I presume it happens in every profession, that moment when your particular skill set is required or called upon in your own personal life. I mean accountants must do their own accounts and doctors or nurses have to look after themselves from time to time. Professional cooks sometimes have to cook at home too you would imagine. There are exceptions to this apparently. I know one electrician, who is never around to do any wiring in his own house when needed (something that seems to happen with other trades too I believe). Anyway, you may be able to guess where this is going, but recently our five year old started to act up a little. By a little I mean he went for his brother with a hammer (not a plastic one either), freaked his sister out with a demonic-like display of rage, punched both parents (thankfully he didn’t single just one out) and had our child minder wondering if she wanted to continue. All in all, this was a serious escalation in behaviour and something needed to be done.
Now, I am completely speculating here but there’s probably a reason why tradesmen avoid working on their own house sometimes. What if you get it wrong? It’s not going to look great, the fact that you’re the “expert” and you’ve put up the crooked staircase or light fitting or whatever. Equally I felt I was going to be under the spotlight with my use of RP. I was not, however, in a position to ignore my son’s behaviour, as we desperately need and love our child minder (as well as our other children I might add). So restorative practice was going to be put to the test. After all there’s no point teaching this stuff if it doesn’t work on your own doorstep. And, as I found out, this is a lot easier said than done.
Firstly, we have always tried to employ the ethos of restorative practice in parenting, i.e. building good relationships, giving children a say whenever possible, being fair (a challenge in its own right with three young children). Add to this using the six questions, or simpler variations of them, and I’d like to think we were and still are a pretty restorative household. Again, don’t get me wrong, it’s a normal household and things go wrong and people lose their tempers occasionally but all in all it’s pretty restorative.
So, what did we do with our budding hulk? Initially, it was a number of small circles, getting the older children to tell our five year old how they felt about his rages and asking everyone what they thought should happen. And even though they found it hard to think of suggestions, I felt the process was still worthwhile as an exercise in family discussions. Obviously hammers and any dangerous toys (you’d be surprised what can become a weapon to a five year in a temper) were removed pending an improvement. In addition we started to monitor play time more closely, step in at earlier signs of trouble and coach him to keep a lid on things. But change, inevitably, happens slowly and it took a week or two to begin to see some progress, though he still has his moments. And, this was the biggest learning for me personally. Having the faith to persist with your beliefs and not resort to the traditional punishment, which some people were suggesting, e.g. take favourite toys off him, etc.
To finish, I suppose what I am saying is there are times when your faith in RP will be tested. It doesn’t have a blueprint for every scerario, nor could it. It will be messy at times. You will not see the solution immediately. Others will try to lead you astray. People will nearly always resist change too when it happens. But, it is nearly always better than the alternative of punishment for punishment sake. That just leads to resentment and damaged relationships. And, once you are clear to people in your explanation of things and consequences (remember you can still have consequences), you shouldn’t go too far wrong. Keep the faith.
My name is Joe Power and I am the restorative practice development officer in Limerick since May 2018. I first came to RP in 2016 when it was introduced to the residential centre where I also work. I thought I would start to write a little about my experiences in developing both my own understanding of RP, as well as my experiences in trying to spread RP across Limerick. The reason for this is that I find that both my and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for other's to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it. Also please e-mail any thoughts/comments/stories you might have to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.