Restorative Justice Peace

Leafless autumn crocus alongside hosta leaves

In his one-man show, Springsteen on Broadway, Bruce Springsteen offered this summary of our first leaders, our parents: “We are ghosts or we are ancestors in our children’s lives. We either lay our mistakes, our burdens upon them, and we haunt them, or we assist them in laying those old burdens down, and we free them from the chain of our own flawed behavior. And as ancestors, we walk alongside of them, and we assist them in finding their own way, and some transcendence.”

Parents, teachers and employers are leaders alongside their families, classrooms, and businesses. Leaders have the opportunity to model how to handle conflicts peacefully or not. Every day brings new opportunities for restorative leadership, as well as learning possibilities for children, students and workers. Schools that offer restorative justice practices, such as “peace circles” to resolve student conflicts, often enable positive student behavior changes in academic tasks. Perhaps we need to implement “peace circles” in workplaces for adult learners. Employees as well as kids often do not listen to what is said – they watch what others do.

The environments in which you grew up made a huge difference in your life. Cell biologist Bruce Lipton discovered that the environment shapes our gene expressions. Twenty years after Lipton’s first stem cell research, science named a new field – epigenetics – to explain how your behaviors and environment may cause changes that affect the way your genes work. While Lipton asserts that 95% of one’s life is “programmed” in the first 7 years of development, it is possible that a person can rewire dysfunctional teachings through conscious efforts. We are co-regulators in the challenge to GROW alongside significant others, colleagues, and new people we meet.

G – Gather memories of your upbringing — what relationships worked well? R – Raise yourself to meet your potential. O – Offer your talents to the world alongside others’ talents. W – Widen your horizons to help ALL individuals meet their potential.

Conflict abounds these days. One current example is the rise of stress reports in couples during the COVID-19 pandemic. You may wonder how conflict in couples could make use of restorative justice. Who would serve as the neutral party to keep feedback for each other non-blaming and constructive? A 2021 research report offers a possibility. In a study of 700 U.S. individuals living with a partner, a writing activity had success in resolving conflicts. Each person was asked to write about conflicts with their partner from the perspective of a neutral third party. Once people widen their viewpoint, it is possible to gain more perspective.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) quiz:

16. Where might you practice restorative justice in your life?

17. When you widen your perspective, what new behavior seems possible?      

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

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