Over the past few weeks we learned how effective natural impacts and logical consequences help children learn to make better choices. Today we conclude with Part 3 of our series on Consequences That Actually Work!
With a strong focus on relationships, “restitution consequences” are a type of logical consequence administered when a child has mistreated someone. The goal is to find ways to help the offender “right the wrongs” while restoring the victim and the relationship. The message to the child is: “Your relationships are valuable. When you mess them up, it’s important to do your best to reconnect.”
For example, when our oldest son would get rough or aggressive with our daughter, we encouraged him to comfort her with kindness after hurting her. This oriented him immediately toward her, and her toward him.
Restitution consequences are radically different from traditional “punishments.” Punishing the offender usually breeds resentment and therefore more and craftier aggression toward the unpunished child. Restitution consequences encourage personal responsibility and usually end with one child feeling cared for and the other feeling caring.
It is important to note that “righting the wrongs” does not mean quickly forcing children to “say you’re sorry.” Forced apologies don’t teach true remorse and reconciliation. The child might conclude, “Say whatever you need to get out of trouble.” Instead parents can set kids up for sincere reconciliation. (Jesus was always about the reality of the heart, not the outward appearance!) You don’t have to force children through the process, but you can put “distracting privileges” on hold until the restitution is done.
On more than one occasion in our family we have applied this principle of restitution to child-parent relationships also. Either one or both people involved (depending on who is at fault) reconcile the offense by doing a specific kindness for the other, such as helpfulness, making a little gift or card, planning a special time of connection, etc. On many occasions
Daniel would choose to make chocolate milk for Bethany as his “love gift” for her after aggression or roughness. (She would sometimes even choose to share a few sips with him.) By the end they would both be beaming – Bethany because she loved chocolate milk and being treated like a princess, and Daniel because he had switched from “boy in trouble” to “knight in shining armor.” They often played nicely after that, and both of them have fond memories of their “chocolate milk apologies.” As teens they often independently reconciled by taking a sibling out for a coffee date.
Conflict will always be part of family life. But true reconciliation and restitution gradually build strong relationships, filled with deep connection and joy!