A friend of mine once told me that the amount of energy we have is directly associated with the emotion that we are experiencing, and that the emotion associated with the lowest energy levels is guilt.
I find this incredibly ironic. It seems to me that many people see the process of discipline as involving these steps:
- Point out to the child what they have done wrong.
- Ensure they feel really, really bad about it. This will motivate them to do better.
- Provide a consequence that will cause the child enough discomfort that they will avoid making this mistake again.
Funny thing is, I think personally, most of us don’t find that feeling really, really bad is particularly motivating. I know I have a lot more energy when I am feeling capable, and have some hope that my efforts can make a difference. Yet, when wanting kids to tackle problems, we sap their energy to do so by instilling guilt.
That’s one of the reasons why Restitution works. Instead of shaming a child, we acknowledge that they behaved the way they did for a reason. We go shoulder to shoulder with the child to help them find a better way.
One of the things I’ve found particularly helpful when using Restitution is to “look for the energy”. Sometimes when I’m working through a problem with a child, I find that they become overcome with guilt; their heads drop, they slouch down, they disengage. If a child has no energy to solve the problem, the problem will remain unsolved. If I suggest a solution and the child mumbles “Sure, I’ll do that” I am pretty confident that it isn’t going to happen.
But I always know I’m on the right track when a child’s head rises, they look me in the eye, and they seem excited that we’ve hit on something that gives them hope. Finding the energy is key.
Next time you are solving a problem with a child, look for the energy. The problem won’t truly be solved until you find it!