Frequently Asked Questions
15. When I tried to do class beliefs we were done in ten minutes. I don’t know if they had done it before, but I felt they were just telling me what I wanted to hear.
21. If a child has received only derogatory feedback from adults and we ask him to self-evaluate won’t he say he’s bad?
Restitution is a process by which youth learn self-discipline. It is based on the principle that people are internally motivated. We behave to get the pictures we have created in our head of how we want to be in the world. We may think we behave to get items we value or even to gain compliance from others. However, these goals are always related to how we see ourselves in relation to these people and things. We adults haven’t the habit of talking to youth about the persons they see themselves being because we have habitually focused on changing their behavior, on making them conform, rather than on them self evaluating. Restitution focuses first on the person. We then ask the persons to self-assess their behavior and how it affects others.
a) Teachers do their beliefs.
Self restitution is a process for restoring the child. One can’t restore a person back to a condition they have never had, nor can one make a restitution to the group unless there has been a previously established constitution amongst the members of the group. Restoring the child is something we as adults cannot do for the child. All we can do is create conditions for children to self evaluate and to restore themselves.
Self restitution occurs when the child has been asked to think about
personal beliefs and intentionally decided to try to be a certain kind
of person. When the child falls away from this goal we tell them,
“You don’t have to be perfect. Think about the kind of person you
want to be when you make a mistake. How do you want to handle it
so it reflects your beliefs and gets you stronger?”
No. The school builds on the family beliefs by asking children about rules they have at home and then examining with them why these rules are important. In answering “why” children are thinking about their beliefs. For example, rules might be, “Don’t light fires, climb on the roof, or play with dry cleaning bags.” When we ask children “why do you have those rules” they will say, “So no one gets hurt”. We then reframe their words to the positive saying, “So we’ll be safe”. The belief would be, “In our family we help each other be safe”.
The principal needs to lead the school in creating social contracts. The principal can also model saying, “It’s okay to make a mistake; it’s how we learn”. As teachers use more counseling with students, the principal’s role may change. This is because if a teacher has taught restitution and offered students an opportunity to fix their mistakes and they still say, “This is dumb!” or “You can’t make me!”, the kids are usually pushing to see how much they can get away with. In this case, the job of the principal will be to review the bottom line, “In our school there are certain things which are totally unacceptable”.
The bottom line refers to a short list of behaviors that are considered totally unacceptable by teachers and parents. These are usually behaviors that prevent learning or violate safety norms. A common list would be physical hurt, drugs, weapons, and direct defiance of an adult. Such behaviors should result in removal of the student from the environment e.g. lunchroom, classroom, playground. The students are removed before they are counseled. The duration of the removal is dependent on the severity of the offense. The removal is termed a consequence. It is not a restitution. A restitution may take place later, but bottom line behaviors are serious enough to present the need for immediate removal from the group. If a child refuses to leave a class each school needs to have a back up plan.
Establishing the bottom line will be a staff, community and, sometimes, a student responsibility. Once this is done, if the bottom line is not followed, it is the job of administration to question staff and to firm up the bottom line. It is also the responsibility of the principal to clearly communicate the bottom line to the student body and to support teachers who find themselves in need of invoking it.
To change a system people need to create a group vision and make agreements among themselves as to how they will solve problems. Decisions in the school are made by consensus rather than voting. System change is based on social contracts.
I would not choose to debate which is more important, the child or the system. Control theory has taught us you can only control yourself, and I believe we need to teach people how to do this, and still meet their needs. Systemic change is always personal change first. As individuals learn control theory and understand that they have different pictures and perceptions from others, they can decide to build joint pictures together to work toward changing their school.
The social contract is a list of group beliefs based on individual beliefs. It says how the group members agree to behave toward themselves and toward each other. There are three levels of social contracts. In school, the teachers make up a social contract with each other. The individual classrooms make up one with their students and the whole school has one they agree on.
It is a few beliefs that people can remember. An example is, “We share, we dare, we care” or “At Sheridan Hills we respect ourselves, each other, and our environment. Together we are the best we can be.”
It doesn’t seem to be possible to do this with children under five. We know five year olds can do it. Four year olds are too concrete. When we ask them something like, “Would you like it if that happened to you?” they’ll say, “But I wanted the chair.” Most five year olds can do it because we do class beliefs in kindergarten. Some of the children may just be conforming. Grade two teacher, Mark Roudane says he has noticed more sophistication in the beliefs discussion and less tendency to conform in the students who are doing beliefs a second or third year in a row.
I tried to help my grandson with this by moving from rules to beliefs. He was sent out of the pool for dunking his younger brother. He had to sit on the side for ten minutes as a consequence. I asked him what were the pool rules and he listed several. I said, “Mitch, why do you have those rules?” He said, “So no one gets hurt.” I paraphrased to insert a positive belief into the conversation, “So people will be safe.” I asked him, “Do you believe that’s important?” He nodded yes. I said, “Then when I’m watching you at the pool and I see any problem, I’m going to ask you what do we believe in our family about pool safety and you can answer yourself for yourself.”
In this case you may have to play the devil’s advocate. Tease them a bit. Ask, “Why should you respect others if they don’t respect you?” or “Why should she have five pens and we have none? Why can’t we just take them? We could give them back.” Have some fun. Think of a specific school incidents to get a discussion going. Unless it’s lively it won’t be of value.
The parents are our partners in the creation of beliefs. Norman Wall, a principal in Juab School District in Utah, advised using a parent meeting to have parents in small groups share their family beliefs. After the meeting parents asked him to collect and distribute the beliefs from each group because they wanted to go home and talk to their children about family beliefs. Whenever I work in a school district, I donate an evening for parents to share the ideas of restitution. I also encourage schools to invite parent representatives to staff training on discipline. If we don’t bring the parents along with us, they may mistakenly perceive a move to restitution as weakness. This is because they expect children to come out of a discipline session downcast and chagrined. We need to teach them that the goal of self discipline is to have the child self evaluate their behavior in the absence of fear. The second goal of restitution is to create conditions for youth to think about the kind of person they would like to be when they make a mistake. This then leads to the outcome of the youth, wanting to do something to make their mistake right.
Yes. The more people in the school who know restitution, the better it will work. The first thing I would teach is the five positions of control—the punisher, guilter, buddy, monitor, and manager. Then I’d ask the students, “How would you like people to treat you?” This usually gets a good discussion going. Then I would ask them in small groups to role play a situation between friends, playing all five positions. Then I’d teach them how to use the restitution triangle on themselves.
The restitution triangle is a cardboard triangle on the wall which has pockets on each of the three sides. In each pocket is a list of statements and questions which a student can use to self evaluate and to self restitute. “Running” the triangle is like being your own counselor. For example a card on side one might say, “It’s okay to make a mistake” or “You don’t have to be perfect.” A card on side two might ask, “Could you have done worse? or “What was your need?” A card on side three might ask, “Were you being a strong, caring person?” Or “What is our class belief about this situation?”
PART II - CHANGING OUR PHILOSOPHY
We try to create conditions for dialogue that is unthreatening, not guilting. We do this because we understand when people are afraid their brains downshift and they can’t think. Restitution needs youth to be thinking rather than reacting. We want them to think about who they are, what they believe, and how their behavior is affecting others as well as themselves. We want them to think about their needs and ours and about how both can get what is needed.
It depends on your philosophy. The reason we currently struggle with the issue of discipline is that it requires us to reexamine fundamental beliefs. The debate on external/internal locus of control is the stimulus-response/control theory debate. What do we believe at a fundamental level? Do we believe others control us or do we believe we control ourselves? Can another make us believe something that we know inside is not true? Some people believe children are inherently evil. Others believe we are born good. Restitution takes the position that people are born with the innate propensity for goodness. We adults are responsible for nurturing this for it must compete with other survival drives. Children who don’t feel safe can’t have empathy for others.
You have posed a question I don’t have an answer for. If a child feels like a failure because he has been told he this, he will likely answer, “I’m stupid” or “I’m bad” when asked to self-evaluate. My unanswered question has been, “Do we need to seed in positives to neutralize the negatives?”. I can remember strongly saying to very defeated students, “You’re not nothing, you have value. You can learn things!” I was trying to counteract all the negatives that had internalized. What do you think?
I am philosophically opposed to this position. The ideal would be to create a safe environment in which a child can experiment and learn about himself for himself. Seeing himself succeed at a task will be much more powerful than my telling him, “You can do it”. I will never forget my 15 year old student, Jackie. He had just completed his grade eight certificate. He said, “Get me the grade two reader.” I told him, “You can read beyond that”. He said, “Get me the grade two reader”. With no small difficulty, I obtained what he wanted. He sat down and read it from cover to cover, then smiled at me and said, “Now I know I can read!”. He had to show himself.
Logical consequences are imposed and external. Restitution is chosen and internal. Restitution can use natural consequences to assist a child to self evaluate because one can’t self evaluate in a vacuum. One must self evaluate in awareness of the effects of one’s behavior on others. However, the focus of restitution is not on what will happen to me if I don’t do it, but rather on who will I be if I do it.
There is no set time. It takes probably one and half years to make the shift. Students will be self managing most of the time in year three of restitution.
No. There they use restitution the same as a consequence or pay back. They say “do the restitution or do the time”. People are required to make a pay back to avoid pain. There is no context to reflect on restoring the self.
Even if this happened did you know your parent loved you? Did you learn some things from them that have helped you in life? If your answer is yes, then you as a child had a success identity. Punishment works on people who feel successful, you were successful. Punishment doesn’t work on people who already feel like failures or who are very rebellious. They have nothing to lose. They will get worse, either more aggressive or withdrawn.
Beliefs answer why. Rules answer what. When children ask, “Why do we have that rule?”, they are asking for the belief behind the rule. Too often we dissuade them by saying, “The rule is the rule” or “Because we said”. Thus we miss an opportunity to answer the question for ourselves, to self evaluate to see if our rules are aligned with our beliefs. If we can’t answer the question “why”, when a child asks about a rule we may want to get rid of it. It may be outmoded.
It’s intent is the same, healing not shaming. When the victim tells how she has been hurt, the one who has done the hurt should have deep regret. Then elders help him to do something to help the one he has hurt. The belief is “If I dishonor you I dishonor myself”. Thinking about this creates the desire to make an amend.
Restitution is both simple and complex. It is proactive. It is a creative art. While it is relatively easy to learn to use restitution, the challenge is to leave behind the entrenched learnings of a reactive stimulus-response orientation. It is impossible to be at once proactive and reactive, to be at the same time in restitution and in punishing. If, however, one moves between punishment and restitution, it won’t work because punishment destroys the trust necessary for a person to self evaluate and to create. What is more common when learning restitution is to move between being reactive and proactive. While one can create in a reactive position, the product of such reorganization out of pain is amoral and may even be hurtful to self or others. Creating from a proactive orientation means visualizing a positive outcome, a win/win solution for all parties even if it seems impossible on conception. Building in win/win as one of the required elements of the creation precludes an outcome that is consciously hurtful. It is next to impossible to explain restitution to a person with a stimulus-response orientation. Within their belief system they ask questions such as, “What’s going to stop them from misbehaving” or “What’s the pay off?” or nothing happens to them if they just get to fix it. They don’t understand why youth would behave if no one’s watching them, if there is no reward or no consequence.
Read Restitution: Restructuring School Discipline, Restitution Facilitator’s Guide, Being the Person You Want to Be and Alfie Kohn’s Beyond Discipline and Punished By Rewards. Jean Suffield’s mini-book, The Philosophers’ Circle is a specific discussion guide for the latter. The course of restitution training is Restitution I (2 days), Restitution II (2 days), Restitution III (1 day), plus two specialized days out of Restitution in Elementary Schools; Restitution in High Schools; Restitution in Middle School; Restitution in Special Education; Restitution with Violent Youth.
One pitfall is trying to do restitution without having a genuine discussion of beliefs. A second pitfall is letting students choose restitutions that are really consequences which discomfort rather than strengthen, e.g. “I could miss lunch”. The third pitfall is the teacher trying too hard or persuading students to do restitution. Then we take more responsibility than they do.
We initially didn’t think about this, but one study in Rockford, IL found that the teams in grade seven using restitution had a 20% higher scores on academic tests. On reflecting back, it makes sense that if teachers aren’t spending class time in disciplining students, more time is spent on learning.
Out of 300 teachers polled, 100% say that they believe restitution helps develop internal self discipline; 94% say they believe restitution leads students, staff, and parents to a success identity. 91% report systematically using the concepts and practices of restitution. In Evergreen school district in Washington State, a survey of 695 teachers who had had restitution training reported that 536 were trying restitution with their classes.
We aren’t finding this. In fact, schools are reporting the opposite. Restitution gets stronger each year and discipline problems get less as students learn to fix their own mistakes. Grady Brown school, a pilot school in restitution, has just bee named one of the top ten schools in North Carolina. Joe Frazier, a principal at Orchard School says incidents of discipline dropped by 50% the first year of restitution. Teresa Rosen, assistant principal at Richfield High School, says after three years of restitution, all 70 staff members support restitution. Judy Anderson says out of 600 primary students, not one bus problem came to the office in the fall of 1996.
I thought they were better than punishment. While rewards are probably
less hurtful than punishment, the long term result can be the same.
Both rewards and punishment teach children to comply because of what others
will do to or for them. Restitution teaches children to behave because
inside they feel it’s the right thing to do. We don’t want them to
behave out of fear of getting caught or so someone else will think they
did well and reward them. If the child becomes dependent on outside
reinforcement or control, the child isn’t thinking, “who will I be if I
do this?”, the goal of restitution. They are only thinking, “What
happens to me if I don’t do it?” or “What will I get if I do it?”.
This is reactive.
PART IIII- TEACHERS TRY RESTITUTION
Yes, but don’t institute Time Out if you don’t really need it. The goal of Time Out is to get rid of Time Out. Also, with restitution we conceive of Time Out as a planning room where students learn to analyze their needs and to use new behaviors to get them. The first question when a student comes to Time Out is, “Has anyone taught you your needs?” If not, that becomes the curriculum. The student then uses this information to analyze the problem she had in class…her needs, the teachers needs, how they can both get what they need.
Yes. In some schools with a high rate of violence, where there are a lot of bottom line infractions, students may do what you call “dead time”. It is best to have this a separate place from the planning room and to invoke a rule of silence so students can’t visit. You won’t need this after you get restitution going. Time in here should be only until someone can speak with the student. It’s not a good long term solution because it doesn’t build relationships.
Successful people make restitution all the time. Any individual can do it at work or at home. A teacher can do it with a single class, but it works best if the school staff dialogues about their beliefs on discipline. It is difficult to have restitution in a school where the administration does not support the concept.
I suggest asking your administrator if the staff can do staff beliefs together, starting with each individual’s family beliefs (see Social Contract mini-book, p. 11 for the process). The dialogue which ensues will build a foundation for school self discipline. The main question to be answered is, “Do we believe we are responsible for students’ behavior or do we want students taking responsibility for their own behavior?”.
They agree to do better, then they’re at it again. There are a few things you can check off. (1) Have they done their class beliefs? Have they really dialogued about what respect looks like and sounds like in the hall, lunchroom, playground, etc.? (2) Have we tied the previous restitution to self restitution by asking either, “If you fix this problem what does it say about you as a person?” or “How will you be stronger if you solve this problem?”? (3) Is the child pushing to find the limits? If so, has the principal talked to him seriously about both school beliefs and what we consider totally unacceptable? My best guess is restitution is being used with a stimulus-response consequences mindset. Repeat offenders are very common when monitoring has been over used. Kids will just say, “Give me a plan. I’ll sign it”. They do this to get away from us. Seldom do they do enough thinking to change internally.
As many times as necessary. However, before you do that, self- evaluate. Who on the staff has been able to form a relationship with this student? Can the student meet his needs for love, power, freedom, fun and safety without misbehaving? Has someone, perhaps another student, taken time to dialogue with him or her about our beliefs?
Yes, if there is a plan for the child also to put in some effort. If the child does nothing to solve her problem, the parents will be encouraging weakness, not responsibility. It also could deprive the child of the chance to restore herself if she isn’t part of creating the solution.
When this happens, say to the students, “It’ not so important that it gets fixed as how you are thinking about it as you fix it. What will you be saying?”—“That old bag she made me do it!?” or “Why am I so stupid?” or “It’s okay to make a mistake, I can get stronger by fixing it?” Do you know which one I want you to be thinking? Why?” How the child feels doing the restitution tells us if it’s strengthening. If he’s angry or shameful, it isn’t working.
This points to a serious problem which violent students have. I also encountered this with men in the prison system. They have no picture of a man who is strong and caring. They have had no male models for this. The answer is to provide this for them. We need more male teachers in the primary school. We need successful community members meeting with our boys and mentoring them. Because we are internally motivated, if our boys don’t get some other pictures in their heads of how men can be, they will continue to use the violent heroes of television and movies.
his is the result of our stimulus-response orientation. They are very used to be discomforted when they make mistakes. Its all they know. Ask the child who makes this choice, “How will it get you stronger?”. Say, “If it doesn’t get you stronger as a person, it isn’t restitution. If it doesn’t help you feel good about yourself it isn’t restitution”.
Have the child ask, “Is there anything else you can think of for me to do to make it right with you?” If the hurt child still refuses, you as the adult could say, “You have the right to be hurt, but do you think punishing her is helping you be the kind of person you want to be? Think about it. If you make a mistake do you want someone to help you fix it?”.
The child hurt has the right to continue to refuse. If this happens say to the child who wants to fix it, “Were you trying to make a restitution?” (Yes); “If the person hurt had said ‘Yes’ would you have put in the effort?” (Yes). Say, “So you were in restitution even if she doesn’t want to accept it. Were you being the person you want to be? What does that say about you? What have you learned for next time?”. It is important that restitution is not dependent on acceptance by the victim, for it gives them too much power to punish.
How can I help them understand restitution? Ask them, “If your child would behave without being hurt, do you still feel it’s necessary to hurt?” They’ll say, “It is not possible. The child will not behave without coercion”. Just ask the question again. Say, “You think that is the case but if there was a way to help him without hurting, would you do it?”
I first got the idea by watching how Native elders in Saskatchewan worked with young offenders. The control theory idea that all behavior has a purpose also helped me a lot.
“I’m sorry” is not a restitution. It creates no inner strength in the child. The child is telling us what he thinks we want to hear to make his discomfort go away. Say to him, “You have the right to be sorry. Now what do you want to do to fix the situation so it doesn’t happen again? Be specific in planning.”
Reverse the direction of the therapy. Say to the child, “It isn’t good that I am always seeing you in times of trouble. Tomorrow I want to see you when something goes well. We’ve made lots of plans. Come and tell me one that is working.” They may test you the next day by presenting a new problem. Again, say, “We’ve planned a lot, think about what I asked you. Come back when you’ve figured this out.” It is not good when the office is more need-satisfying for the child than the classroom. It teaches them to meet their belonging need by misbehaving.
What may be happening here is that teachers are using restitution in the same manner as consequences. If we speak harshly, embarrass, or guilt students, restitution won’t work. Tone is all important. Remember, words are only 10% of the message, tone 35% and our face and body 55%, therefore more than one half of the message.
Some youth have been raised by very aggressive parenting. They don’t believe teachers are serious until they hear a loud voice. In this case, be prepared to use a loud voice, especially if noise is involved. Say, “Stop that” loudly. This will get their attention, it’s what you say next that matters. Speak calmly and firmly. If you keep yelling, it shows you are out of control. Teacher self evaluation works well here also.
Teachers talk about themselves rather than evaluating the youth. Instead of saying, “You never listen”, they say, “This is not working for me” or “I can’t do my job when this is happening.” Then they seek to pick up a piece of the problem so they have a piece of the solution. For example, I might say, “My part of the problem is I have given you too many choices”. Then I propose a solution, “What I’m going to do is make a list which gives you two learning station possibilities”. Then I ask, “What do you suggest?” If the students suggest a punishment, I say, “I’m not interested in doing that. I’m interested in fixing this situation”. I may even say, “That would be hurting. It’s not what we believe here”.
There are two problems with this. First, a consequence is monitoring, not restitution. Students then behave to avoid getting the consequence, not for respect of self. Secondly, monitoring the whole group for the behavior of a few, in my experience, leads to unhealthy peer pressure by the group on the individual(s). The presence of the consequence results in coercion by the group.
Some students are not ready for restitution and need monitoring. These are generally students who haven’t made the connection between what they do and what happens. This may be because they’ve had inconsistent parenting. However, in some cases students who have been offered many rewards or threats respond positively to restitution because it cathects the value system. All human beings need love, power, freedom, and fun, even those are intellectually challenged.
I suspect that it will help to think about the difference between monitoring and managing. Monitoring takes two minutes. You can spare that amount of time without losing the attention of your class. Calm questions like, “What’s your job? What are you supposed to be doing? Where does that belong?” or “What did we agree on?” will create conditions for students to quickly redirect themselves back to the task. Turn away after they answer the question to give them space to cooperate. If they don’t answer the question, you answer it and then ask, “Can you do that?”
Managing can’t be done in two minutes. It will take at least ten
minutes, because it will involve discussion of class and individual beliefs
and the use of the reality therapy questions. It will help if you
have done a big front end load on the values and teaching restitution to
the class. Save this approach for the more serious value laden issues.
Of course, if there is direct defiance or a safety issue, it can’t be put
off, nor is it a good issue for dialogue since the student will be too
wrought up to think. These issues are usually bottom lines and may
be followed by a restitution later.
If the situation is a serious one and the student doesn’t want to fix it we have to fall back to monitoring and use consequences. We need to say to the student, “I can’t force you to fix it and I won’t persuade you to fix it. However, I can’t just let this go. It’s too serious. If you don’t want to fix it I’ll be in a position of removing your from the group (the class, the lunchroom, the playground).” Then ask the student, “Has this happened to you before?”. Almost always the student will answer, “Yes”. Then ask, “Do you think you’re learning anything being in detention?”. They’ll say, “No”. Then ask, “Why would I want to do that?”. Say, “I would rather help you solve that problem and get yourself stronger and back in the group”. Often these students have been punished and have taken school and teachers out of their quality world. If we have to give them the consequence someone needs to spend time getting involved with them.
They lie or deny it. If a student lies they are hiding the truth to avoid punishment or being guilted. It helps here to stabilize the identity, saying, “It’s okay to make a mistake. You’re not the only one. I did the same thing when I was your age”, or “I’m not interested in fault. I’m interested in fixing”.
Asking this question leads to what we call generous self-evaluation.
Too often we say to ourselves, “I should have done better. Think
about it; we always could have done worse, been more aggressive or not
caring about the issue. Recognizing this and helping students recognize
it is healing. Some students use our question as an opportunity to
grandstand as they list bizarre possibilities. After the first two,
interrupt saying, “So we know you could have done worse. The question
now is, “Can you do better?” Do you want our help?”. Never
ask, “Could you have done worse?” without asking, “Can you do better?”.
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