A previous (and much missed) Assistant Director once challenged a group of us who were arguing that Restorative Approaches didn’t work for every child, that sometimes you just had to give up and accept they weren’t ready. She said “are these children difficult children or difficult to reach children?” The language is subtly different but the visual she gave me was so strong it hit me like Carl Frampton on a Friday Night. With that simple challenge she changed my view of difficult children forever.
It was like getting a pair of new glasses. She changed my lens from seeing the child as difficult to seeing the journey to the child as difficult. The two are very different. One leaves the problem very squarely with the child. They are the problem, they are the reason things are not working. The other, leaves the problem very squarely with those working with the child. How tenacious are you? How willing are you to stick with it? Work harder, longer and more cleverly to reach that child?
Those children, the difficult to reach, are difficult to reach for very good reasons. They have had horrible pasts. They have learned to be out of reach, because being in reach has rarely had a positive outcome. Their core shame runs so deep and is so accessible just below the surface of just about every experience they encounter that they have learned to dodge any sort of connection with people, just in case it hurts, just in case it brings that core shame to the surface.
Our challenge in restorative practice with the difficult to reach children, is to stick with them, keep reaching, until one day, and you might not even realise it, you will catch them.