Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blowing the Whistle on Arguing

by John and Diane

Working with foster kids means often dealing with kids with multiple behavioral, emotional and cognitive issues. Creative approaches when dealing with frustrating and escalating behavioral situations in the home is the only way to maintain sanity for both the foster parent and the kids in the house. This is how my whistle blowing technique came to be.

I use routine approaches like 123 Magic and Love and Logic everyday with my kids, but for stair-stepping rage and tantrums, this new technique has evolved and has really worked for me and the boys I have had in my care.

To give you some background, for parents who haven’t had kids who are detached or have multiple emotional issues, a normal day for me might include an incident like this:

I might tell Bobby to take a shower. He doesn't want to. I will use 123 Magic or Love and Logic techniques to get him to comply. He resists. Now, this is an issue I cannot lose, so I have to eventually yell at Bobby to try to get him to comply, he will not. I may have to call the police to come and tell him to take a shower (and I have) just to win the argument. Once you begin the fight, you cannot lose.

The next technique I tried was this: If the child refused to do what I asked, I would recite to him all the things I did for him that day, week or month. I found that sometimes kids would reflect on my sacrifices and comply. Others would not.

Then, I noticed that as the child’s refusal and anger would escalate, if I matched his tone and volume, and got even louder, the child would back down and stop the tantrum behavior. This is a tough route to go for the foster parent, and everyone else in the household, as, even though the yelling isn’t done by the parent in anger, it is still loud and disturbing. Once the child’s rage stopped I could back down the argument and begin rebuilding the relationship with the child immediately by telling him that I love him and explaining the reasons for the original request.
Eventually, this gets tiresome and it is a difficult technique for a foster Mom to accomplish as her voice may be softer and she may be a less authoritative figure in the home.

A foster parent is only human, and the constant re-directing and arguing to get a difficult, detached child to do simple routine tasks can be exhausting. This is when I thought of using the whistle system. I realized it wasn't so much the words I was saying when I matched my pre-teen boys verbal arguing or tantrum, but the tone and volume that made the most difference and stopped the tantrum. I decided to talk to his case managers and psychiatrist about using a whistle instead of my voice in a situation of an escalating rage.

My technique was thought out and discussed before use with both his therapists and my foster kids so that everyone understood the use and reasoning behind the whistle. The explanation to the kids was this: I would tell the kids to do something and if they argued with me, I would blow the whistle one short time. If they persist in arguing instead of doing what they were told, I would blow the whistle again. If they continued to argue, I would continue to blow the whistle more loudly and until which time they would do as they were told or went to their room for a time out. Since the kids were already familiar with the countdown system, they understood immediately the consequences of the whistle. They also understood that the whistle was to stop unnecessary back talk and that once the whistle started blowing, they were not going to be winning the argument.

Among his therapists and caseworkers, we discussed the benefits of this behavioral modification system. If it worked, and was used consistently, my kids with attachment disorders, alcohol syndrome issues and ADHD, with all of their impulsive behavioral issues, would be more easily brought under control when in a rage, and that, potentially, the whistle-ending rage technique would be transferable to school teachers or other caregivers for my kids.

So, I began keeping my whistle in my pocket. When, inevitably, a child started back talking and refusing to do as they were told, I pulled out the whistle and blew one quick blow.
I then reminded my child about the whistle technique, and that there would be no more arguing. As he began to argue once more, I blew the whistle again. He stopped. As he started to argue once again, I blew it another time. He stopped. After a few minutes of this, the child left the room without a tantrum, and either does his task or takes a time out.

Now, I don’t use the whistle all the time, and if I don’t have it handy, all I have to do is ask someone to get the whistle for me, and the child who is beginning to argue or tantrum will stop and focus on the fact that the whistle is coming! The unpleasant sound and the knowledge that the argument will be useless are very efficient in stopping the behavior.

Peer pressure also helps make the whistle technique effective. Let’s face it, the only thing worse than hearing people yell is hearing a whistle blow, and I often hear one child tell the other child to stop their bad behavior because the other child doesn't want to hear the whistle.
So, to sum it up, here is why I like the whistle technique to stop tantrum and arguing behavior with my attachment disorder/ADHD kids:

· It’s easy to use by both Mom and Dad.
· I don’t have to argue anymore, which makes my life less frustrating.
· I don’t have to think of 100 different ways of re-stating my reasons for asking my kids to do the action I requested.
· If the child’s behavior is getting to me, he or she won’t know it, because the whistle blowing can only get louder or softer. The child will have no sense of victory if they don’t feel like they are winning by affecting me in any way.
· I don’t have to worry about accidentally swearing or letting my own emotions get the best of me in a verbal argument. Foster parents aren’t perfect, but the whistle will make it easier to be better.
· It’s easier for me to talk to the child afterwards because blowing the whistle is both a distraction from the hurtful things they may be saying to me and a stress release for me, so I can be nurturing and calm after the fight to help heal and re-bond.
· I am not mentally or physically as worn out or tired. My voice is not hoarse after a hard day.
· The whistle around my neck is a visual reminder to the kids not to argue with me.
· The whistle technique is transferable. I can teach it to the other people in my life who may watch or care for my foster kids so that they can have better control over the children’s behavior while they are in their homes.
· After you use it a few times you don’t have to use it very often after that. All you do is have to reach for it and the child backs down from his argumentative behavior.

Why the whistle technique will work on your child.
· It’s louder than they can yell or swear at you.
· It stops them from thinking of a new argument because they can’t finish the first one.
· It disrupts the flow of the argument and the sound may hurt their ears, make them laugh or startle them, but it is not abusive.
· The whistle is annoying enough so that peer pressure will help to modify the child’s behavior in the home.
· Stubborn children who try to out-yell the whistle will eventually give up and realize they cannot physically compete. Eventually they will go to their room and the situation is diffused.

Always consult your caseworkers and the foster child’s psychiatrist before using the whistle technique.

Read:  Whistle Blowing Technique Update: Moving Forward  next

image adapted from: flickr: By anneh632

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lying Yourself Sick? How You Can Help Your Foster Kids Stay Healthy

by John and Diane. 
Shifting eyes is a sign that someone is lying.

A recent article in US News and World Report talks about a study done at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana about the connection between lying and health.

The study found that adults tell an average of 11 lies a week, about 1 or 2 a day and that all these little white lies can add up to minor health issues like headaches, sore throats, sadness and stress.

Over time, it is theorized, that the cumulative effects could include heart issues, high blood pressure, stomach or digestive disorders and muscular tension.

In the study, they asked participants to stop lying during the designated time period, and found that health complaints decreased, supporting the hypothesis that by telling the truth, your health, as well as your relationships will improve.

What does this mean for foster kids who lie?

Well, once you get to know your foster or adopted children over a period of time, you can usually tell when they are lying. “Tells” like looking away, shifting eyes, mumbling words, crossing the arms in front of the body, or nodding the head to contradict speech  (so, if the child is saying yes, but nodding no) can all mean the child is lying, in which case you can attempt to correct the behavior and cut off the stress of perpetrating and continuing the lie.

If your child starts exhibiting symptoms such as an upset stomach, stress, avoidance behavior such as not wanting to go to school (if it’s a behavior that is out of the ordinary for the child), tearfulness, peeing in his or her room or closet, change in appetite or other physical reaction to stress, this may be a signal to you to communicate with the child to determine if the child is hiding a secret or protecting a lie. Once the root of the problem is discovered, you can point to the physical symptoms the child has suffered from and remind them that the suffering was needless if they had been truthful.

RAD Kids or Kids with Attachment Disorders 

However, some children are more focused and savvy, and are able to tell a lie without showing a guilty conscience. Children with a reactive detachment disorder or significant psychological disorders are able to lie effectively without any feelings of guilt or remorse.

These children, common sense would tell us, would not feel any physical symptoms from telling lies, but more likely may feel stress and other physical ailments when the lies are confronted and their manipulative and lying behavior is exposed. 

Overtime, if exposure is continuous and if the behavior and attachment disorder does not improve, the child may experience effects.  Once the child reaches adulthood however, lies and deception are easier to maintain and the stress level may decrease as the person begins to live independently.

Need help with kids who lie? You can refer to our posts for help in addressing lying behavior with your foster kids. Check out:  White Lies or Story Embellishment: Is there a Difference to a Child Who Lies? and    Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: The Three Kinds of Liars and How to Stop Them


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Monday, May 19, 2014

The ADHD and RAD Kid Summer Planner: or "Why I Didn't Lose My Mind While My Kid's were on Summer Vacation" by Foster Parent Rescue

By John and Diane
(First appeared on our blog 5/8/12)

We are only a few short weeks away from summer break from school around here, and if you are a foster parent, or parent of a tough kid, like a child with ADD, ADHD or an attachment disorder, to name a few, the thought of days and days with your child looking to you and saying "I'm bored, "or worse, leaves you quivering in a cold sweat at night, I can help.  I have faced this challenge year after year, and although I always do "the happy dance" when school starts back up again, me and my boys always get through it.

The key to a successful summer with minimal tantrums, episodes, blow outs, running –aways, fits, fights and other miscellaneous catastrophes is sticking to a schedule. 

Schedules are just another word for "security" for kids with trust issues, like a lot of foster-kids, and help kids with attention-deficit issues know what to expect and when to expect it. Schedules help control the constant questions and demands, and provide a structure that mimics the school system- which is something the kids are used to and comfortable with. Kid's with behavior issues usually "spin-out" when school lets out because their structure is gone and the lack of structure allows anxiety to build.

So, having said that, begin the process of getting ready for summer break before school lets out. Get an idea of what their lunch time is at school, what time they have gym class, and what time they have quiet study.
Now, look at your own resources and schedule. If you have a parent full-time at home, decide if you want to continue to get the kids up and dressed at the normal school time, or allow for an additional hour of sleep (as a consideration for Mom or Dad only.)  You will want to write additional chores in for each child for each day, since they won't be doing homework, and if you have children who need help with school, you may do homeschooling hours as well.  You will want to do some physical activities as well, whether it is riding bikes, or participating in programs at the local YMCA.  

Next, sit down with a large dry erase calendar and write in each day's time schedule. It should include times to get up, dressed and eat meals, bedtime, and naps for younger children.  Write in each child's daily chores like washing dishes after meals, daily cleaning of their rooms, cleaning up after pets, folding their own laundry, whatever you need. Add in study hours for homeschooled children or kids' who are behind in school and need the added tutoring.  Each day should have a leisure activity planned, like fishing, riding bikes, swimming, basketball or playing a team sport.  Each child may have a special chore that they enjoy like gardening for one child, cooking for another.

I usually allow kids to stay in their rooms once they are settled for bed and read, or play quietly by themselves until lights-out.

Be sure to include your own weekly chores if you have to bring the kids with you, like grocery shopping.

Once you have the week written in, stick to it as best you can. Of course, things come up, but the waking and bedtime hours should stay the same as much as possible, and chores should remain consistent as much as possible.  The closer you stick to the schedule, the easier your child will be to handle and the less agitated and anxious their own behavior will be.  

When you are happy with the schedule, put it under plastic or Plexiglas and hang it on the wall where kids can read it and know what to expect for each day, but cannot erase your hard work!

Have you got some other tricks for getting through the summer with your challenging kids? Please share your successful tips here with us or on our FB page!
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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

FosterCare Month/ Foster Parent Rescue BirdHouse Challenge! May 1 - 30 2014

Hi Friends!
In honor of Foster Care Month, we here at Foster Parent Rescue wanted to do something fun, and therapeutic, for our foster families and kids this year... a Birdhouse Challenge.

Here's How it Works:
1.  Build from scratch or pick up an inexpensive plain (unpainted) wood birdhouse from your local craft store. They are generally under $5.00.  One Birdhouse per child. All Ages.
2.  Work with your foster, adopted or troubled kid to decorate the house any way they'd like.  Talk to them about how they'd like the house to look. Talk to them about how the house is going to welcome a bird family and give them shelter.  How would they want to make the birds feel welcome?
If they have a hard time getting started, ask them to think about some of their favorite things and to bring those things to the birdhouse to decorate it... They can use their favorite colors, they can glue on their old- favorite action figures, glue on fake flowers, paint on a scene or do whatever they'd like.

The most important part of this project is the discussion that takes place during the painting... You can open up a very interesting conversation about what a "home" is, what makes a home, and find out what type of things your child might need to feel welcome.  This is ESPECIALLY useful with new kids coming into your home, so refer back to this project all season long when a new kid comes in.. use it anytime to help bond and begin a conversation about providing shelter, and what a "home" is all about....

3. Once the birdhouse is decorated, take a digital photo of the birdhouse and send it to me here or post it to me on our Facebook page.  Be sure to include the child's First Name and City, State or Country. (No pics of the kids please.  Sorry, we'd love to see them, but it's a privacy thing.)

Please send your birdhouse pictures to us here by May 30th.

In June, we are going to gather all the photos together and put them into a collage we will post on all of our sites.. Facebook, the Blog and our Google Plus Page.  We would also love for you to share your stories about the experience with us.  If you had any great conversations, what the kids thought about the experience etc.

And, of course, don't forget to hang your birdhouse outside for new birds to come and move in.

We hope you'll participate and spread the word.  It will be a fun project for you and your kids, and can open up meaningful conversations if you spend the time to consider the true meaning of building a home... big or small.

We are trying to wrangle up some cool gifts for participants (randomly picked) but at this time have no promises for you... BUT, its still FUN... and we can all share in the photos...

We can't wait to see them.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Welcome to our newest readers....

Hi new friends....
We just wanted to take a minute to post here to say Welcome to any new readers of our blog and encourage you to browse through our blog and our top ten posts to get a handle on what we are all about here.  We hope you find our posts helpful.

If you are looking for something specific, check out our Search tool, or the Page tabs at the top of the page where we have gathered some of our blog-series of articles. 

We feel like we have covered a lot of the fundamentals here and are spending more of our time now on one to one collaborating with our foster parent followers on Facebook and Google Plus pages.  If you have any questions, issues you can't find resolutions to, or just need to vent, please join us on those more- interactive pages, or you can message us here.  If you can't find an answer here, we are happy to help you find the answers you need or put you in touch with other supportive foster parents (or adoptive, or bio parents) who want to help as well. 

Please... join us.  We are here for you.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Watching Trust Grow: An Example of a RAD Child Attaching

Hi Friends, We are re-running this "classic" from 2012... We think you'll find it helpful and "evergreen." 

by John and Diane.

RAD stands for Reactive Attachment Disorder and is otherwise referred to as trust disorder, attachment disorder and a number of other names, but basically refers to kids (in this example) who have had a trauma in early childhood and are therefore unable to form attachments or trust others.  They have a lot of very predictable behaviors, including manipulating others, lying, anger issues and social issues (not making friends.)

I have worked with many, many children who have had attachment disorders of various degrees. If I have gotten them very young (before 5 or 6,) I have been able to make good progress with building trust.  After that age, trust building and attachment is still possible, but it is a lot more work.

I wanted to share with you a case as an example of how some of the things I have talked about in other blog posts about building safety zones and layers of trust work. (See: The RAD Child: Situational Trust and Safety Zones:Part 1. The Bedroom    and Working with Foster Kids and RAD Kids: Part 2: Building on Situational Trust: Bartering for Goods

This example revolves around a boy we will call Steve.  I got him from a hospital setting. My home was his last hope, as he was deemed very hard to deal with due to highly manipulative behavior, demanding, refusing to participate in therapies and school lessons. He was unable to go to school. He was 12. He had been abandoned as an infant and adopted as a younger child.  He had ADD, RAD and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. Because of violent outbursts his “parents” had put in a treatment center.

When Steve moved in he had his own room (each child must) and had his own separate bathroom. Normally children might have to share a bathroom, but my other kids shared a bathroom on another floor, so Steve had a bathroom on the main floor, which he could use, as well as any guests and visitors.  Steve was an obsessive cleaner and enjoyed decorating. This is how he comforted himself, and made himself feel safe. It lessened his anxiety.  He decorated his bedroom, and then I allowed him to decorate the bathroom as well.  He put fountains and other things in there that really wouldn’t be my tastes, but I allowed him to do it, to advance his feeling of being part of the family and make him feel safe. He was enlarging his safety zone from his room now to include the bathroom as well, which would eliminate any potential peeing issues in his room, as many kids will do that out of anxiety. (See the blog post:  Why is My Foster or Adopted Kid Urinating in The Closet (in a Jar, Towel, Hamper, Soda Can): The Red (or Yellow in this Case) Flag and How to Deal with It.

Next I wanted to expand his “safe zones” to include the living, kitchen and dining room.  I allowed him to help out by cleaning and decorating those areas as well, since he enjoyed these activities.

He would move things around, exerting some controls on these environments. Again, these were not things I appreciated, per se, but I allowed it for the time being to give him a feeling of ownership and make him feel safe and secure. He would put trinkets and decorations around the house that were childish, but they made him want to spend more time in the common areas, so I allowed it.

This also gave me more control over him in the kitchen, for example. If he was getting out of hand, I could suggest that I take the room back from him, meaning he would have to clean all his stuff out of the kitchen.

This would usually be enough to turn his behavior around because he would want to keep his stuff where it was, because it made him feel comfortable.  Just by telling him we might take the room back, he would be able to calm himself down and we could work through his behavioral issues.

Of course, he was still hypersensitive, had anger issues, yelling, all the regular symptoms, so anything I could use to control him I would use.   Allowing him to spread his roots by decorating the house had duo purposes.  

Allowing him to create an environment that he is going to attach to means allowing him to take some ownership by decorating and assisting in the cleaning of the space. This helps foster the increased feelings of safety and security in the home and in you, and is the foundation for personal trusting relationships.

 Slowly, as he felt more confident, I could begin to take back my common spaces and reduce the amount of “control” he had in those areas without making him feel anxiety.  I  found that he began to remove items and return them to his room on his own and that the importance of having his decorations distributed throughout the house diminished over time. This is a great indicator of growing attachment.

This was only one attachment “string” or method we used with this child in the home. I hope that by seeing an example of how this works in the "real world" you'll see how you can use it with your older RAD or foster kids to help build your foundations of safety and security.

Attribution Some rights reserved by Namibnat

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Photo-Link: A Vital Keepsake/Tool for a RAD Child (or Any Foster Child.)

By John and Diane

With the advent of digital photography, we all take a lot more photos...but how many actually get printed?

Not so important to most of us. Really, we post our faces on social media, we email pics to relatives who save them to a hard drive or turn them into a screen saver.
Photos that document events, big and small, are vitally important to the development and foundation for a child with an attachment disorder or reactive attachment disorder (referred to both as RAD in this article from now on.)

Photos that show any of my foster kids enjoying family events, achievement awards, holidays and any Firsts are always printed out and placed in a photo album for each child I have in my home.The importance of the photo album goes beyond just a keepsake of childhood memories.  For kids who may have a childhood that is scattered over many homes, many "families" and much sadness, a photo album that they can add to,  provides a timeline of happy memories to share as they later raise their own families.

For RAD kids, I cannot stress enough how important a photo album is.  Not only for the purpose of documenting their lives as is a normal part of most modern cultures, but as a TOOL.

A RAD child's photo album is an effective tool to use because:

*  It gives you a reference to go to when you need to PROVE that you have provided certain good things to the child. (Those carrots we've talked about in the past...)  For example, the child refuses to do anything for you, or says that you do nothing for him or her.  You go to the photo album and show him photos of family parties, vacation, trips to the roller rink, he with a new toy for a holiday...etc.  RAD kids NEED constant Proof, and a photo album is a great way to REMIND them that you do things for them.

* They need to be able to view the photos (documentation, per se) of themselves and other family members having fun together and enjoying each others company.  Without evidence of happy times together, the child will forget they love you.    This is especially important for families who are separated from their RAD child for a while - maintain the connection you have begun to build via a photo album.

* Refer to the album when the child is in a "funk" to remind them that they do enjoy their family, brothers and sisters in the house etc.  They need to see concrete evidence of things, so that they can come to their own conclusions about whether or not they were happy etc.

*Observe how the child uses the album. I am so happy when I see some of my longer -term kids show off their photo albums to new foster children. Not only does it allow me to see how that child is doing in my home, but if the child does have RAD, I can get a sense of their building attachment, or lack there-of. (Do they show any interest in the album, are they connected to the images there? )

It really doesn't take much to put an album together. It doesn't have to be fancy, and it can start today. The kids love putting new photos in their albums, adding stickers, or writing in them. I am sure many of you have a lot of other great ideas along these lines.  Please share them here in the comments section.

(suggested reading:
You and Your RAD Kid: The Importance of the Trust-Building- Honeymoon Period )

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