I spend a lot of my time in a car, and one of the ways I pass the time is to listen to the Freakonomics Podcast. The tagline for the show is that they “explore the hidden side of everything”. It’s funny and entertaining, but what I love the most is that it often presents research that challenges commonly held beliefs.
One episode, entitled “I Don’t Know What You’ve Done to My Husband But He’s A Changed Man” tackled the topic of crime. They looked at programs that are addressing domestic violence in Britain, the rehabilitation of child soldiers from Liberia and the criminal activity of high risk youth from Chicago. What they found won’t be a surprise to those of us who already practice Restitution.
They found that the way you think about yourself has a immense impact on behaviour.
If you see yourself as a criminal, you will behave as a criminal. It’s not that people don’t know that what they are doing is wrong, it’s just that they see themselves negatively, and don’t believe that any other way of being is truly available to them.
And yet, we continue to label people negatively, thinking that doing so will motivate people to do better. Instead of sharing your own story with a child about your own challenges with overcoming temptation, we call them a thief. Instead of exploring the complicated social pressures of middle school, we point our finger and call the child a bully.
The podcast wraps up with the musings of a police officer who questions why, when the stated primary purpose of the police force is to prevent crime, was not ONE minute of his training about prevention? Our society has become so focused on catching and punishing offenders, that we have ignored the fact that these efforts actually aren’t that effective in making our world safer.
But if you can help a child who has done wrong to see that they are strong and capable and that there is a positive future ahead of them, maybe, just maybe, we can start to change the world.
Click here if you’d like to check out this podcast for yourself!