Behaviour Tips: Discipline

Updated: Aug 30, 2019

July 16, 2019

Hello Foster Caregivers!

Here are this week’s behavioural strategies that may help you grow your parenting skills and relationships with the children and youth in your care. These behavioural management strategies are intended for: infants/toddler (2mo-3yrs), preschool or school age (3-12), and youth (12-18). Each child/youth is an individual, and not all strategies will work with everyone. These strategies are not meant to replace any advice given to you from a medical or behavioural professional that knows your child/youth.


Topic this Week is Constructive Discipline Techniques. First things first, lets examine the difference between Discipline and Punishment:


Punishment: Forcefully stopping inappropriate behaviour and enforcing rules of what NOT to do. This is a quick-fix, short-term strategy which promotes negative behaviours (lying, hiding, sneaking around), because the child is afraid of getting caught. Children (and adults) often learn to punish themselves, have a low self-esteem and see themselves as “bad”.


Discipline: Discipline is thought of as guidance; it teaches us what TO do. It is helping children learn to take personal responsibility for their behaviour, and be able to judge between right and wrong. The emphasis in discipline is for us to teach and for the individual to learn. This is a long-term, productive and preventative approach that nurtures self-esteem and positive decision making.


Positive Parenting Strategies #1 re: Toddlers & Discipline

-Introduce the concept of choices.

-Model appropriate behaviour – forgive them for inappropriate behaviour as they are only beginning to understand their social world.

-Use non-verbal language to express your feelings, e.g.: happy expressions for appropriate behaviours.

-Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements, e.g.: “I like it when friends share their toys.”

-Focus on the behaviour and not the child. When a child is presenting a challenging behaviour, they are not a “bad” child, the behaviour may not be good, but they are good. You could say “I love you, but that behaviour is not acceptable, what you could have done instead was ….”.

-Praise appropriate behaviour, this will make it more likely to happen again. Make sure the consequences fit the behaviour you want to change, e.g.: if they dump raisins on the floor, get them to pick them up with your help if it is too many. Praise their effort.


Positive Parenting Strategies #2 re: Preschooler/Adolescent & Discipline

-Offer choices – follow through even if you think they should have chosen something else.

-Allow them to experience the consequences of their choices.

-Have consistency in your home and routines. This will prevent inappropriate behaviours.

-Let them know when there is change coming.

-Tell them (model for them) the behaviour that is socially acceptable.

-Make sure the consequences fit the behaviour you want to change, e.g.: if they hurt another child, have them make amends and teach them the appropriate (alternative) behaviour. -Rather than “don’t hit”, teach them what to-do when they are frustrated.

-Encourage them to come to you so you can help them with the situation. This can be challenging because we do not want to encourage “tattle-taling”, however this is a better alternative to hitting or other aggressive behaviours.

-Choose your battles! Not every moment needs to be a teachable moment. Sometimes it is acceptable to look the other way if the silly behaviour is not actually hurting anyone (yes, this can be embarrassing).

-Praise appropriate behaviour, this will make it more likely to happen.


Positive Parenting Strategies #3 re: Youth & Discipline

-Offer choices – this gives people a sense of control in their life.

-Give them the freedom to experience the consequences of their choices, even if it is emotionally challenging (safety considered).

-Have consistency in your home and routines. This will prevent inappropriate behaviours.

-Let them know when there is change coming.

-Model appropriate behaviour – treat them as you would like to be treated.

-Consistently ask them for their opinions about various decisions, this helps them make better ones in their own life, so less discipline (guidance) is necessary.

- Listen to how they perceive the situation – remember they are looking through the lens of someone with less life experience than you.

-Refrain from getting angry when they tell you about a mistake they have made as they will be more likely to come to you.

-Hear them out and speak calmly when you need to guide them. Explain that this is your job as a foster-parent and you would be remiss if you didn’t take this opportunity to give them your guidance and/or perception of the situation.

-Choose your battles! Not every moment needs to be a teachable moment. Sometimes it is acceptable to look the other way if the silly behaviour is not actually hurting anyone.

-Praise their kindness, good choices, problem-solving etc… this makes it more likely to happen again.

-Work on your relationship. This will encourage the youth in your care to want to behave well to please you.

-Set appropriate limits and set them up for success to stay within those limits.

-Negotiate the rules and agree in advance on the consequences.

Remember, you are now preparing them to become an adult. Be honest with them, respect them, and talk to them as you would another (young, learning, not-perfect) adult.


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