As a foster mom, I have seen some incredibly challenging behaviors. I had a child who bit himself and blamed it on others. I had a child who would masturbate at the table or in the living room or pretty much anywhere public or private. I had a child who acted out what can only be described as a "reenactment of a rape" with his stuffed super hero pillow. I have had a child who urinated all over their bedroom. I had a child use feces to paint pictures on the walls. I have had a child who would scream hysterically for hours to get what she wanted. I have seen toddlers use foul language. I have seen violent behaviors towards children and animals. I have had kids who refused to eat only to steal food in the night. I have seen kids eat to the point of vomiting. I have been hit, kicked, bit, spit on, peed on, pooped on, hair pulled, pinched, threatened with being killed.
How do we handle those behaviors in our home? Well.... when we first started foster care we typically overreacted about those really heinous behaviors, especially the sexual ones. A lot of that comes from sheer shock and the lack of experience. Things like, "get your hands off of your penis and go to your room until you can sit at the table without touching yourself!" Were shouted. Time outs and what we now call taking space, were a bit too much for these kids to handle. Now we know that it is important to not react to disturbing behaviors if at all possible, instead in a calm voice say, "if you need to play with your penis, you need to do it in your room." is said. Don't get me wrong, we are not trying to encourage masturbation, instead we have learned that a lot of these kids will do whatever it takes to get attention. Taking the time to praise them for every little thing goes a long way towards encouraging good behavior. We also give children the opportunity to earn privileges. When a child makes a bad choice they are given a timeout to reflect on the choice and then we talk about what they can do if they are in that situation again in the future, then they are given a chore or small task to complete to work towards making amends for the behavior. The chore really goes a long way towards building self esteem in the child. When you do something bad, don't you feel better when you apologize and do something nice for the person you wronged? I know I do. We also are sure to tell the child that we care about them too much to let them go through life without learning how to make good choices. We also try to reassure them that there is nothing they can do to make us not care about them.
What about you, How do you discipline?