Why We Don’t Ask, “Why did you do that?”

Have any of these situations ever happened with your kids?

  • Your preschooler colors on the wall
  • Your school-age child takes something from school
  • Your junior higher cuts class
  • Your teenager shoplifts

When a parent discovers one of the dilemmas above, the first question that spurts from his/her mouth is, “Why did you do that?” quickly followed by, “What were you thinking?”

Parents and teachers, here’s the answer:

They don’t know why they did that. Plus, your rhetorical questions aren’t meant to be answered. They’re simply disguised as an outlet for your anger.

Now that you know, will this profound answer prevent you from repeatedly asking, “Why did you do that?” Probably not, but maybe an explanation will.

The authors of The Restorative Practices Handbook explain, “Young people usually don’t know why they did something wrong. In all likelihood they    were simply being thoughtless or impetuous, without any reason. If we press for an answer, kids dig up a reason that usually sounds more like a rationalization or justification.” 1

The authors continue, “What is more effective is to foster a process of refection by asking questions that will get the misbehaving young people to think about their behavior and how it impacted others.” 1

So next time your child or student does something that angers you, resist the urge to ask, “Why did you do that?” In the next blog, learn what to ask instead of why.



  1. The Restorative Practices Handbook: for Teachers, Disciplinarians and Administrators, Bob Costello, John Wachtel, & Ted Wachtel, International Institute for Restorative Practices, 2009.
  2. Image: Question mark 1.svg [commons.wikimedia.org]

Pushing Students Out of School: How Did We Get Here?


Why did laws intended to make schools safer backfire?

Zero Tolerance

In 1994 schools across the United States implemented Zero Tolerance policies chid handcuffed [flickr.com]after federal legislation required expulsion for one year when students brought a weapon to school. Many schools expanded this policy to reduce possession or use of illicit and prevent violence.

A multitude of “misbehaviors” escalated to more than 3 million students suspended from schools in 2010. This is double the number of suspensions in the 1970s. Traditional punishment is not working in schools across the country.

Why are American schools pushing students out of school?

Downward Spiral

The increase in suspensions has created a downward spiral for countless students. Students are suspended, often unsupervised which allows opportunities to get into further trouble. Students return to school but their behavior is not only unchanged, they often return angry and resentful. These students typically continue inappropriate behaviors which results in more suspensions.

Why do American schools suspend so many students?

School-to-Prison Pipeline

Every day that students miss school, they fall further behind. The more class they miss, the less likely they are to graduate. Those who miss too much school often end up dropping out and find themselves in trouble with the law. This practice of pushing students out of schools towards the juvenile and criminal justice systems is referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline.

Is there any hope for students?

Restorative Practices

Restorative Practices (RP) has its roots in Restorative Justice. This is a newer field of study that is being used in schools to improve student’s accountability, repair harm, and restore relationships. Many schools are effectively using RP to address the school-to-prison pipeline. RP is used with all students, beginning with building community amongst students and staff.

What can reverse this trend?

Innovative Success

We need to explore alternatives to traditional discipline that increase student responsibility, and decrease classroom disruptions, suspensions and expulsions. To find out more about these innovating strategies that are positively changing the lives of students on my web page http://fromdiaperstodiamonds.com/restorative-practices/

To view your U.S. school district’s suspension rates visit http://www.schooldisciplinedata.org/ccrr/index.php

Image source: child handcuffed [flickr.com]


2022 International Institute of Restorative Practices Conference Changes Lives

Seven hundred people from all over the world virtually attended the International Institute of Restorative Practices Pathways to Social Change Online Conference last week, January 26-28. Three restorative practices trainers and I were able to be a part of this significant time.

Put 20% First

Cami Anderson, Director of Third Word Solutions, says that if we want to change schools, we need to “Put the 20% of kids first. Design the school for them. It will make things radically different.” What does she mean by the 20%? Typically, in schools, about 15% of the students have challenges following school guidelines while five percent are students who regularly demonstrate challenging behaviors. I wonder what schools would look like if we tried this radical idea.

Sexual Violence

Two women from their organization One in Four in Ireland, did a session on addressing sexual violence. In Ireland, only 5% of perpetrators face criminal charges. The other 95% are free to sexually abuse others until they are caught. The impact on victims doesn’t stop when the abuse stops. Consequences like not being believed, blame and shame can last a lifetime. It isn’t only Ireland with sexual violence challenges. Every six minutes a woman in the United States is raped. Of those attacks, only 10% are reported. After working for 20 years they are tentatively hopeful for changes.

Storytelling Quilt

The Church Council on Justice and Corrections (CCJC) is a national and ecumenical organization in Canada established in 1972. I learned about their interactive justice storytelling quilt. It features 40 blocks with 13 stories in French and 27 stories in English created by victims and offenders. To see this inspiring quilt, go to https://ccjc.ca/the-quilt/


Authenticity Encouraaged

Dr. Shelley Jones-Holt of Leadership Legacy shared that the environment is created by the teacher or leader invests themselves in the environment. As educators we create space where everyone can be their authentic self. She discussed the challenges and barriers to being ourselves such as who are you? what’s your voice? and recognizing all parts of your identity. If the adults can’t be authentic, we can’t expect the kids to be authentic. She encouraged us to give our administrators the freedom to be authentic.

Covid 19 Challenges

St. Claire Adraian, school principal of Academy of the City Charter School in Queens, New York revealed some of the impact of Covid-19 on discipline. Group circles went great before the pandemic. Now he is seeing negative behaviors he hasn’t seen in years and hearing push back about using restorative practices. There’s pressure to return to punitive discipline as it is faster. This is challenging especially if people want the immediate gratification of punishment. We must understand the impact of social emotional learning. Changing behavior and healing takes time.

I’d like to summarize by using a quote by Bob Costello, the co-author of Restorative Circles in Schools: Building Community and Enhancing Learning.

“A basic premise of restorative practices is that the increasingly inappropriate behavior in schools is a direct consequence of the overall loss of connectedness in our society. By fostering inclusion, community, accountability, responsibility, support, nurturing and cooperation, circles restore these qualities to a community or classroom and facilitate the development of character. As a consequence of fostering relationships and a sense of belonging, academic performance, too, flourishes.”

Image: IIRP 2022 Conference Theme


What’s Restorative Justice Anyways?

As I train restorative practices for educators in a local school district, many of you may wonder, what am I talking about? 
Definition & Goals
Howard Zehr describes the concept as, “Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.” 1,p. 37 The three main goals of Restorative Justice include holding the offender accountable for his/her actions, increasing community safety for everyone, and building competency skills for those involved. 2, p. 6
My interest?
How did I get interested in restorative justice? My dissertation topic was how district attorneys decide to try a juvenile offender as an adult or as a juvenile. Throughout my research, I consistently read about how restorative justice holds offenders accountable for their actions and make things as right as possible. 
When restorative justice is used with first time offenders, they often don’t become repeat offenders. They realize that what they did caused harm to others and/or harm to property. Say for example, a young person is found doing graffiti. This adolescent would be responsible for paying for the paint and spending many hours painting over graffiti in the community where he or she lives. Painting graffiti often loses its appeal when there are natural consequences. That’s what I love about restorative justice. It teaches consequences and how others have been hurt by the offender’s actions. The goal is to “make things right.”
Cheating Students
As a college professor, I used restorative justice with my students who chose cheating. Because my students were future teachers, and California has a Code of Ethics for Educators, students write a Code of Ethics for themselves. When I discover they have cheated, we examine their code of ethics. Does cheating fit the Code of Ethics? The students receive a zero on the assignment or exam, but it goes beyond that. I want them to quit cheating.
Holding Students Accountable
So I ask students if they’d be willing to notify all their teachers the following semester that they were involved in a cheating incident. They want to change their behavior and become ethical educators. Guess what happens when a student confesses to cheating? The professor watches them like a hawk. By the end of the semester, “cheating students” usually change their ways. This is way better than just getting a zero. Natural consequences and restoring correct behavior. A win-win for all involved. What do you think about restorative practices?


1. The Little Book of Restorative Justice, Howard Zehr, Good Books, 2002.

2. Implementing Restorative Justice, Jessica Ashley, & Kimberly Burke, State of Illinois [no date].

3. Image: Brass-Scales-Of-Justice-Silhouette [freesvg.org_justice-scale]

Nativity Sheep Raise Questions

Live Nativity December 2016

“Why do the sheep have to be here?” my eight-year-old grandson, Parker, asks.

I suspect they’re scaring him, even though he and his younger sister are standing behind the three-foot-high barrier between the nativity animals and the audience.

During our visit to a local church’s live nativity the sheep trigger questions from our grandchildren. I ought to be able to answer any questions. After all, my husband and I took our daughters to live nativities for years. It was a Christmas tradition that strengthened our family’s beliefs about the true meaning of Christmas.

In between the narrator’s story, music and characters moving about, I answer my grandchildren’s questions.

“The sheep are here because the shepherds were the first ones the angels told about Jesus’ birth. The shepherds brought their sheep with them to find Jesus in the manger.”

“Why did they take the sheep with them?” Parker asks.

I sense Parker’s hoping the sheep will leave. “The shepherds can’t leave their flocks alone. Their job is to protect the sheep.”

The Narrator adds. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”1

Sheep Poop and Shepherds

Six-year-old Khloe tugs my coat sleeve and asks, “Are the sheep real?”

“Yes, they’re real. Look! One just moved his head.”

She inquires, “Do they poop?”

“Yep,” I answer without missing a beat.

“Ucckkk. Smelly,” the grandkids reply in unison.

“It is smelly. The shepherds spend their time in the fields with the sheep so they can’t take a bath very often. They even get poop on them.”

I suspect others hear our discussion as the Narrator’s voice continues, “But the angel said to them, ’Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” 1

Parker looks down.  “I feel sorry for the sheep. Are they cold?”

I assure him, “See the thick wool on their bodies? It’s like your coat – it keeps them warm.”

“But what about their legs?”

Hmmm. That one I can’t answer.

God’s Message

The Narrator concludes the powerful Christmas story. The shepherds “hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” 1

The volunteers provide hot chocolate. We keep warm by the fire. I ask, “What part of the Christmas story did you like best? My favorite part was how God sees every person as special. Even though the shepherds smelled, God thought they were important enough to tell others about Jesus’ birth.”

The grandchildren recount their favorite parts. Even though they giggle again about smelly sheep poop, I know this annual family tradition builds their understanding of the Christmas message. God sent His son to be the Savior of the world.

Thanking the Creator

After we take the grandchildren home, I wonder about the sheep’s legs. I’m intrigued, so I do a couple of searches and learn more about sheep.

Equipped with an understanding of how sheep keep warm, I’m prompted to pray. “Lord, you never cease to amaze me. You create animals with exactly what they need to thrive. The sheep have “thick wool that keeps their body heat in and the cold out. The lanolin in their wool prevents moisture from getting to their skin.” 2 I never knew that when sheep ‘chew their cud’ they are keeping warm. Only You are the amazing creator of every detail.

I come across a prayer that resonates. “Dear Lord, today I rejoice with the shepherds in the Good News of Jesus’ birth. Help me to set aside those traditions that have become commonplace and explore the amazement of Jesus’ birth. Thank You for sending a Savior for me. I want to spend my life sharing this news. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” 4

What will you do with the angels’ message to the shepherds? “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”1

This article was published in Power for Living December 19, 2021.


  1. Luke 2:8-18 All verses NIV from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/
  2. How Can Sheep Survive Bitter Cold Weather by Kate. Farm Stay U.S. Posted February 26, 2015. http://www.farmstayus.com/blog/2015/2/26/how-can-sheep-survive-bitter-cold-weather.
  3. “Winter Sheep Care,” Mary Gessert, DVM. net. http://www.littlehats.net/journeyman/sheep-articles-006.html
  4. Why God Told Shepherds First, Glynnis Whitwer. Posted December 23, 2010. https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2010/12/23/why-god-told-shepherds-first


Christmas Magic

Snuggled in a fuzzy blanket, your hand around a cup of hot chocolate, lying on the couch to watch Christmas movies is a popular holiday tradition. Have you seen any good Christmas movies lately?

‘Tis the season for Christmas movies. I’ve watched movies on Lifetime and Hallmark for weeks.

After viewing countless movies, I unscientifically identified six Christmas movie categories. Do you recognize these?

Hometown Love. A young person returns to her hometown and falls in love with a childhood sweetheart or a local she didn’t notice when she was young.

Workaholic Changes. The workaholic who misses Christmas. Either circumstances or a unique person changes his or her view. Reminder: there’s more to life than work.

Caring Communities. A community comes together to help others in need or save a beloved town or business.

Pain of Christmas Past. Ignoring Christmas is easier than facing the sadness of Christmas past. That is until an individual reminds them of wonderful Christmas memories and encourages them to celebrate Christmas once again.

Rescue Christmas. Helping Santa, Mrs. Claus, elves, and/or angels save Christmas or teach others about the magic of Christmas.

Eclectic. A hodge-podge of miscellaneous movies: blended family’s first Christmas together; winning a contest becomes a love story; or falling for a Good Samaritan.

No matter what category the movies fit into, there’s one theme. The magic of Christmas. The “magic” may be angels, Santa Claus, a miracle, a love story, healing relationships, or restoring the meaning of Christmas. During the movie, a character usually says something like, “Christmas is magical. Anything can happen at Christmas.”

Chris Lite captures Christmas Hallmark movies in his article for The Week. “Hallmark gives us a parallel world, in which fate and goodness are looking out for you, and your best life is just around the corner, if you only just believe.” 1

And believe we do. We believe in romance. We believe in love. We believe in family. We believe in hope. We believe in goodwill towards humanity. We believe in magical Christmases. These beliefs are reflected in countless movies. It’s the reason millions of people, just like me, spend hours watching them with smiles on our faces and warmth in our hearts.

Huntington Post’s guest blogger Cathy Sikorski shares why she’s drawn to Hallmark’s holiday staples. 2 Some of her reasons may be similar to yours. Romance, a connection to humanity, living an uncomplicated life, a chance to drink wine and shed a tear, see a special kiss, encourage others, not watch anything “bad,” and feel Christmas all over again.

Sikorski adds, “I wanted to believe…even just for a minute…believe. You never leave a Hallmark movie without believing in Santa, Christmas miracles, love, mended and blended families, decisions with no regrets and that all is and can be right with the world. What could ever be wrong with that in just 90 minutes?” 1

What could be wrong with this Christmas magic? While millions of viewers cherish the “magic” of Christmas, the real magic of Christmas seems left out. Although some movies include families attending church, singing traditional Christmas carols, observing a nativity, or mention God or prayer, something’s missing. The true meaning of Christmas is forgotten.

Over two thousand years ago, God sent his son, Jesus, as a gift to each of us. The real magic, actually the real miracle of Christmas is this greatest of gifts and with it the potential for new life. We just have to decide if we will accept God’s gift or not.

As I watch these delightful and sometimes predictable movies and the magic they offer, it certainly touches my heart. But I must never forget to keep my focus on God’s real gift, the real Christmas “magic” of a Holy baby, being born in a manger.

Here’s the biblical account of the true magic of Christmas – Jesus’ birth from the book of Luke, chapter 2. 3

 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”


  1. Chris Lites. The sheer brilliance of Hallmark’s corny Christmas movies by. December 17, 2015. http://theweek.com/articles/591033/sheer-brilliance-hallmarks-corny-christmas-movies.
  2. Cathy Sikorski, Humorist, Author, Lawyer. “11 Reasons to Watch Hallmark Christmas Movies.” The Huffington Post, December 21, 2015. 3.   https://www.biblegateway.com/ Luke 2:4-20.
  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cathy-sikorski/11-reasons-to-watch-hallmark-christmas-movies_b_8851380.html.
  4. Image. Christmasmagic [Google Images] Hallmark Original Movie, 2011.



Christmas Toys for Endless Fun

ted-the-bear-3-1367103 [freeimages.com]Are you still shopping for Christmas toys? Are you overwhelmed with so many toys to choose from? Do you want something kids won’t toss aside after a few weeks? Here are some tips on buying toys for endless fun.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a toy, such as safety, the child’s interests, durability, and your budget. Because toys are already subject to safety tests, my best advice is to purchase developmentally age-appropriate, open-ended toys. What do all these words mean?

Developmentally Appropriate

Age-appropriate means the toy matches the child’s developmental level. Children generally develop within a predictable sequence, but some develop earlier while others develop later. For example, some children walk before one year while others walk after one year.

Age Suggestions & Safety

All toy manufacturers must indicate age suggestions on the packaging, such as six to twelve months, three to five-years, etc. Parents and grandparents are often tempted to purchase toys that are intended for older children because the child is “so smart.” The child may be bright, but the manufacturer suggestions provide the best safety for children. For example, preschool toys may have smaller pieces that would be unsafe for toddlers.

Variety, Creativity & Budget-friendly

Alongside choosing age-appropriate toys, choose toys that are open-ended. This means toys that provide different ways children can play with them. A jack-in-the-box is a closed-ended toy. There is only one way to play with a jack-in-the-box, over, and over, and over again. Open-ended toys offer more variety and creativity. A jack-in-the-box will be interesting for awhile, but open-ended toys can provide fun for several years. This makes open-ended toys more cost effective and budget friendly.

Endless Possibilities

Open-ended toys offer children endless play possibilities. Items children can build with or create anything they want are ideal for their imaginations. Possibilities include dress-up clothes, wooden blocks, Duplos, Legos, Lincoln Logs, Mega blocks, and magnetic blocks. One day children create a zoo and dress up as a zoo keeper while another time they construct a ferry. Open-ended toys facilitate endless possibilities for fun.


Image: ted-the-bear-3-1367103 [freeimages.com]


3 Children, 2 Grocery Carts, 1 Blessing

After I helped in the grandkids’ classes, I stop at the corner Walmart. Near the eggs, I practically cause a mishap.

“I’m sorry, I almost ran into you,” I say to the preschooler sitting in the cart. His mom is between two carts; pushing one and pulling the other. “You’ve got a big load. That must be heavy. I don’t think I could manage that.”

I turn the corner and proceed down the next aisle.588172201_how-to-make-a-countdown-vimeo-com

With a full cart, I get in the check-out line. Moments later, the preschooler’s mom gets in line with two overflowing grocery carts. “How long have you been here?” I ask thinking it would take me forever to select that many groceries.

“Only about an hour. It used to take me longer. I’m by myself. My husband’s in Sacramento. Once I figured out where everything is that all three kids like it goes pretty fast.”

“Your husband being gone must be hard for you and your family.”

“It’s hard but I’ve realized how strong I am. He hasn’t seen the kids in two years. He’s going into an addiction program pretty soon. He drinks a lot.” She pauses and adds, “I don’t drink.”

I finish unloading my cart. “It’s probably difficult to understand his addiction since you don’t drink. How old are your other children?”

“Six and ten. Both girls.” She adds, “We get along okay.”

The clerk begins to check my groceries. “I’ll pray that it goes well for you. It will be great to have your family back together again.”

“We started going to our neighborhood church. It’s different from what I’m used to, but I like it. The kids love it.”

“Sounds like you’re doing the right things. Getting involved in the church, including God. I bet you can get lots of support there.”

She leaves to get something else to add to her cart. I stare aimlessly at the food she’s loaded onto the conveyer belt. I hear God’s voice in my head, “Fifty.”

“Huh?” I question.

“Fifty Dollars,” He explains.

I ask the clerk, “Where are the Walmart gift cards?”

“They’re on the end of aisle five.”

“I’ll be back,” I inform the clerk. I wonder why the gift cards aren’t at every register while I wedge myself between shopping carts and customers to locate a gift card several aisles over. There’s only one Santa card and several baby shower cards left. Santa will do.

I return to my cart. “I’d like $50.00 on the gift card.” After the clerk validates the card, I put it in the tiny envelope. I pay for my items. But before I leave the checkout, I walk a few feet back towards the mom.

As I stand next to her I quietly say, “Here’s a gift card for $50.00. Blessings to you.”

She gives me the warmest hug. “That is so kind of you.”

“Merry Christmas,” I reply.

I float out of the store with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart. I think to myself, a mom parenting three children by herself, two overflowing grocery carts, and one blessing. The blessing is all mine. Thanks Lord, for prompting me with fifty.


Image source: 588172201_How to make a countdown [https://vimeo.com/180050155]


Intervention Strategy #3: Use Natural or Logical Consequences

What would happen naturally if an adult did NOT intervene and take responsibility, but hold child responsible for actions? “No piggy backing allowed,” says author Dr. Jane Nelson. “Adults piggyback when they lecture, scold, say, ‘I told you so,’ or do anything that adds more blame, shame, or pain than the child might experience naturally from the experience.”1

Though natural consequences teach a child responsibility, there are three situations when you don’t want to use natural consequences according to Dr. Nelson. “When a child is in danger. Adults cannot allow a child to experience the natural consequences of playing in the street, for example. When natural consequences interfere with the rights of others. When the results of children’s behavior do not seem like a problem to them and the natural consequences will adversely affect their health and well-being.”1

LCSW Amy Morin says, “Natural consequences should be used to teach children to make better choices in the future, not to make them suffer for the mistakes they already made. So, before you allow natural consequences to happen, make sure your child will be able to safely learn a life lesson.”2



  1. Nelsen, Dr. Jane. Natural Consequences. https://www.positivediscipline.com/articles/natural-consequences
  2. Morin, LCSW Amy. Using Natural Consequences as a Discipline Strategy.
  3. Image: unintended-consequences-Flckr.com

Intervention Strategy #2: Model Problem-Solving Skills

Adults can offer verbal and/or physical help to model problem solving. This helps students recognize and name feelings, identify problems, and come up with ideas for solving the problem, and try possible solutions.

Four Steps to Problem-Solving1

  1. “Acknowledge the problem. ‘Tim has the ball, and you want to use it.’
  2. Ask guiding questions. ‘Have you asked Tim to give you the ball?
  3. State a solution or physically demonstrate. ‘Tell Tim that you would like to use the ball when he’s finished.
  4. Summarize the problem-solving approach for student. “‘Next time, you want to use the ball, you can try to remember to ask to have a turn.’”

Whether the problem relates to playground balls or interacting with others, modelling problem-solving methods shows students different ways to overcome obstacles. “As children become more familiar and experienced with this process, they can be encouraged to generate suggestions or alternatives of their own.”1



  1. Guiding Children’s Behavior. BC Health Planning, 2003. https://oneskycommunity.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Guiding-Childrens-Behaviour.pdf 
  2. Image: puzzle-28879_1280-Pixabay.com