resets. The advantage is that, because it’s over so quickly, the parent or teacher can jump right back into the truth of the moments that follow and express gratitude that the very same rule is now not being broken.

“Game-on” simply translates to being radically appreciative when rules are not being broken, and appreciative for every kind of successful choice and value that can be called out in the context of recognition: “Sarah, that was so thoughtful how you moved your shoes into the hallway. It shows me how considerate you are of the space your brother needs to do his assignment. I appreciate how collaborative you are being.”

The other secret of the video games is that, by always delivering a consequence when a line is crossed, even a little bit, these games avoid the trap of giving energy to negativity. This translates to a little bit of a broken rule, a little bit of arguing, a little bit of disrespect, a little bit of noncompliance, and a completely unenergetic time-out. The child will feel even an extremely sort reset as a consequence (with no time for all the other stuff). Just like in a video game, even a few seconds will feel like an eternity if the “game-on” is powerful and inspired.

Go for the Gold. Game-on!

Howard Glasser is the coauthor of Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach, and he is also the founder of the Children’s Success Foundation in Tucson, Arizona [link].

Doing What Must Be Done: Dealing with Adversity (Chad Hymas)


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This is a repost of an earlier popular interview on managing adversity.


ChadHymasphotoAt some point most everyone has faced adversity in one form or another. But what about the sort of adversity that forever affects the remainder of one’s life, the bone-jarring kind of event or circumstance that challenges even one’s will to carry on? Even then, can adversity push us to become MORE that we ever imagined?

It seems so.

An accident on his ranch left young Chad Hymas paralyzed from the waist down with very limited use of his upper body. In this moving and fast-paced program, he will share the challenges he faced as his plans for himself and his family were changed in a heartbeat. But Chad will also share how his experiences opened new opportunities for him to serve and encourage others.

ChadHymasbookChad is a sought-after inspirational speaker and author of the book, Doing What Must Be Done. He travels as much as 300,000 miles a year sharing his special brand of encouragement and hope to audiences of all types worldwide. He is a world-class wheelchair athlete. In 2003, Chad set a world record by wheeling a personal marathon of over 500 miles from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas. He’s also one of the youngest members ever to be inducted into the National Speakers Association’s Speaker Hall of Fame. (27:39)



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Be Patient with Yourself While Making Changes (Loren Gelberg-Goff)

BTLifesMomentsWe live in a time where everything now moves at a hyper-accelerated pace. We expect instant gratification, and most people have very little tolerance for things happening at even a slightly slower rate – we want everything NOW!

LorenGphotoThere’s even a bumper sticker that says “God, grant me patience…BUT HURRY.” Most people laugh at this sentiment, but it unfortunately reflects our current culture and lifestyle quite accurately.

Today, in contrast, I’m going to ask you to go against all of that – the urge to hurry, and the tendency toward impatience with anything that doesn’t come to you immediately. In particular I’m focusing on making those changes in yourself that you’ve identified as potentially most beneficial.

Be aware that you are probably placing enormous expectations on yourself, to make these changes quickly (and easily, if we’re being really honest – after all, who wants making changes to be hard work? Nobody – including yours truly!).

LGGbookSo rule number one in looking at the changes you want to make, and coming up with reasonable expectations regarding the time frame for developing expertise in your new ways of thinking and behaving, is to slow down. It takes 28 days to establish a new habit, and that’s with deliberate daily practice of the habit you want to create.

To give you an example, think about when you first started with the affirmation “Who I am is enough.” It probably felt awkward and strange, right? You were so used to feeling “I’m NOT enough” that your whole being resisted buying into the new belief. But if you have been practicing that affirmation daily as I’ve suggested, I’m guessing not only that it now feels more true and therefore comfortable, but also that saying it feels more natural as well. If not, I suspect you’re probably not really practicing it as recommended!

The point is, these changes take time, practice and perseverance. There is no getting around that; there’s no quick fix when it comes to reclaiming your true, unlimited, fully realized self. This is an ongoing process, which can include various techniques, tools, ideas and exercises – whatever it takes to get back the parts of your uniquely gifted, glorious self that have been suppressed, squelched and otherwise lost over your lifetime so far.

Think of it like a “power workout” program for developing physical strength: We are now rebuilding your inner core. You’ll get the most out of this process if you can see it as a true virtual treasure hunt – really worthwhile treasures don’t materialize overnight, so patience and perseverance are your most helpful allies in deriving the biggest benefits.

Keep that in mind as we go through this month, and be gentle with yourself! Let your expectations be flexible and adjustable, while holding onto your commitment to get to your desired outcome – those changes you want to see in yourself!

Your one-week “assignment” is to:

1. Identify 3-5 Changes you would really like to make in 2015, and rank them in importance by envisioning the impact they could have on your life and happiness.

2. Honestly Evaluate how entrenched you are in your current habits as they relate to these desired changes, and how willing you are to let go of those habits, then re-rank the list of changes in order from lowest to highest perceived difficulty to change.

3. Chunk Down the seemingly impossible changes into smaller, “bite-sized” changes that are more manageable; for instance, you could break down “stop getting mad at myself when I forget things” into two separate changes:

Change #1 might be: “Always follow getting mad at myself with the affirmation, ‘I forgive myself with love, because I deserve forgiveness’ until I’ve mastered that.” And after you’ve established that as a consistent habit, move on to change #2.

Change #2: “When I start to get mad at myself, remember to STOP! BREATHE! and FOCUS! Then say the affirmation, ‘Well I didn’t do that perfectly, and that’s ok – I’m human, and Who I Am Is Enough!’ Then take another breath.”

4. Slow Down your awareness, so that whenever an old habit occurs you catch it, then take the time to do your new practice.

5. Celebrate Yourself! ALWAYS be sure to congratulate yourself for catching old habits as they occur, and for remembering to practice your new behaviors. Shower yourself with LOVE and APPRECIATION, and feel the JOY of getting back the TRUE YOU that you were always meant to be!

I hope you like the five-step process in this post and remember, BREATHE! –Loren


Loren Gelberg-Goff, LCSW is best known for creating powerful, life-changing programs for women: “Take Back Your Life”. She believes that everyone has the power to live free of chronic, daily anxiety and overwhelm without having to constantly feel guilty, angry &/or resentful.  You can learn more about her work and read a chapter from her book at: