May 7, 2010

Is that a light at the end of the tunnel? Oh, no, that’s the end of my rope I’m seeing.

Ok, so, the boys behavior continues to snowball.

In the last 24 hours I have heard:

  • I don’t have to!  It’s my choice and I can do what I want!
  • You’re such a liar Maggie!  You’re such a liar!
  • B*$#&.  (Yes, that’s the B word.  Don’t appreciate that at all.)
  • Shoes bouncing off walls and our bunk bed breaking.
  • I hate living here!
  • I hate you!
  • Slamming doors.  over. and over. and over.
  • Whatever Maggie, I’m not even listening to you!  (really?  I couldn’t tell.)

I won’t go on – you get my drift.  Once about 5:00 hits our house is filled with the lovely sounds of defiance.  Just. straight. defiance.

They are angry about not being with their mom.  They are sad.  They have never had any supervision or authority figure at home.  I’m fairly sure that they have picked up on the fact that mom does not seem to be making progress.

This all comes together to make two very angry, very confused, very defiant little boys.


We have behavior charts for them – clearly listing consequences for specific behaviors, with positive reinforcement for progress and good days.  We have tried to be consistent with discipline.  As of today they will no longer receive allowance just because.  They will get stickers for good behavior, and each sticker will be redeemable for .25.  We do not raise our voices, we never so much as touch their shoulder during discipline. 

We are Love and Logic – ing our hearts out.

We are Shepherding our Children’s Hearts.

We are Connected Parenting.

But I can only be called a ‘B’ so many times before my eyes pop out of my head and roll around on the floor.  Just lookin’ for a little respect.  (Cue Aretha Franklin – I’m singing along.) It is true they have only been here for a month, but none of this seems effective.

We are running out of tools.

Suggestions are welcome.  Actually I may kiss you if you leave a good idea.


Foster parents give me your wisdom!!!!


Update: Just got a call and mom won’t be at the visit tonight.  This should make for a fun weekend.


  1. I'm so sorry Maggie... it's tough being a Care Giver if it's for a child or an adult.

    Well, kids aren't too logical, they seem to be like my aging demented mother.

    Maybe they can banish something that is bothering them and put it into a rock that they find... a rock that can be buried with the trouble.

    When my nephews were little, I wrote a story with them. I had them tell the story, I wrote it... they told the story with pictures. Here's a video that I had made with the story book that I found one day in a box. Maybe getting them involved in a fun activity where they can make a youtube video that they can share with their friends?

    I"m not a foster mom... not even a parent, but I was a wicked awesome Auntie... do I get a hug?

  2. Oh Maggie. First of all, please don't be too tough on yourself...this is not your fault.

    Now, you know I am not a foster parent, so what you are dealing with is different to me. But can I let you know about a great book my Mum gave me? It is called 'Four weeks to a better behaved child' written by Cristine Chandler and Laura McGrath. It is a good book - it has some excellent strategies, and is based around positive parenting rather than punishment. My brother has used it with great success with his little boy.

    In the meanwhile, thinking of you. It will get better, and you are doing an amazing job!

  3. Oh, those poor babies are hurting so bad and it sounds like they can't make heads or tails of how they feel and who they should take it out on.

    I am so sorry you are feeling worn thin right now. I just want you to know I am praying for a good change in your day and an encouraged heart for your family. There is no quick fix, but I read another great book in addition to the ones you referred to. Creative Correction. It had very useful, very real life, very immediate and practical ideas for discipline.

    I hope it encourages you to know that I think you do a great job of "dying to yourself" on a daily basis with the boys' struggles and outbursts.

    Praying for you. It will be ok.

  4. I wish I had words of comfort or encouragement for you, but I really don't. Keep loving those boys and doing exactly what you're already doing for them. They will learn to trust you, respect you, and love you!

    Praying that God will give you the strength you need as you continue to minister to the boys!

  5. I am a foster/adoptive parent of a little boy and little girl that sound very similar to your two little boys.

    I have tried everything. They have been here almost 19 months and we still have issues and rages. I will not claim that any suggestion I make will work every time or make a forever change in your boys but they are worth a shot as I have tried all of them and they have worked at least for a time.

    Right now the thing that is working is running. When they are disrespectful they must run "laps" on our back deck. Sometimes I give them a certain number and sometimes I let them decide. I tell them to "hit the deck and find a new attitude out there."

    Not sure how old they are but if they can write have them write bible verses that relate to whatever is going on or just praise verses. I do this with my birth children and with my foster children I have them write their name over and over. But you can have them write down why they are angry or 10 wishes...

    TV and game systems are rarely played as they seem to have a very negative effect on their attitudes "and makes their brains lazy". It is used only as an occasional reward.

    I don't look at these things as punishments but as learning and exercise opportunities for them. All these things help "exercise their brains" (as we put it around here) and help them make better choices. We talk about choices very often.

    I hope you find some relief somehow. I understand your discouragement. Hang in there!

  6. You guys are amazing....and you continue to raise the bar. We are praying so much for you to have the endurance and patience needed for these precious boys! We can be the respite care...maybe taking one at a time each evening for awhile? Just a thought. Also, how about a pool membership for the summer? We can take the crew, have picnics and get out of the house! Love you guys!

  7. P.S. I have the book Creative Correction mentioned above. I'll bring it down.

  8. I have to say, you are doing a great job. I can tell you're giving it all you've got. Change is SO SLOW, but it is happening.

    Jae and Zee are old enough to benefit from talk therapy, each on their own. I would seriously recommend it if they don't already. I've seen it help Mark a bunch, and his behaviors aren't even that bad.

    Also, you're right to do things like keep your own voice down. I'm not the best at that, and I see Mark yelling at the other kids a lot more.

    Finally, make sure you keep the caseworker informed on the boys' behaviors - maybe a weekly email. It's good for her/him to know the general feeling, and it will be a handy archive for you to track progress.

    We'll pray for your whole family!

  9. I started a comment but I finished it in an email! Essentially - focus on building up positive moments before focusing on behavior. You'd much rather they behave because they want to please you than because they fear the consequences! Plus, they've already suffered so much, lost so much, and been rejected so many times that it is unlikely that you will be able to come up with a consequence that will make them feel worse than all of those things. (And you wouldn't want to make them feel worse than all those things!) So, ignore as much as you can and work on building a foundation of positive associations first. The behavior will likely settle down once they know you are going to stick with them through thick and thin!

    Read the email - hopefully it made sense!

  10. I am a foster parent and have adopted and raised many children.

    I'd suggest you try a couple of things. First, behavior charts do not work with most traumatized children. They are just fodder for failure.

    Make sure the boys eat every two hours. Before bedtime, they need protein to help them sleep better.

    Give them as much positive physical contact as they will allow. Back rubs, deep pressure hugs, rub on the head, etc. They will not seek this, but it seems to calm them.

    Good luck. It's a hard road with slowww progress.

  11. I'm sorry Maggie. I'm not a Foster Mom... not even close, yet, but wanted to send encouragement your way. I just finished "Another Place At the Table" and my heard just aches for you right now. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it is trying to discipline kids that aren't yours and that you have to be SUPER careful with because they have trauma in their lives.
    Have you tried getting them journals or something to write in or a creative way to get their feelings out? I don't know.. just a thought.
    I'll be praying for you and this situation specifically. You are a great mom and you're doing a great job!

  12. Maggie my heart goes out to you, especially when I anticipate having a post or two like this in my future.

    Sometimes it is about persisting. Endurance. You are doing so many good things, continue doing them. This life is full of issues that can't be "solved", but they can be worked out over time. There is no trick that will change their behavior overnight, even if there were it wouldn't be lasting change. You are building lasting change. Just as building a solid, strong house takes the best materials and slow methodic work, so does building lives.

    As for how you remain strong and vibrant while being the focus of their rage - take time outs yourself (it could be a good example to them), do things that bring you joy, and ask God to take your burdens and heal you when you are hurt by what they are doing. Of course lots of talks with your husband help, but I'm sure you're already doing that.

    One specific piece of advice that a trainer at the foster agency shared (he is a therapist for severely troubled teens) - Bouncing. Yep, he said that when a teen gets worked up in a session with him he bounces with them. Stand in place and bounce. Somehow it releases tension and makes you feel better. He said dancing can have a similar effect. (like the running suggestion above) I'm holding on tight to this idea, I will be using it in the future - may even get a mini trampoline. I have used running up and down the stairs with my son. Boys have a lot of energy, sometimes using their bodies helps them work out their feelings.

  13. Thank you all so much for your ideas and prayers! Reading through your comments has been SUCH an encouragement to me. I am definitely going to take some of your ideas and apply them - I'll let you know how it goes! Thanks again - I was in bad need of some encouragement!

  14. We're in the same boat. 29 days and counting with our little one. What's getting us through this is knowing that (1) it's not personal...even she doesn't know all of what she's feeling right now, (2) it takes more time than we've invested so far, (3) take care of yourself...what I mean by that is I can't be the parent they need me to be if I'm always pouring myself out and never being poured into, (4) and pray for God's strength.

    Keep fighting the good fight...

  15. I feel you Maggie-girl! Mine doesn't know the B word yet, but good gracious we've got definance in spades!

    I have no wisdom for you, but I encourage you to keep trying. Keep taking it. Keep loving them. You can do it, you can do it, you can do it!!! You have the right perspective.

    This is an infuriating task at times. We're raising kids who aren't ours with our hands tied behind our backs. We can't even move forward two steps with out stepping back one becasue we're still connected to thier biological families. You know it because I've heard (read) you say it: it isn't easy, but it's right.

    I wish we foster mamas could all gather together and give each other a break once in a while. We could laugh and share and hug.

    Happy Mother's day, Maggie! You deserve it!

  16. I can relate, and sadly, I don't think there is a silver bullet. Keep loving them, keep consistently applying the same rules and expecting respect. All of this is new to them, and they are testing your limits (and then some). I have Samuel earn privleges back when he loses them. This helps teach/reinforce the lesson and it gives me at least a little good behavior while he works to earn back the privlege (or allowance), and I need that break from the constant defiance and disrespect.

    Also, some of the soundest parenting advice I have received for dealing with anger (both from the children and my own in response) comes from the National Center for Biblical Parenting: They have several really good books and tips on this topic.

    Your guys are in my prayers.

  17. I am in agreement with what so many others have said. Get creative and try new things until you find things that worl for you and I find that with my boys I am constatnly having to switch things up because ifc they know what is expected they will try to figure out a way around it.
    Good luck


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