We look at tips to help you manage difficult behaviours that a child may display

Fostering a child is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life. Opening your home and your family to a foster child is a fantastic feeling, and an act of pure kindness.

Fostering a child is also hard. It can be frustrating, demanding, and difficult. Foster children are, obviously, children – and, as such, they are prone to behaving like it!

Dealing with different types of behaviours is an important part of the fostering experience. While your foster child might drive you to distraction, there are ways to manage these situations that leave both of you feeling a lot better about yourselves.

At Orchard Fostering, we’re aware of the many behavioural challenges that foster carers may face – and we’re here to help get you through it. Have a look below for some tips that can help in managing challenging behaviours.

  1. Be consistent

Foster children often come from tumultuous backgrounds. Their world can feel like it has been turned upside down, and this can lead to acting out and displaying some challenging behaviours in their new home The trigger for this may be due to the child trying to adjust to their new surroundings and situation that they are in. As such, consistency becomes a key factor in helping your child manage their feelings and work on creating healthier coping mechanisms rather than the ones they may display through challenging behaviour.

Maintaining a consistent set of child friendly rules and boundaries in your home is essential. We’ve written before about how to subtly introduce rules on your foster child’s first day – once you’ve done this, it pays to stick to them! By establishing clear ground rules, you build a structure around behaviour in your house. While you may feel like a bit of a killjoy, this structure will create a sense of cohesion for your foster child, giving them a framework within which to grow in their new environment.

  1. Don’t overreact

Kids are good at digging in their heels and taking a disagreement to the next level. They’re kids – they’re allowed to put the foot down and make a big deal out of something small. You, on the other hand, can learn a few lessons from The Eagles – and just take it easy.

Dealing with challenging behaviour can be frustrating – especially if the challenging behaviour is persistent. While it may be tempting to raise your voice, we’d advise caution. Foster children, as we’ve mentioned already, may have come from difficult backgrounds – some have been exposed to violence and abuse. A raised voice to you may mean someone is upset – but to them, it may mean something much more frightening.

Taking a firm, measured, and quiet tone is for the best. It reduces the possibility of triggering a trauma and allows you and your foster child to engage with each other as people. By projecting calm into the situation, you effectively diffuse the tension – and, oftentimes, the argument.

  1. Talk about it

You’ve got to communicate. No disagreement was ever resolved by both parties sitting in separate rooms, sulking. If your foster child is testing boundaries, explain the rules – and then discuss the importance of the rules with them. Explain to them why their behaviour is upsetting or disruptive and let them know why you have particular rules in your house.

Through talking, you can engage with your foster child on a less imposing level – you bring the rules to them and make them feel part of the process. You’re still in charge – but there’s more of a collaborative feel to things, which makes your foster child feel more included in your family and more in control of their surroundings.

  1. Don’t forget about positivity

We’ve mostly been talking about what to do when your foster child is finding it difficult to manage their emotions in an acceptable or effective way – but we don’t want to dwell only on the negative! Your foster child is going to behave excellently a lot of the time – and you need to make sure to highlight that behaviour.

If your foster child volunteers to help with cleaning up the dishes, or makes their bed, or gets you a cup of tea after a long day – let them know how much you appreciate it. Good behaviour deserves reward, and a kind word from a foster parent is a very nice thing to get.

By reinforcing good behaviour through positivity, you establish that that’s the way you behave in your house. Being kind gets you more kindness in return – and that’s a fantastic way to live your life!

Try to remember that behind each behaviour there is a feeling and a need. Behaviour is a form of communication. It is important to recognise and validate the child’s feelings in order to help them learn new coping mechanisms and behaviours. A behaviour is often a survival reaction or technique the child has used in the past to cope, therefore it is important that if you are attempting to remove or change a certain behaviour, that you help the child learn a new behaviour and technique that is meeting the same need but in a healthier way.