The restorative paradigm is manifested in many informal ways beyond the formal processes. As described by the restorative practices continuum above, informal restorative practices include affective statements, which communicate people’s feelings, as well as affective questions, which cause people to reflect on how their behavior has affected others (McCold & Wachtel, 2001).

A teacher in a classroom might employ an affective statement when a student has misbehaved, letting the student know how he or she has been affected by the student’s behavior: “When you disrupt the class, I feel sad” or “disrespected” or “disappointed.” Hearing this, the student learns how his or her behavior is affecting others (Harrison, 2007). Or that teacher may ask an affective question, perhaps adapting one of the restorative questions used in the conference script. “Who do you think has been affected by what you just did?” and then follow-up with “How do you think they’ve been affected?” In answering such questions, instead of simply being punished, the student has a chance to think about his or her behavior, make amends and change the behavior in the future (Morrison, 2003).

Asking several affective questions of both the wrongdoer and those harmed creates a small impromptu conference. If the circumstance calls for a bit more structure, a circle can quickly be created.

The use of informal restorative practices dramatically reduces the need for more time-consuming formal restorative practices. Systematic use of informal restorative practices has a cumulative impact and creates what might be described as a restorative milieu—an environment that consistently fosters awareness, empathy and responsibility in a way that is likely to prove far more effective in achieving social discipline than our current reliance on punishment and sanctions (Wachtel, 2013).

Section citation: Wachtel, T. (2016). Informal restorative practices. Defining restorative. International Institute for Restorative Practices.