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Grandma and the Train Ride (Dr. James D. Sutton)

Time spent with grandparents is the stuff of both memories and character. The Changing Behavior Network host, Dr. James Sutton, shares one such experience.

For a number of years I was the only grandchild on my mother’s side of the family. For that reason, my grandmother and I shared a very special relationship. Hey, when you’re the only grandchild, you get lots of attention.

One of my favorite memories about my grandmother goes back to the time when I had spent most of the summer with her and my aunt’s family in Minnesota.  I was about nine at the time. After summer vacation, Grandma and I made the return trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, by train. Those were the days when only the well-to-do could even think of traveling by air.

We were well-prepared. Dressed in our Sunday best, and armed with a couple of sacks of books, games, and plenty of snack food, Grandma and I boarded the train and settled into our seats for the two-day trip. I can still remember watching the scenery go by, occasionally drifting in and out of sleep to the steady rhythm of the clickity-clack of steel wheels on steel rails.

For those riding through the night in coach (instead of the much more expensive Pullman sleeper cars), the porter would make his way down the aisle renting pillows. We only needed one for me. Grandma, an experienced rail traveler, always carried a big, down pillow with her.

In the morning the train made a stop (in St. Louis, as I recall), so Grandma treated me to a hearty breakfast in the station’s cafeteria. When we re-boarded the train, we discovered that the porter had taken up all the pillows, including Grandma’s!

Grandma insisted that, since her pillow was so much better than the others (it really was), he would sort through the piles and piles of pillows until he found the fine pillow that belonged to her. He finally brought her a pillow, but it wasn’t THE pillow (something he heard about all the way to Tulsa).

Very few folks today can recall traveling by rail through the night. Thinking back, however, I suppose what stands out the most in that experience of traveling by train with my grandmother was that it was a special adventure of just the two of us.

GRAND-Stories, Ernie WendellThrough the years, Grandma ad I did a lot of things together. She even taught me how to embroider a little and to bake sugar cookies. (We decided once to triple the recipe, and had more cookies than we could find jars, can, and boxes to put them it; but that’s another story.)

I was home on leave from the US Navy when my grandmother passed away in 1968. It was a few days before my scheduled departure for a two-year hitch in Japan (including two assignments with marines in Vietnam). She was very sick, but she knew I was there, that I was still home. To this day, I believe she picked her time to go.

I’ve heard of these things happening. ###

Dr. James Sutton is a former educator, a semi-retired psychologist, and the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. This story is from the book, GRAND-Stories: 101+ Bridges of Love Joining Grandparents and Grandkids, edited by Ernie Wendell.

The Spirit of Forgiveness (Dr. James Sutton)

Dr. James SuttonAnger is the proverbial two-edged sword. When we are emotionally vulnerable, one edge stands ready to protect us from additional hurt and harm, but the other edge can rob us of our joy and, over time, steal our health and vitality as well. The Spirit of Forgiveness offers us one way to deal with long-term anger.

Like a Suit of Armor

Like a knight’s suite of armor, anger does a good job of protecting us from additional hurt. It covers our delicate emotional flesh, but, if worn too long, the armor itself can hurt us. If we choose never to remove the armor, others will see us as strange and even difficult. And when the summer sun does its number on the armor, we will have a new problem: heat stroke.

suit of armor, Kroejsanka Mediteranka, the spirit of forgivenessAt some point, the armor needs to come off, right?

Forgiveness, A Delicate Issue

Authentic forgiveness requires a vulnerability, an emotional risk … without armor. One of the things that makes forgiveness difficult is the fact that, in order to truly forgive, one must make contact with what they are forgiving. That can be difficult, often causing forgiveness to stop before it even begins.

(This is precisely who insisting a child, teen or adult forgive someone is so ineffective, even harmful. We cannot mandate matters of the heart, especially when the heart is packed in armor!)

Waiting to Forgive

Even when one is willing to forgive, what happens if it is never sought? Is one stuck at that point, just waiting to forgive? What happens if they can’t or won’t wait?

For ten years I was the consulting psychologist for a residential treatment facility for children and teens. They had been removed from their homes because of ongoing abuse and the emotional damage it created. These kids inspired me in their growth and in their willingness, over time, to step out of their armor. In the process, however, some of them attempted to forgive family members when that forgiveness had not been sought. For the most part, the results were quite predictable: Disaster.

The Spirit of Forgiveness

There is a way to help a youngster or an adult to get to the point of forgiveness even if it is never sought. I call it The Spirit of Forgiveness. It involves a “What if …” that can lead very closely to the same sort healing if a person is ready for it.

The Spirit of Forgiveness starts with a question:

You are right; it seems very unlikely that person will ever seek your forgiveness. But what if they DID ask you to forgive them, and you were absolutely convinced they were 100% sincere is doing so. Would you consider forgiving them then?


The Changing Behavior Book, James SuttonAlmost to the youngster, the kids I worked with in treatment initially would respond with something like, “I wouldn’t believe them!” “That would never happen!” or “They would never ask that!” At that point, my aim would be to coax them toward a “Yes” or “No.”

I understand. But what if someone you trust a lot, someone like your grandmother, were to tell you they were sincere in seeking your forgiveness, what would you do?


If the youngster elected to stay with their previous response or say they would NOT forgive that person, I would stop right there. They were not ready; they still needed their armor. They were neither right nor wrong; they just were not ready.

If, on the other hand, they were to say they would forgive that person under those circumstances, I would explain to them how very, very close that is to actual face-to-face forgiveness. The results often would be obvious in their eating and sleeping habits, behavior, relationships and school performance. I was privileged to observe youngsters use The Spirit of Forgiveness, a predetermined answer to a question that might never be asked, to make significant progress in their recovery.

Acceptance: An Alternative

I have communicated with adults that felt even The Spirit of Forgiveness was too difficult for them to conceptualize in terms of their own experiences. In one way or another they all shared that they moved past the pain and hurt by reaching a point of acceptance and moving on from there.###

Dr. James Sutton is a former teacher, a child and adolescent psychologist and the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. His website is


Ask More, Tell Less: Effective Parenting and Self-Reliance (Greg Warburton)

BTRadioInt-300x75-300x75Effective parenting and effective discipline can be likened unto a construction project. Just imagine you are about to start the biggest building project of your life, a new home, perhaps. Yet, when you open your toolbox, you find only three tools in there.

You certainly cannot embark on such an ambitious project until you get all the tools you need to build that home safely and securely. It only makes sense to have everything you need to manage such a challenge.

Toward Effective Parenting

Greg Warburton, effective parenting, effective disciplineBuilding, encouraging and nourishing healthy, self-reliant families and children is the most rewarding and most challenging construction project a parent will ever encounter. Unfortunately, if all discipline and problem-solving relied on just the three tools of Telling, Reminding and Yelling (and all parents can identify, right?), relationships within the family and and the self-reliance of all members would be affected.

The solution, of course,  is more tools and the insight, desire and practice in using them effectively. And, with the help of our guest, licensed mental health counselor Greg Warburton, more tools and how to use them is precisely what this program is about.

Quality Questions

ask more, tell less, quality questions, curiosity over control, Greg Warburton

As an example, Greg will suggest a paradigm shift for parents in this program. It’s  a different perspective for adding more tools to the toolbox, including the practice of asking instead of telling, so that youngsters can become more empowered to consider and reflect on ways they can address problem behavior and challenges themselves. Result: Self-reliant children and teens. When we exercise curiosity over control, they gain life-long tools, and relationships at home are much better.

There is power and healing in quality questions.

Greg Warburton

Greg Warburton is a licensed mental health counselor who helps youngsters and parents become instruments of their own healing and change. He is a dedicated innovator who brings emotional and mental self-management methods into the worlds of parenting and sport performance. As an award-winning college instructor, he helps people eliminate self-defeating behaviors and achieve the inner freedom that comes with becoming self-reliant. In this program, we are featuring Greg’s new book: Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance. (28:35)

As a bonus, be sure to download Greg’s free article, “The Power of Praise Revisited: A Full Formula.”


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


Seven Ways of Teaching Happiness to Your Kids (Mike Ferry)

Happiness is the “Holy Grail” of parenting. While all of us want our kids to be happy and successful in life, we may not know exactly how to achieve this goal. Fortunately, the “science of happiness” can show us the way to teaching happiness.

teaching happiness, science of happinessYears of research have revealed certain habits and beliefs that make us happier, more creative, and more effective in everything we do. Rather than waiting and hoping that emotional well-being will descend from the heavens, we can show our children how to forge happy lives.

Since learning about this branch of psychology, I have been on a mission to share this knowledge with parents. I wrote a book, Teaching Happiness and Innovation, to help parents identify the habits of happiness and teach them to their kids. We are all thirsting for guidance in this department, and I hope that my efforts make a difference.

teaching happiness, science of happinessI’d like to give you seven ways to point your children towards lives of joy and meaning. These ideas come from my free 21-day “Happy Family” challenge. As is the case in other areas of life, practice makes perfect if you want to form the habits of happiness!

1. Write down the names of three people, places, or things you are grateful for. If you want to learn more about the importance of gratitude, please sign up for my email list. As a thank-you gift, you can download the “Gratitude” chapter from my book for free.

2. Spend some time in quiet prayer or meditation. Nurturing our spirituality is an important aspect of happiness.

3. We feel better when we are creative and thoughtful. Create and send a homemade card to Grandma, Grandpa, or another special person in your family’s life.

4. Challenge yourself to learn something new. Do you know the countries of Europe? If not, start learning them here.

5. Combine these five words to form a short story. If your story is hilarious and unrealistic, that’s just fine.


6. Think about a time when someone was kind to you. Give yourself a quiet space to reflect on this happy memory.

7. Bake cookies for a neighbor. When you deliver them, talk about the fun you’ve been having with the “Happy Family” challenge! Maybe your neighbor will enjoy the experience as well.###

Mike Ferry is the author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation. A middle school history teacher in Richmond, VA, Mike is raising four (mostly happy) children with his wife, Jenny. For more information about teaching happiness to children, visit Twitter @MikeFerry7

Doing What Must Be Done (Guest: Chad Hymas)

BTRadioIntListen in as Chad tells his story of dealing with life-changing circumstances. Much more than that, however, is the way he encourages us all to manage challenges of all kinds.


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)


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



Never Forget … (Anonymous)





jarNever Forget–It’s much more difficult to read the label when you’re INSIDE the jar!


Words of Wisdom, Indeed (A Quote from Stephen Covey)

BTAboutThemWhy do we go the extra mile with the youngster that challenges us at every turn? Author Stephen Covey has insight into an answer with this quote from his bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.


As a teacher, as well as a parent, I have found that the key to the ninety-nine is one, particularly the one that is testing the patience and the good humor of the many. It is the love and discipline of the one student, the one child, that communicates the love for the others. It’s how you treat the one that reveals how you regard the ninety-nine, because everyone is ultimately a one. ###



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)

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


WinThisBookSend an email with “Better” in the subject line to
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Why Kids STAY Angry (Dr. James Sutton)

BTSpReportHere’s a video Dr. Sutton originally posted on his YouTube channel in 2009; it has drawn a lot of traffic and interest. It’s on a topic that continues to frustrate and confuse a good many folks as they attempt to work with a child that’s angry … and chooses to stay that way.


Jim415smAnger in children and adolescents is one of the toughest behavioral issues to manage and “fix.” In part, this is because the expression of anger tends to “feed” the next angry outburst.

In other words, angry behavior is self-reinforcing as it creates “benefits” for a youngster. For instance, the child or teen who’s uncomfortable with peers being close to them might engage in behaviors designed to push others back to a more “comfortable” distance. If closeness bothers a youngster enough, any behavior that is obnoxious enough to produce the distance probably will be repeated. It’s tough on one’s social life, but it provides immediate relief.

(Although we’re talking about kids here, there are plenty of adults who do the very same thing, aren’t there?)

Consequence for poor behavior won’t do much to slow down a youngster who acts out to achieve relief. After a behavioral episode, this youngster easily can tell you all about the consequences to follow. For that reason, piling on more consequences isn’t always the answer.

I made this video in 2009 to better explain the characteristics, issues and behaviors of anger in young people, to share why I believe they are sometimes so resistant to change, and to offer insights into how we can better address the needs of the chronically angry child or adolescent.

The blog, ebook and newsletter mentioned at the end of the video have all been combined into this site, The Changing Behavior Network. The website is correct [link]. An updated telephone number is on the website.###

Dr. James Sutton is a nationally recognized psychologist that started out as a Special Education teacher. He is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. His current book project, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised), is soon to be released through the Network.


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,, 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.