— Marshall Rosenberg
Parenting within a restorative framework is a proactive approach, rather than reactive. Examples of interactions that fit this style include:
• Spending time together: Ten minutes, twice each day with each child makes a difference. Be fully present and focused on what interests the child. One dad, upon arrival home from work, chose to trade jokes with his kids rather than immediately sitting down with the newspaper.
• Using a respectful tone: When stressed, we may become more demanding and loud. Consciously adopting a respectful tone of voice and choosing polite requests invites cooperation. “Could you please help me with these groceries?”
• Teaching children how to do age-appropriate tasks: Take time to show children skills and behaviors that will help them be successful housemates. State desired behaviors in a positive way: For example, say “take your shoes off inside the door,” rather than, “don’t wear your shoes in the house.”
• Encouraging with effective praise: Focus on a specific positive behavior or observation when praising your child. Examples include: “That ‘A’ represents a lot of hard work.” “Thanks for helping. It made this easier.”
• Deciding what you will do: We can’t control our children’s actions, but we can control our own. Decide what action you will take in response to misbehavior. Consequences should be logical or natural. Responsibility is on the child to choose the appropriate action. For example, if a child whines you can choose not to listen; if you have a rule that laundry in the hamper will be washed and your child leaves his clothes on the floor, you can choose not to wash them.
• Showing your child how to make amends: Help children to see how they can make things right after they have done something wrong. To the child who wrote on the wall, you might say, “Here is a cloth. You can help me wipe this off.” Or you can ask, “What can you do to make this better or right?”
Within a restoratively focused family, kids can learn to take ownership for their choices. Example: A teenager who wrecked a family car and was thankfully uninjured called home from his friend’s house. His parents arrived and expressed relief that he was OK; the dad drove the car to the shop and the mom talked with her son in the other car. “What happened?” The son truthfully replied, “I was driving too fast. I lost control and hit the tree.” In the discussion that followed, the son offered to get a job after school to pay for the repairs. After several months, he successfully paid back the full amount.
For more ideas, the techniques in the classic “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen” books, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, provide great examples.