We do a lot of training about the Restorative Approach. This approach suggests that the staff response to each child’s actions be individualized. One child bites a staff, and she is required to do a chore with that staff before returning to fun, special treat activities. Another child hurts a staff. He makes a poster showing a thermometer which represents his anger, and he draws pictures of the feelings in his body when his anger is at each level from mild to out of control. Different responses for essentially the same behaviors. People often ask: what happens to consistency? Isn’t it essential that we respond the same way every time a child does a similar thing? Won’t the children feel that these individualized responses are unfair?
First of all, the administration of points-and-levels systems is not consistent among staff- ask any child and they will tell you which staff are more lenient about it. Secondly, doing the SAME thing is not doing the FAIR thing- as the children differ in intellectual and emotional capability. We should respond confidently to the children: everything is individualized here. We do what is right for each individual.
Still, the adult should be able to explain why she chose a given restoration for a given symptom- the choice should be based on the formulation of the child’s treatment, their treatment themes, their abilities and skills, and the severity and frequency of their actions. The team atmosphere should value challenging each other about being too strict or too lenient with a given child.
Our consistency is found in our individualization, our understanding of each child, and our compassionate approach to their symptoms. Our consistency is not sameness, it is thoughtfulness, and it is giving each child a chance to learn and to make amends, to feel less shame, to be stronger and better connected after a difficult situation.
©2006 The Restorative Approach is a servicemark of the Klingberg Family Centers, Inc.
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