12 answers

3 Year Old Foster Child with Major Behavior Issues.

I have a 3 year old foster son that we just can't get control of. He's been here for 3 months so he knows our rules. He'll look right at you and do something just to get a response. He'll say "I love you" to me 100 times a day and can be the sweetest kid. But then never seems to be happy with anything. Example: The kids wanted to watch cartoons this morning so I turned on Blues Clues (which he loves). He immediately says "I don't LIKE Blues Clues" in an angry voice and crosses his arms. This happens all the time with everything. My response this morning was "then you need to go and play in your room until it's done because the other kids want to watch it and I'm not dealing with your attitude already this morning". Then he completely flips out and starts screaming that he does like Blues Clues and wants to watch it. I still made him play in his room.
Another thing he likes to do is say "I have to go poopy" every time he is in a time out, is supposed to be taking a nap or goes to bed at night. Then he'll sit on the toilet for 15 or 20 minutes and then say "I don't have to go poopy". I know it's a control thing. Last night, 15 minutes after I put him in bed he pulled it again. I let him go because he hadn't gone poop all day and I asked him if he really had to go and if he was lying. I also told him that he was going to sit there until he pooped even if he didn't have to poop. So anyways, I made him sit there for an hour until he finally pooped. In the mean time he will do all kinds of things while in the bathroom to try and get kicked out of the bathroom like playing with his privates or touching the toilet water and then he'll call me in there and tell me about what he's doing and that "I screwing around". It doesn't work so then he gets mad. I have done this to him twice now and I still don't think he gets it so from now on I've decided just to tell him no. He wears pull ups because he only goes into the bathroom on his own when he has to poop. Other than that we have to tell him every so often to go potty, which also causes him to fly off the handle. I just tell him that until he learns to go on his own that he needs to go when we tell him to.
This child talks nonstop so the other major problem we have with him is backtalk. You cannot say anything to him without getting a response from him. It's: "in a minute, no, I don't have to, I don't want to, uuh-uuh, you're mean, that's not fair". He also likes to tell me that I'm lying and likes to argue - "yes it is, yes you are".
His parents used physical punishment with him and I think that's the only way he has learned correction. He knows that we can't use physical punishment so no matter what we do it won't be as bad as at home. I sometimes think that maybe breaking rules was the only way to get attention at home and that it's a hard habit to break.
I realize that a lot of his problems come from the situation he is in. He has visits with his parents every weekend for 2-6 hours depending on how long they want to spend with them. His parents act just like him so he's learned from the best. They like to scream and yell at everyone else for their problems. He's used to being in a chaotic home so I'm sure our home is a little too calm for him.
Sorry this is so long, thanks for any suggestions,

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More Answers

Hi, J.,
Bless your heart. You sound like a very kind and patient person. It seems like your foster son may have a 'budding' personality disorder as a result of his early childhood circumstances. These disorders can be dealt with with some success if done so early enough. I'm not a prof. counselor, but I'm intimately (and unfortunatately) familiar with such disorders. By virtue of being a fosterchild, your son should be entitled to counseling services or perhaps, a Head Start program that could help lead him in the right direction, courtesy of the state of WI or Milw. County. I know that the case workers are so overloaded and sometimes can't be of much help as they'd like to be. Thank God for folks like you. This little fella needs some help and fast. I'm amazed that the State allows his parents (aka 'gene donors') to allow contact with him- I hope these visits are supervised by an objective and responsible person(s). I think the world needs more people like you- people who give a darn about our troubled/abandoned/neglected/ abused youths' lives. It truly 'takes a village to raise a child' and my heart and prayers go out to you and your family. Here's a Web site that may help... http://www.mhamilw.org/information/YFFamily.asp (I'll try to find some other ones and I'll forward them to you if you'd like.) If you ever need someone to talk to or ? , feel free to email me... ____@____.com care, M.

Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster and Kline is a great resource on how to "discipline" your children by letting consequences be their guide so they learn to make healthy choices--so they start to choose their fate and it isn't always on your shoulders to make decisions and "control" them which they will only later resent you for. Read some reviews on Amazon, if interested. I used their Teaching with Love and Logic book in my classroom when I taught and it was an invaluable resource! Emotionally detaching myself from my student's problems and making them come up with solutions to their own problems was a tremendous relief. I am just beginning to use some of these applications with my daughter.
I have a friend who foster then adopted 5 children and when we were out for coffee once, I heard her talking to one of her sons on the phone (who had just missed the bus at school) and how she handled the situation so coolly and relaxed and sypathised with him--It must be such a bummer that he missed the bus, and explained how she was sure he'd find something to do until she could pick him up in 2 hours!
I was sure she had read the book after I heard her converstaion--and she did. She said she and her husband also used that method of approach and delivery with handling their children. (She said her kids call it Love and Crap, though (tongue and cheek:o))

First of all, you are a SAINT for taking on 2 foster children! I applaud you. I often think about doing it too but haven't been brave enough yet. I am expecting a baby right now but it may be something I do in the future.

A lot of what you write about sounds like normal 3-year-old behavior of trying to establish a little independence and control of his own over his environment and seeing how far he can go. My daughters, who are now 11 and 15, did a lot of those moves too in order to test authority and express their own will. It's pretty normal. Taking into consideration his life circumstances, he is doing pretty well. He is learning and the best thing you can do is stand your ground ( don't give in after his rantings), provide clear rules with clear rewards for good behavior and punishment for difficult behavior. Make sure you recognize the good things he does, no matter how small. Also giving a 3 year old choices (that you can live with) helps them feel like they are making decisions for themselves and that is very important to them. Keep telling him he is a good little boy and that he can rise to the occasion of being happy and a big helper to mommy as the big brother in the house (after all, many kids are what they are told they are). Hang in there. It does get better. When my youngest daughter turned 4, she realized that tantrums wouldn't help her and didn't get her any of my attention. Magically, the tantrums stopped.

Hi J.,
I use to be a foster care parent. I attented workshops on children's behaviors and your right on target. He acts the way he does because that's all he knows. You as a foster parent need to teach him that their are other ways to solve issues as you have described. Right now he is at a very teachable age. The younger they are the easier it is to correct the wrong behaviors. He needs you more than you will every know to help him learn what his parent's never taught him. Be patience, but clearly explain what is acceptable and what is not. Give him lots of attention for postitive behavior and gentle redirection for inappropriate behaviors. I know it can be difficult, but he will learn. Be consistant. Lots a hugs help too. Good luck!!!!!!!!!!! Gina

maybe give him sometime as thats alls hes ever known.. maybe give him time outs.. not sure of what else to say.. keep your head up high and keep trying. maybe he will snap out of it relizeing hes in a better place. do the parents have visit where there alone or someone there with him. maybe them still seeing him isnt helping any. good luck

Wow sounds like he's been a handful to say the least.
Have you talked to the counselors assigned to his case?

Mayby try a reward chart, but clearly let him know what the rules and rewards are.
maybe just focus on one issue at a time and be very consistant with discipline, sounds like he's probably never had it, and like you said he might be used to getting attention by being naughty.
Try extra love and attention right away in the morning, wake him up earlier than the other kids (if you have more?)and just spend some quiet time alone together.

Something that has helped us cope with our 3 year old son is consequences, if he misbehaves a beloved toy or movie get's taken away for the day or two. We remind him then when he's on the edge that if he doesn't turn it around such and such will be taken away.

We clearly tell him on the way to any outing that if he fights, hits, cries etc. that we will leave immediately. We've only had to do this twice and it clearly made an impact on him.

Keep your head up and be consitant!
good luck.

OH J.!! Hang in there!! As a former foster placemnet counselor I can tell you it gets worse before better!! He is trying his control on you it sounds like. Even though he has been there for 3 months, it was 3 years of his parents. He needs to learn that you are going to stand your ground and every little minor detail. He is looking for ways (such as the bathroom issue) to get your attention- good or bad.
I would suggest that the next time you take him in to use the bathroom, sit with him. Sing with him, read a book, make the bathroom time fun for him with one-on-one attention. I know that this is hard when there are other kids in the house, but he needs to know he can have you to himself also at times.
The arguing comes from gaining control, as well as attention seeking. If you find yourself engaging in it, step back and calmly tell him that you are not going to do this right now. Be prepared that he will not be wanting or ready for this response so he will "blow up". Stick to it!! Over time you will find that he should back off with the arguing. When he is compliant and listening, reward him "I really like the way you listened when I told you to...". Be specific with him. He needs to know the EXACT reasons why you love him and are accepting him into your home.
I personally give you a way to go for accepting this challenge. REMEMBER he does love you, and he needs you. Even more then you understand at this time!!! If you need to vent or anything... email me ____@____.com I have a few resources still around that maybe of help.
Good luck and wish you all the best!! The world needs more people like you and less like his parents.

I have found Parenting with Love & Logic to be helpful with my 3 year old. It may be worth checking out (books are available at local libraries or at Amazon).

I would definately check in to "Reactive Attachment Disorder." I belong to an RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder)/FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome ) Group (on line) if you are interested. Please feel free to contact me at ____@____.com for more info if you are interested. Additionally, you could contact Deephaven Attachment Center for an assessment if the insurance would cover it (it is pretty expensive to self pay). Lastly, you could get a referral for a "behavioural assessment" which may help determine other behavioural factors (i.e., early onset bipolar, ADHD/ADD, ODD, SID/PD, Mixed Mood Anxiety Disorder, etc). A good pediatrician would be able to help you find a good place for that kind of assessment. Also, your social worker should have some good info for you regarding assessing behavioural issues (especially if it can complicate future placement).

Hope at least something helps!

1st of all I would like to send a warm hug to you for opening your home!
2nd, your doing a great job! I am also a mother of a 3 year old and we go through a lot of the same things and he has grown up in a very stable home. I agree with you that he is looking for attention. With my son I have to work the opposite of what ever my nature instinct is. I try to only give him attention when he is doing good things and behaving nice, and then when he is minorly misbehaving I ignore it and he will stop on his own. Bottom line what works for my son is consistancy and routine...and making sure my husband and I are consistant together.
P.S...It is GREAT that you stay calm as well. He will catch onto this behavior and it will only be to your advantage.
Good luck, hang in there, he and you will do great!

First off Bless you for being a foster parent!

I think he's trying to "test" you and make sure you aren't going to leave him and that you love/like him.

My daughter did this when her dad backed out of her life at 4yrs.old..

I think your right on about this is the only way he knows to get attention because of his home life but also I really think he's making sure no matter how naughty he is you won't give up on him.

Keep being consistant and keep up with the punishments for naughty behavior but keep telling him over and over and over again how much you love or like him and that your not gonna give up on him.. He probaly needs some reassurance.

Maybe spend some alone time together just the two of you so he feels special that may help.

My mother gave me the best advice once for dealing with out of control children or children with behavior issues. Take all your emotion out of it. Don't get angry, upset etc... Treat the behavior or the acting out intelluctually not emotionally. I realize that is easier said than done but it has worked for her ( both of my brothers were ADHD and one had some psychological issues. Nothing anyone did to him just had some mental issues.)Now my younger brother is 22 and is fluent in both Italian and French. Is getting ready to study abroad. My older brother also is successful. So I would say it worked. You sound like an amazing woman for being able to deal with all of this. Give yourself a big pat on the back. That child needs love and lots of it. You sound like you can and want to give it. Don't give up on him.

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