Mindsets Foster Responsibility

Mindsets are attitudes, dispositions, intentions, and inclinations. If Johnny’s mindset is one of little or no interest in learning (and this includes learning appropriate behavior), Johnny will not learn much. Therefore, a major task of adults working with young people is to promote mindsets that promote learning and appropriate behavior.

James Sutton is a psychologist in Pleasanton, Texas, who trains child service professionals. Jim emphasizes how perceptions are as important as reality. If a child is afraid, behaviors will reflect that fear, regardless of whether there is anything to be afraid of or not. Jim’s experiences have led him to conclude that there are youngsters who are damaged more by their perceptions of their lives than by the realities of their lives.

Roger was a perfect example. He had undergone the successful removal of a brain tumor (benign, fortunately). Following the surgery, Roger began to fall apart in academics and in social relationships. Dr.Sutton was consulted. As best as he could determine from hospital and surgical records, there was no medical reason why this boy should have trouble after the surgery. In fact, it was expected that he would improve. While working with the young boy, Dr. Sutton asked a question that was not on his usual interview list.

“Roger, do you think that when the surgeon removed the tumor he also took out part of your brain?”

“No, sir,” the boy replied softly. “I thought he took all of it.”

Good grief! No wonder this boy was having trouble. He thought he had to function with no brain at all. Jim explained the surgery to Roger and assured him that he still had all of his brain and the ability to use it.

“Really?” he asked with an obvious sense of relief in his voice. His young face broke into the first smile Jim had seen from him.


Over the next few days and weeks Roger improved, and he kept on improving in both his academic and social relationships.

All people visualize, and these visualizations play a large role in determining mindsets. Because mindsets are partly at an unconscious level, they often need assistance to be changed. Teachers and parents can assist by the pictures they help young people create in their minds. This motivational approach is the foundation of the program to raise responsibility and is described in the book Discipline Without Stress, Punishments, or Rewards.