We have been fostering a 9 year old boy, S, for 3 months who has very challenging behaviour. He was badly neglected and has a lot of problems. We want to do the best for him but he takes over and tells me what I am doing is wrong. He is so young in many ways and grown up in others. He is on medication for ADHD. He sleepwalks and has nightmares. He smacks the younger children we look after and also smacks the dogs. I am wondering if we should re-home the dogs? I need some advice.
CG: Dear Marie, it will take time to correct all of S’s behaviour. From your letter I can see you have already achieved a lot with S so give yourself a pat on the back. Keep the boundaries for good behaviour in place and reward and sanction as necessary, as you have been doing using the 3Rs. Cleary S has had a lot of responsibly (and power) so make sure he isn’t ‘top dog’. Please re-read the chapter in Happy Kids called Difficult Children to correct this. S will have to learn to be a child and this will take time. The nightmares and sleep walking are classic signs of severe abuse and neglect. Reassure S he is safe with you and leave a light on low at night. I would also ask for a referral to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service which offers therapy for children like S who have clearly suffered a lot before coming into care. Re your dogs – they stay. There is no question of them going. Teach S how to respect the animals just as he is learning to respect other people. Reward and sanction him for his behaviour towards the dogs as you are doing with his other unacceptable behaviour. You have achieved so much in 3 months, and in another 3 months the child will be unrecognisable from how he is now. Let me know how you get on. Cathy.
I was so glad to receive your email. My husband and I were having such a tough time with S that to be honest were both feeling that perhaps it was time to ask for S to be moved to carers who were more qualified and experienced than us. However after receiving your email we have had a total turn around. Oh my goodness, you hit the nail on the head! The light has been turned on. We honestly did not consider or comprehend the idea that these poor children who have been so neglected and abused also get the chance to have power. This was exactly what was confusing us. Thank you for all your help. We are again feeling optimistic for our future with S.
Pause For Thought: Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them.