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Foster child behaviour management strategies

Children typically learn by observing, listening and interacting with the adults who are taking care of them. That’s why some foster children may exhibit negative behaviour time and again due to the experiences they’ve had in their younger years – hence the need for effective foster child behaviour management strategies.

What is behaviour management in children?

Behaviour management is the application of various techniques or strategies which enforce positive behaviour in children. These techniques can be as simple as behaviour reward charts or praising children when they have exhibited positive behaviour but are typically very effective in instilling positive behaviour into children.

Causes of challenging behaviour

Often, there are specific triggers of challenging behaviour that can sometimes be avoided. But first, it’s important to address – what is challenging behaviour? Foster children can exhibit challenging behaviour in a number of ways, and this can often include:

  • Stealing money
  • Eating food without permission or when they know they shouldn’t
  • Acting in a rude or aggressive way
  • Causing arguments
  • Being destructive
  • Self-harm
  • Running away

This is not an exhaustive list, as there can be multiple indicators of challenging behaviour. However, there are some triggers of challenging behaviour you, as a foster parent, can either try to avoid or should be aware of. Causes of challenging behaviour can include:

  • Being in pain or feeling unwell
  • Negative emotions such as sadness, frustration, loneliness, frustration or even depression and anxiety
  • Seeking attention
  • Boredom or lack of stimulation
  • Lack of understanding
  • Fear

Positive behaviour management strategies

If your foster children are showing signs of poor or challenging behaviour, it’s important to establish clear boundaries and rules. They may not have been exposed to positive behaviour strategies before, so it may take a while for them to adapt, but eventually, they’re likely to understand what is acceptable and what’s not.

1. Clear rules set in place for the whole family

For a foster child entering a new environment, they are not expected to understand or abide by any rules that are set in place. That’s why it’s your job as their carer to calmly explain the rules to them, and also ensure that the whole family are abiding by these rules – not just the foster children. If foster children feel they are receiving different treatment to children already in the family, they may feel vulnerable and begin to act out either against them, or towards the adults.

2. Establish clear consequence and rewards

Next, it’s important to highlight a clear consequence and reward scheme for actions. For example, helping with the washing up could result in a reward – whereas throwing food around the dinner table would result in a consequence. Once these boundaries are explained to the foster child, it’ll be easier for them to know where they stand in terms of being disciplined or not.

It’s also especially important to ensure that if you have a partner, you are both always on the same page when it comes to instilling the rules – as if one of you wavers on something, it will set an inconsistent approach to the positive behaviour strategies you’ve been working on. This may lead the foster child to revert back to their previous behaviour, or even identify that there is inconsistency in authority and attempt to challenge it.

3. Outline objectives

For applying behaviour management techniques successfully, it’s vital to outline objectives. This could be something as simple as keeping their room tidy for one week; helping out with 3 household jobs in the week or completing all homework on time. Having specific objectives outlined to foster children can give them a sense of purpose and responsibility – especially knowing the consequences and rewards on the back of these objectives.

4. Behaviour reward charts

A simple strategy but usually very effective, include all the family in a behaviour reward chart. Whether the reward for positive behaviour is smiley faces, stars or ticks, children have a sense of what they are being praised for – and what they’re not. This can be helpful in encouraging the children to help out in tasks around the house as well as monitoring the behaviour – and it creates a sense of responsibility. Decide on what rewards the children can receive from this chart when they reach ten stars, for example, and ensure the children are made aware of this opportunity for reward, too.

5. Ensure you exhibit model behaviour

As a foster carer, it’s incredibly important that the version of yourself that is seen by your foster children is one that should influence them to behave in a positive way. If they catch you arguing with your partner, it may lead them to believe they are allowed to argue in the same way with some of the family members. That’s why keeping a model impression up at all times the foster children are around is important when applying behaviour management techniques – and so they’ll have a secure, stable authoritative figure to look up to.

6. Praise, praise, praise!

When it’s due, praise is one of the most powerful behaviour management techniques you can use. So, keep an eye out for praiseworthy behaviour that you can reinforce and ensure you’re receptive to their positive attitude. It’s common for foster children to often have low confidence or self-worth, yet with praise, these attributes can be improved which will, in turn, improve their negative behaviour qualities, too.

Here at Capstone Foster Care, we provide our carers with extensive foster care training and support. If you need any help with foster child behaviour management strategies, our helpful team are always on hand to offer support and advice. Get in touch with us today, or find out more about how to foster a child today.

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