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.