Saturday, November 22, 2008



This site focuses on positive parenting practices, and it was created specifically for foster parents. The goal of the site was to condense the overwhelming amount of information available to parents into a format that is easy to navigate and understand, while covering the basics of what positive parenting is all about.


Foster Children: An Overview


According to the Child Welfare League of America, on September 30, 2004, 518,000 children were in the U.S. foster care system. Among those youth, the average amount of time spent in the foster care system was 30 months.

As much as every child needs parents who will care for them and guide them in their growth, foster children have an even higher level of need. The Child Welfare League of America states that, “Although family foster care, designed to provide temporary protection and nurturing for children experiencing maltreatment, has been a critical service for millions of children in the United States, the increased attention given to this service in the last two decades has focused more on its limited ability to achieve its intended outcomes than on its successes.”

According to the Annie E. Casey foundation, “the number of foster families nationally has dropped, so that fewer than 50 percent of the children needing temporary care are now placed with foster families. As a result of this disparity, child welfare agencies in many urban communities have placed large numbers of children in group care or with relatives who have great difficulty caring for them.”

One major area for improvement within the foster care system is its need for a larger number of foster families who are equipped to serve the needs of the youth needing to be placed with them. With the right tools, foster parents can be the saving grace of the foster care system, as they have the most direct contact with the youth living under their roofs.

Purpose of This Web Site

This web site was created for the benefit of both foster parents and foster children alike. It is addressed toward parents, but the outcomes using positive parenting practices will undoubtedly affect all involved. When children and adolescents are treated with respect, it will influence them in a positive way, no matter what their external behavior reveals. Although it will often take time for a foster parent’s influence to show in the life of a child, by using positive practices, the parent is renewing that child’s ability to trust others and believe in himself.


Three Styles of Parenting

In the 1960s and ‘70s, Diana Baumrind organized several studies that sought to discover whether there were different styles of parenting, what those styles were, and whether the different styles affected children in different ways. She and her colleagues categorized the three styles of parenting in the following way:

Authoritarian Parenting
The authoritarian parent places the highest value in the obedience of his/her child. The parent plays the role of complete authority, and the child is expected to follow rules and comply with limits, without argument or discussion. When the child disobeys or defies the parent, punishment is the resulting course of action.

Permissive Parenting
The permissive parent places the highest value in the child’s acquisition of his/her wants and needs. Children are allowed and expected to control their own behavior, with few guidelines and restrictions thereof.

Authoritative Parenting
Authoritative parents place equal value on positive behavior and on the general happiness and well-being of the child. These parents have high expectations for their children’s behavior, and they play an active role in supporting positive choices by setting limits, monitoring, and following through with consequences when the child has pushed the boundaries. In addition to demanding positive behavior, authoritative parents are highly responsive to their children’s needs, and they communicate this by creating a warm and supportive climate, communicating their reasonable expectations in an open and direct manner, and allowing the child the freedom to express his/her own expectations and desires.

Mistaken Goals of Behavior

In order to help parents understand the reasons that their children act out, Rudolf Dreikurs categorized those reasons into what he called the Four Mistaken Goals of Behavior:

Every child strives to find a sense of belonging and significance. One way that children can feel important and cared for is by gaining the attention of adults. Children learn at a very early age that acting out is one way to receive attention, and even if the attention is negative, it can still give the child a sense of belonging.

The acquisition of power will foster a sense of significance for virtually any human being. Children are no exception. When a child is not getting what she wants or needs, that child may attempt to create a power struggle between herself and an adult in order to gain a feeling of significance.

When a child does not feel that he belongs, or is significant, it is inevitable that he will feel hurt. Sometimes, children try to hurt those who have caused them pain, because they feel they have the right to give back what they have received.
Assumed Inadequacy: If a child gives up hope that he can ever feel a sense of belonging and significance, he may change his behaviors from positive to negative, because he simply does not believe that his behavior matters to those around him.

Assumed Inadequacy:
If a child gives up hope that he can ever feel a sense of belonging and significance, he may change his behaviors from positive to negative, because he simply does not believe that his behavior matters to those around him.

When adults are assessing the goals behind certain behaviors, they should evaluate the setting and circumstance, to find out why the child is not getting a need met. For example, if the child was receiving enough attention, he/she would not need to misbehave in order to receive more. This does not mean that adults should pay special attention to individual children every waking moment, it simply means that determining where the deficiency lies will be the first step to solving the problem and eliminating the behavior.

Creating a Climate of Support


Unconditional Positive Regard
Parents and caregivers can get so caught up in trying to help their children succeed, that they can unintentionally give them the message that their value is based upon their actions and abilities. Every discipline technique in the world will not help a child who does not feel valued and appreciated. Negative behaviors will be met with consequences, and positive behaviors with encouragement, but children should always be reminded that they are valued no matter what their actions are.

Mutual Respect
Children are much more likely to treat adults with respect when they themselves feel respected. Adults have a tendency to want children to view them as all knowing and all powerful, but by acting that way they only create a larger gap between themselves and the children they care for. When adults are willing to listen, empathize, and admit when they have been wrong, children feel respected, and reassured that they are in a safe space for sharing their own ideas, feelings, and blunders.

Building On Strengths
Every child has strengths which can help him or her to succeed. It is common among human beings to be self-critical, and to pinpoint their own misgivings more quickly and easily than their strengths. Adults can help children to build their self-confidence and problem-solving skills by pointing out their talents, abilities and positive qualities, and helping them discover how they can use those strengths to problem solve.

Encouragement V. Praise
There is a fine line between encouraging children and praising them, and this can be difficult for some adults, because they have seen the positive outcome of praising children. The difference between praise and encouragement is that praise is a positive judgement placed on a child himself, (ex: “good girl,” “good boy”) while encouragement addresses the child’s actions, and inspires him to keep up the good work (ex: “You worked really hard on that.”) Praise can be tricky because children can get discouraged if they don’t get enough of it, or they can become reliant on the opinions of others in order to feel that they have value and that they are doing things the “right” way (ex: “You did that perfectly.”) Encouragement, on the other hand, recognizes the work that went into accomplishing an outcome, and motivates children to evaluate their own thoughts and feelings about what they have done (ex: “How do you feel about what you have accomplished?”) Encouragement allows children to own and take responsibility for their own achievement. For example, instead of saying, “I’m proud of you for getting an A on your paper,” a parent could say, “That A reflects the hard work that you put into writing that paper.”

Active Listening
When a child shares a problem, an adult may have the automatic response of lecturing the child about her behavior, or immediately offering solutions. A more positive alternative for the adult is active listening, which involves avoiding judgement and interruptions, and giving the child feedback regarding the feelings that they heard being expressed. These will help the child to feel cared for and respected, and give her a starting point for formulating her own solutions to the problem. For example, saying “You didn’t understand the word problems, and you got so frustrated that you did not finish the assignment,” will make the child feel validated, and therefore motivated to come up with solutions for getting homework done.

Setting Limits


Age Appropriateness
The child’s age is a major consideration when deciding which behaviors can be expected, and which are inappropriate. For example, a two-year old can be expected to pick up his toys, but it would be unrealistic to ask him to make his bed and vacuum the floor. Parents should have high expectations for their children, but also keep in mind the age and behavioral level of the child.

Involving Children in the Process
Parents may have the final say, but children are much more cooperative when they feel that they are a part of the decision making process. Parents and children can discuss their wants and needs when it comes to limits and consequences, and leave room for discussion. Negotiations made in the “heat of the moment” (for example, right when the child arrives home after curfew) can lead to power struggles. Therefore, consequences should be arranged before the limits are broken, and if one or both parties wants to amend the limit or the consequence, this can be done later, in a neutral moment.