Punitive versus restorative

Published Categorized as behaviour management

When a child does something wrong, most of us have been taught that the child needs to be punished. Punishments are not a terrible way of addressing a wrong doing but it’s important to know that their main value is that they act as a deterrent as the understanding that one will be dished out will sometimes prevent the wrongdoing in the first place. It’s also important to know that when you punish a child, they mostly resent the punishment and you for having given it. Not a lot will have been learnt.

Restorative measures work in a different way. When a child does something wrong rather than the punitive:

  • What happened?
  • Who is to blame?
  • What is the appropriate punishment?

you take the more restorative approach of:

  • What happened?
  • Who has been affected and how?
  • How can we put right the harm?
  • What have we all learnt so as to make different choices next time?

Restorative approaches are about working WITH your child rather than issuing a punishment TO your child. Your aim to to help them understand the impact of what they did and help then want to repair any harm they caused. This approach means your child will start to learn the impact of their actions. There is no doubt that restorative measures are more time consuming but the pay-off at the end is a child who takes responsibility for their actions.

This approach also means that punishments are replaced by consequences. These consequences relate the the harm done and are about how to repair this harm.

For example:

  • A child who deliberately broke another’s toy will have to do ‘jobs’ to earn pay to replace the toy.
  • A child who has insulted another needs to work out how to make it up to the child s/he insulted – apologise and demonstrate they understand the upset they have caused, do something kind for them.
  • A child who lied about having tidied their room, not only tidies their room but has a discussion about why telling lies does not work and shows disrespect to the person you tell them to etc.
  • When two children have a fight, they take turns to describe what happened and their perspective on why, they are helped to understand why fighting was not a good solution, they see why apologising for the hurt they caused each other is a good thing to do and work out how they could have sorted out the situation in a better way. This needs to happen some time after the fight, when the children are calm and it is important that they stay reasonably calm during the discussion.