Betsy Evans

Review of You Can’t Come to My Birthday Party!

by Cate Woolner, Mediator and Conflict Resolution Trainer

Founder of Franklin Mediation Service (now The Mediation and Training Collaborative of Greenfield, MA)
Author of “Rethinking Mediation: Living Peacefully in a Multi-Cultural World”

If you get nothing else from You Can’t Come to My Birthday Party! but hope from the author’s statement, “…I discovered not only that dealing with conflict could be a satisfying and enjoyable part of teaching, but also that children, when given support, were enormously capable problem solvers”, then you will have gotten your money’s worth. Most of us respond to conflict with avoidance or authoritarianism. Few of us are innate problem solvers. No wonder “conflict” has such a bad reputation.

Evans, through many photos and rich stories of children engaging is problem solving, demonstrates an approach that includes a six-step mediation process that works. It helps to resolve the difficulty, it helps children learn to respect and understand differences, it helps children learn how to handle conflicts in positive and successful ways, and it is satisfying for both the children and their adult supporters.

Evans postulates that many conflicts stem from children and adults’ efforts to express and react to strong feelings. The author offers varied, innovative, and creative strategies for recognizing and responding to children’s strong emotions during conflicts. Absent this recognition, it is unlikely the problem solving would occur. Although conflict is natural and inevitable, Evans also presents concrete suggestions for creating an environment that reduces the likelihood of disputes.

Through theory and practical applications, Evans has given tools to those of us who find ourselves in conflicts, observing conflicts, trying to prevent conflicts and trying to resolve conflicts.