Restorative Practices

Wachtel and McCold (2001), in restorative justice literature, refer to as the social discipline window, which connects structure/limit setting with support/care. This window has the following categories;

  1. low support + low structure = neglectful or ‘not’

  2. low support + high structure = punitive or ‘to’

  3. high support + low structure = permissive or ‘for’

  4. high support + high structure = restorative or ‘with’

Many programmes and organisations claim to be youth development focused. They use the right language but offer “youth development” programmes in a punitive or coercive setting. These programmes often rely on the need to control young people using reward and coercion to manage behaviour. Unfortunately schools and educational settings are often the worst for using coercive methods for “controlling” young people. Brandt (1995) makes the point that we should not feel the need to reward young people but rather the reward should be the achievement itself and you reward that with more responsibility; “Programmes that overemphasise rules and control have often had negative consequences for the youth they serve to exist”.

However, actual youth development programmes employ restorative practices to support young people to make positive choices. There is a big difference between punishment and discipline. One of the key outcomes of a punishment process is that young people are not empowered but rather learn to hurt others if they feel wronged by them: “Hurt people hurt people” (Brendtro et. al. 1990). There is a public perception that coercive environments work; the “a bit of discipline never hurt me” brigade. They are right in that discipline is good but young people also need to feel safe, to know where boundaries lie and to learn to make pro social choices. Discipline is a natural consequence of a restoring environment.


Social Discipline Window


One way to assess any change in behaviour is to ask; Is the change that the young person demonstrates situational change? In other words has the young person merely adapted to a situation as part of their coping skills? Will this new behaviour revert back to the old behaviour once the change situation is over, or has the change been internalised.


Discipline Process


Is this change motivated by intrinsic (internal) or extrinsic (external) motivators? Genuine change happens when the young person experiences a values shift and internalises that shift. Note that sometimes young people need extrinsic motivators to instigate change but those motivators should be gradually removed with the goal of supporting intrinsic motivators.


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