A question that always comes up at every Restorative Approach training is: “What if the child refuses to do the restorative task?” You cannot make a child do a poster, make cookies for someone, talk over a problem, do a peer’s chores. You have less control than in the past systems- you could make a child stay in a room, and many of the privileges we previously withheld were staff driven.
There are some structural supports that can be put in place to encourage the kids to do the tasks. Some programs institute Restorative Task time blocks, i.e. from 3-4. If you have an outstanding task, you are either doing it during this time, or staying inside not doing it. If you have no outstanding tasks, you are playing or doing something fun and extra. Also, if you have an outstanding task you may have to go to bed early to get more energy for the task. You cannot go on extra off-grounds trips because you are not re-connected with the community yet.
It is essential not to engage in power struggles around the tasks. The staff attitude should be: it’s fine if you are not ready. Some times it takes time to become ready to work through a problem. We have confidence that you will get there, and we will be here ready to work it through with you when you are. In the mean time, we need to keep a closer eye on you and keep you near us, because we have not rebuilt the trust between us.
And it is important to remember the reason for the task. The task is not punishment by another name. It is not designed to be difficult, to be a deterrent, to be arduous and unpleasant. The task is genuinely designed to be a vehicle of reconciliation and reconnection. People who have done something wrong or made a mistake want to put it right. We feel that way when we make a mistake. Sometimes, especially in children who have experienced repeated trauma and attachment disruption, this impulse is blocked by a feeling that it is impossible to fix mistakes, that I am so worthless, and now I have blown these relationships too. I just don’t care any more. Our job is to gently challenge that assumption, provide a step-by-step method for fixing mistakes, and to patiently and eagerly await the child’s readiness to engage in the process with us.
©2006 The Restorative Approach is a servicemark of the Klingberg Family Centers, Inc.
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