sister restorative justice

re·stor·a·tive jus·tice
a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.

It makes a lot of sense and, in my mind, seems more effective than the ‘old school’ break a rule, get suspended route.
So, when my two daughters turned Lego-building into a ‘Royal Rumble’, I thought I would give a modified version of restorative justice a try. I thought I would blend RJ with a positive component and a little old-fashioned deflection…and, it seemed to be work!
A friend had recently noted that he (yes, I said he) had some success with his two daughters when he had made them face one another, take two minutes to endure silence with one another and then to close out the interaction, to have the girls note two positive things about one another. Hmmm….
I gave it a go. When the Legos and legs started flying, I calmly asked my two girls to head to the top of the stairs (I was downstairs attempting to sip warm coffee…silly me!). I then asked them to sit beside each other on the landing of our stairs while remaining silent for two minutes (face-to-face interaction with offender and victim—seriously I had no idea who was who). No growling, crying or touching one another. So, after a few re-starts (who knew kids growled so much…), we had silence and two little girls sitting quietly and ultimately, both slowly lowering their guard with one another.
Two minutes later (or the equivalent to 10 slow coffee sips), I asked what made each one of them mad? “She wasn’t giving me any Legos!” they both offered unanimously. After reciting the usual ‘better options’, I then asked them to offer two positives about each other. My younger one flat out refused while my older daughter offered a lame “She’s good at stealing my Legos”. On the second attempt, they both came up with some pretty impressive compliments. And so, the deflection kicked-in…
The last positive was a perfect transition to heading back to play. “Gibby [the older sibling] always helps me make cool Duplo space ships” said my youngest, which shifted into “Hey, let’s go make Duplo space ships” …and off they went. I offered a parting “If we argue again, the Legos go away---okay?” but, both girls had headed back up to their play room to construct they next Apollo 13.
I’m sure my next attempt might not go as smoothly, but I’m taking my wins when I can. I’m also holding out hope that the next time conflict arises (probably in the next 10 minutes) it might have a similar positive outcome. This new method not only kept conflict at bay, but it gave me a calm way to model a much calmer mom—opposed to one that resorts to bribes and threats to promote diplomacy.
Give it a try—let me know how your mini-positive restorative justice project works with your family and if it offers you a little bit more sanity too!