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What about Discipline?

Straight talk about a complicated subject.

Each child is a unique individual with different strengths and abilities.

ParentsDiscipline teaches children to engage better with others and to modify or manage their behavior in healthy ways. Positive and non-physical discipline is most effective.

Some parents are challenged to use positive and non-physical methods to teach children. The strongest element in effective discipline with your own children is a bond of mutual love and shared history.  However, in many circumstances, you do not have this bond with foster children entering your home.

Disciplining children as a foster parent or relative caregiver requires a different level of planning and thought than you use with your biological children.

Physical discipline or punishment of foster children is prohibited in all situations.

Dealing with difficult behavior for positive discipline

A simple formula for approaching a child's problem behavior:

  • Collect the following information about a specific behavior needing modification:
    ... What time of day does it occur?
    ... Where does it happen?
    ... Who is the child with when it occurs?
    ... What is the situation or event that triggered the behavior?
  • Consider the child's developmental age as opposed to his or her chronological age.
  • Focus on changing one or two behaviors at a time and ignore behaviors you can tolerate or are not related to health or safety.
  • List possible solutions; consider ideas from the caseworker, certifier and child.
  • Test your ideas and select the most effective solution.
  • Evaluate how the solution is working and make modifications as needed

ParentsThe most effective foster parent will:

  • Establish basic routines and a few clearly stated rules;
  • Provide discipline that is warm and encouraging;
  • Set reliable and fair limits;
  • Recognize the child’s feelings and his or her right to those feelings;
  • Provide a physically and emotionally safe place for the child to live.

Helpful hints for positive discipline

  • Catch a child being good! 
  • Use specific praise and encouragement
  • Strive for consistency.
  • Teach by example.
  • Keep your sense of humor.
  • Get support for yourself.
  • Know when to ask for help and ask for help when you need it.
  • Provide choices to your child.
  • Respect the importance to the child of his or her biological family and cultural traditions.
  • Avoid criticism and sarcasm, as well as words that hurt and humiliate.
  • Understand the child’s behavior is not a personal attack toward you.

Training and support

Your local child welfare office provides training to foster parents, relative caregivers and potential adoptive resources on topics such as positive behavior management and child development.

Please ask the child’s caseworker or your certifier for the next available training. You can find additional information at the following websites:

Foster Parent home page

Foster Parent Lending Library