Tag Archives: James D. Sutton

Two Thoughts on Forgetting (Dr. James D. Sutton)

For young ones and older ones alike, “forgetting” can be a convenient way of dodging responsibility. But there’s one problem: We rarely forget things that are really important to us. Dr. James Sutton offers a handy tool for dealing with forgetting that just might be intentional.


Two Thoughts on Forgetting, James D. SuttonEveryone, children and adults alike, sometimes forget. Ongoing difficulty with remembering specific things, however, can be associated with anxiety or worry, or it can be a veiled form of defiant behavior, an undercover way of saying, “I didn’t WANT to!” Let’s take a look at both types of forgetting.

Thought #1: Forgetting That Causes Worry and Anxiety

What about the person who leaves for work or an extended trip only to worry later if they closed the garage door, unplugged the curling iron, or left the front door unlocked? And what about the youngster who realizes she left her overdue library book at home… again?

I recently went to some training on the treatment of anxiety disorders. While there, I picked up a little intervention that makes a lot of sense. It’s based on the fact that added cognitive impression at the moment of “storage” improves memory exponentially. Point: If you want to remember, make a “bigger” memory.

It’s simple, really. As you close the garage door say loudly, “I am now CLOSING the garage door!” Your neighbors might think you strange, but, even hours later, you will KNOW you closed that door. (And the same goes for unplugging the curling iron, feeding the cat, locking the front door or putting the library book in the school backpack with a flourished announcement.)

Thought #2: Passive-Aggressive Forgetting

Forgetting is a convenient way to say, without the risk of saying it, “I didn’t FEEL like doing that; so there!” Passive-aggressive adults can turn a workplace upside down with this behavior, while oppositional and defiant youngsters can brew up a ton of frustration in teachers and parents with forgetting. Then they wiggle off the hook with a less-than-sincere, “I’m sorry.”

60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child, Dr. James SuttonBut, of course, nothing ever changes.

The solution to addressing intentional forgetting is to attack the intention. So, the next time you give the child or student an instruction or direction to be completed later, ask them this question (and try to do it with a straight face):

Do you think that is something you’ll forget?

(Regardless of the look on their face, it’s my guess the question will catch them off-guard. If they stammer a bit, it’s probably because they KNOW they’ve stepped into a bit of quicksand.)

For them to say, “Yes,” would be to expose more of their intent that they generally care to show. (But if that’s what they say, my next step would be to ask them to come up with a strategy for remembering, and then hold out until I get it from them.)

In most cases, the youngster will say, “No,” just to end the conversation. Then, if they DO forget, you’ve created a perfect opportunity to remind them what they told you earlier. The youngster essentially verifies the need for the question with his or her behavior.

Since these kids don’t really like to give adults the upper hand at their expense, you just might have a different outcome when you ask the same question (“Do you think that’s something you’ll forget?) next time. ###


A semi-retired child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. For more tried-and-true strategies for reaching and working with difficult children and teens, consider downloading his book, 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child. CLICK HERE for more information.


Quick Tip #1: How to Praise a Compliment-challenged Youngster (James D. Sutton)

BTQuickTipQuick Tips are short, to-the-point audio tips, interventions and strategies intended to help the listener effectively manage an issue or situation with a child or adolescent.


Jim415smIt might sound a bit strange even to suggest that some children and teens are uncomfortable with compliments, but it’s true. Pay the compliment-challenged youngster a compliment and he or she is apt to discount it or refuse it altogether. A heartfelt compliment or statement of praise can turn into an ugly scene if we’re not careful.

In this Quick Tip, psychologist Dr. James Sutton shares an intervention technique he has used successfully many times. He calls it Strategically Placed Compliments, or SPCs. This strategy helps a compliment to “stick” by eliminating the opportunity for it to be refused. (3:43)

ebook cover ISEsmPsychologist Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. This tip is from his latest book, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised), available for immediate download. For more information, CLICK HERE.


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


A Lesson in Character (Dr. James Sutton)

BTCounselorThe best classroom for learning character is life itself. Unfortunately, we are often too busy to pay all that much attention to it. In those moments we, along with our kids and grandkids, can miss a life-changing, golden moment.

Jim415smThose opportunities have a short shelf-life.

I can still clearly remember a day when a lesson in outstanding character happened right in from of me. Since I couldn’t get away, I had to attend to it.

Frozen in Fear
I was in a line of cars waiting to merge into traffic from a shopping center parking lot. A woman at the head of the line obviously was fearful and uncertain about getting into the traffic.

She sat frozen in her automobile. Everyone was letting her know about
it, too: Honk! Honk! Honk!


I probably was just an instant away from joining that chorus when the driver directly behind her jumped out of his vehicle and stepped into the street. He halted the oncoming motorists, and then motioned for her to get into the traffic safely. Problem solved.

Honestly, getting out of my car and helping her never occurred to me in that moment. I don’t know if his kind, effective gesture was noticed by anyone else, but that scene has been alive in my memory ever since.

A Part of the Solution
That moment could not have taken more than 40 seconds, but it represented a life-long lesson. If I ever encounter a situation like it in the future, I now know how to be a part of the solution instead of one of the herd piling up on the problem.

Unfortunately, I was alone in my car that day. If my son or daughter (or any one of my subsequent grandchildren) had been with me, observing that young man and what he did to solve the problem, it would have been a teachable moment like none other. Oh, I told them about it later, but it wasn’t the same as being there. But I do hope I was able to encourage them to be more mindful of moments just like that one.

But that’s the same message for all of us, isn’t it? For the sake of ourselves and our families, it pays to be more even more mindful of what’s happening in our lives and the role it asks of us. There will always be a place for those choosing to handle frustration with presence, grace and solution-driven insight.

These folks become professors in the Character Classes of Life. ###

ebook cover ISEsmPsychologist Dr. James Sutton, is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. This story is from his latest book, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem, revised (available for immediate ebook download). For more information, CLICK HERE.


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.