I’ll admit it. Before I knew there was a better way, I said it to likely more than one student who I’d followed through with on the threat of a lunchtime detention. What were these fateful words?
They were “Now, you sit there and have a good hard think about your behaviour.”
The problem starts there. They just don’t. However, don’t be fooled into concluding that they’re not thinking at all and just daydreaming about the bird busying itself out the window or better ways to win while online gaming that night.
What we know about the thought and self-talk that happens during exclusionary and punitive responses is threefold:
- They demonise the authority figure who put them there. That’s you. With every passing minute they’re thinking awful things about you and weaking the very relational thread between you that you so rely on.
- They plot revenge against any peer who provided unhelpful testimony against them. And here’s the thing – that other kid knows it even if you don’t! The highest anxiety this student holds about this entire process is what happens when the offender is released.
- They scheme ways to demonstrate the exact same behaviour, or similar, without getting caught or punished next time. We’re literally giving them the time, tools and opportunity to hack our system of behavioural accountability.
The good intention behind “Think about your behaviour” is reasonably sound … because thinking really does precede almost all behavioural shifts. Changes in conduct don’t just happen randomly or by accident.
We just must eventually ask ourselves what type of behavioural shifts are likely from the thinking we’re generating. And then we’ve gotta ask ourselves what the practice implications of this awakening are for us.
Keep fighting that good fight.
PS. So, you’re planning for 2023 and beyond? Wondering if Restorative Practices might be the best vehicle for getting your people connected and engaged to execute that plan? Well, you should be! I’m running a FREE webinar on “How To Implement Restorative Practices” on Thursday 25 August at 1pm and you really should register at this link.
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