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Restorative Conversations

School is out, the sun is shining and the days seem endless. Summer can be magical with children, giving your family a chance to play, learn and create together without the pressures of school or work. But what happens when a fun summer day is marred by bad behavior, arguments or hurt feelings between siblings, friends or even adults?


The Conflict Center teaches the power of Restorative Practices in addressing wrongdoing in the workplace or at school. And these same principles can easily be applied at home,with children of any age, to teach empathy, responsibility, and respect.


Here are six steps you can take to use Restorative Conversations and help your child through a difficult situation, such as a fight with a friend or disruptive behavior at a public setting. Remember, these are suggestions. The most important thing is to convey compassion and authenticity with your kids.


STEP 1. OPEN THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION. Let your children know that you will listen to them and their perspectives, then do just that. This is not the time for lectures or judgement. Say:  

  • How’s it going?  
  • I wanted to talk with you about ______________ .


STEP 2. ALLOW THEM TO EXPLAIN THE SITUATION FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE. Try to see the situation from their point of view. Remember that children, as adults, may often feel very differently about the same event. Say:  

  • What happened?
  • Can you tell me more about __________ .
  • What were you thinking at the time?
  • What were you feeling?


STEP 3. IDENTIFY WHAT LED UP TO THE INCIDENT AND ANY ROOT CAUSES. Help your child gain a greater understanding of the situation by asking about what happened before or what else may have affected their behavior. Remember young children may have a very myopic view of what happened. Say:

  • It sounds like you felt __________ . What made you feel that way?
  • What happened before it started?
  • What else do you think was going on with _________ ?
  • Has this happened before?


STEP 4. IDENTIFY THE IMPACT. Help your child see how their behavior affected those around them. They may need help understanding consequences they can’t see, such as hurt feelings. Say:

  • What happened to you? To your friend? To your family?  
  • What have you thought about since?
  • Who else do you think has been affected/upset/ harmed by your actions? How?
  • When I heard/saw __________, I felt __________because I __________.
  • What role do you think you played in this situation?
  • How do you feel now?


STEP 5. ADDRESS NEEDS AND REPAIR HARM. Help your child decide how to make things better or solve the problem. Lead them to a resolution they can feel good about, even if it is a consequence. Say:

  • What can you do to make things better?
  • If you were ______, what do you think you would need?
  • What do you need to help you do that?
  • What would you like to see happen?
  • What could you do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
  • What can you do differently next time?  

STEP 6. CREATE AN AGREEMENT. This may be a verbal agreement, a checklist or even a written letter or contract. Remember to follow through on your own promises. Say:

  • Based on our talk, I heard that you will __________. I will also __________.
  • Can we agree on this plan?
  • I’m going to check on you in a while to see how things are going.  
  • Thank you for sharing with me! I’m so happy we can work together to make things better!