Category Archives: Bullying

A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love (Michael Byron Smith)

Michael Byron Smith shares how his single-parent mom kept her family together through difficult times, how he managed to keep a promise and fulfill a dream, and why mentoring is so important today. We present, “A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love.”

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A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron Smith)How a child is raised has an undeniable impact on his or her success and happiness. Everyone would agree with that, but many ignore it anyway.

Occasionally, children raised in a stressful or unloving atmosphere achieve while others, raised in the same atmosphere, or even in a seemingly ideal situation, do not. However, I think most experts agree, with little doubt, that having two savvy and involved parents is a huge advantage in the mental health of a child. Children without that advantage can succeed, but they will struggle more than necessary. I lived this scenario and I’ve seen others in my family both fail and succeed, but the successes have been far fewer.

Big Job for a Ten-Year-Old

As I turned ten years of age, I was in a situation that required me to babysit my five younger siblings. My father was absent and my mother had to work to support us. She was only 27 years-old with six children to feed. My youngest brother was not even a year old. Thinking back on this is a frightening picture; back then, it was normal to me!

It wasn’t every day that I had to do this, just on occasions when nothing else would work out for my mother. My memories of these days are not totally clear. What I do know is that my father abandoned us. Where he was in the world at that time I do not know. Where and how he spent his earnings, other than on alcohol, is a mystery. But more mysterious to me is how a person could abandon his young children.

Some may think my mother should have never left us alone, but she was without alternatives. I don’t know how she got through the pressures of being a single mom with a tenth-grade education. All I do know is she did not abandon us and worked to exhaustion to raise and support her children.

Not surprisingly, a ten-year-old placed in charge of his brothers and sisters doesn’t get much respect. My eight-year-old brother would challenge me and aggravate everyone else. My five and three-year-old sisters were typical little girls getting into stuff and fighting. My two youngest brothers were a two-year-old toddler and a baby under a year old. Basically, I was there to keep them from injuring themselves or each other; I’d call Mom if someone got hurt badly.

Why am I writing this, exposing my family’s dirty laundry? It is obviously not to brag, nor am I asking anyone to feel sorry for us, but to share a story of hope. Hope, however, needs action – mostly our own action to meet our challenges head-on. It is up to each individual, but many kids don’t know what to do, or how to do it.

I don’t know where we lived when I was ten because we moved quite often, and I didn’t have many childhood friends. Because of this, I was much more comfortable around women than men. Being a shy, skinny, and often new kid, I was like shark-bait to the local bullies common in poorer neighborhoods. My self-defense plan was invisibility, staying indoors or peeking around corners before proceeding. It wasn’t even close to an ideal upbringing.

Tough Beginnings Mean Extra Work

Needless to say, this was not the best start for any young person. The difficulties my siblings and I experienced pale in comparison to the challenges too many young people suffer. But preventable struggles, like struggles caused by my father’s parental neglect, should never happen.

How did we all do coming out of this situation? Beyond the challenges all kids face as they mature, we all had extra demons to defeat, some struggling with those demons more than others. We’ve had teen mothers, a lack of a high school education, truancy, poverty and some minor drug and alcohol use, with following generations dealing with some of the same problems. Of the six of us, three extended families are doing well, while three families are still struggling to one degree or another.

Fortunately, I did not have any of the problems described above, but I did have others. The most challenging to me was a serious lack of confidence in myself. I believe my five siblings also suffered from this and other psychological issues. I broke out of this cycle of despair more successfully than my siblings because of two things: 1) a promise I made to myself and, 2) a dream.

The Power Of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithThe promise was to never be poor! Not to be rich, but not to be poor – an error I will discuss later. My dream was to be a pilot, a dream of many young boys. But in my case, it was more of a passion. I knew that I would have to do it on my own because I didn’t know how to ask for help. Mentoring was not something of which I was aware, and being shy didn’t help. Certainly, someone would have mentored me had we stayed in one place long enough. (I apologize immensely to those I have forgotten who did give me help and advice, especially my many teachers.)

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Being a mentor is a wonderful way to help anyone who could use advice or guidance! My book, The Power of Dadhood, is, in fact, a mentoring book intended to teach fathers to how to mentor their children. It may be obvious, by now, why I wrote this book.

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My dream of being a pilot seemed so distant, like a star in another galaxy, but I kept my focus. This dream supported my goal of never being poor. It is amazing what one can do when they have a dream as a goal backed up by a promise. I also had two distant people that I looked up to: Jack Buck, the announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jimmy Stewart, my favorite actor and a US Air Force pilot himself. I admired their values and personalities. Never was there a bad word said of either, not by anyone I would respect. It was to my benefit to invent my own mentors because everyone needs role models and teachers.

A Dream, a Promise, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron SmithI succeeded in my keeping my promise and achieving my dream. I have never been poor since the moment I graduated from college. I also became a US Air Force pilot and loved every part of that experience.

But it wasn’t easy! The required steps to make my dreams come true were demanding, but not really the issue. The toughest hurdles in this journey were the exaggerated and fabricated hurdles I put upon myself, thinking I was not worthy! The hurdle of self-worth will also cause one to underestimate their potential. I should have had a goal to be rich; instead, I just hoped to not be poor. I’m doing very well but what if……?

In Closing

My message here is two-fold. The first message is that anyone with a dream can overcome obstacles. That is a common theme of encouragement, but your self-imposed obstructions are the first and most important to overcome. There is no need of having a fifty-pound dead weight on your back when you’re climbing Mt. Everest. This or any other test in life has its very own challenges to conquer and that extra, unnecessary weight could cause you to fail.

The second message is the desperate need today for parents and other mentors to help young people grow. Having proper mentoring and a decent childhood atmosphere will help a child avoid unnecessary burdens. A much easier and effective way to be successful, of course, is to not have those extra burdens in the first place. Children raised in a good, nourishing home will have a head start because their lives have been streamlined, not encumbered with self-imposed friction and speed bumps. If the number one factor in a successful life is self-reliance, a very close second would be the way one is raised and mentored.

I challenge parents and all adults to be aware of the needs of the young people around them. Your help and guidance will save them from being an adversary and/or an obstacle to themselves. It just takes a kind word or a bit of attention. ###

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website]. He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

Teach Children to Believe in Themselves (Christy Monson)

Christy Monson, Teach Children to Believe in ThemselvesA young girl, Jane, came in for therapy. She felt victimized in the neighborhood and at school. Her dominant father showed her how to fight back physically and berated her because she didn’t engage in conflict. Her mother fretted and worried, but had no solutions. Jane knew what she wanted, but was afraid to share her ideas for fear they were no good. Her self confidence was severely lacking.

The four of us worked together to empower this child using the following ideas. Both parents were willing to listen and learn and change their behavior.

Listen to Your Child: This was an especially difficult task for both parents. The father discounted everything Jane said. Mother interrupted the girl, talking over her and sharing her worry. When the parents began to listen, Jane didn’t know what to say at first.

Ask for the Child’s Opinion: It took some time for this family to open their communication and discuss their issues. But therapy gave them a time of accounting, and they were successful.

Come Up with Solutions Together: The three of them learned to come up with answers together. Although the father found it hard not to impose his ‘law’ in the discussions, he did learn to keep his mouth shut and listen.

Family Talk. Christy MonsonWork Together to Unravel a Problem: Mother had the most difficult time being solution-focused. She was not used to following through to resolve a problem. Over the years she had kept herself in a constant state of drama with her worry, and it was hard for her to let that go.

Discuss Your Success: When this family had a victory in solving a problem, they were able to talk about the things that worked and the things they would do differently next time.

Ask the Child How He or She Feels About the Victory: Both parents were delighted with their victories, and they praised Jane. I suggested that they asked Jane how she felt about her triumph.

Over the months, Jane’s relationship with her family and friends changed. She no longer felt victimized by those around her. Jane shared her ideas when she had play dates. She could lead and follow in the activities. She developed several close friendships in the neighborhood and at school. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberChristy Monson has an M.S. in Counseling Psychology and Marriage & Family Therapy from University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and established a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. Check out her informative website [link].

 

Bullycide: When Cyberbullying Turns Fatal (Guest: Judge Tom Jacobs)

The Changing Behavior NetworkIn this radio-style podcast taken from our archives, Dr. James Sutton interviews Judge Tom Jacobs, a former Arizona juvenile court judge, on the topic of bullycide, youth suicide as a result of cyberbullying.

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Cyber Bullycide

As effective tools of communication and commerce, the internet and cyberspace have changed the way we live. For all the good and benefits they bring, there is a downside. This program addresses loss of life as a result of cyber abuse: Bullycide.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe suicide of young people as a result of cyberbullying is a serious issue that is growing in its impact. Our guest on this program, Judge Tom Jacobs, studies cyber bullycide and the circumstances and events that affect the lives and welfare of our young people. Judge Tom will guide us through the issues of bullycide and how it happens, and he will share his research on legal implications and what we can all do to best protect our children and grandchildren from such a grave threat.

Ask the Judge

Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info, a teen-law website for and about teen, tweens and the laws that affect them. His daughter, Natalie, assists him in making AsktheJudge.info a go-to resource. It’s also a valuable website for parents and educators who want to stay current with issues that affect the safety and welfare of our young people.

AskTheJudge.info, bullycide, judge tom jacobs

Judge Tom Jacobs

Judge Tom is a retired juvenile judge from Arizona, having spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges, as well as for teens and parents, including the book that covers our topic in this program: Teen Cyberbullying Investigated. (28:04)

http://www.AsktheJudge.info

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“I Want to Die:” Helping the Severely Depressed Youngster (Michael Bushman)

BTRadioInt-300x75-300x75There’s not doubt at all that they youngster who says or thinks, “I want to die,” is struggling with a profoundly serious issue. The severely depressed youngster needs hope, they need help, and they need them quickly.

Mike Bushman, Michael Bushman, Suicide Excape, I want to die, suicidal thoughtSevere depression in our young people is not only a serious concern, they may rarely talk about it, especially to an adult. A sense of hopelessness can cause a youngster to feel that things for them will never be any better, that their circumstances can no longer be tolerated. At that point, even suicide makes sense to them.

So why would they talk about it, especially if their decision is made, or nearly so?

What are these young people experiencing, and why? What are some of the signs that could suggest they are struggling with depression? What can we do to help? How can we offer hope that deeply difficult moments rarely last, and that they are not worth the cost of a life?

Michael Bushman, Suicide Escape, the severely depressed youngster, how to deal with depressionMike Bushman, this program’s guest, has a deeply personal and powerful perspective on severe depression in young people. The insights and interventions he shares can and do make a difference in how to deal with depression.

For 25 years, Mike worked as a congressional aide, lobbyist, press secretary, investor relations executive, corporate and marketing communications leader and global policy head. Then, in 2012, he retired to return to his first passion: writing.

Mike has authored two novels reflecting the future we would face if we as a country continue on our current divisive political path. This newer book, Suicide Escape, is a unique combination of novella and memoir addressing deeply personal stories of teen depression and despair. The book reflects what Mike has learned and what he wishes he knew and understood as a young teen dealing with thoughts of suicide. (27:03)

www.MBushman.com

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Conduct Disorder: Controlling the Uncontrollable, Part 2 (Guest: Ruth Herman Wells)

BTRadioInt-300x75The youngster diagnosed as Conduct Disorder is, without question, the most difficult child or teen to raise, teach, understand and manage.

RuthWellsphotoThese kids don’t think like we do, and therein lies our biggest challenge. Appealing to a sense of right or wrong with this youngster, or attempting to address remorse for harm done to others, doesn’t work. They don’t relate to the pain and suffering of others. In fact, they don’t relate at all.

Unfortunately, these youngsters can steal, hit, manipulate, bully, defy, torment and hurt others, resist rules and laws, and torture and kill animals … and it doesn’t bother them, at all.

This is the MOST unmanageable youngster you could possibly encounter. Effective interventions matter a great deal.

RWellsCDbookRuth Herman Wells, our guest on this program, has spent her career perfecting techniques to use with CD kids. On this program, she will share some of the best answers that exist for successfuly managing unmanageable children and teens. Ruth perfected these interventions in the trenches where the problems were. So, when we use what she shares, the ideas work.

Ruth is the Director of Youth Change Workshops, out of Oregon. She has managed programs for deliquent, troubled and problem youth. She’s the author of dozens of books, including All the Best Answers for the Worst Kid Problems: Anti-social Youth and Conduct Disorders. (22:35)

(NOTE: Click on “Free Materials From Our Experts” tab above to access a two-part article by Ruth entitled, “What Every Youth Professional MUST know about Violent Students.”)

 

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Conduct Disorder: Controlling the Uncontrollable, Part 1 (Guest: Ruth Herman Wells)

BTRadioInt-300x75The youngster diagnosed as Conduct Disorder is, without question, the most difficult child or teen to raise, teach, understand and manage.

RuthWellsphotoThese kids don’t think like we do, and therein lies our biggest challenge. Appealing to a sense of right or wrong with this youngster, or attempting to address remorse for harm done to others, doesn’t work. They don’t relate to the pain and suffering of others. In fact, they don’t relate at all.

Unfortunately, these youngsters can steal, hit, manipulate, bully, defy, torment and hurt others, resist rules and laws, and torture and kill animals … and it doesn’t bother them, at all.

This is the MOST unmanageable youngster you could possibly encounter. Effective interventions matter a great deal.

RWellsCDbookRuth Herman Wells, our guest on this program, has spent her career perfecting techniques to use with CD kids. On this program, she will share some of the best answers that exist for successfuly managing unmanageable children and teens. Ruth perfected these interventions in the trenches where the problems were. So, when we use what she shares, the ideas work.

Ruth is the Director of Youth Change Workshops, out of Oregon. She has managed programs for deliquent, troubled and problem youth. She’s the author of dozens of books, including All the Best Answers for the Worst Kid Problems: Anti-social Youth and Conduct Disorders. (22:35)

(NOTE: Click on “Free Materials From Our Experts” tab above to access a two-part article by Ruth entitled, “What Every Youth Professional MUST know about Violent Students.”)

 

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When Behavior Becomes Desperate: Insights and Interventions (Guest: Dr. James Sutton)

BTRadioIntThreat and danger don’t even have to be real to be a problem. There are youngsters (adults, too) who, for any number reasons, live in a constant state of alert. Behaviors of others toward them, even something as mild as one step too many into their personal space, brings a reation that hardly fits the circumstance.

Because this behavior is based on survival and fueled by fear, typical responses and discipline easily can worsen subsequent behavior as it increases the perceived threat. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s difficult to stop. Exactly how do we negotiate with one’s need to survive?

Our guest on this program, The Changing Behavior Network’s founder and host, Dr. James Sutton, calls this Desperate Behavior, for that’s precisely what it is. Considering all of a school’s students, desperate behavior is rare. It occurs in only about 1-3% of the entire population, but it accounts for the majority of the problems, as well as the lingering misery of affected youngsters.

Since traditional approaches often fail, something different is needed, and that’s the focus of this program. It’s also addressed in Dr. Sutton’s newest book, The Changing Behavior Book.

A nationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is in demand for his expetise on emotionally and behaviorally troubled youngsters, and his skill for sharing it. A former Special Education teacher, he is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, a popular internet radio-style podcast supporting young people and their families. 23:58)

(Dr. Sutton has made an arrangement with the publisher for listeners to receive a FREE copy of his bestseller, 101 Ways to Make Your Classroom Special, when they order a copy of The Changing Behavior Book. For more information or to order, CLICK HERE and use the password supplied at the end of this program.)

www.DocSpeak.com

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Scared Justice: Fighting America’s War on Youth (Kenneth Johnson)

BTAboutThemAn eleven-year-old Florida student was handcuffed, taken to jail, and charged with a third-degree felony for having a plastic butter knife; a New York pre-K student is suspended for having too many bathroom accidents; a Mississippi student was arrested for breaking wind; a Tauton, Massachusetts second grader was suspended and forced to undergo a mental health evaluation for drawing a picture of Jesus on the cross; a California student faces a judge on criminal charges of being tardy too many times; and a Baltimore, Maryland student risked suspension for nibbling on a Pop Tart in the shape of a gun. We see it all the time in the headlines. For those who are unaware, there’s a war in America that’s been going on for some time now.

KJohnsonphotoEvery year, we are arresting over 2 million students. Far more students are suspended and expelled. Studies have shown that a child’s chances of dropping out increases by 50% for every time (s)he is suspended out of school. Presently, some 7,000 students drop out each school day. Most of these suspensions, expulsions, and arrests take place just before standardized testing. The reason for this, scholars posit, is what’s being called the Test-to-Prison Pipeline (a variation of the older School-to-Prison Pipeline theory). Simply put, a child that is suspended/expelled or incarcerated cannot take the standardized test and therefore the overall test results will be higher. This is critical in states like Florida where a school’s funding is based on how well students do on these tests.

Most juvenile arrests in America today are predicated upon what criminologists call the “Super Predator Myth.” This myth was first postulated by Professor John DiIulio, Jr. as a research-based theory of juvenile crime. Later, his research was found to be fundamentally flawed in every conceivable way. However, Pandora’s Box had already been opened by this junk science theory. We became a nation fearful of our youth and with the wrong-headed notion the only way to keep them from turning into murderous thugs was to arrest and try them as adults for felony crimes.

Today in America, the prison system is such a booming business. Private prisons, like the Geo Group, publicly trade on the stock market. Most of America’s population of inmates first came into the criminal justice system by way of juvenile arrests. The primary reason that an incarcerated person leaves a juvenile detention facility is because they have reached the age of majority and now must be transferred to an adult prison to finish out the rest of their sentence.

Rather than being a nation of law and justice, we have turned to “scared justice” tactics where laws vary based upon a person’s income, race, age, and other factors. And, no place can this injustice be more finely felt than by our nation’s youth.

KJohnsonbookHARD TALK; STRAIGHT TALK

In the fields of Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice, professionals and writers are now focusing a tremendous amount of time on pathways to engaging in difficult discussions. Each field of conflict study has its own thought leaders with their own ways of tackling this endeavor head-on. But why are we seemingly in need of such study and works?

Part of the problem is the manufacturing of fear in the public over juvenile crimes. One major culprit is our nation’s School Resource Officer program. The other player in this social malaise is Hollywood.

While SROs are used practically nation-wide, the data on their effectiveness is less than compelling. While their stated purpose is to safeguard the students, national crime data reveals they generally arrest students for innocuous offenses when traditional school-based disciplinary procedures would be more effective and beneficial. In protecting students from school violence and shootings, the data also reflects they generally are ineffective with them mostly arresting students on baseless charges.

One of the best publicly available arguments against SROs can be found in the Justice Policy Institute’s “Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools,” where it looks at the chronic failures, duties, dangers and case law surrounding SROs. For instance, in the Supreme Court case of J.B.D. vs North Carolina, involving a 13 year old student who was arrested without being read Miranda rights, the court found juveniles do not possess proper understanding to appreciate Miranda. Ultimately, the report delineates five ways to improve schools without needing SROs. These suggestions ranged from properly training and supporting staff on issues of behavioral disruptions to building quality relationships between staff and students.

Ironically, these suggestions are things which are best handled through Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice strategies. In my book, Unbroken Circles for Schools, I specifically addressed how using Peer Mediation with Circles, Panels, Conferences, and Justice Circles can create a community of care which improves classroom instruction, addresses behavioral issues, builds relationships, provides counseling options, and identifies issues early on in order to render SROs needless in schools. The JPI piece proposed using government funds to purchase varying national plans but, as I note in my book, effective strategies already exist in the public domain.

Hollywood is also just as guilty of culpable harm. Specifically, shows like “Beyond Scared Straight” perpetuate a myth while fostering practices proven to actually harm children as bad, if not sometimes worse, than what SROs do by arresting children needlessly.

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “A study by Anthony Petrosino and researchers at the Campbell Collaboration analyzed results from nine Scared Straight programs and found that such programs generally increased crime up to 28 percent in the experimental group when compared to a no-treatment control group. In another analysis of juvenile prevention and treatment programs, Mark Lipsey of the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies found that youth who participate in Scared Straight and other similar deterrence programs have higher recidivism rates than youth in control groups. And a report presented in 1997 to the U.S. Congress reviewed more than 500 crime prevention evaluations and placed Scared Straight programs in the “what does not work” category. Despite these findings, Scared Straight programs continue to be used throughout the United States and abroad.”

Again, the OJJDP focused on the very same solutions which the JPI looked at. Naturally, like with the JPI, the OJJDP urged for costly programs to be employed by schools and communities. However, like I stated before, effective Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice solutions are already in the public domain and used daily by trained and certified professionals.

A common saying, “A leopard can’t change its spots,” is often used in reference to criminals. The meaning behind this is that a child who does wrong actions now will only do worse actions later as an adult – a flawed line of logic at best. I say, “If you paint spots on a lion cub, it doesn’t make it a leopard.” Ultimately, I contend that officials are making children out to be worse than they are. In fact, most, if they were given a little extra attention, could become tremendous benefits to society as adults.

Research has come forth saying that children are facing massive issues with underemployment by their parents, broken homes where they may have only an extended family member at best to serve as guardian over them, domestic violence in the home, substance abuse in the home, untreated illnesses, lack of proper nutrition, homelessness, child neglect, and sexual molestation to name a few. In fact, where I live, homeless kids have coined the term “couch surfing” to refer to how they spend their nights sleeping on the couches of friends, relatives, or anyone else that would take them in for the night. These are the children that our schools seemingly target.

What’s more troubling is that the children actually suffer more once they are incarcerated. This is because most states exempt juvenile detention officers from state child abuse and child neglect laws. In Florida, which is a top arrester of youths in America with over 58,000 arrested per year, a number of detention facilities have recently gone under review for children being allowed to die in front of guards without any call for help, children being sexually molested by staff, unnecessary beatings, and the list goes on and on.

There is a solution to this social justice dilemma. The crux of the problem is that the community must become engaged and press for resolve since schools and law enforcement refuse to take responsibility with this issue. This is a hard discussion topic for a society where many trappings of the traditional community are gone due to our nomadic existence and where the media colors our understanding of reality with sensationalized stories and filtered-out stories. This makes collaboration between nonprofits and religious institutions , on this issue, all the more critical for lasting change to take place since these are the unsung heroes doing most of the unseen social justice work in this nation.

WORKING TOGETHER; MAKING A DIFFERENCE

I suggest that interested stakeholders in the community, as well as Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice professionals and advocates, agree to assemble at a neutral venue and break bread to talk about the problems facing their community. After all, this is how America got started! Once the problems have been stated, then the community should evaluate resources that each group can bring to the table. Since I pretty much wrote the book on this issue, here are some suggestions that I would make for consideration:

Have the school district do away with SROs. There’s simply no need for them. National statistics show time and time again juveniles make up less than 1% of the violent crimes committed in America. These are officers that can be put out on the streets to arrest real criminals, direct traffic, or engage in a number of social benefits inherent to law enforcement.

Have the school engage in Restorative Justice (RJ) and Peer Mediation practices. RJ has been proven far more effective on juveniles than any other group at reducing recidivism and also making lasting, positive behavioral changes. By the same token, peer mediation has been proven effective in handling issues typically tying up vital time normally handled needlessly by teachers. A good program should be a balance of daily circles, peer mediation, and conferencing.

Creating a peer counseling corps can offer critical support and assistance for students in needs. Like peer mediators, peer counselors are trained by professionals in the field and given similar skill sets as adult professionals in the field use in their own practices.

Establish a Neighborhood Restorative Justice Center (NRJC) as a deferment option should a child still end up in the court system. In many states, like Florida, there are already laws on the books allowing this sort of deferment but officials refuse to establish these centers. An NRJC, created by the community, allows the student that final, yet critical, opportunity to seek out atonement for their actions and to seek the help that they need.

There’s no other way to put it other than to say America’s war on youth is a national scandal. However, if handled properly, the communities around America have an opportunity to make a significant impact on the overcrowding of prisons, increasing tax revenues, increasing productivity, and re-engaging the “American dream” which has historically been our driving force in becoming a superpower in the global marketplace.###

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. To learn more about Ken and his work, CLICK HERE to visit his website.

 

 

Letters to God: Diary of an Unsilenced Generation (Guest: Cassandra Smith)

BTRadioIntHere’s a replay of a very special program we featured in March of 2014. Cassandra’s work and book carry a powerful message for us.

CSmithphotoAmong the Millennial generation , there are young people who experienced their childhood during a time when many families were at-risk. In fact, some counselors, clergy and mental health professionals call this the “Orphan Generation.” Why is this, what happened, and what can we do about it?

Fortunately, our guest on this on this program, Cassandra Smith, discovered a way for us to know more about what these young people are really thinking about us, about themselves, and about the challenges of life they face.

LTGCover1Cassandra collected thousands of anonymous handwritten letters to God as she worked with Acquire the Fire youth conferences across the United States and Canada several years ago. What she discovered, and what she’ll share with us, were not only the deepest needs of these young people, but their intense desire for help and hope in their lives.

Cassandra is an honors graduate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She has worked extensively with youth for twelve years, including tours for four years with Teen Mania’s Acquire the Fire and years of work with Youth with a Mission. Today, you’ll find her deeply involved in speaking engagements at events and churches, where she creates a deeping awareness of the needs of youth today, as well as how these young people can discover a path to restoration as they search for authentic and lasting hope and change. (25:23)

www.LetterstoGodMovement.com

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Therapy Has Gone to the Dogs (Dr. Frank Sileo)

BTCounselorOver 12 years ago I adopted a Cairn terrier from a shelter. I named him Ozzie. One of the reasons I got Ozzie is because I wanted to train him to be a therapy dog in my private practice. Most therapy dogs and animals are used in settings such as nursing homes, schools and hospitals. I thought using a dog in a private practice consisting of children, adolescents and adults may help welcome them, put them at ease, and help them with their problems.

How does pet therapy help?

Many studies have shown that pet ownership has a positive impact on one’s physical and emotional health. Pets provide unconditional love and acceptance. When coming to therapy, patients often come with a myriad of emotions and problems. They may be struggling with issues of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-acceptance.

FSileophoto2There is great power in the human/animal bond. Studies have demonstrated that when around animals, depressed people become more outgoing; children with ADHD and behavior disorders become less aggressive; and children with developmental delays or are on the autistic spectrum, become more social and their concentration improves.

From a physical health perspective, the National Institute of Health found that married couples that owned a pet had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure levels during psychological and physical stress tests and recovered faster. Scientific studies showed that petting a dog increases the level of pleasure hormones and lowers the stress hormone cortisol. Who doesn’t smile when you see a dog wagging its tail at you?

Teaching Tool

OzzieBedHaving a dog in my practice allows me the opportunity to teach things in a different way and use the dog as another therapeutic tool. For example, some parents and kids asked why Ozzie has to stay in his bed and not wander around the room. This gives me the opportunity to discuss boundary issues and setting limits.

Sometimes couples argue in my office and Ozzie would react by shivering, whimpering and even barking. I will say to patients, “Look at the effect you are having on the dog. How do you think your children react when you start yelling like this at home?”

With Ozzie’s help, children with boundary issues learn social skills such as personal space and by following rules when it comes to petting Ozzie. They are taught where and how to pet him that is respectful to him. Children who are aggressive learn that their rough behavior with Ozzie is unacceptable and lose the privilege of being around him. This leads to discussions of bullying and taunting.

Patients who need to work on being more assertive get to first practice giving commands to Ozzie. As they gain confidence, they begin to practice with people in their lives.

For children who have difficulty naming and talking about emotions, I say to them, “Look at Ozzie’s tail. What do you think he’s feeling? How is your tail today? What would your tail be doing if you had one? Would it be wagging or between your legs (i.e., anxious, scared).

Sometimes my patients are reticent to talking about difficult topics or feelings in my office. I have often witnessed them talking to Ozzie about their problems or I have used Ozzie to talk to in order to get my patients to open up. I might say, “Nicholas looks sad today Ozzie, maybe he can talk to us about his feelings?” Sometimes when I talk to Ozzie, my child patients will laugh and therefore break the ice and allowing them to open up in therapy.

My adult patients love him too. When he takes a day off, they always ask, “Where is Ozzie?” Whether people open up to Ozzie or me, it doesn’t matter. The point is they are talking and feeling comfortable in the therapeutic room.

Change Happens

We all want to help our patients grow and change their dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors. What happens when your therapy dog changes?

Two years ago, Ozzie was diagnosed with bladder cancer. In the beginning, Ozzie had few symptoms and received chemotherapy and other treatments. Over time, Ozzie could not control his bladder, was having accidents and was tired from the treatments. It was an ethical and moral decision to retire Ozzie from the practice at this time.

I explained to my patients that Ozzie was going to retire from therapy and relax at home. This afforded my patients to talk about transitions, good-byes and other changes in their lives. This was also hard on me given that I am in solo practice. He was therapeutic for me, too!!

In 2013, Ozzie passed away after his yearlong battle with bladder cancer.

New Beginnings

CooperAfter some healing, I have decided to get another dog for our home and my practice. He is a Cairn terrier named Cooper. I like Cairn terriers because they are smart, attentive, trainable and hypoallergenic. I will begin training him through a professional school that will eventually certify him as a therapy dog.

We will have to wait some time before he’s ready to work with patients. Training and certification is a must. You cannot just bring your pet to do therapeutic work. Check into pet therapy resources online and get the proper training and certification.

I am excited about this new chapter in my personal and professional life. I am “panting” in anticipation of using Cooper with my patients! ###

 

 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]