Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Restorative Discipline

I love parenting. I love talking about it with my friends, sharing our joys and our struggles. I am a proud member of what my husband calls "The Mom Network."  I have a whole bunch of mama-friends and we really are there for each other. Some of them I talk to almost every day, some live far away, some live here, but I know I can go to them for advice or encouragement (or commiseration after a mom-fail).

I also read a lot of adoption-attachment stuff. And while we tend to be "attachment style parents" anyway, I've learned that many of the strategies that are great for adopted kiddos are great for bio kiddos too.

So that means I love Karyn Purvis. She's an expert on attachment and adoption. And there's a comment she made once in a video that has really stuck with me. She said that when God disciplines us, when he shows us something in our lives that he wants us to change, we end up feeling closer to God when it's all said and done.  And that's how discipline with our children should be: they should feel closer to us as a result of our disciplining them.

Hmmm... do my kids feel closer to me when I snap at them and send them to their rooms? Do they feel closer to me (or each other) when I force an "I'm sorry" and a hug out of them?  Do they feel closer to me when I yell at them? I imagine not.

So we started the "do-over." For example, instead of being sent to their rooms for back-talk, I say to them, "Wow. We don't speak that way to each other. Do you need a do-over?" And they always say yes and correct the behavior.  And often I get a hug in response.

And we've started using Restorative Discipline  My kids bicker. I mean b-i-c-k-e-r.  Some days they could probably win some kind of award for it.  Especially my sweet middle child. She is a first-class button-pusher, that one. If it's ever an Olympic sport, she's got it in the bag.

I often yell sternly send them to their rooms for fighting with one another.  And I've been hearing about Restorative Discipline for a long time now and one day I just decided to try it. My oldest two were making each other miserable.  So I pulled each one aside and explained that they have been not been treating each other the way I expect our family to treat one another. And I gave them each a few minutes to think about what he/she could do to make the other one feel better.  Riley decided to make sweet tea for Allyn (I had never actually let her have her own glass but I decided my health-food-neurosis could be shelved for this one. I'll give you a moment to be proud of me...).  And Allyn decided to draw Riley a card.  So while she drew, he and I brewed up some sweet tea.  And it was all smiles and rainbows for the rest of the day.  Okay maybe not the entire day, but they really did get smiley and they got along better for the next few hours.

And we've been continuing to do this. My button-pusher-daughter was making her brother crazy the other day. I wanted to yell at her and send her to her room. But I resisted and pulled her aside and we talked about it. She decided that since her favorite drink is mint hot-chocolate, she would make him one.  We worked together to make him a yummy drink and I waited for her to be upset that she wasn't getting one too. She barely mentioned it. And it really did make my oldest feel better. And peace was restored to my home.

I've noticed that the strategies that keep peace and calm in my household take more work on my part. It's easier to yell; it's easier to send them to their rooms. But those are punishments, not discipline, and they don't get me the results I want. I don't get the "place of love and laughter" that my heart wants to create in our home.  But with gentler discipline, I do. And I get better behavioral results, too.  Time outs turn into more time outs. Do-overs actually start to go away because my kids are practicing the correct behavior instead of being punished for the wrong one. Restorative discipline is helping them learn how to right their wrongs.

So as a member of The Mom Network, I would be remiss in not sharing our recent success with a new strategy!  I'm really thrilled with how well it works. And since I'm a newbie at it, I'd love if anyone out there wants to share some more examples!


  1. LOVE IT....where was this when Ricker was terrorizing me?!? I actually even use some of your blog experiences when I'm sitting for other kiddos. You should be very proud of yourself hon!
    love & big hugs...

  2. We love some Karyn Purvis too! The Empowered to Connect Conference we went to was amazing and life changing. Is restorative discipline her's also? I'd love a good reference book for that.


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