Children learn through observation and repetition – that’s why it is not uncommon for foster children to display negative behaviour after having experienced trauma in their life previously. Often an absence of stability and routine in their life can lead to feelings of helplessness and a lack of control – which can be the causes of challenging behaviour.
This may manifest itself in a number of ways. Types of challenging behaviour include:
However, this list is not exhaustive – as there can be various indicators of challenging behaviour. Some of the causes of challenging behaviour can include:
If your foster child is constantly misbehaving, this can be frustrating. The first thing to remember is that fostering is challenging, and we understand how hard it can be. That’s why, here at Excel Fostering, we want to reassure you that you are not alone - and challenging behaviour exhibited by foster children is often reminiscent of their past, not your skills as a parent. The best way to help your child is by focussing on helping them to process their trauma – as the challenging behaviours that are often exhibited include communication. This can be achieveved through the positive behaviour strategies outlined below.
It is important to your child that your behaviour remains consistent as they have lacked stability and routine their whole life. Having consistent values will help your child to know exactly what to expect when something goes wrong. They won’t be afraid that a burst of anger could result in something much worse, but they will know that they will be disciplined. We suggest adopting the following characteristics when implementing any behaviour management strategies:
By taking on the above personality characteristics, you can embody a good parent – and become a protective authority figure that can provide a child with a caring and stable home.
It’s integral to be consistent in your actions. The best way to stay consistent is to set out a clear set of rules and always follow through on these. For example, if you want your child to eat all their vegetables one day, you must ask the same of them next day. This way, your child will be aware of the rules and how they can fulfil them. Consistency is key in positive behaviour strategies because, if children understand the rules, they will be more likely to follow them.
Equally, a solid set of rules creates a sense of control for your child. If your foster child understands that TV privileges, for example, can be achieved through good behaviour, they have the autonomy to choose whether they want to behave or misbehave. Establishing a firm set of rules provides a child with a feeling of stability and independence which cannot be replicated elsewhere. It’s also important to adopt these rules for every member of the family – so the foster child feels they are receiving the same treatment.
As well as staying consistent with the rules and consequences , you also need to offer your child regular praise and rewards. If your child is behaving well, do not hesitate to tell them that you are pleased - even if it’s as simple as putting their toys away. Behaviour reward charts, with a prize at the end, work really well as your child can see their progress and aim for a goal. Rewards do not need to be expensive, if they behaved well, why not ask if they want to choose what’s for dinner that night, or what film the household should watch that weekend?
Another popular praise and reward method is the use of ‘Grandma’s Rule’. Grandma’s Rule phrases everything as an incentive – instead of saying ‘if you don’t have a bath you can’t watch telly’, say ‘you can watch telly after you’ve had a bath’. This gives your child a feeling of autonomy. Instead of being required to take a bath, they make the decision to have a bath because they can get something good out of it.
Reaffirming good behaviour will encourage your child to behave well as they will be motivated by the benefits. However, it’s important to note that some children might struggle to manage praise, as this can be unnerving for them, so it’s important to work in a way which benefits the child’s development.
It is important you do not tell your child off for every small thing. Not only will this affect your child’s confidence, but it could encourage further misbehaviour. Naughtiness can often be a cry for attention as children know you will respond to them. If you ignore the small bad behaviours, such as answering back, or redirect their attention, your child will soon realise that it is not an efficient way to get attention.
It is important to note that your child might feel a need to attention-seek due to the amount of time you’re spending with them. If a child feels neglected or lonely, their solution is to be noticed. To avoid attention seeking, make sure you set aside some alone time every day to spend with your child. Your child will feel wanted and loved and, probably, less inclined to act-up.
We believe this is one of the best ways to start implementing positive behaviour strategies. Here at Excel Fostering, we have set up a solid support foundation for all our carers. We know that fostering can be tough at times and sometimes you just need to speak with someone who understands. We can all get overwhelmed and not only is this perfectly okay, but there are people here to help you.