The Karate Kid and Restorative Parenting

I took my 6 year-old son to see the new Karate Kid the other day. He really liked it which was good enough for me, but the most memorable part of the movie for me was a scene in which the 12 year-old main character, Dre, demonstrates restorative action in response to his despair over losing his best friend to a cultural faux pas. The movie is set in China, and Dre, a Detroit native, goes to his Chinese girl friend's violin audition for the Beijing Music Academy (very honorable). In response to her performance, he cheers and claps. Apparently, this response in not indicated in this circumstance and her father instructs her to tell Dre that she is not allowed to be friends with him any more.

Dre is perplexed, but his teacher helps him design an apology in an attempt to restore the connection. Dre goes to their house and, speaking directly to the father, says that he understands that he has dishonored their family by his actions. He says that his daughter has been a good friend to him and that he has not behaved in a way that respects and honers the importance and value of the friendship. Then he proceeds to ask for the opportunity to continue being friends with the girl. Dre, with the help and modeling of his teacher, builds the bridge that facilitates his reintegration into the community. So much is unsaid, and he could have been rejected in his attempt, yet the steps necessary to repair the harm and open the door to relationship are clear and compelling.

4 Steps of Restorative Bridge Building (Restorative Apology)

  1. Take 100% Responsibility. Find the words and the heart felt sense, the inner knowing, that honestly reflects how your actions have caused, promoted or allowed the consequences of the situation. While this may seem difficult at times, it is the key to opening the door through which the other party can see you clearly.
  2. Show respect for the other person's perspective. In Dre's case you can see where he might consider the response unequal to the offense. However, it is in seeking to understand rather than be understood that we open ourselves to the possibility of reconnection. We must be the ones to open our hearts first. We must be willing to take the first step, and we do this by broadening our perspective to include the other person's.
  3. Speak to your own motivations and needs. With the door open and our heartfelt expression of remorse and respect, which is self-evident by our efforts, we explain why the relationship is important to us and how we failed to honor that. Why bother? This is almost always an expression of the importance of the relationship to us. Regardless of any base or surface motivations we may have, the bottom line is that we want the relationship to work, whether it is with a spouse, friend, boss, co-worker, ex-spouse, or child, we are in a situation that serves our needs when the relationship is healed or healing.
  4. Express your intentions for the future. This is best done in the positive form rather than the negative. Rather than say, “I'll never do that again”, say “I will do my best to respect your needs and honor our relationship,” or it can be as simple as, “I want us to be friends.”

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