About Susan

My first career was in child development.  I have an extensive background in the field as teacher, administrator and parent educator.  My work allowed me to observe the functioning of groups and organizations of all sizes and degrees of formality (families, schools, community groups, staffs, businesses, public agencies and non-profits) and to note how relationships play out among people.  I've seen how good communication provides clarity and engages cooperation.  I've also seen how poor communication can demoralize people and derail plans.

Working in early childhood education taught me the value of conflict resolution.  Kids play; conflicts arise.  Skillful, caring adults can help children find their own solutions.  I wondered how this would look with adults.  I began mediation training, first with Kenneth Cloke, then the Dispute Resolution Program (L.A. City Attorney's Office.)  Later, I trained with Centinela Youth Services.  What I learned is that the exact same techniques that work with children in conflict work with adults as well.  I still smile when I remember how surprised I was to learn this.

Today, my dual careers as parent educator and mediator are curiously intertwined. I get so much satisfaction from the way the two practices enrich and inform each other.  Both processes invite us to clarify goals, develop a map, and then navigate towards those goals.  Both processes involve me as an informed, interested bystander; the idea isn't to get you on my track but to help you identify and stay on yours.  And both processes are about aligning wants and needs with behaviors in order to improve and strengthen relationships.

I am currently working on a book for parents about mediating sibling disputes – mediating, that is, rather than arbitrating.  (Parents often take the shortcut of listening to each child and handing down a decision. This is what is meant by “arbitrating.”  There is definitely a time and a place for arbitration!)  In my book I offer techniques parents can use to mediate – in order to achieve richer, more meaningful and longer-lasting results.  This work braids together the three dominant strands in my professional life – child development, parent education and mediation.