My colleagues and I train school site staff in an alternative to traditional punishment called Restorative Practices. The most basic skill is asking children and adolescents affective questions. We often assume we know what happened, but many times we don’t. We only see part of the story. Sometimes I get asked if restorative questions work with kindergarteners. Absolutely! Here’s how I used restorative questions with a five-year-old.
The first of the restorative questions to ask is, “What happened?” Most children can explain from their perspective what happened.
The second question is, “What were you thinking at the time?” This question isn’t a rhetorical question expressed in anger, but a question to promote the child’s reflection on the incident. You may think a young child can’t answer this, but many can.
Recently I asked a five-year-old kindergartener, “What were you thinking when you took a toy home from school?”
Her reply, “My friend was taking one home. I wanted to be like her.”
If the length of time from the incident is an hour or more after the incident actually happened, you may ask older children and adolescents, “What have you thought about since?”
The next question is, “Who has been affected by what you did and how?”
With the five-year-old I modified the question. “What will happen when your teacher finds out you took the toy?”
“She’ll be sad.”
The last question is, “What do you think you need to do to make things right?”
I asked the kindergartener, “What could you fix this?”
“Say I’m sorry.”
I ask, “What are you sorry about?”
“That I took the toy.”
“Who do you need to apologize to?”
“What else do you need to do?”
“Take the toy back.”
“That’s right. The toy needs to go back to the school because it belongs in the classroom. Next time you want a toy that belongs to someone else, what can you do instead of taking it?”
“I can ask if I can borrow it.”
“That will work much better so your teacher won’t be disappointed, and your classmates can play with it at school. Tomorrow I’ll ask what happened when you took the toy back and what your teacher said. I know she’s going to be happy you returned the school’s toy.”
How do you think this will work with the kindergarteners you know?
Image Source: Welcome to Kindergarten Clipart #1798945 [clipart-library.com]