Positive behaviour management strategies for foster carers

James Hourihan, Author

Every child deserves to grow up feeling safe and secure, but unfortunately many children in foster care often have a history of trauma. Additionally, they may be dealing with an array of emotions that they don’t know how to express. Hence, one of the most challenging aspects of foster care can be managing behaviour. 

We understand that the process of fostering a child can be both a rewarding and difficult experience. That’s why foster carers and workers need to be equipped with the practical skills and confidence to create an environment that promotes and supports positive behaviour. 

This Foster Care Fortnight, we’re here to show our support for fostering in discussing the reasons behind challenging behaviour with effective positive behaviour management strategies for foster carers and other social care staff to put into practice. 

What is challenging behaviour? 

Challenging behaviour can be defined as any behaviour that someone displays that is difficult to manage and/or puts themselves or others at risk. These behaviours can manifest in a number of ways, including: 

  • Aggression (fighting, punching, biting, screaming)
  • Destructive (breaking objects or equipment, throwing things) 
  • Self-harm (head-banging, scratching or pinching skin, arm-biting) 
  • Withdrawn behaviours (lack of social interaction, shyness) 
  • Negative emotions (sadness, frustration, depression, anxiety) 

Often there are various triggers and causes of challenging behaviour. This can range from emotional/physical trauma, mental health issues, boredom and hormonal changes, to fear, feeling unwell and changes in routine. 

The bottom line is that a child doesn’t react simply because they’re ‘naughty’. It’s about taking a person-centred approach to better understand and empathise with young individuals, which will help defuse situations and give carers and foster children the chance to develop healthier relationships in the long-term. 

Positive behaviour management strategies for foster carers 

If a foster child is showing signs of challenging behaviour, there are a few techniques that can be applied to help encourage positive behaviour for everyone involved. 

  • Creating structure and routine

Foster children often lack the stability and routine that is important for their development, which can lead to challenging behaviour. Establishing a firm set of rules and consequences will help them learn about expectations and create a sense of belonging too. 

  • Clear communication

We’ve talked plenty of times on the importance of open, honest and consistent communication as the key in managing behaviour. Understanding their perspective, identifying their emotions and explaining how these impact on others will make them feel heard and included, rather than ignored and isolated. 

  • Positive reinforcement 

Reinforcing positive behaviour with praise and encouragement can be very effective. It’s important to focus on the child’s strengths and accomplishments, instead of their negative behaviour. For example, if they do their homework or help clean the dishes, reward them for their efforts as this will promote good behaviour when presented with the opportunity. 

Here to help 

Over the years, Timian have been delivering training in positive behaviour management and de-escalation techniques to people in health, education and social care for over 26 years. Our courses are designed to support the unique needs of the individual and promote positive behaviour for staff, carers and across your whole organisation. 

For more information on our training, please get in touch. Call us on 800 987 4075 or fill in the form on our website and we’ll be happy to help.

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