Parents, teachers, meet on discipline
Workshop teaches problem-solving

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 29/99) - More than two dozen parents and teachers learned a new way to deal out the discipline last weekend.

Jeff Grumley, a psychologist and school counsellor from Chicago, Illinois, presented a one-day workshop on a form of discipline called restitution at Trapper's Lake Lodge Spiritual Centre on Saturday.

He was invited to Yellowknife by staff members of J.H. Sissons school, who practice restitution theory in the entire school.

Grumley said restitution is a way to learn self-discipline.

"It's more of a life-skill than a discipline technique," he said.

"We want children to learn, and adults to learn, the ability to meet our needs without disrupting others abilities to meet their needs."

In simpler terms, restitution workshops teach adults how to get children to mediate their own problems by trying to meet the needs of all the people involved.

"Our focus is on collaboration. We work with the child rather than doing to the child," Grumley explained.

Restitution theory was pioneered by Canadian Diane Gossen, and is based in the work of Dr. William Glasser. Grumley works with Gossen to spread the word on restitution.

Arlene Bell, a teacher at Sissons, said the school was looking for a way to deal with behaviour problems last spring, when a teacher heard of restitution and started using it in her family.

"I would hear her talking about it and wish I'd used it with my own daughter," she said. "So a lot of us read Diane (Gossen's) book and started using it."

The teachers invited Gossen, and then Grumley, to teach workshops at the school.

Bell said focus on mediating problems works.

"When the kids would argue, instead of saying, 'you're right and you're wrong,' I started getting the kids to fix their own problems," she said. "And it was working!"

"The atmosphere quickly became one of friendliness," Bell said.

She said the school wanted to share restitution with parents because it worked so well at school.

Elaine Stewart, a mother of three children who attended the $90 workshop, said she wanted to learn more about the method since she'd read Gossen's books.

She said her children were surprised when she started using the method six months ago.

"They were surprised they weren't being punished," she said. "There was a lot less yelling from me, and a lot more questions, in order to make them think about what they were doing."

She said the method has helped her understand her children's behaviour.

She said her son pulled a gag one day in the car, saying he lost his mitten. She was upset, until she realized he was trying to have fun.

"So instead of yelling, I asked him if we could meet his need for fun another way, and explained the joke was not fun for me," she said. "We sang on the way home."