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Social Discipline Window

The social discipline window describes four basic approaches to social control and behavior boundaries, representing them as different combinations of high or low control and high or low support. The restorative window uses high control and high support taking action with people, rather than doing to them or for them. The social discipline window has applications for all settings involving behavior and social control. (IIRP, 2015-2017)

The social discipline window can be used as a restorative leadership model.  The Institute of Restorative Practices quotes Ted Wachtel explaining that "The fundamental unifying hypothesis of restorative practices is that “human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.” (IIRP, 2015-2017).  The premise of restorative leadership is that the restorative approach is more effective than the punitive or permissive approach for encouraging desired behavior including compliance, commitment, follow-through, accountability and care for the process and others.   We are all leaders, if nothing else, we are leaders of our own lives.  For this reason the social discipline window holds value for anyone wanting to increase the effectiveness of their actions.  That said, in particular understanding and applying the social discipline window holds significant value for parents, teachers, administrators and managers, police and social workers, judges and officials in government. (IIRP, 2015-2017)

Below are some examples of how the four approaches to social and behavioral control might look in a family.

to / punitive

  • Rules created by parents
  • Consistency.
  • Clear expectations.
  • Desired behavior is encouraged using extrinsic rewards such as gifts, money, special privileges.
  • Undesirable behavior is discouraged using fear of punishment such as physical pain, isolation, loss of resources (no dinner, no allowance) and loss of privilege.
  • Immediate and clear response to undesirable behavior with no discussion and no exceptions.
  • Response to undesirable behavior is punishment as outlined above.
  • Likely to promote: Compliance, Cooperation, Submission, Rebellion, Subversion, Bullying, Acquiescence, Reluctance, Fear, Anger, Resentment, Defensiveness, Frustration, Hopelessness, Apathy, Denial of Responsibility, Guilt/Shame/Embarrassment followed by disconnection, hopelessness. anger, denial, dis-empowerment.

with / restorative

  • Norms & Guidelines created collaboratively (age appropriate).
  • Consistency.
  • Clear Expectations.
  • Desired behavior is encouraged using intrinsic rewards such compassionate communication, pride, appreciation, connection, & acknowledgement.
  • Undesirable behavior is discouraged using affective statements and the knowledge of real world consequences to actions.
  • Immediate and clear response to undesirable behavior.
  • Undesirable behavior is responded to with affective statements and questions.  The child is asked to work with those harmed to repair the harm.
  • Likely to promote: Compliance, Cooperation, Collaboration, Self-motivated action, Accountability, Responsibility, Creativity, Trust, intial Shame/Embarrassment/Guilt followed by Empowerment, Joy, Inspiration, Engagement, Curiosity, Pride, Trust, Creativity, Autonomy, Connnection

for / permissive

  • No rules or constantly changing rules.
  • Children seem to be in charge.
  • No consistency.
  • Little to no expectations and/or little to no follow through on expectations.  When expectations are not met parents pick take responsibility for consequences.
  • Parents lives and schedules revolve around children.  Parents create everything and fix everything.
  • Desired behavior is encouraged using rewards and unempowered requests.
  • Undesirable behavior is discouraged threats with no follow-through or unempowered requests.  
  • Likely to promote Laissez-Fair, Lack of Motivation, Distrust, Confusion, Complacency, Shame, Denial of Responsibility, Bullying, Apathy, Fear, Hopelessness, Disconnection.


not / neglect


  • Absent parent; physically, mentally and/or emotionally.
  • No rules, norms or guidelines
  • No expectations
  • No consequences
  • Likely to promote Fear, Loneliness, Isolation, Hopelessness, Distrust, Disengagement.