Restorative (Healing) vs. Retributive (Punishing) Discipline

Healing vs. Punishment
Do not duplicate or swipe without written permission
©David Durovy

Restorative vs. Retributive Discipline

by David Durovy

Our articles are intended to provide information leading to unconditional love within our families, especially toward children with trauma histories,

and introducing parents to a different paradigm of living, loving, and yes, parenting.

In short, we are asking you to think, rethink, consider, and contemplate ideas, practices, and behaviors that may be beyond your reach or outside

the realm of “normal” traditions and cultures. Either way, this involves change on the parent’s part to influence change in our children.

“Creativity involves breaking out of expected patterns to look at things in different ways.” — Edward de Bono

The children that we write for require a love that goes beyond our typical understanding of parental love. This unconditional love grows out of

a family-centered approach, and that hopefully, but not always, forestalls the need to remove a child from the family for residential treatment.

If you have been following The Post Institute for any length of time, you will likely be very familiar with this approach. We don’t have all the answers, just one that works — Love.

Many of us have found from experience that children who come from “hard places”[1] require an extraordinary love. This love cannot be earned or lost and

becomes a beacon of hope for those who have been dealt a hopeless landscape in formative years.

The issues we parents face often lead us to deal with discipline and punishment in our families and the justice system when the behaviors are

extreme or involve others in the community.

This article seeks to introduce you to concepts that may not be familiar to you. For others, an invitation to include these ideas into your

parenting practices. But first, let’s define some terms.


Trauma, or ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) as they are referred to, may be due to:

1- Parents giving up their children to foster care or adoption;

2- Forms of abuse which led to Child Protective Services stepping in and taking steps to provide for the children,

or other traumatic experiences that they may have experienced;

3- Other occasions of loss, deeply distressing or disturbing events, and repeated and prolonged

exposure to highly stressful events.

Restorative vs. Retributive Justice

Healing vs. Punishment

Retributive justice is a theory of punishment that when an offender breaks the law, justice requires that they suffer in return and that

the response to a crime is proportional to the offense. Wikipedia

Restorative justice aims to get offenders to take responsibility for their actions, to understand the harm they have caused, to allow

them to redeem themselves, and to discourage them from causing further harm.

To me, true justice seeks to take care of everyone’s needs. I know that in extreme cases such as death, it is impossible to care for the

victim’s needs. Yet victimizers are hurting people in ways that may not always be visible. For our parenting purposes, we feel there is

much that can be learned and applied to everyday events. Remember that kids don’t act out because they want attention. They act out

because they need attention.

Scarlett Lewis, the mother of six-year-old Jesse Lewis, murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary mass school shooting,

said after investigating the young shooter’s life, “There are two kinds of people (kids – my insertion).

  1. Good people (kids);
  2. Good people (kids) in pain.

Scarlett started the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement™ “to foster the understanding that with the right tools,

we can educate and encourage individuals to choose loving thoughts over angry thoughts.”

A Justice that heals, not harms

Fania E. Davis, a civil rights attorney, and the founder of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, describes that through engaging

in a relational process of repairing harm, restorative justice is:

A justice that seeks not to punish but to heal. A justice, according to Kay Pranis, that is not about getting even, but about getting well. 

It is “A justice that seeks to transform broken lives, relationships, and communities, rather than shatter them further. A justice that

seeks reconciliation, rather than a deepening of conflict.”[2]

Davis has studied the indigenous roots of restorative justice around the world, particularly in Africa, as shown in her reflections:

“African justice making, rather than an occasion to inflict punishment, is an opportunity to teach, learn, reemphasize social values,

and reaffirm the bonds of our inherent inter-relatedness. It is also an opportunity to identify and redress problematic social conditions

that may have given rise to interpersonal harm.

In keeping with the principles of African and other indigenous justice systems, restorative justice invites a paradigm shift in the way we

think about and do justice—from a justice that harms to a justice that heals. Our prevailing adversarial system [of justice] . . .

harms people who harm people, presumably to show that harming people is wrong. This sets into motion endless cycles of harm. 

Restorative justice seeks to interrupt these cycles by repairing the damage done to relationships in the wake of a crime or other wrongdoing.

Justice is a healing ground, not a battleground.”[3]

I have made mistakes in this area, which I hope none of you ever have to experience. I have taken one of my adopted sons to court for assault.

I took another adopted son to the police station to “teach him a lesson,” which ended up in a pending felony charge (not what I wanted for him,

and thankfully dropped through the cracks in a rural legal system). I took numerous trips to a local prison to “show them what will happen if they

don’t change.” In other words, scare them. Not a very Bryan Post move on my part.

I regret all of these and more, which I won’t take the time here, but it can be worse, let me assure you. We don’t want our children to suffer because of our mistakes.

Hopefully, this article is a simple introduction to restorative justice, which in most of our families will help us teach our children without harming them.

We encourage you to look further into this topic for more take-home lessons on restoring rather than punishing in your disciplining practices.

Discipline comes from discipulus, the Latin word for pupil. It does not intend to punish but to teach.

If you operate a “winner take all” system of justice, expect ongoing problems. If you have a system that works toward reconciliation,

you may resolve the conflicts that underlie ongoing problems. — Robert Yazzie, Chief Justice Emeritus of the Navajo Nation. [4] _________________________________________________________________________

“It’s all about the lovin, it’s not about the pain.” — Forget About the Blame, Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

— Choose Love

[1] The late Karyn Purvis, our dearly missed mentor.

[2] Fania E. Davis, The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice: Black Lives, Healing, and US Social Transformation (Good Books: 2019), 14, 23-25.

[3] Kay Pranis, “Restorative Values,” in Handbook of Restorative Justice, ed. Gerry Johnstone and Daniel W. Van Ness (Willan Publishing: 2007), 60.

Kay Pranis is a national leader in restorative justice, specializing in peacemaking Circles. Visit here for a white paper by Kay Pranis — Restorative Values and Confronting Family Violence 

[4] Robert Yazzie, “Healing as Justice: The Navajo Response to Crime,” in Justice as Healing: Indigenous Ways, ed. Wanda D. McCaslin (Living Justice Press: 2005), 123, 125–126, 127, 128.


Do Not Duplicate or Swipe Without Written Permission.

©David Durovy