Friday, June 1, 2012

Putting a Bounty on Bad Behavior: Rules and “Reward” Techniques to Deal with Hitting and Inappropriate Sexual Behaviors Amongst Foster Kids

By John and Diane

Kids hit each other whether you like it or not. No matter how watchful you are (and I even have cameras in my home) children eventually strike out at each other in anger or frustration.  This is a situation that I have plenty of experience in dealing with amongst the boys in my foster home.

Because I am a single parent, I developed a “Bounty Technique” that gets the kids involved in policing the behavior amongst them, and appeals to their fundamental desire for…money!

When the hitting behavior starts, of course, you first sit down and review the house rules with the kids.  I talk to the kids about why the hitting happened, and if they have any ideas on how to react in a different way.  Of course, they don’t.  They make excuses, blame the other children, or say that they will do better.  Since there is a No Fighting or Hitting Rule on my posted House Rules list, the hitting action has already brought about a direct consequence to the child- they have lost some of their earned money or are punished with extra chores etc.

When the behavior reoccurs, I begin the “Bounty Technique.”  I explain it to the kids like this:

If your brother or sister hits you, and you don’t hit back, but come and tell me about it right away, I will take $1. Away from the “hitter” and give it to you. (The hittee.)

This does not mean that the “hitter” can now hit the other child “for free” all day long; they pay each time it happens.   Kids really hate to see their brother or sister getting their hard earned money, and the child that gets hit feels a little victorious when the other gets punished for the bad behavior.

Now, the flip side is this: The child that WANTS to hit the other child will begin to stop himself before he hits.

He or she starts to come to the parent to complain about the other child (the would-be hittee) about the behavior that is driving him or her to hit.  This helps the parent identify the triggers for anger in that child, which gives them more opportunities to work through the foster child’s issues.

The “Bounty Technique” goes a step further by getting uninvolved kids in on the act as well.

If two kids fight, but neither tells me about it, that is not a good situation.  I need to know what is going on, and unresolved issues between them can be continued after they go to bed or to school.  If an uninvolved child comes and tells the parent that two other kids are fighting, the child receives $2, one from each of the offenders.

So, kids begin to learn that the only way NOT to lose money is to come to me with their issues before I hear about it from one of the other kids.  If they can tell me what happened, and how they are going to work on stopping it from happening again, they don’t lose money. If it happens again, I get the money!

I know it sounds a little complicated, but its really common sense. Once you do it , it will be second nature to all involved.

A form of this technique also works with kids and reporting inappropriate sexual behavior amongst them. There is a lot more talking and learning going on when issues are reported by any of the kids, and getting them additional help is always the most important end result. 

I think it is vital to the safety and health of a foster home to deal with sexual issues of the kids out in the open. I deal with it bluntly (when age appropriate) and make sure that all the kids are aware of predatory behavior and how important it is to report it to me for the benefit of all the kids, including the actor. All the kids realize that what is said in the home about each other stays in the home; they don’t want their history to be known outside anymore than the other kids, and although some may disagree with this, again, the safety of the kids is the most important thing to me.

The Bounty system works the same way as far as the money transactions go, and I have found that it stops the behavior, at least in my home.

Do you have tips or ideas that have worked for you to stop hitting behaviors in your home? Please share.

AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Aislinn Ritchie


  1. These are great suggestions...your blog is so helpful! We currently have one pre-adoptive foster kid but he's 4 yo, highly compliant, pleasant, friendly, quiet and the poster child for recruiting foster parents. He fit in so well that there was very little adjustment on our part. We are pursuing adopting older sibling groups, though, and I know it will not be that easy the second time around so we're trying to get our ducks in a row. Thanks for putting this out there!

  2. Thanks for your comment! I appreciate you taking the time to tell me about yourself. I hope that you find some helpful information on the blog, you might find the postings about blended families with thoughts from my own daughter especially helpful when considering adopting older children. If you have any questions or things you'd like us to blog about, please let us know!
    John- FPR
    (via Diane)