The Case for Maslow Before Bloom

Abraham Maslow’s well-known theory of human needs fits well in the context of COVID-19. His theory is that human needs are arranged hierarchical and supersedes the others when ones are satisfied. Maslow categorized needs in a triangle format. Basic physiological needs are the foundation. The next four levels are safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization.  Children and teens must acquire the basic needs at each level before functioning successfully at the next stage.

Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy is also a hierarchical classification of the six different levels of thinking. Educators use these when creating course and lesson objectives.

“Maslow before Bloom” is popular phrase in education circles. It is typically used to communicate that before academic learning can be fully embraced, children and teens need their basic needs met.

Children’s and Teen’s Challenges Created by Covid-19

The critical challenges created by COVID-19 for child and teen well-being underscores children’s and teen’s distinctive needs, as well as the unique implications for policies. Let’s look at four challenges facing children and teens.

Higher Family Stress

The day-to-day lives of many families has sharply increased the levels of stress since the pandemic. Chronic or prolonged stress impacts children’s developing biological systems, especially in the early years. Healthy child development consequences can be both immediate and long-term.

Pre-existing educational inequalities are likely to exacerbate school closures and the change to remote learning. “The learning gains or losses made by children during school and Early Childcare and Education Centre (ECEC) closures vary significantly by access to remote learning, the quality of remote instruction, home support, the degree of engagement in schoolwork, and the overall attitude towards learning.”1

Greater Need for Mental Health Supports

Higher anxiety and depression scores of vulnerable children reported lower levels of well-being than before the pandemic. Direct surveys with children identified a deterioration in mental health, greater loneliness, and worries for themselves, their families, and their futures.

Children and Pandemic Burnout

Burnout is described as symptoms of emotional or physical exhaustion caused by long-term stress. Factors are making children vulnerable to burnout, such as unstable learning environments, prolonged isolation, housing insecurity, systemic racism, and various other factors. According to Dr. Earl, children, particularly those in “Black and brown”2 neighborhoods were left without the usual mentorship and support they would receive from their communities, families, and educators during the pandemic.

Greater Need for Support Among Already-Vulnerable Groups of Children

Certain groups of already-vulnerable children and teens are likely to have greater longer-term consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic. Vulnerable groups of children include homelessness, maltreatment, disabilities, children in out-of-home care, and children in the youth justice system. To provide needed levels of support. identifying vulnerable children will need intensified efforts.

In the next blog, we’ll look at each of Maslow’s levels and explore things we can do and not do to help our children and teens post Covid-19.



  1. Dirwan, Gráinne, Olivier Thévenon, Jennifer Davidson, and Andrew Goudie. Securing the recovery, ambition, and resilience for the well-being of children in the post-COVID-19 decade. January 28, 2021.
  2. Matthews, Dona, Ph.D. 10 Ways to Support Your Child as We Move Out of COVID-19. March 19, 2022.
  3. Flores, Alissa. Pandemic Burnout: The Toll of COVID-19 on Health Care Workers and Children. May 21, 2021.

How Parents Can Model Apologies to Children and Teens

Modeling Apologies to Children

  1. Everyone makes mistakes; that’s life. Saying “sorry” to your child is not a sign of weakness, but of strength.
  2. When you’ve acted wrongly, admit it and apologize. “I’m sorry I yelled at you. You didn’t deserve that outburst.” 1
  3. Give yourself a do-over if appropriate. “Sorry, Sweetie, I didn’t mean to snap at you. Let me try that again. Here’s what I meant to say…”1
  4. Resist the urge to blame. Adults start to apologize and then excuse themselves because the child was in the wrong. “Sure, I yelled—but you deserved it.”1


Modeling Apologies to Teens

  1. Role model humility. You can reduce teen defiance in general by instilling core values like apologizing
  2. More relatable and accessible parents. Your teen is better able to relate to you by showing your teen that you aren’t perfect
  3. Teenagers are truth detectors. They will actually respect you more when you level with them and are sincere
  4. Increase teen’s honesty. Teens feel more comfortable about admitting their own bad choices or struggles when you admit your mistakes
  5. Resist the urge to blame. A specific word to avoid is “but.” Avoid defending yourself by saying “but” after you say “sorry.”
  6. Ask your teen, “What can I do better?” or “How can we avoid this problem in the future?” after admitting any wrongdoing on your part2
  7. Your teen feels heard. When you say sorry, you respect your teen’s feelings and demonstrate that you understand them. You don’t want to be a parent who puts them down
  8. Apologies lead to forgiveness. You are not just teaching your child about the importance of accepting responsibility when you apologize, you are also teaching about forgiveness



  1. 5 Ways to Teach Children to Apologize. Ask Dr. Sears. [No date]
  2. Andy Earle. How to Apologize to Your Teen (and Why You Should). December 17 [No year].
  3. Meiser, Rebecca. The Importance of Saying Sorry for Teens (and Parents). No date.
  4. Image: teenager-1151295_1280 []


Five Parent Tips to Help Your Child and Teen Apologize

Parent Tip 1: Children and Teens needs guidance and patience

from you when it comes to teaching them how to apologize and make amends.


                     Parent Tip 2: Help your child/teen to notice how he/she feels about the situation or mistake and think about how someone else is feeling and what he/she might be thinking.

 Parent Tip 3: Ask your child/teen questions to get an account of the story and help the child process the event. Examples: “Can you tell me what happened?” or “I’d like to know what is going on. Maybe I can help.”



Parent Tip 4: Help your child/teen understand that taking responsibility means saying that it was his/her fault and he/she did something he/she should not have done.


Parent Tip 5: Help your child/teen make a commitment to change the behavior and make a plan to repair the harm and make things right.



  1. Brill, Ariadne. Children Are Wired for Empathy and Insisting On Apologies Is Not Necessary. August 6, 2017.
  2. Pointer, Lindsey C. Restorative Justice Facilitates Effective Apologies. May 30, 2016.
  3. Image: dialog-tip-advice-148815_1280 []

What Do Children & Teens Understand About Apologies?

What Children Understand

A child who has never been apologized to won’t understand the apology process, and more than likely he or she will refuse to apologize, turning a potentially beneficial moment into a standoff with hurt feelings.

Children are born with the capacity for love empathy and understanding. According to Craig Smith, “Children as young as four can grasp the emotional implications of apologies.”1

Parents/caregivers often expect children to make apologies immediately after offending someone. But children (and adults) often need time to process their mistake before they feel genuinely remorseful and ready to make an apology.

Here’s a link to a three-minute video you may enjoy. Children’s Understanding of Apologies.

What Teens Understand

Teens can learn and understand healthy behaviors and values without adults present because they are learning to function more independently.

While teens learn by making plenty of mistakes, they still need parents/caregivers to help them provide structure for that learning.

Teens are dealing with emotions that make them believe that anyone who is not their age does not understand what they are going through.

Teens are likely to feel remorseful, guilty, or uneasy when they make a mistake or cause hurt. Deep down they know they should apologize, but they may hesitate, afraid of appearing weak or admitting fault. Teens are more willing to apologize in the future with other healthy relationships when they see their parents/caregivers willing to apologize to mend relationships.

What do you think your children and  teens understand about apologies?



  1. Smith, Craig. When should you make your kids apologize? The Conversation, November 1, 2017.
  2. Brill, Ariadne. Children Are Wired for Empathy and Insisting On Apologies Is Not Necessary. August 6, 2017.
  3. Craig Smith. August 27, 2008.
  4. Brown, Neil. How To Make Your Teen Apologize. July 13, 2019.
  5. Tucker, Jessica. Apologize To Your Teen (Yep, You Should). January 31, 2022.
  6. Moriarty, Donna. The Importance of Saying Sorry for Teens (and Parents). No date.
  7. Image: excuse-me-5079442_1280 []

Restorative Practices & Resolving Conflict: Affective Statements

Any time is the perfect time to try a new restorative response. Here’s how a Modesto City School teacher at Shackelford used the simplest form of restorative practices.

“When two students had an ongoing issue at recess, we started to resolve the problem using I messages. Although the behavior did not change right away, the students began using I messages on their own. The conflict was not resolved right away, but it was a step in the right direction.”

— By Cohort 2 Site Team Member, Year 3, November 7, 2016

“I” messages provide the foundation of affective statements. This Tier 1 response is the most informal restorative response and can be used with all students. Affective statements are the easiest and most useful tool for building restorative classrooms and relationships.

Simply begin with an “I” statement and provide additional clarification with a feeling and a behavior. It is a personal statement made in response to someone else’s positive or negative behavior. It tells students how their behavior affects you or others.

Below are two examples of common situations and possible affective responses.

Situation #1: Students are rough housing in the hallway

Affective Response: “I want everyone to feel safe here and I can see that what you’re doing is making some of the other kids nervous.”

Situation #2: A student calls another student a name

Affective Response: “That hurt my feelings and it wasn’t even directed at me. I’m wondering how what you just said fits in with the school’s commitment to respect.”

How can you use an affective restorative response today?



  1. The Restorative Practices Handbook: for Teachers, Disciplinarians and Administrators, Bob Costello, John Wachtel, & Ted Wachtel, International Institute for Restorative Practices, 2009.
  2. Ed White Restorative Discipline Teacher’s Handbook. Page 16. [No author].
  3. Image: Cartoon Speech Bubble Clip Art []

Restorative Questions and Reasons We Don’t Ask, Why?

What are Restorative Conversations?

A restorative conversation is any conversation that uses restorative questions in which an issue is approached with an open mind to:

  1. “Truly understand what happened
  2. Authentically listen and provide a space where everyone involved authentically listens to one another
  3. All voices are heard
  4. Focus on the impact the situation/actions had on others and the larger community
  5. Identify any unmet needs (especially for those harmed), and
  6. Determine what needs to happen to make things as right as possible moving forward.”1

Traditional Restorative Questions

The International Institute of Restorative Practices sells business sized cards that ask the restorative questions. Side 1 are the questions to ask the offender, the person who caused harm.

  • What happened?
  • What were you thinking at the time?
  • What have you thought about since?
  • Who has been affected by what you’ve done?
  • In what way have they been affected?
  • What do you think you need to do to make things right?

Side 2 questions are to ask the victim, the those affected.

  • What did you think when you realized what had happened?
  • What impact has this incident had on you and others?
  • What has been the hardest thing for you?
  • What do you think needs to happen to make things right?


A key reminder: there is no question number six that says, “Now give them a lecture.” It’s tempting to insert your wisdom into the process but it’s not your conversation. Trust that the process of asking the questions leads students to resolve the conflict. As needed, summarize the conversation and invite the students to reflect on what they’ve learned.


You may note that there is no question that asks why? There are several reasons we don’t ask, “Why did you do that?” First, it’s not helpful or relevant to resolving the conflict. Second, the students don’t usually know why. Third, if students dig for a reason it often ends up being a rationalization or justification which goes against the process of taking personal responsibility.



  1. What are restorative conversations?
  2. Image: why-1432955 []

Why We Don’t Ask, “Why did you do that?”

Have any of these situations ever happened with your kids?

  • Your preschooler colors on the wall
  • Your school-age child takes something from school
  • Your junior higher cuts class
  • Your teenager shoplifts

When a parent discovers one of the dilemmas above, the first question that spurts from his/her mouth is, “Why did you do that?” quickly followed by, “What were you thinking?”

Parents and teachers, here’s the answer:

They don’t know why they did that. Plus, your rhetorical questions aren’t meant to be answered. They’re simply disguised as an outlet for your anger.

Now that you know, will this profound answer prevent you from repeatedly asking, “Why did you do that?” Probably not, but maybe an explanation will.

The authors of The Restorative Practices Handbook explain, “Young people usually don’t know why they did something wrong. In all likelihood they    were simply being thoughtless or impetuous, without any reason. If we press for an answer, kids dig up a reason that usually sounds more like a rationalization or justification.” 1

The authors continue, “What is more effective is to foster a process of refection by asking questions that will get the misbehaving young people to think about their behavior and how it impacted others.” 1

So next time your child or student does something that angers you, resist the urge to ask, “Why did you do that?” In the next blog, learn what to ask instead of why.



  1. The Restorative Practices Handbook: for Teachers, Disciplinarians and Administrators, Bob Costello, John Wachtel, & Ted Wachtel, International Institute for Restorative Practices, 2009.
  2. Image: Question mark 1.svg []

Pushing Students Out of School: How Did We Get Here?


Why did laws intended to make schools safer backfire?

Zero Tolerance

In 1994 schools across the United States implemented Zero Tolerance policies chid handcuffed []after federal legislation required expulsion for one year when students brought a weapon to school. Many schools expanded this policy to reduce possession or use of illicit and prevent violence.

A multitude of “misbehaviors” escalated to more than 3 million students suspended from schools in 2010. This is double the number of suspensions in the 1970s. Traditional punishment is not working in schools across the country.

Why are American schools pushing students out of school?

Downward Spiral

The increase in suspensions has created a downward spiral for countless students. Students are suspended, often unsupervised which allows opportunities to get into further trouble. Students return to school but their behavior is not only unchanged, they often return angry and resentful. These students typically continue inappropriate behaviors which results in more suspensions.

Why do American schools suspend so many students?

School-to-Prison Pipeline

Every day that students miss school, they fall further behind. The more class they miss, the less likely they are to graduate. Those who miss too much school often end up dropping out and find themselves in trouble with the law. This practice of pushing students out of schools towards the juvenile and criminal justice systems is referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline.

Is there any hope for students?

Restorative Practices

Restorative Practices (RP) has its roots in Restorative Justice. This is a newer field of study that is being used in schools to improve student’s accountability, repair harm, and restore relationships. Many schools are effectively using RP to address the school-to-prison pipeline. RP is used with all students, beginning with building community amongst students and staff.

What can reverse this trend?

Innovative Success

We need to explore alternatives to traditional discipline that increase student responsibility, and decrease classroom disruptions, suspensions and expulsions. To find out more about these innovating strategies that are positively changing the lives of students on my web page

To view your U.S. school district’s suspension rates visit

Image source: child handcuffed []


2022 International Institute of Restorative Practices Conference Changes Lives

Seven hundred people from all over the world virtually attended the International Institute of Restorative Practices Pathways to Social Change Online Conference last week, January 26-28. Three restorative practices trainers and I were able to be a part of this significant time.

Put 20% First

Cami Anderson, Director of Third Word Solutions, says that if we want to change schools, we need to “Put the 20% of kids first. Design the school for them. It will make things radically different.” What does she mean by the 20%? Typically, in schools, about 15% of the students have challenges following school guidelines while five percent are students who regularly demonstrate challenging behaviors. I wonder what schools would look like if we tried this radical idea.

Sexual Violence

Two women from their organization, One in Four in Ireland, did a session on addressing sexual violence. In Ireland, only 5% of perpetrators face criminal charges. The other 95% are free to sexually abuse others until they are caught. The impact on victims doesn’t stop when the abuse stops. Consequences like not being believed, blame, and shame can last a lifetime. It isn’t only Ireland with sexual violence challenges. Every six minutes a woman in the United States is raped. Of those attacks, only 10% are reported. After working for 20 years they are tentatively hopeful for changes.

Storytelling Quilt

The Church Council on Justice and Corrections (CCJC) is a national and ecumenical organization in Canada established in 1972. I learned about their interactive justice storytelling quilt. It features 40 blocks with 13 stories in French and 27 stories in English created by victims and offenders. To see this inspiring quilt, go to


Authenticity Encouraged

Dr. Shelley Jones-Holt of Leadership Legacy shared that the environment is created by the teacher or leader invests themselves in the environment. As educators we create space where everyone can be their authentic self. She discussed the challenges and barriers to being ourselves such as who are you? what’s your voice? and recognizing all parts of your identity. If the adults can’t be authentic, we can’t expect the kids to be authentic. She encouraged us to give our administrators the freedom to be authentic.

Covid 19 Challenges

St. Claire Adraian, school principal of Academy of the City Charter School in Queens, New York revealed some of the impact of Covid-19 on discipline. Group circles went great before the pandemic. Now he is seeing negative behaviors he hasn’t seen in years and hearing push back about using restorative practices. There’s pressure to return to punitive discipline as it is faster. This is challenging especially if people want the immediate gratification of punishment. We must understand the impact of social emotional learning. Changing behavior and healing takes time.

I’d like to summarize by using a quote by Bob Costello, the co-author of Restorative Circles in Schools: Building Community and Enhancing Learning.

“A basic premise of restorative practices is that the increasingly inappropriate behavior in schools is a direct consequence of the overall loss of connectedness in our society. By fostering inclusion, community, accountability, responsibility, support, nurturing and cooperation, circles restore these qualities to a community or classroom and facilitate the development of character. As a consequence of fostering relationships and a sense of belonging, academic performance, too, flourishes.”

Image: IIRP 2022 Conference Theme


What’s Restorative Justice Anyways?

As I train restorative practices for educators in a local school district, many of you may wonder, what am I talking about? 
Definition & Goals
Howard Zehr describes the concept as, “Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.” 1,p. 37 The three main goals of Restorative Justice include holding the offender accountable for his/her actions, increasing community safety for everyone, and building competency skills for those involved. 2, p. 6
My interest?
How did I get interested in restorative justice? My dissertation topic was how district attorneys decide to try a juvenile offender as an adult or as a juvenile. Throughout my research, I consistently read about how restorative justice holds offenders accountable for their actions and make things as right as possible. 
When restorative justice is used with first time offenders, they often don’t become repeat offenders. They realize that what they did caused harm to others and/or harm to property. Say for example, a young person is found doing graffiti. This adolescent would be responsible for paying for the paint and spending many hours painting over graffiti in the community where he or she lives. Painting graffiti often loses its appeal when there are natural consequences. That’s what I love about restorative justice. It teaches consequences and how others have been hurt by the offender’s actions. The goal is to “make things right.”
Cheating Students
As a college professor, I used restorative justice with my students who chose cheating. Because my students were future teachers, and California has a Code of Ethics for Educators, students write a Code of Ethics for themselves. When I discover they have cheated, we examine their code of ethics. Does cheating fit the Code of Ethics? The students receive a zero on the assignment or exam, but it goes beyond that. I want them to quit cheating.
Holding Students Accountable
So I ask students if they’d be willing to notify all their teachers the following semester that they were involved in a cheating incident. They want to change their behavior and become ethical educators. Guess what happens when a student confesses to cheating? The professor watches them like a hawk. By the end of the semester, “cheating students” usually change their ways. This is way better than just getting a zero. Natural consequences and restoring correct behavior. A win-win for all involved. What do you think about restorative practices?


1. The Little Book of Restorative Justice, Howard Zehr, Good Books, 2002.

2. Implementing Restorative Justice, Jessica Ashley, & Kimberly Burke, State of Illinois [no date].

3. Image: Brass-Scales-Of-Justice-Silhouette [freesvg.org_justice-scale]