Monday, May 28, 2012

Fostering and Discipline

Dan and I finally made up our STARS class that we missed, the one about discipline. I was really looking forward to this class and was sad to miss it with our usual group. I mean, what parent of little ones isn't looking for a fresh perspective on discipline!

In class, we talked about how discipline and punishment are two different things:

Disciplinetraining that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character; orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior. Discipline is better equated with self control than punishment. It really does just mean training one to act a certain way. 

Punishment: suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution.

Punishment and discipline are used together to make change in a child's heart resulting in changed behavior. We've done it all; spanking (gasp!), time outs, charts, rewards and depriving them of rewards, and lots and lots of communication. Disciplining your own children can include all of these things, including spanking (when done sparingly and in a loving way) because your children have the whole picture. You not only discipline them but you build them up, too. You cheer for them when they go potty (seriously, I had NO idea how much clapping I would do while potty training!), you encourage them to sell their crayon scribbles to MOMA and you basically let them know every single day how amazing they are.

Children who end up in the foster care system most likely do not get that at home.The parent child relationship is deeply broken. Some kids never really bond with their parents because of the abuse or neglect they may have experienced. When a foster child comes into our home, the number one thing I want them to know is that we will keep them safe. Being consistent, calm and gentle yet firm will help them to see this.

While foster children are in our home, we are not allowed to spank the kids. Dan and I completely understand why we need to sign a form agreeing to this. Many foster kids come into care because there was some sort of physical abuse or neglect in their home.We learned that it's important to give reasons for punishments as well as rewards. Children should know why you are either giving or taking away something, otherwise, it's just random acts of hatred or kindness and no discipline is learned. Just distrust.

There are two reasons that can be given: "Others" reasons and "Kid" reasons. "Others" reasons are those given to help kids understand how their actions effect other people. The "kid" reasons are those that explain how the child is directly effected. All children focus completely on themselves, but with appropriate punishments, they can be disciplined to think of others (that's the goal, right?). BUT, Foster children are stuck in the "Kid" stage much longer. It's important to give them the "kid" reason instead of/along with the "others" reasons.

Negative Example: Your child doesn't put away his backpack after school for an entire week. You've just tripped over it for the bazzillionth time and you. are. fed. up!

Punishment: You take away their backpack and give them a trash bag for their things. They have to use the trash bag for each day that they neglected to put their back pack away.
Others Reason: "When you leave your back pack in the way, I trip over it and get hurt."
Kid Reason: "When you leave your back pack in the way, someone could stomp on it and break all of your cool Lightening McQueen crayons!"
Discipline: Teaching your child to respect their things and keep them safe. AND, hopefully teaching them to keep their mom from breaking her neck!

Positive Example: You are about to leave the house and see that your children have shoes on and are waiting patiently by the door. Oh, and you're on time! WAH-HOO!

Reward: Children get to add a piece to their Mr. Potato Head guys, working toward a movie night.
Others Reason: "Wow, I am shocked. Thanks for making my day so much easier by getting yourselves ready on time! Now, mommy doesn't have to drive like a crazy person to school."
Kid Reason: "Children, when you get yourselves ready to leave in time, it gives you more play time at school with your friends! It also means you get to have a Mr. Potato Head piece and you are that much closer to a movie night!!"
Discipline: Be on time!

We currently use Mr. Potato Head as our reward/punishment system. If Elijah obeys us without arguing (pretty rare these days!), he gets to add a piece to his Mr. Potato Head. There are 11 pieces total and when he completes his "guy", we all get to have a movie night! We've been using this system for a month now and we've had two movie nights. There are days when he actually gets a lot of  pieces but somehow, by bed time, Mr. Potato Head is completely naked. It takes time, but I think the visual is very helpful for Elijah. It's helpful for Dan and I too, because we have a specific way to encourage him to obey.


Dan and I have only been doing this parenting thing for a couple of years. We are NOT experts!!! PLEASE give advice and share what works for you. We are open to trying anything!!!


  1. Hey Bethany, sometime, hopefully in the near future I am going to actually do a blog post and will post about our new little strategy that seems to be working pretty well. I have a question for you. When you say you signed a waiver not to spank does that mean just the foster kids or does it extend to your bio kids as well? I actually think your decision to keep it consistent is very wise no matter your stance on spanking, but just curious if they make you sign a waiver saying you will not spank your own kids as well. Enjoying your posts about fostering, we have been thinking about you guys a lot lately and praying the Lord brings the perfect little girlies into your home and that everyone adjusts well.

    1. the paper we signed stated that we would not spank our foster children or lock them in closets or keep them from family visits, etc. it was only for our foster children, but we are pretty serious about consistency when it comes to parenting. i know we aren't doing a lot of things right, but as long as we a re consistent, the kids will know what to expect from us. no surprises is an important thing, especially with foster children. that said, we are also totally up for new suggestions and are ok with changing things around when needed. i'd LOVE to read about what's working for your family!! thank you for your prayers! we are beyond excited and overwhelmed!