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How to Discipline a Foster Child

By Michelle Kulas ; Updated June 13, 2017

As a foster parent, it is important to lovingly discipline your foster children to help them learn the appropriate ways to behave. The goal of discipline is to teach the child to evaluate his own behavior, and to adjust it accordingly. It is important not to show anger to your foster child or to treat him unfairly. Remember that you are teaching him lessons that he may not have learned with his birth family. Stay patient and loving, while consistently administering discipline.

  1. Explain the house rules when your foster child arrives in your home. Let the child know what the laws of the land are, and what the consequences will be if the rules are broken. Do this in a gentle and age-appropriate manner, and don't overwhelm the child with a long list of rules. A few simple and broad rules, such as "clean up your messes," and "use respectful language," are better than a lot of rules about trivial matters.

  2. Give one warning when the child begins to misbehave. Remind her of the rule that she has begun to break, and give her the chance to change her behavior.

  3. Consistently and matter-of-factly enforce the stated consequences when the child misbehaves again. Do not allow the child to talk you out of discipline or get into the habit of giving more than one chance. Effective consequences depend on the offense and the age of the child and may include time-outs, removal of privileges or an extra chore.

  4. Avoid using punishments that are prohibited by your foster care system. These include any type of corporal or physical punishment, denying the child food, cruelty, humiliation, verbal abuse and removing the child's right to communicate with his natural family.

  5. Follow up any punishment with assurance that you still care for the child and a reminder of the rules. Discuss with her how she could have avoided breaking the rules and what a better course of action would be for next time.

  6. Praise the child when you see him behaving appropriately. If a particular behavior or rule is a challenge for him, consider giving him a reward for remembering the right way to behave. Set a good example for your foster child by modeling correct behavior in similar situations.

  7. Tip

    While rewarding a child who is struggling with good behavior can be effective, avoid using bribes to coerce children into behaving well. Giving a child a sticker each time she asks for juice nicely on her own at dinner, for example, is rewarding her. Telling her while she is whining, "if you stop whining, I will give you a sticker," is bribing and should be avoided.

    Contact your social worker for advice and help if your foster child's behavior is not responding to your discipline techniques.

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