Thursday, November 18, 2010

Restoration ... Not the Hardware Kind

Restorative Discipline:
...a community engagement process for developing self-discipline, so that a learner evidences the will, skill and action to devote mental, emotional, and spiritual energies towards just and compassionate living. Restorative Discipline seeks to create, nurture and amend relationships. ...a differentiated discipline approach that fills the relational gap in current discipline systems. (Mullet, 2007)

The model goes something like this (this is an abbreviated version):

You ask the child who was wronged:
  • What happened?
  • How are you feeling now?
  • What do you need now?
  • How can I help?

You ask the wrongdoer:
  • Tell me what happened.
  • What were you thinking at the time?
  • What do you need to do about it?
  • How can we make sure this doesn't happen again?

We have used this method through the years. The author, quoted above, is a former professor, and a favorite. Most, of what little useful information I retained from college, came from her classes, like the Restoration Model. (Hi Mom & Dad. I did learn a lot in college. However, I was a history major, note the comment above about "useful information". Not saying there isn't useful information to be learned as a history... oh forget it.)

Moving on.

Having studied it in the past, we have used it with our kids, but in parts. The model in our household normally looked like this:

Ask all children involved:
  • Explain your side of the story.
  • How should you have behaved?
  • Tell them to apologize to each other (usually they are both at fault.)
  • Send them to their rooms.

Where, 15 minutes later, I will find both of them in one room, playing a game together.

This model, when used in it's entirety, places the restoration (saying sorry) and the punishment in the hands of the children. They learn how to problem solve, they also learn empathy for each other. The end result being, they learn to control themselves enough to stop themselves before offending another child.

The other week we had the privilege of sitting at the feet of my wise professor, and soak in some of her wise discipline tactics. (And at that she would scoff. Really, she isn't the "sit at my feet for I am all knowing" type. That is why we want to sit at her feet and soak it all in.)

This time, we sat in front of her as parents, but still the student (many of us, in the group, could claim her as a former and favorite professor.) We reviewed this model, this time seeing it from a parent's point of view, not as a student's or teacher's. Some of us feeling like we were on our last straw, and grappling for anything to help restore sanity.

Grappling? I wondered if that would be the correct word to use for how some of us feel, at times ... or all the time, on this journey called parenthood. Here is the definition, provided by Wikipedia:
Grappling refers to techniques, manoeuvres, and counters applied to an opponent in order to gain a physical advantage, such as improving their relative position or to escaping, submitting or injuring them, through the application of various Grappling techniques, and the counters to these. Grappling is a general term that covers techniques used in many disciplines, styles and martial arts that are practiced both as combat sports and for self defense. Grappling does not include striking or most commonly the use of weapons, however some grappling discipline teach tactics that include strikes and weapons either along side grappling or as part of it.
With an image of wrestling, combat sports, and self defense, yes, I think "grappling" does accurately describe, at times, parenting. Just put the weapons down, so no one gets hurt. It's all fun and games till someone looses an eye.

Since that Wednesday Hubby and I have worked to implement the ENTIRE model into our regular discipline.

Warning: This model can take A LOT of time. If this is something you want to try, try it, but be prepared to spend the time making it work. We have also found, sometimes you need to shelve the conversation and renew, later, it in the form of a family meeting.

Before 8:00 am, while trying to get out the door for school, may not be the best time for everyone to work on this. Even more so if you caffeine hasn't yet kicked in.

It may also take the kids awhile to get the hang of the process; as our session leader said, it is OK to prompt them, and ask for more ideas if their first ones are not workable. (Note above, when I mentioned that they are to problem solve how to fix the situation. This includes their own punishment. You still have the final say in how they work it out.)

Here is an excerpt from one of those conversations. EM had just hit her brother, so I was talking to ED, telling him I was sorry, what had happened, and then what did he need to make it better?

His answer: Chocolate ice cream.

Me: No, honey, I was thinking of what Emily could do, for you, to help you feel better.

ED: Give me chocolate ice cream.

We are still working on it. Oh, and remember that comment I made about sitting at our professor's feet. I'm thinking of sitting my children in front of her office door, and offering them as case studies.

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