Restorative Model

"I wonder if controlling my anger I won't get into trouble." (Grade 4/5 student)

The above MAKING IT RIGHT process is based on what Grade 4's came up with as a result of creating some dramatic scenes where something in a relationship might go wrong. This process can be used by students to help mediate incidents that they see. It develops skills of all actors in a relationship drama, including bystanders, to become more aware of what they do, their impact on others, and what might help to restore relationships. 

Underpinning this approach are the following values:

  • This is a school where we practice acting positively to others to build a friendly school. Even when things go wrong we want to use a process that is positive, where participants come out whole and feel a sense of integrity and growth. 
  • We treat meanness from a place of kindness.
  • We aim to restore relationships rather than use punishment.
  • We believe that everyone can learn and grow. We see any incidents as opportunities to develop social and emotional learning which we see as an important part of the curriculum.
  • Each of us has responsibility for each other, to look out for each other, to model the behaviours that we value.
  • By solving issues before they get into regular patterns we can prevent more damaging relationship dynamics such as bullying. 

Check out the video. 
Which scenarios are congruent with a restorative approach?

The different elements of the MAKING IT RIGHT process:

1. Tuning In

Many times in situations we don't tune in. We don't notice what is happening. We don't notice when we feel uncomfortable about what we might have done, or seen, or had something done to us. So this is the PAUSE. This allows us to notice emotions, notice a sense of wrongness or rightness.  
"This doesn't feel right."
Everyone has an inner compass and a sense of what is right.  There is a wise self in you that can help bring you back to a centre which has integrity, kindness, awareness, hope, openness and groundedness. When incidents occur that churn up emotions it helps not to act immediately from that place of turmoil - otherwise we might react to meanness with meanness. Calming down, putting your hand over your heart and doing deep slow breathing can help. If you see someone who has done something wrong it helps to remember the nice things they do.

Sometimes it helps to think about why this doesn't feel right. This is a chance to remember what we value. We can check in with how other people are sensing this.  

We all make mistakes. We can all harm others, whether we mean to or not. Admitting a mistake to others means we can fix it, learn from it and move on. 
"That was mean what we did. I feel bad."

However, sometimes it is hard to admit acting mean. By bottling it up we can feel secretly ashamed and that can create even worse problems.  It is important to remember that we are not our mistake. It helps to remember the positive things we do.  It can be harder to admit to a mistake when someone points it out to us, especially if they are doing it in a blame and shame way. If you are pointing out a mistake to others do it from a kind place and consider reminding the person of positive things about them. 
"That isn't like you. Is something wrong to make you behave this way?"

2. Understand how others are feeling 

If you have harmed someone imagine how that person is feeling. What would it be like to experience that for yourself and how would you feel? How is this person different to you? How might this affect them in a different way to you? This helps to build up our empathy for others.  It helps us be more aware of what we do. Treat people the way you would like others to treat you.
"How do you think they feel?"

Although we might imagine how others feel, they in fact might be feeling something quite different. It is important to give everyone the chance to explain what they are feeling and to listen respectfully. People may surprise you. 

When  strong emotions well up in you they can give you lots of energy. They may make you want to run or fight. They may shut you down. They may make you feel sick and vibrating. They can send strong chemicals rushing around our bodies that take a while to settle down. It is not about suppressing them. Rather, how can you watch them flow through you. What can you do to help release them in a safe manner through shaking your body, flicking your arms. Acknowledge they are there. Emotions have messages to us - they tell us when things are not right. However, if we are feeling very emotional it may not be a good place to resolve issues from.  

Imagine the impact of the actions on the person harmed. What could happen further down the track? What could be the consequences to the person who has done the harm? 
"If you continue to do that, no one will like you, and you will have no friends."
"If you continue to do that, she might get depressed." 

3. Make it right for everyone

Sometimes when we have done something wrong we just know what will make things right - we have been there before. After tuning into the situation and seeing the impact on another, we can act to make it right as soon as possible. And sometimes this is just enough and the other person forgives us and we get along together again. 

But sometimes it is more complicated...

What does the person who has been harmed hope for in terms of restoring a positive relationship? (e.g. apology, knowing it won't happen again, having item restored, can feel trust for the person again.) What does the person who has harmed hope for? (e.g. opportunity to make it right, not feel excluded for what they have done.)  What might bystanders hope for? (e.g. friendly school.) Is there a way that everyone can get what they hope for in resolving this issue? 

This is about reminding everyone that the end game is about having a positive relationship.
"What would make you happy?"  

Everyone in the process needs to feel that they have some control or power. Needing to have control is one of the reasons why people adopt bullying behaviours. So, rather than telling people what they should do to make it right, each person should be able to choose how they want to make it right after listening to how others are feeling. That way they are not reluctant or disrespectful, but sincere. People can do surprising things to make things right when given the chance. 
"What could you do to make it right?"
If we can understand what might trigger the situation, and work on solving this then we can help ensure that it doesn't happen again. Things could be happening at home, the person who is doing the harm may be lonely and trying to get noticed in an inappropriate way. 

"What is going on for you that you are behaving this way?"

There could be a history between the two people. In some situations the person harming may have been harmed by the other person and there is continuing dynamic that both people are caught into. Sometimes the best solution is when the people involved recognise they are trapped into an unhealthy relationship and agree to get help. They could agree to have circuit breakers once they recognise a situation is about to happen. 

Sometimes relationships are not easy things to keep friendly. Things happen to weaken relationships and it is easy to react, and then this can make things worse. So skill building might be in: 
  • better understanding of relationships, 
  • conflict resolution skills, 
  • understanding and dealing with personal emotions
  • developing mindfulness practice.
Sometimes we can't resolve it by ourselves. We need a caring adult to assist, like a parent, teacher or counsellor. Sometimes we need to have the support of classmates to help build a different environment and way of doing things. So we might need:
  • mediation - someone who helps two people to talk together using a clear process
  • counselling one-on-one - this helps you to identify the problem and build skills and strategies
  • method of shared concern - where classmates can agree to help support new behaviours.
Forgiving someone doesn't mean that you think what happened was OK. 

Forgiving someone might be easy or very difficult. When someone does something mean to you it might be hard to accept them back as before. You might not trust them as much. 

Many people who have done something wrong long to be seen as nice person - to get back to normal. The biggest help we can give them is to give them a chance.
"Are you lonely, do you need a friend? Come and play with us."

Sometimes working through disagreements can make relationships stronger. Sometimes it is just too difficult and you might need to agree to have a different sort of relationship. What is important is to find a way to relate where each person can be free to be safe and happy.

4. Get Feedback

How do we know that what we have done is working? How is each person involved feeling? Has the relationship or the behaviours improved? What else needs to happen? 

Even though a person who made a mistake might have made things right with the person that they harmed, they may have got a reputation with other people as a mean person. They will need support to help others understand that they now intend to operate from a friendly and kind place.

5. Reflect

What have I learnt from all of this? How am I different from who I was before? What interesting things do I now know about myself?


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