Tuesday, April 04, 2006


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.

1 comment:

Alaina DeCesare said...

I also don't understand the consistency "argument" I am fairly new to the field but have found that absolutely no two kids I have worked with are consistent in their issues and presentation. It is amazing how symptoms manifest in children and how they chose to work out there anger, sadness and fear in such different ways. They are all so unique. I am having one of those days where I am being challenged by a young man whose presentation is different than I have seen in him and in other children. It is amazing how I think about him functioning in the old system--we would of never seen him(he would be banished to his room forever) and would be in a never endeing pit of "punishments". With the restorative approach we can be flexible and despite his difficulties, we can emphasize the relationships in his life to help him. He would much rather be banished, it would reinforce his negative self image, but instead we are able to have compassion for the suffering he is experiencing due to his trauma, and help support him through that. Not by taking things away from him, but by intensively working with him. Overall, I am struck by how no two days are ever the same and no two children are alike. Why would our responses to them all be the same. It just doesnt work!