Tool #1 Identify Positive Behaviors to Build Confidence and Trust
This is tool number one because it is probably the most important tool. Have you ever worked with someone that you could never please? Everything you ever did was wrong or not good enough. How did that make you feel, pretty crummy right? Eventually you realized, “Why should I try?” Well, believe it or not, your foster youth feel the same way. Now, think about this. How do you feel when you are with someone who genuinely compliments and praises many of the things you do? It makes you feel great; right? And, you probably want to do whatever they praised even more. Identify a handful of positive behaviors, and praise and compliment your youth often when the do them. This will make them happy, you happy, and they’ll want to do whatever you just praised them for more often.
Tool #2 Identify Negative Behaviors to Correct
Don’t go crazy on this one. In fact, only choose one or two, or maybe three if your youth is ready for that. Pick your battles wisely. If your youth has a handful of negative behaviors that you would like to change pick a little one that will be easy to change in a very short period of time. This will make them feel that they are in control and that they are fully capable of changing. Plus, they will get a boost when they master that behavior for the better. If you need to focus on a big issue that will take some time, remember to constantly work on the small easy behaviors as well so that your foster youth can see that they are still making progress.
Tool #3 Identify Motivating Rewards
You need to know what will motivate your foster youth, and use that to motivate them. Do they like to spend time on the internet or at a skate park? Use that to motivate them. When is the last time you did something with no motivation? Probably never. You had motivation of one form or another, whether it was an upset parent, good grades, or a pay check. How successful your reward system is very dependant upon how motivating your rewards are. When I’m simply working for a paycheck, I often take my time. When I get the paycheck, plus I get to go home early if I finish early, I work much faster. Your foster kids are the same. Sweeten the deal for better results. And, one key component, let your foster youth tell you what motivates them. Don’t just think that you know.
Tool #4 Be Positive
You need to identify way more positive behavior than you ever do negative behavior. Praise and positive interactions build confidence and trust. Negative interactions and criticism destroy confidence and build distrust. Your most important goal as a foster parent is to build a relationship with your foster youth, build their self confidence and have them trust and respect you. The only way that this will happen is by being positive. Even when you must handle a negative situation, be a positive as you can. I remember a time when we had two youth get into some serious trouble. There were some big consequences that they had to work through. To help them do this, we were very positive. Every little thing that they did right, we praised them for it. It really turned a negative experience into a positive learning experience.
Tool #5 Be Consistent
If you reward good behavior once. Do it again. Also, don’t hammer on negative behavior part of the time, only to ignore it other times. That gets to be confusing. One of the keys to consistency is self tracking. Unless you are way more awesome than I am, you will need to come up with some way of tracking yourself. Remember, consistency is key, and it is well worth the effort. It may sound like a pain to have to track your interactions with your foster youth, but it will greatly increase your ability to be consistent. It will also help you look back and see how your consistent effort is helping your foster youth change their behavior and improve in your home. One way to track your consistency is to carry a little notebook around, or carry change in your left pocket that you switch to your right pocket every time you do whatever behavior you are tracking. You will find that the simple act of tracking yourself will help you remember to be consistent.