I found a quote the other day that said that it’s what happens IN a child that results in learning, not what happens TO them. It would be so simple if we could just develop a chart that says “When a child does ______, give them ______ consequence and that will teach them what they need to know”. But that’s now how it works! This is what makes Restitution so different from other approaches to discipline: the focus isn’t on what consequence or reward is going to teach the child, because we know that it’s the internal process that really counts.
That’s not to say that kids should never experience consequences. When behaviours cross a bottom line, it’s important that we stand firm and clearly show that we will not allow for that behaviour to occur. Consequences give this message. But consequences alone do not result in learning for a child. For real change to occur, a person must look inside themselves, decide what they believe in, and what kind of person they want to be. Sometimes kids do this on their own when they experience a consequence. But some kids need our assistance to look inside, or they simply continue to choose the same behaviours over and over again, in spite of repeated consequences.
It’s easy to get caught up in discussing only the behaviour when things go wrong. You shouldn’t have hit… It’s wrong to bully…. Your room is STILL a disaster! But real motivation comes from inside. That’s what the third side of the triangle is all about (see “The Restitution Triangle” in the sidebar if you aren’t familiar with using the Triangle). Connecting kids to their beliefs and values is what helps create responsible, self-disciplined people. Instead of lecturing, try asking questions: “What do you believe about violence? What kind of home/school do you want to be in? What kind of relationships do you want to have with the people in your life? Do you think there is another way you could handle this situation that would be more aligned with your values?” These questions may lead to a much more productive conversation!