Discipline at Home for Better Behavior at School


We are currently in our third month of fostering to adopt a young child. Things at home are slowly improving, however the defiance shown to school teachers is hard to deal with. We don't get the child from school until several hours after the incident. We prefer to discipline when an issue occurs so having to wait makes it hard. The child doesn't have logic or reasoning skills yet and trying to talk with them turns into almost random babbling. Help!


Hello and thanks for reaching out to ParentGuru. I am in a similar situation. All of my children are in their 20's, and we currently have two foster children, ages 9 and 12. It is quite an adventure. Many blessings on your family for doing this.

It is hard to answer the question not knowing the age of the child and the defiance occurring at school, but I will give a general response and feel free to reach back out if this doesn't quite hit the spot. Raising foster children is a little bit different from our own children so the approach may vary, but most of the time the principles are the same. The long view is you want this child to grow into a a hard working, kind, contributing member of society when they are an adult. So, as the leaders in your home, you set this goal and expectation.

Waiting to discipline the child until after school should not really be an issue as long as the child is over the age of three. Also, logic and long talks about bad behavior do not work on most children anyway, so that should not be an issue either. I am not sure what you mean by logic or reasoning skills in children, but if they are a typical kid, logic and reasoning come with maturity.

The only person capable of changing defiant behavior is the child exhibiting the defiant behavior. This is most likely a result of bad habits taking root and an unstable background, over which you did not have control. The good news is that now you are in control and the brain can mend over time and behavior can improve over time with a calm, consistent and caring approach. You have seen this happen at home and it will happen in all areas of life eventually. Again, it takes a lot of time and consistency.

The best thing you can do for this child is to teach them self control until they have it. Obedient children are statistically happier than their peers who are not. Children control themselves through what John Rosemond likes to call the "Godfather and Agony Principle". Meaning: you make them an offer they can't refuse and parents should not agonize over anything a child does or fails to do. The child should be the one agonizing over the problem.

Sometimes, children in foster care are all tangled up in their past and their hurts and no one helps them to untangle themselves from these burdens. As a foster/adoptive parent, the greatest gift you could give this child is the strength to loosen the chains that bad behavior has upon them. Expectations should not be lowered for them, but time and patience should be increased in the parenting approach. There are several good strategies to try that will put the responsibility of their behavior on their shoulders in John's book, The Well Behaved Child. This is a unique situation, so you will know best what strategy might work. What does work with most children from any background is clear, consistent communication of expectations. Keep on training the child in the way they should go even when it is difficult and you will reap the reward in time. And so will they.

Hopefully, this helps you.

Alyson Hudson
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach

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