The four strategies are represented as different combinations of high or low control and high or low support, (see fig 1.) Practitioners often swap in the words “Expectations of Behaviour” or “Accountability” for control. Personally, I don’t have a difficulty with any of these and also like “boundaries” – but the general rule of thumb is that the vertical axis of the model is about the frame within which you are working, the allowed and not allowed, the purpose, the direction, the boundaries and expectations. The horizontal axis is about what you put into that frame (or don’t put into it) through physical, emotional and social resources.
fig 1: The Social Discipline Model: P McCold & T watchel
The restorative quadrant combines high expectations of behaviour with levels of resources or support and is characterized by doing things with people, rather than to them or for them. The restorative approach allows us to address the problematic behaviour, while also practicing empathy and maintaining a strong relationship.
Take, for example, a child who is repeatedly disruptive, speaking over you, giving back chat, making jokes and distracting or irritating others.
The Neglectful approach is to not do anything, to ignore it and hope that the child will just eventually stop. If you want to learn more about why you are on a hiding to nothing with this approach and you are just storing up trouble for later, then you definitely want to click into our Online Course below and learn about behaviour, communication and displacement.
The Punitive approach is punishment, doing something to the child who is misbehaving. You might give a detention, ground the child, remove privileges like pocket money or school trips. This strategy is all about telling the child “you’d better …(desired behaviour) and if you don’t…(threat).” It drives fear, resentment and disconnection. It also doesn’t work as the child will make decisions to engage in the desired behaviour or not based on their assessment of risk and reward rather than on engagement in curiosity and learning. It also completely fails to address the reasons for the disruptive behaviour in the first place and so this behaviour will keen popping up when you least want it to. Trust me on this.
The Permissive approach is when we do things for someone. We accept their excuses or make excuses for them. We might tell ourselves that it is “because of their disability,” or they are “having a hard time at home / school.” Let’s think about this. We are basically saying “we don’t believe you can do this.” How soul crushingly rubbish a message for a child to hear, no matter how well intentioned. I had a teacher who used to step in frustratedly and say to me “not like that, like this” and then do it for me. It never felt like my work product after – and it affected how much I believed I was capable. This also can impact other children who begin to believe that if behaviour is not expected of one, it should not be expected of another.
The Restorative approach is when we work with the child to resolve the issue. Talking to the child using the restorative language formula of
When you… (behaviour)
I feel … (impact)
Because I need … (needs arising)
Would you be willing to … (connection),
To help me out? (relationship)
To learn more about the difference between shaming language and restorative language – have a quick read at my blog post on “The Shitty First Draft – I’ve put the link for you below – because I’m nice like that.”
Of course, you still need to meet the needs underlying the child’s behaviour. So, at a quiet or appropriately private moment (you will know when it comes) speak to the child to understand what is happening. Keep the questions curious and open ended. Again using the “Can’t Do” lens rather than the “Won’t Do” lens will help you to stay in the curious zone and get a solid understanding of what is happening so you can work out ways to reduce the stressors, meet their needs and teach the skills they need to be a connected child in your family or school.
The restorative strategy for addressing behaviour requires humility on the part of the authority figure approaching the problem in front of them as a curiosity and seeking to understand. It views the people involved in the conflict as each having something interesting and valuable to contribute to the understanding of the problem. So rather than thinking that we know best and approaching the problem with an already formed answer (as is the case in both the punitive and the permissive strategies), the restorative strategy approaches the issue by asking questions, with a humble and compassionate desire to better understand. It is the only strategy that allows us to actually get to the core of the issue.
Here are a few things you can do within your own life to address conflict and issues more restoratively.
First Up: Ask Questions. Lots of them. Keep them open ended, lots of and what else? Tell me more. Help me understand. That’s interesting – can you say more about that?
Next: Follow the three pillars of the restorative framework and don’t skip out the middle pillar of it will come tumbling down. These are:
Spend some time working out which approach is your default response. Take a week and pay attention to what you say and do when someone is causing you difficulty. Do you punish, threaten, warn? Do you ignore, avoid, detach? Do you excuse, protect? Or do you have a conversation about your expectation and what they are struggling with to plan a strategy to support?
I'd love to hear what your natural position is, so if you tell me yours, I'll tell you mine. Let me know how it goes in the comments below.
LJ Sayers is a restorative practices trainer, mum, mediocre saxophonist and chief quality controller of all chocolate in her household.
A famous and experienced pianist took a break in the middle of a concert to chat to his audience. Whilst chatting, a child ran onto the stage and began to bash away at the piano, to the wide open mouths of the audience. The pianist, smiled, turned and sat down beside the child. Then he began to play alongside him. Using his competence and knowledge of the piano he began to compliment the notes the child hit, building on them and the beginning of a beautiful song emerged. The child smiled and played more intently, listening to the famous Pianists notes, watching his fingers, copying his riff’s. They played for a few more minutes before they stood up together and took a bow, connected by their shared music and attached to each other in this new relationship of collaboration.
Teaching is just like this – as is any role where you provide discipline (from the Latin verb “to learn”). But how you do, and who does this is up for grabs. I’m a pancake wizard. It is my calling on this earth to provide perfect and yummy pancakes. On our kitchen wall it is written “I love you… I made you pancakes.” I started to teach my son how to make them when he was about 5. Now he will remind me regularly, “butter in before the milk or it will go lumpy.” He’s nearly 10 and he is still mastering the “flip” but he’s getting there and nowadays we eat more pancakes than we do clean them up off the floor. Progress. Learning. But he also teaches me things. Like yesterday he taught me how to build my dream home in Minecraft. It has two, completely glass walls overlooking a lake below. I doubt very much if it is architecturally secure, but it looks amazing.
One of my step-sons (to be), given a reprieve from GCSE’s this year because of Corona-Virus, took on the challenge of supervising my 10 year old’s school work while I am out working. He is remarkably good at it and is now nick named “The Professor”. I watched his style – he was all “I don’t know J, let’s try it out together and see if it works.” Curiosity and Collaboration – two of the most important things in learning.
Whether it is the story of the pianist you remember, or the pancakes, or of 16 year old’s supervising 10 year old’s school work, remember that learning works best when you use curiosity and collaboration alongside the expectation to discipline – when you are “with them in it.”
Ted Watchel a well known proponent of Restorative Practice and models such as the Social Discipline Model said: "Human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.”
Recognising your natural position within the Social Discipline Model (see fig 1) and how it impacts on your style of teaching, is crucial to your ability to connect with students and develop their skill to take responsibility for their own (first dependent, then co-dependent and then independent) learning journey.
fig 1: The Social Discipline Window: P McCold & T Watchel
You can read more about the Social Discipline Model by clicking on the link below.
Or if you are interested in learning more about social discipline styles and the impact they have on a child’s capacity to learn as well as on the environment in which they learn, (be that the classroom or the kitchen table), then check out our online Introduction to Restorative Practices by clicking below. You can get 50% off by just entering RESTORE at the checkout and receive this course for only £24.
We also offer Group Discounts – just contact us below to find out more.