Like any other child of varying age ranges, foster children may act out or behave poorly from time to time during their care. However, some of the underlying reasons that speak to regular difficult behavior from foster children may be different than for typical children, and it’s important for foster parents to be cognizant of this and factor it into their thinking. 

At Bloom, we offer numerous resources for Atlanta foster parents and children alike, from placement and care assistance to volunteer opportunities, a donation community and more. What are some of the causes that might be behind a foster child regularly acting out, and what should foster parents be considering as they address these? Here are some tips on this important subject.

Causes of Acting Out in Foster Children

The realm of poor behavior in foster children is a nuanced one, and must be approached with care. While it’s true that past issues in their life may contribute to these behaviors in some cases, it’s also important to remember that kids just act out sometimes – and not everything your foster child does here will necessarily be related to their past. 

Some of the underlying causes of more regular difficult behavior in foster children may include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or confused by their new home and family: Foster parents should make sure that they are creating a supportive and welcoming environment for the child, especially early on in their placement.
  • Experiencing or remembering traumatic events from their past: Foster parents should be aware that their foster child may have experienced trauma in the past, and this can affect them in a variety of ways.
  • Feeling like they’re not part of the family: It’s important to create an atmosphere where your foster child feels welcome and included as part of the family unit.
  • Lacking positive role models or stability in their lives: Foster parents should be aware that a stable home environment can help foster children develop positive behavior and gain confidence.

Again, though, while these are all potential underlying causes or factors at play, it’s also important to recognize that kids sometimes just act out – and foster parents should be aware of this too.

Acting Out Doesn’t Minimize You as a Parent

There are some foster parents who begin to feel as if they’ve “failed” when their foster child acts out in some way. But it’s important to remember that, just like with any other child, this isn’t necessarily indicative of anything on your end – and you can still be a great parent without having all the answers right away.

In addition, these kinds of behaviors don’t mean that your foster child hates you or is actively trying to hurt you – in fact, it may be quite the opposite. Foster children can sometimes act out because they feel like the only way to get their feelings across is by doing so.

In short: It’s not always a reflection of you or your parenting skills if your foster child acts out.

Our next several sections will go over some basic tips for how to address and manage difficult behavior in foster children. 

Staying Calm

Remaining calm is important for discipline with any child, but particularly with foster children. It’s possible that your foster child is acting out as a result of their past, so it’s important to try and maintain a sense of understanding and approach them in an empathetic manner. 

If you escalate the situation and become overly critical or angry, it’s possible your foster child will shut down and become even more difficult. Therefore, fostering a sense of calm and understanding can be key in having effective conversations about their behavior.

Setting Boundaries

It’s also important for foster parents to set clear boundaries for their children. This includes expectations about their behavior as well as consequences for when they don’t adhere to them.

Having clear expectations and consequences can be particularly beneficial for foster children who may have faced a lack of structure in their past, as this can help them gain a sense of security and safety.

Stay Consistent

Throughout any discipline, it’s important to stay consistent. This means enforcing the same expectations and consequences each time your foster child misbehaves – regardless of how small or large that misbehavior may be.

This is especially important if you house more than one foster child, as you should strive to treat them each the same way. It’s also possible that some foster children may try and take advantage of any perceived leniency in order to manipulate the situation, so it’s important to remain consistent throughout.

Pick Your Battles

While major negative behavior should always be addressed and corrected, foster parents should also try to pick their battles when it comes to minor infractions. This can help foster children understand the difference between “big” and “little” issues, as well as make them more comfortable with raising any concerns they may have.

Additionally, understanding which battles are the most important to fight can be beneficial in reducing frustration and maintaining a positive relationship with your foster child. 

By being aware of potential underlying reasons for their behavior, remaining calm and setting clear boundaries, staying consistent, and picking your battles wisely, foster parents can better manage difficult behavior when it arises. Doing so can ultimately help foster children develop positive behavior patterns and gain the confidence they need to move forward.

For more here, or to learn about any of our Atlanta foster parent and foster child resources, speak to our caring staff at Bloom today.

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