Why I Don't Set "Rules" On The First Day A Foster Child Comes Into My Home

Controversial topic time! Woo... *sarcasm. Okay, so a BIG thing that almost ALL foster parents are taught in our 'training' is to create stability for our kids by having rules. And many of us are taught that on the very first day you are supposed to tell your new foster child the house rules. I, on the other hand, HATE this technique and am avidly against it. Let's talk about why I hate it.

1) It immediately creates an environment where the child has set expectations, creating pressure on both of you. I find that sitting down and listing out a series of rules, the first day you meet the child, will only overwhelm everyone involved. The kid will feel pushed into a corner and as they're trying to adjust and fit in- they also now feel like there are -so- many things they could do wrong (which causes a lot of unnecessary grief and panic). Additionally, we as the parents, automatically feel like, since we said the rules exist, we need to immediately start enforcing the rules. Our FIRST priority should not be setting expectations and rules, it should be helping the child cope to, and adjust to this drastic and overwhelming change in their lives. Throw the rules aside for a minute and focus solely on making sure your child is comfortable. If you were just stripped out of your home and put in a strangers house (often with no awareness as to the reason), and then you were told a series of rules to follow- you would feel hurt and scared. BUT if you were put in the same situation, but instead of having rules shoved down your throat- you had a caring adult offer to help you adjust and try to make you comfortable, things would seem a lot better off.

2) For many kids, especially teenagers, authority creates animosity. If you put your foot down the second your child walks into your home you *think* you're making it aware that you're the boss. The truth is, in many teens eyes, you're only creating a challenge for who will become boss. You have to remember it is not the child's choice to be living with you. Can you imagine the anger you would feel if you were forced to live with someone who rather than making you welcome- strictly told you 50 rules you 'need to follow'. That would seem really off-putting. Once again, I feel the first day should be a day to make the kid feel comfortable. It shouldn't be about who's in control, it should be about making sure your kid is okay on their first day.

3) We set the rules later on, once we've gotten to know each other. This way I've gotten to know the kids- I know their habits and I know their personalities a bit. We're also more open to chatting with each other about the things. I -always- involve my kids in the 'rule making'. They have a say in their consequences and expectations. See my "Dawn's House Rules" posts for more information on my "rules". But once I know the kids, I also know what motivates them and what matters to them. If my kid comes home from school every day and does their homework- why should I create a rule saying "You need to get your homework done.". They obviously already do it. Instead of wasting my time on enforcing a rule that I don't -need- to enforce, I'd focus my attention on other things, that do need improvement. Knowing the kids, allows me to know what rules I should create. If they struggle with cursing- then I know I need to make a rule about language. But if they don't use bad language, why should I waste my breath setting a rule that will never need enforced anyways? Get what I'm saying here? If you raise a child from birth, you'll set rules as they need to be set. If your child is kicking another kid, you'll create a 'no kicking' rule. But until they act a certain way- you'll probably never tell them *not* to act that way. Treat your foster children the same way. Expect that they will be great kids, and when they do make a mistake- correct them and create an appropriate rule prohibiting such behavior.

We are often taught at the beginning of foster parent training that we must set clear, concise rules immediately. And I just don't follow that 'rule', myself. Call me a bit of a rebel, a rule-breaker if you must. But I feel like rules should be made for a reason. Rules shouldn't be made simply to attain control, they should be made to teach kids 'right and wrong' by setting examples and learning from past mistakes.

No comments:

Post a Comment