Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] ?s about democratic families

From: Lori Mortimer <>
Date: Wed Sep 1 00:19:00 2004

Hi Ann,

I highly recommend a book called, "You Can't Come to My Birthday Party," by
Betsy Evans [High/Scope Press]. My children's
pre-school teachers and administrators were trained by the author in her
problem-solving methodology, and it works so well that I bought the book
and we use the process at home ... most of the time. 8-)

The primary target audience is early education teachers and day care
providers, but the book is definitely appropriate for families and even
elementary school teachers. The basic problem solving process is presented
as a mediation process where the teacher/parent/adult assists the children
through the conflict/problem resolution. The really cool thing is that with
practice, the children learn to solve problems without the adult mediator.
I have witnessed this many times in my daughter's class -- the kids who
have been at the school for a year or more can work through some of their
conflicts themselves without help from the teacher. It's awesome to see
five-year-olds doing that.

Here's a quick overview of the mediation process:

1. Approach calmly, stopping any hurtful actions and neutralizing any
objects in conflict (toy, etc.).
2. Acknowledge the children's feelings, letting them express themselves and
their strong feelings, and allowing extra time if they are very upset.
Depending upon the situation, this step can take a while until the children
"let go" of their upset feelings. ("I can see that you're very
3. Gather information about the problem, giving each child plenty of time
to describe what happened and/or what s/he wants.
4. Restate the problem to help clarify the details. ("I see. The problem is
that you both want this toy.")
5. Ask for ideas for solutions and choose one together, but remain neutral
about the suggestions along the way, and check with each child
individually. You might not think the solution is equitable, but if all the
children involved think it is, that's okay. ("So the solution would be ...
Is that okay with you?")
6. Support the solution by letting the children know that they have solved
the problem themselves and then by observing (from a distance) to see if
the solution is working and is being accepted by all parties.

I hear my children using the problem solving language at home. My
four-year-old is constantly saying, "I have an idea" or "How about this..."
when a problem arises [and problems are often simple things like when he
asks for ice cream right before dinner, not just "real" conflicts with his
sister]. It's amazing. If my kids are fighting over a toy and I try to
intervene in a traditional way, for example by deciding who should get the
toy for how long, at least one of them remains unhappy. But if I remember
to allow them to problem solve, as soon as I say, "We have a problem" and
use that word "problem," they know what to do.

Definitely a good book -- well written and full of real examples that
illustrate the six-step process.



At 02:41 PM 8/29/2004, wrote:
>Hi Everyone,
>My name is Ann, I have four young children and we unschool in Indiana. I
>would be very interested in any resources that talk of how parents/adults
>can help children learn how to come to solutions to their problems on
>their own. i have been trying to implement Family Effectiveness Training
>skills (Thomas Gordon, active listening, I messages, no-lose soultions)
>into to our lifestyle the past few months and am having lots of
>frustration on everyone's part when it comes to the kids solving their own
>problems. I would greatly appreciate any recommendations by anyone. I also
>wanted to ask if there is anyone on this list who lives in central Indiana
>who has entertained the idea of starting a free school. THank you for your
>Ann McDavitt

Lori Mortimer -- Writing & Instructional Design
Received on Wed Sep 01 2004 - 00:18:32 EDT

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