Addressing Challenging Behaviour using Restorative Practices

Next week is Restorative Justice week. Restorative Justice and Restorative Practice projects in Limerick are running a series of events across the week, beginning on Monday 22nd November. Ahead of ‘RJ Week’ we decided to look at how we can apply Restorative Practice techniques to parenting.

Parenting in these challenging times requires a multitude of skills, practices, and strategies. One interesting way of addressing challenging behaviour from your child comes from the world of Restorative Practices. Restorative Practices (RP) are an evidence-based set of skills that help develop and sustain strong and happy organisations and communities by actively developing good relationships, preventing the escalation of conflict and handling conflict and wrongdoing in a creative and healthy manner.

Restorative Practices is all about building solid relationships so you can work with people and achieve better results. It is also about focusing on the actual behaviour and its impacts rather than on the person carrying out the behaviour. Using “Affective Statements” is one simple, yet effective way, of introducing Restorative Practices into your parenting.

So, what are “Affective Statements”? Affect is another word for emotion. An affective statement is when you use words to communicate an emotion. For the purposes of demonstrating how to use affective statements let’s imagine a simple scenario. A child has hit his younger sister. A normal response to this might be- “Stop hitting your sister. You are so bold, and you are driving me mad and upsetting your sister”. The child responsible for the behaviour may receive this message as a personal attack on himself and his self-esteem. He as a person is causing harm to both people. He must be a bad person. These thoughts may cause him to act out even more, as these negatively received messages provoke an angry response. Instead, let’s respond to the behaviour using the four steps of affective statements.

Step 1- Notice what is happening

“I just saw you hitting your sister”. You are leading with “the behaviour” and not the person.

Step 2-How I feel about it

“I feel really upset when I see anyone being hurt by somebody else”. You are focusing again on the behaviour only and the impact it has on you.

Step 3-What matters to me/I need

“It really matters to me that everyone is safe in this family and that people are nice to each other. We need to stick together”. You are explaining further why the behaviour has impacted on you negatively.

Step 4-State what you want going forward, not what you don’t want

“I would like you to walk away from anyone that makes you mad and come talk to me instead. Can we agree on this?”

Using affective statements communicates the preferred future and does so in a way that the child’s esteem does not get attacked. They are not the problem. Their behaviour is. And that is something that they can change.

Interestingly, these statements can also be used to comment on and highlight positive or improved behaviour. It helps to highlight the positive impacts caused by the child’s behaviour and to encourage them to keep up their efforts. Not only do affective statements help the child receive and relate to your message in a more positive way but they also help to build and strengthen a child’s empathy levels. So why not introduce the four steps above into your parenting and see the positive difference it can make on the relationship with your child.

This was written ahead of Restorative Justice Week 2021, beginning Monday 22nd November. Restorative Justice and Restorative Practice projects in Limerick are running a series of events all week. Go to for more information.

This article was contributed by Alan Quinn with Le Cheile Mentoring. Le Cheile is a member of Parenting Limerick, a network of parenting and family support organisations.