In this piece, a mother discusses how she talked to her kids about Lance Armstrong and his admission that he used drugs to enhance his cycling performance to repeatedly win the Tour de France. Knowing that restorative practices are used in her children's schools in San Francisco, Amy Graff floated the idea of using restorative practices with Lance and her kids took the bait. She writes:
At the dinner table the other night, I posed this question to my family.
My husband, a cycling enthusiast who’s passionate about the sport, shared, “I’m never forgiving him. The guy ruined the sport.”
“I forgive him, Mommy,” my son said with a smile.
“No way!” was my daughter’s gut reaction.
“But at school you’re taught to forgive your schoolmates,” I pointed out to my daughter. “How would you be asked to approach this situation at school? Would you forgive him on the school playground?”
“Mom, it’s not like he stole a ball from someone on the playground. What he did was like really really bad!”
“And don’t forget how he treated Sheryl Crow,” my husband said.
“What about restorative practices?” I asked. At my children’s school they use a technique called restorative practices to build relationships, resolve conflict and maintain a peaceful atmosphere among students.
“Mom, he needs to have a circle,” my almost-10-year-old daughter said.
“He needs to sit down with the people he was bad to and talk to them. Make things better.” (In the official Restorative Practices materials, this is called “restoring the relationship.”)
“Well, he’s going to talk on television…” (even though I agreed with where they were taking the conversation I wanted to push them to more clearly communicate their idea)
“He needs to sit down with these people like that Tyler person you read the book about. Wasn’t he mean to him or something?”
“You mean face-to-face.”
And then my son chimed in, “He could pick up litter or something.” (Restorative Practices calls for wrongdoers to do community service. At my kids school, it’s not uncommon to see students picking up litter at recess. The thinking is that it’s better for punished kids to be actively making the world a better place rather than sitting in the office doing nothing.)
“Mom, do we get to watch Oprah?”
“It’s on too late.”
And so there you have an elementary school take on how Lance can find redemption. He needs to have face-to-face conversations with all the people he hurt and anyone who has followed this story knows that’s a ton of people—and the Oprah Winfrey interview doesn’t count. Oh, and he needs to pick up a lot of litter.
These actually aren’t bad ideas. How about putting Lance in an orange vest and making him walk the Tour de France route this summer to pick up all the fans’ trash.
Read the full blog post at Should we forgive Lance Armstrong? | The Mommy Files | an SFGate.com blog.
And here's Graff's appearance on Katie Couric's show with three suggestions for talking to children about Armstrong and cheating. She mentions circle processes but not restorative practices explicitly – or possibly she did, but that part didn't make the final edit.