“Elise (11) liked that she could possess the coin and trump three brothers who otherwise would outvote her from watching ‘Hannah Montana.'” — Teresa Wilson, mother
TDmonthly Magazine’s Roundtable families recently experimented with a new approach to conflict resolution, using the Pocket Referee from Vraney, Inc.While some reviewers had mixed feelings about the coin, most participants were thrilled with the results and noticed their children learned such skills as turn-taking, negotiation and diplomacy. Read on to see what was disputed about the Pocket Referee … and whether the kids were able to settle their arguments!
The Pocket Referee by VRANEY INC. Category: Educational MSRP: $15.95
What It Is: The Pocket Referee consists of a shiny gold coin, a protective pouch and a carrying clip. It is designed to help children settle conflicts on their own without parental assistance. When a conflict arises that can only have one outcome (which TV show to watch, for example), the holder of the coin can choose to get his way and pass the coin on to the other child for the next conflict, or he can choose to keep the coin and give the current choice over to the other child. What the Moms Thought: “My favorite quality about the toy was the concept and the results!” raved Richardson. She found the Pocket Referee to be very effective in her household. “Even when a child decides to keep the coin and forgo making the decision, they still have some ‘power’ because they still have the coin,” she explained. “It creates a win-win situation.”
Wilson liked the included carrying case and pouch. Flamenco appreciated that the kids could use it without her supervision to settle disputes. Tong thought that although the Pocket Referee could settle arguments in the short-term, the best way to settle disputes is through character development. She also found the price prohibitive.
“The history of its origins on the back of the packaging was interesting,” Estes commented.
What the Kids Thought: “Can I keep the coin?” Sebastian (11), Preston (8) and Parker (5) each asked their mom. “Everyone liked the design and feel of the coin,” according to Estes. Nearly all the children in the Roundtable liked the carabineer clip and carrying pouch.
“I liked that it was a fun way to settle disputes,” commented Jonathan (11). Flamenco reported, “The referee was immediately used at our home,” to decide which color carabiner each boy used.
“The kids love the concept, that they have a tool for settling their disagreements, and that it provides power in a situation when without it, someone usually loses power,” said Richardson of Jessica (7) and Alexander (9). Although they were initially skeptical, Jessica (7) and Alexander (9) now regularly utilize the Pocket Referee to handle conflict. In fact, Richardson noticed that the conversation between the two children goes to a “new level” as each decides if the issue at hand is worth relinquishing the coin — or not.
“Elise (11) liked that she could possess the coin and trump three brothers who otherwise would outvote her from watching ‘Hannah Montana,’” observed Wilson. Steven (9) told his mom, “It teaches you to think before you leap.”
“Sometimes they didn’t like the outcome but were good about accepting the consequences because they knew that they would get their turn next time,” Tong said of Lexi (7), Ethan (9) and Alyssa (11).
Andrew (14) liked the power of possession of the coin. “He was disappointed to discover that the concept of the Pocket Referee only works when two participants want the same thing at the same time or a dispute arises as to whose turn it is to engage in a desirable activity,” Wilson noted.
What the Kids Learned from this Toy: Alexander (9) and Jessica (7) practiced negotiation skills and learned about trade-offs, and worked on considering options and talking through a dispute, Richardson observed. “They learned that they can still win even when they are relinquishing control,” she explained. She added that it taught them the art of diplomacy.
“I think this is an excellent way for them to practice taking turns and become aware that the world does not revolve around them but that there are other people they should be aware of,” stated Flamenco.
Tong, however, called the Pocket Referee self-serving. “That is, either I get my way now, or save it until I really want my way,” she explained. “In either case, the child is subtly being taught to do things for his own best interests.”
Wilson stated, “This toy teaches conflict resolution, self-government and delayed gratification.” Estes said her children learned “discernment about what is really important to them.”
How to Improve It: Flamenco suggested that a booklet target to children be included with the Pocket Referee to illustrate how it can be used to help solve a situation. Wilson recommended that the two websites referring to using the Pocket Referee with multiple siblings be included in the instructions, and thought including texts on this topic would help make the information more immediately accessible.
Estes, who found several grammatical errors in the directions, would like to see the slogan, “Pass the choice, keep the coin; get the choice, pass the coin,” printed on the coin itself as well as the exterior packaging. Would You Want Another Toy Like This? Wilson thought the Pocket Referee would be ideal if “introduced at an early age to two siblings who are close in age and competitive by nature.” Estes called the Pocket Referee “an effective tool for babysitters.”
Roundtable participants are World Bank policy advisor Gail Richardson with Alexander (9) and Jessica (7); substitute teacher Veronica Flamenco with Matthew (13), Jonathan (11), Emilio (9) and Brandon (7); stay-at-home parent Mildred Tong with Alyssa (11), Ethan (9) and Lexi (7); homeschool parent Teresa Wilson with Andrew (14), Elise (11) and Steven (9); and homeschool parent Audra Estes with Justin (13), Sebastian (11), Preston (8) and Parker (5).