Use Restitution to Discipline Your Child

Restitution can help your child repair his friendships.
Brand New Images / Taxi / Getty Images

Do you ever feel like time-out isn't a big enough consequence when your child hits someone? Or, do you ever think of taking away a privilege for the day isn't really teaching your child to be kinder to his brother? If so, you're not alone.

Sometimes, kids need something a little more than the usual consequences to really learn life lessons. Restitution can be an effective way to teach your child to treat other people, and their property, with more respect.

Restitution is a popular classroom discipline strategy. School departments often refer to it as “restorative justice.” It doesn’t need to be reserved for teachers, however. Parents can use restitution to address a variety of child behavior problems in the home.

How Restitution Works

Restitution gives kids an opportunity to “payback” for their misbehavior. They’re given a logical consequence that is directly linked to their behavior.

Instead of receiving a quick timeout for destroying someone's property, restitution gives a child a chance to make amends with the victim. In addition to timeout, the child may also have to loan his favorite toy to the victim for a specified period of time.

Restitution isn't about shaming or humiliating a child. Instead, the purpose is for a child to take responsibility for his behavior by addressing his mistakes.


  • A 4-year-old boy colors on the walls. His restitution is that he needs to clean the walls.
  • A 6-year-old girl calls her mother a mean name. Her restitution includes saying two nice things about her mother and helping her mother do the dishes.
  • An 8-year-old boy hits his brother. Their mother problem-solves with both children to find a way for the aggressor to make amends. They agree that he will do his brother’s chores for the day.
  • A 10-year-old steals an item from the store. She has to do chores to earn money to pay for the item and she writes a letter apologizing to the store owner.
  • A 12-year-old misses the school bus and his father has to drive him to school. For restitution, she has to do extra chores to earn the money to pay her father for the time and gas that he used to drive her to school.
  • An angry teenager kicks a hole in the wall. His restitution is that he must do chores to earn enough money to pay for the materials to patch the wall. A parent assists him in patching and repairing the hole. He’s not allowed to have his other privileges back until the hole is repaired.

Tips for Making Restitution Effective

Restitution can be a great way to start teaching your child how to behave in a responsible manner. Here are some strategies that will ensure your consequences are effective:

  • Restitution should be based on the idea that if you break it, you pay for it and if you make a mess, you clean it up.
  • Restitution needs to make sense. The negative consequence should be directly related to the misbehavior.
  • It can be helpful to get kids involved in determining what the restitution should be. Talk to both the offender and the victim to gather their opinions about what would be an appropriate response.
  • Restitution sometimes requires creative solutions. However, it should never involve shaming the child. Telling a child to stand outside holding a sign that says what he did wrong isn't restitution. Distinguish the difference between discipline and punishment and make sure your restitution strategies are effective teaching tools.
  • Be a good role model for your children when it comes to restitution. If you make a mistake, take responsibility for it. Show them how you make amends by pointing it out to them.
  • Remind your children that everyone makes mistakes. Praise them for behaviors that you want to see more of, such as honesty or changing their attitude.
  • Sometimes it makes sense to combine restitution with another consequence. For example, a child may still need to have a timeout to calm down before discussing his restitution. It also makes sense sometimes to take away privileges until the restitution is completed.
Was this page helpful?