Restitution for Babies?


I have had the amazing good fortune this summer to have a front row seat to the beginning of a new life.  (This is even sweeter, in many ways, because the mother of this baby is a dear friend of mine, and therefore I get all the joy and excitement without the sleepless nights and nursing woes!)

Often, people ask me how old a child needs to be before you can start implementing Restitution, and watching Connor has again reinforced for me that Restitution isn’t something you “do” – it’s a way of “being”.   It’s not something you decide one day to “start” with kids – it’s a way you understand them and what they need.

It’s pretty universally understood that babies depend on us for survival.  They need us to feed, diaper, dress, burp, rinse and repeat.  But even at this young age, it’s evident that the other needs exist too.

It didn’t take long for Connor to find connection with others.  When his dad walks in the room, he turns when he hears his voice.  He can be losing his mind in my arms, but settles immediately when I pass him to the familiar embrace of his mother.  He certainly knows with whom he belongs.

You can already see him trying to control his movements.  He throws his head towards what interests him.  He found his thumb within hours of birth.  It’s not going to be long before he starts to gain more mastery over his flailing arms so that he can grasp a toy, or grab his soother.   Every time I see him, he has developed so much more – if only I could learn at the speed with which he does!  It’s amazing to see the power that he is gaining over his world.  I can already imagine his triumphant giggle when he figures out that he can get we adults to repeatedly pick up the toy he’s tossed off the side of his high chair!

Even at this young age, he definitely has his own will.  The first time this really struck me was while our families were camping together on a really cold day.  Connor had been wrapped up and held tight for a long time, in an effort to keep him comfortable.  He was a bit fussy, in spite of being changed, fed, and warm.  On a whim, I took him into our trailer, took off the layers of blankets, and laid him out on our bed.  I swear, I could almost hear him saying “Oh, thank goodness I’m free and can move!”

When you make silly faces and noises at Connor, it elicits the most awesome giggles and smiles.  It may be simple fun  – but it’s fun all the same!

Connor has the same exact needs as do I – belonging, power, freedom, fun, and survival.  Our job as the caretakers of children is to help them learn to meet their needs in effective ways.  At age 16, this may look like a discussion of how to meet your need for belonging with your peers while at the same time ensuring your safety and survival in a world of drugs and drunk drivers.  As an infant, it may look more like teaching a baby that he is unconditionally loved, and how to reach and grasp and impact the world.  But the essence is the same.  Yes – Restitution is for babies too!


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