“My Brother is Different:” The Sibling Side of Autism (Guest: Barbara Morvay)


We hope you enjoy this program as Dr. Sutton interviews childhood disabilities specialist Barbara Morvay. The topic is a good one, and certainly one that needs even more attention today.


Although we’re better at questions than answers, much has been observed, researched and written about autism. We know it is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, and we know that raising and teaching an autistic child present patience and skills-stretching challenges daily.

But what about the siblings of an autistic child? What do we know of their concerns, fears and feelings regarding their autistic brother or sister? Additionally, what specific things can we do with the “normal” siblings to help them adapt, adjust and become as resilient and emotionally fit as possible?

Parents have been asking these questions for some time, but there haven’t been many answers. Until now.

Our guest on this program, Barbara Morvay, has written a ground-breaking book that squarely addresses the siblings of an autistic child, My Brother is Different: A Sibling’s Guide to Coping with Autism. In the book (enthusiastically endorsed by autism advocate, Temple Grandin) and in this interview, Barbara addresses the thoughts “normal” children are afraid to think and the questions they are afraid to ask. Barbara does this by empowering the best counselors a youngster will ever have: Mom and Dad.

Barbara is a retired educator of 37 years. As a Special Education teacher and later principal and superintendent of schools specializing in the education of special needs students, Barbara knows first-hand the challenges involved, but also the victories.

As testimony to her expertise, Barbara was appointed to The Richard Stockton School of New Jersey Board of Trustees, and she was appointed by Governor Chris Christie to the New Jersey Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism. (27:23)


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Trouble Can Help (Zig Ziglar)

BTLifesMomentsFor those of you who, like me, never cease to be inspired by the words and the character of the late Zig Ziglar, here’s yet another example of the wisdom he left us. –JDS


zigSomebody once said that success without adversity is not only empty, it is not possible. One of my favorite observations is that the only way to the mountaintop is through the valley, and, in most cases, a series of valleys.

I think of one of the greatest books ever written, Pilgrim’s Progress, written by John Bunyan during a six-month imprisonment in Bedford Jail. Robinson Crusoe was written by Daniel Defoe in prison. Sir Walter Raleigh, after he fell from favor with the queen, wrote his History of the World during a thirteen-year prison sentence.

The great poet Dante worked and died in exile, but while there his contributions to mankind were immeasurable. Cervantes, who wrote Don Quixote in a Madrid jail, was so poor he couldn’t even get paper for his life’s writing, but used scraps of leather. Milton did his best writing blind, sick and poor, and Beethoven composed his greatest music after he had gone deaf.

Pilgrim'sProgressThese people, instead of complaining about their cruel fates, took advantage of whatever opportunity they had. We will never know, but we must wonder if we would have heard of Helen Keller, had that childhood disease not robbed her of both her sight and hearing.

Would Franklin Delano Roosevelt have made it to the White House had he not been afflicted with polio? Was his confinement to the bed and later the wheelchair the reason he was able to think his life philosophy through and develop the style and manner that led him into the most powerful and important position in the world for four consecutive terms?

You probably have friends or acquaintances with some serious handicaps who’ve accomplished some incredible feats. The question is, would they have risen to greatness had they not had those adversities to overcome? If adversity has come your way, don’t give up the ship. Think in terms of what you have left and the fact that victory is even sweeter when you overcome adversity. Give it a shot and I’ll SEE YOU AT THE TOP!

 Zig Ziglar is known as America’s Motivator. He authored 33 books and produced numerous training programs. He will be remembered as a man who lived out his faith daily. (This article reprinted with permission from Ziglar, Inc.)

In the Spotlight (Rosalind Sedacca & Dr. John Mayer)

BTSpotlightRosalind Sedacca

Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network for parents. She’s also the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! This unique ebook doesn’t just tell you what to say, it provides age-appropriate, customizable templates that say it for you!

RSedaccaPhotoRosalind provides telephone coaching services on parenting skills during and after divorce. She also offers teleseminars, group coaching programs and a comprehensive Mastering Child-Centered Divorce 10-hr. Audio Coaching program with workbook that is downloaded around the world. Rosalind is the co-host of the Divorce View Talk Show, where she interviews compassionate divorce experts on crucial topics relevant to parents. Past shows are archived here [link].

Rosalind is an Expert Blogger for The Huffington Post, JenningsWire, KidzEdge Magazine, CBS News Eye on Parenting, The Examiner as well as Exceptional People Magazine. She’s also an Expert Advisor at ParentalWisdom.com, a Contributing Expert for Divorce360.com, and most of the largest divorce and parenting websites and blogs. Her ChildCenteredDivorce.com blog was selected as the No. 1 blog on the Best Resources for Divorced Parents and Separated Families list. Rosalind has also co-authored an 8-hr and 12-hr Online Anger Management Program for Co-Parents and high conflict families. Learn more here [link].

Rosalind’s newest book, co-authored with Amy Sherman LMHC, is: 99 Things Women Wish They Knew Before Dating After 40, 50 & Yes, 60! It’s packed with wisdom for women who are moving on after divorce and are ready to create a loving, lasting and fulfilling relationship in the years ahead. Learn more here [link].

300x300_webmediafxAs an international speaker and workshop facilitator, Rosalind provides live programs and teleseminars on issues related to Child-Centered Divorce as well as dating after divorce and successful relationship skills. To learn more about her books, e-courses and Divorce Coaching Services visit www.childcentereddivorce.com.

For an excellent, free resource on post-divorce parenting written by Rosalind, go to our section of complimentary materials from our guests. To hear Rosalind’s interviews with Dr. Sutton, use the search box on the right by entering “Rosalind Sedacca.”


Dr. John Mayer

JMayerphotoDr. John Mayer is a clinical psychologist with experience in working with children, adolescents and families. His specialty is working with deeply troubled and violent teens and young adults. For this reason, he is a go-to consultant to law enforcement nationally and in his home area of Chicago.

In addition to being the author of over 60 professional articles, mostly on family life, Dr. Mayer has written 20 books, a screenplay and a stage play. He has also received a contract for his first novel, Shadow Warrior, to be developed into a major motion picture. Although Dr. Mayer’s most recent book, An Anger at Birth, is a work of fiction, it contains insights into pathological, violent and extremely dangerous teen behavior, precisely the sort we see in the news regularly.

JMayerAngerBookcoverTo say An Anger at Birth is an eye-opener would be an understatement. The plot finds a city paralyzed by fear after a series of violent crimes that break an ultimate taboo: harming infants and young children. The police suspect a pedophile; the media fuel fears of a violent new gang. Meanwhile, a street-smart shrink and a hard-nosed cop defy a raging time bomb that’s planning an ultimate attack on innocents. Based on actual events, this chilling, fast-paced novel pulls the reader into the world of violent, troubled individuals–and what can happen when we fail to help them.

Here’s a short video trailer for the book:

Use this link to learn more about Dr. Mayer’s books [link]; this link will take you to his clinical website [link]. He has also provided an article, “When Your Teen Seems Angry: 7 Things to Look For and 7 Things to Do;” it can be found in the section of this site featuring free materials from our guest specialists.

To access Dr. Sutton’s radio-style interviews with Dr. Mayer on The Changing Behavior Network, use the search box on the right, entering “Dr. John Mayer”.

Teaching Financial Fitness to Our Children (Danny & Ava Kofke)

BTRadioIntTWO BOOK GIVEAWAYS were featured with this program, one by Danny and one by Ava (both autographed books will be given to one winner). Registration is now closed.


dannykofkeSomething important is missing today from the education of most children and teens. They have little exposure to it at home or school, potentially leading to deficiencies that can follow them into adulthood. What is missing is financial literacy and the sort of knowledge and practice of managing money that builds financial fitness in our children.

Unfortunately, we don’t have to look very far to see the difficulty financial problems can create in a home and in a life. Stability and happiness easily can be sacrificed when there’s financial pressure. It’s not a good way to live for anyone.

abffTeaching our children about money and financial responsibility, and doing it early on, just makes sense. It gives kids a major tool for handling life. Danny Kofke, a retirement consultant and former special education teacher, will offer insights and interventions on this program as he and Dr. Sutton discuss ways to bring our children up to speed on important matters of financial literacy.

Danny’s three books on personal finance started with How to Survive (and perhaps thrive) on a Teacher’s Salary, followed by A Simple Book on Financial Wisdom: Teach Yourself (and your kids) How to Live Wealthy with Little Money. His most recent book, the one featured on this program, is A Bright Financial Future: Teaching Kids About Money Pre-K through College for Life-Long Success. He has delivered his message on numerous network television shows and right at 500 radio shows.

AvaphotoDanny and his work have been featured in a number of national publications, including USA Today, PARADE, The Wall Street Journal, Bottom Line Personal and The Huffington Post.

the financial angelAva Kofke, Danny’s ten-year-old daughter, must have a pretty good handle on money matters. She wrote her own financial book when she was nine, The Financial Angel: What All Kids Should Know About Money (ages 4-11). Dr. Sutton visits with Ava on this program, also. (28:58)


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“My Child HATES to Lose!” (Dr. Frank J. Sileo)

BTQuestionsDr. Sileo: My child HATES to lose at anything. She becomes so upset that it’s difficult to talk to her about it. It’s becoming a serious problem. What can I do to help her tolerate some loss without being so tearful, angry and worked up?


FSileophoto2It is very difficult for some kids to lose. It’s understandable for youngsters to feel sad, disappointed and angry when they don’t win at something. Kids, and even some adults, really struggle with losing. The issue of sportsmanship is what prompted me to write my children’s book, Sally Sore Loser: A Story About Winning and Losing, to teach kids about how to be a good sport.

Over the Top
It sounds like your daughter’s anger is over the top, and it seems like losing really causes her significant emotional distress. You may want to avoid talking with your daughter when she is so visibly upset. She is not going to hear or comprehend anything you are saying to her.

Tell her, “When you can calm down, then we can sit and talk about what’s making you so upset.” Give her some space in a safe area to express her feelings. When speaking calmly with her later, be sure to show her empathy by letting her know that it’s difficult to lose at things.

SallySoreLoserCover2A “Before” Talk
You may want to sit with your child and talk with her before an event, game or any other competitive activity. Talk about the rules of being a good sport and to remember that she is doing the activity to have fun. Remind her that sore losers often lose friends, also. Tell her that, even when you lose at something, you win because you get to keep friends.

Be a Role Model
As a parent, remember you are the role model, so it is important to model good sportsmanship as well. Encourage and practice being a good sport by playing board or other types of games where you practice congratulating the winner or saying, “Good game.”

Show your child how to take deep breaths and engage in self-talk like “Calm down,” “I had fun,” or “It’s only a game” when she feels anger surfacing. If she physically acts out toward others, herself or property, you should set limits and boundaries around her acting-out and impose consequences for that behavior quickly.

Look for opportunities in the media to point out good and bad sportsmanship and discuss these incidents with your daughter. If things worsen as your daughter continues to struggle, it may be time to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional to help her regulate her feelings and develop other coping skills. ###

Dr. Frank Sileo, psychologist, is the Director of The Center for Psychological Enhancement in Ridgewood, New Jersey. His book, Sally Sore Loser; A Story About Winning and Losing, was a Gold Medal recipient from the prestigious Moms’ Choice Award. [website]

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.