Discipline is something that you will spend time talking with your worker about. In no way is corporal punishment allowed. There are very clear regulations on this, and can result in a loss of your foster care license (if applicable in your state), or the loss of your child prior to finalization.
Make sure you discuss the details of this with your worker. Be sure that you are completely clear on what you may and may not do. You do not want to lose a child due to something that could have easily been avoided. For example, if your child is raging, and you feel that he is in danger of harming himself, you should be trained in proper restraint techniques.
Things that our parents did may be considered abusive and you want to be very clear on what you can and cannot do. Do you feel it’s abusive to put soap in a child’s mouth for bad language? How long can you leave a child in “time out”? What about having your child do chores for restitution of stolen or damaged items? These may seem very basic, but can be subject to interpretation. Make sure that you are clear on what you can or cannot do.
What can you do to discipline a child?
Time out – You probably already know what this is, but just in case…. In a time out you remove the child from the situation to a designated area where the child can calm down. The general rule of thumb for a time out is one minute for each year of a child’s age, so for a five year old it would be a five minute time out.
Time in – Sometimes your child’s behavior will be telling you that more attention is needed, rather than removing the child from the situation. For a time in, your child sticks close to you, usually within your line of sight.
Hassle time – This is a way for a child to “pay back” a parent. If a child is acting out it can be draining on the parent. Giving something back to the parent can give the parent energy back. What they give back is time or something nurturing to the parent. Giving the parent a back rub, rubbing hand lotion on, or something similar can be a way for the child to “give back” to the parent.
Many discipline techniques are very specific to the age of the child. A teenager can give back to the family by mowing the lawn, shoveling snow or other chores. For a younger child it might be sweeping the floor or doing some dusting. Usually the regulations say “age appropriate chores” or something close to that. If you are unsure of what the agency will consider age appropriate be sure to ask.
If you have other children, your worker will ask you how you discipline your children, and will talk to your children about how you discipline. Don’t be afraid to ask for ideas how to discipline. A lot of times what works for “normal” kids, doesn’t work with foster kids. These kids have been through horrible times and you can’t give them worse than what they have already endured. Sometimes you have to get very creative with discipline and do the unexpected. These kids expect abuse.
Photo credit – Our time out chair