I sometimes hear frustration from very dedicated teachers who have done a marvelous job of creating the conditions in their classrooms for their students to learn Restitution. They are full of stories of children who have learned to take responsibility for their own behaviour, and have become very good problem-solvers. But the frustration exists over “that one”.
We have all run into them – that stubborn child who says they don’t care if they hurt other people. The one who seems indifferent about whether or not the classroom they come to every day is a happy place or not. No matter what you seem to do, there just seems no way to get them to buy in.
So the question arises: “How can I make them engage in Restitution?”
One of the things that really sets Restitution apart from other programs is that instead of externally controlling children, it’s focus is on helping strengthen kids so that they make good choices for themselves. It’s all about setting the stage for kids to reflect, self-evaluate, and make their own decisions.
The reason why Restitution works is because internal motivation always trumps external motivation. We say things like “The only person we truly can control is ourselves”. Yet, when we come across that one child who refuses to participate, we tend to forget these basic principles and resort back to coercion: “How can I make them?”
The answer is that you can’t.
You can extend the offer to help them figure out a better way – and ensure you keep the door open for them to engage in the future when they don’t accept your invitation right away.
You can work to build a relationship so that you become part of their quality world. Once they have let you in, they may consider working with you.
In the meantime, you are responsible for creating a safe learning environment for everyone. Although ideally it would be lovely if we could always work together to solve problems that arise, there will always be those times where that’s not possible and you have to protect others by setting a bottom line. That might mean that “that kid” can’t be out at recess, or that your child is not going out this weekend.
This applies equally in our personal relationships. Although we may want to work out difficulties with the people who are important to us, if they don’t want to engage in problem-solving with you, it might mean that you are breaking up with your partner, or that you are not taking your family to Grandma’s for Sunday supper, or that you are going to quit your job.
The only choice that we have in these situations is how we are going to choose to act. Put your energy into what you can control, not into trying to change someone who does not want to be changed.