Navigating Children's Challenges
with Restorative Questions

As adults, it’s easy to see a child’s challenging behavior and react with “what in the world were you thinking?!” We can be quick to assume incorrect intentions to a child or quick to forget that children’s brains are not fully developed to make decisions from an adult’s logic.

When we pause our instinctive adult response “Why did you do that?!” and ask questions in response to challenging behavior, we can withhold potentially incorrect assumptions and invite children to reflect on their own choices.

Brenda Maas, NorthPointe Christian Schools’ Educational Support Services Director, encourages teachers to lead with the following restorative questions that were established by Institute for Restorative Practices. In both the classroom and home environment, restorative questions encourage adult/child collaboration, empathy building, and taking personal responsibility. When we can ask with a tone of genuine curiosity and withholding judgment, we are often surprised to find children’s insight into and willingness to take ownership of their behavior.

Restorative questions for children with challenging behavior:

  • What happened?
  • What were you thinking of at the time?
  • What have you thought about since?
  • Who has been affected by what you have done? In what way?
  • What do you think you need to do to make things right?

Likewise, when another person, perhaps a classmate or sibling, is affected by another’s behavior, restorative questions serve to invite self-reflection, processing of feelings, and identifying steps needed towards a resolution.

Restorative Questions to help those harmed by others’ actions:

  • What did you think when you realized what had happened?
  • What impact has this incident had on you and others?
  • What has been the hardest thing for you?
  • What do you think needs to happen to make things right?

As educators, we believe it is our responsibility to partner with parents in this work of restoring our children to a right relationship with God and others. Try your hand at these questions; we’d love to hear how it helped you navigate a conflict.

Dealing with a challenge specific to technology? Check out our post “Raising Youth in the Digital Age.”

For more information on NorthPointe Christian School click here or to learn more about NorthPointe’s thriving Student Resource Program, click the specific campus to see our elementary, middle school, or high school resource support pages.