One day one of my elementary aged foster daughters (we’ll call her Stephanie) was working on her homework. She got super frustrated and decided that she didn’t know how to do the work and wasn’t ever going to get finished with it. She started crying and was very loud and disruptive to the other kids doing their homework. I felt like I had tried everything to get her to calm down and nothing was working. I had her take some time to herself in her room which allowed me some time out to think more through the situation. Eventually, after ignoring me trying to talk to her about the situation, she came out to the living room on her own, still as determined as ever to ignore and be obnoxious to others around her. I finally had decided that she needed a distraction, something to get her mind off of wanting to be the center of attention. I grabbed our vacuum hose that was plugged into the wall and started pretending I was carrying around a funny gun. I turned it on and “tickled” the first person who came near me and then reached down and “tickled” Stephanie. At first she wanted to still be mad, but it only took a few times of every kid in the room wanting to get “tickled” by the vacuum, to pull her out of the space she was in. All of a sudden she was willing to listen, talk, and even accept the consequence of her behavior.
I don’t know about you, but I find myself getting into the same ruts when teaching both my foster kids and my own kids. We do the same things every day. It’s good to have a routine, but sometimes you just do the same thing day in and day out without even thinking about it. Sometimes you have to take a TIME OUT to think about the situation and find something new and creative to try. I had to do this with Stephanie when she refused to listen to me. Maybe you feel like you aren’t creative enough to try this approach, but believe me, I feel like the least creative person on the planet. So if I can do it, SO CAN YOU!
Since becoming a foster mom, I have had so many opportunities to work on my creativity. When I have had to teach my kids things like getting along together, using calming down techniques, making good choices, etc. I usually have to amp up the creativity. In fact, I sometimes even have to take myself out of the situation and ask someone else what they think. In a lot of cases I get super frustrated when I’m in the moment. It is always a great idea to get an opinion from someone who isn’t so emotionally tied to the situation. For us, we have a consultant who we can contact 24/7 with problems we are facing. She is the best ever! Thanks Sandee for everything you do for us! You may not have a consultant with the foster care agency that you do care for, but find someone who understands what you are trying to do and let them know that you need someone to problem solve things with sometimes. Make sure you don’t breech any confidentiality. If you are married, maybe your spouse would be an awesome place to turn when you need some fresh ideas.
Here are 3 examples of somethings that you could do to change things up in your home:
- Use a Consequence Jar. – This works great if you get tired of coming up with consequences in the moment and find that this stresses you out. Use any container that you want and come up with however many consequences that you want, cut them into strips, and let the child who earned the consequence choose their own. Some ideas could be: Loss of T.V./Video Games for the rest of the day, doing a chore that no one likes, or having to go to bed early. You may want to make a couple of cups, that way depending on the reason for the consequence, the punishment can fit the crime.
- Use a Reward Jar – Very important to use in conjunction with the Consequence Jar, a rewards jar gives kids the opportunity to earn something fun when they are doing things that we do like. Come up with some fun things that motivate your foster kids and let them choose out of the jar when you notice they are doing something you want them to keep doing. Don’t forget to notice the good, or they won’t keep doing it.
- Use a Collection Bin – This could be used if you have foster youth who struggle to pick up after themselves. If you have to pick up something of theirs, it goes into the Collection Bin and to get it back they have to do a chore, or something else you decide to do. This could also be used in connection with the Consequence and Rewards jar. If they have something in the bin, the have to draw out of the Consequence Jar, but if they don’t have something at the end of the day, they can draw out of the Rewards Jar.
These are just a few ways to think outside of the box and get creative with your parenting. Leave us a comment and let us know some of the things that you do in your home to help break up the monotony and keep your foster kids on their toes.