With traditional discipline, when misbehavior occurs, we ask: what happened, who is responsible, and what punishment needs to be assigned. This can breed a culture of fear and mistrust that is corrosive to a learning environment that provides emotional safety, where both students and adults are able to share control and power.
Restorative Practices can offer teachers, students, and parents a foundation with which to build, maintain, and restore relationships. If we help students build a capacity for self-regulating their emotions and behavior, they can significantly contribute to improving their learning outcomes.
On a practical level, this means that students will not be lectured about their misbehavior. Instead they are given a voice in helping adults understand the reason behind their actions. Our angry monologues can now dissolve into meaningful dialogue about the most helpful, positive steps we can take for a better future. Everyone involved can have a shared responsibility and accountability for what has occurred. Teachers may even ask, "Is there anything you need from me to keep this from happening again?" This is how we demonstrate the virtues of docility and humility.
Restorative practices are congruent with faith teaching about human dignity.
Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 1929:
"Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:
What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt. (John Paul II, SRS 47)
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the final step in recognizing personal responsibility and accountability before God for making amends. Forgiveness and reconciliation are the true measure of understanding when we, both adults and children, model this sacrament to complete the restoration in relationships and repair the harm caused by our human failure.
What greater example for a child than to see the virtues of love and forgiveness at work through the best restorative practice we have – the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is not something that is a demand of Catholics, but rather a gracious invitation to deepen our understanding of human and Holy Communion with one another and with Jesus Christ.