In accordance with most state laws, foster parents and adoptive parents are not allowed to use corporal punishment to discipline their children. Spanking, slapping a child’s hand, washing a child’s mouth with soap, and other physical acts of discipline are not permitted for foster children and adoptive children. For parents who are used to punishing their children (see “The Difference Between Discipline And Punishment“), this creates a need to change their parenting strategies to accommodate state rules and regulations. In this discussion, we will go over some safe and effective discipline techniques for adopted and foster children to help you correct a child’s bad behavior.
Why Is Corporal Punishment Forbidden In Foster Homes?
Corporal punishment is considered an antiquated disciplinary technique by today’s standards, but that is not why it is prohibited in foster and adoption programs. Most of the kids in the foster system are victims of childhood abuse and neglect. In their short lives, they have already been exposed to physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, food deprivation, malnourishment, rape, gang violence, and a slew of other issues that most of us hope to never encounter. Physical acts like spanking and swatting can be triggers for painful memories, which will make an already reserved child even less likely to trust the new adult figures in his or her life. In order to avoid traumatic flashbacks, it is best to find alternative discipline techniques for foster and adopted children.
Note that time-out can also be considered a trigger for some children. In particular, forms of time out that involve facing a wall or being isolated from a group in another room. While state laws vary with regards to time-out discipline for foster and adopted children, you should explore the other options listed below before sending a child into a mentally-straining situation.
Appropriate Discipline Techniques For Adopted And Foster Children
Now that you understand why corporal punishment and physical discipline are inappropriate for foster children and adopted children, try out these effective discipline techniques:
Ask Questions That Make The Child Reconsider His/Her Decision
Rather than telling a child that he has done something wrong, ask him questions about the situation and its consequences. Why did you do that? What did you gain from doing that? What are the consequences for your actions? Who did you hurt by doing that? The questions will vary from one situation to the next, but they should all be designed to make a child think about what he has done and why it was not a wise decision.
Get To The Root Of The Problem
Oftentimes discipline is not a matter of correcting a problem. The goal is to find the source of the problem and correct that instead. For example, if your child is misbehaving because he is being bullied by another child, you may need to confront the other child’s parents (or you, if it is a child in your household) about the bullying. If the child is acting out because he or she is homesick, work on making your place feel more like home. Preventative disciplinary actions are far more effective than punishment in the long run.
Ignore Bad Behavior When Possible
Children may act out as a way of getting attention. By ignoring their behavior, you show them that they are not going to be rewarded with attention for their actions. Of course, there are many instances were ignoring the problem only makes the problem worse, like if two children are in a fight or a child is trying to start a fire. Pick your battles and decide when you need to take action and when you need to let a child throw a tantrum.
Create A System For Earning And Losing Privileges
Rewarding a child for good behavior will encourage him to do well, but you can use this same practice in reverse to discipline a child. For instance, if your child does well, he can earn 30 minutes of extra TV or video game time. If he misbehaves, he gets 15 minutes taken away. Find out what your child’s currency is and use that as a tool to persuade him to behave properly. In time, he will learn to earn more than he loses.
Hold Weekly Family Meetings To Discuss Bad Behaviors
Having a weekly family meeting will ensure that every member of your family is on the same page with recent events. This gives you an open setting to discuss problems that have come up over the week and the solutions you developed for those problems. Let your children participate in the discussions so they can tell you how they feel about different topics. This could lead to valuable insight into the reasons behind the child’s behavior and what you can do to prevent them from moving forward.
Work With A Family Counselor
It may be best to seek counseling as a family. Note that if you have foster children in your home, you may need to discuss this with the children’s caseworkers to make sure counseling does not violate any terms for their foster care. If you have adopted children, you can seek out child counseling or family counseling to work out difficult, repeat problems that come up in your household. Perspectives Of Troy offers family counseling services for blended families, adoptive homes, and more. Contact us at (248) 244-8644, and we will match you with the best counselor for your family’s unique needs.
Use Redirection To Distract A Child From Bad Behavior
Redirection can be an effective discipline technique for foster children and adopted children. In this case, you find something for the child to focus on that takes his mind off the bad behavior. For instance, if a child insists on picking on his sister, you may ask him to complete a project or chore with you in another room. This removes the child from the temptation until he is no longer interested in misbehaving.
Get Informed Ahead Of Time – Learn What You Can About Your Child
The better informed you are about your foster or adopted child, the easier it will be for you to come up with appropriate discipline techniques for him or her. Before a child comes into your home, study his case file and talk to the caseworker about behaviors you may expect from the child. Some children will come with a detailed case file outlining past experiences, court cases, medical records, etc., and others may only come with the clothes on their backs. It all depends on how long they have been in the system, why they were removed from their parent’s homes, and what kind of environment they were raised in.
If you notice behaviors developing that were not mentioned in the child’s original case file, contact the caseworker immediately. These behaviors will need to be documented, even if the child does not permanently stay in your home. For example, if the child becomes physically abusive to his siblings or other children in the home, you will need to have that on record in case someone gets seriously injured. As long as you act proactively and focus on your children’s needs, you should be able to find the right discipline techniques to help him or she develop into a smart, successful young adult.