Dreaming of Fostering a Child

Fostering….Its not something you  hear many people getting excited about.  But at 37 and having had a desire to help children since I was a teenager it gets me excited!  Finally after a life time of wrong timing it finally seems like the right timing to go ahead and we have completed our training. It has been quite a process…two home interviews, lots of paperwork, two full day courses and a big span of time ….about 6 months now.

And now that the process is all finished it feels like the hard part is just starting.  The waiting and not knowing.  When will they ring us?  What age will the child be?  Will it be short term or long term?  A boy or girl?  How damaged will they be?  How will they fit in with our kids?  and the list goes on.

We signed up hoping to give a child a home for life… to save them from being bumped from home to home.  To share our happy family life with another soul who hasn’t yet been blessed with that.  We have our ideal scenario in our mind but know also that the ideal doesn’t always look like what we expect.  We have 4 boys 13, 11, 9 and a 1 year old. Ideally we would like a little girl not too far in age from our 1 year so that as the others grow up and leave home he will still have a companion.  I share this because it will be interesting to look back and see how this has panned out.  I have a friend who signed up for short term emergency care for children between 3 and 12 … she now has two permanent placements aged 1 year and 16 years…the complete opposite of her plan but it fits her just perfectly.

So now is the waiting game, the lottery, the unknown… the hardest part for me so far.

Should your Child Pay You Rent?

I was at the hairdressers today and I got talking to the young trainee hairstylist. She was 16 and living at home. She shared about her siblings 18 and 20 who also lived at home…not studying or working just blobbing.  Funnily enough last time I visited this same salon another assistant told me of her two grown children living at home, not working or studying, not wanting to help out around home, borrowing her car and the list goes on.  It got me thinking…

In NZ once you turn 18 you can get an unemployment benefit to keep you fed and housed while you have no other income so there’s a good chance these kids are receiving this.  Its not a huge amount but enough to make you comfortable if you aren’t paying anything for your upkeep. Often their money is going on takeaways, social lives, cars, alcohol, clothes etc.

The kids mentioned above are currently not showing much responsibility for their upkeep or any motivation for their future and why should they bother they have a free ride.   I think a simple thing parents can do to help them at this age and stage is to charge them rent!  And not just kids who are sloths on the couch but your working children too!

The best idea I have heard is of parents who charge their kids rent each week and then save it for them using it towards their first house, wedding, car, travel, study etc.

What a great blessing you can give back to your kids!

Not all families can afford to do this but how about keeping half  for your costs and saving the rest for them.

Some parents will say they don’t charge rent so that the kids can save but I’ve heard all too many times that it often doesn’t pan out this way.  Yes there will be the exceptions who will be great savers.

A lady I know was feeling frustrated with her son who was still in his teens and working full time. He was spending a lot of money modifying his very entry level car. Meanwhile he lived rent free at home as she raced from job to job trying to support their large family. I couldn’t help but think if she only charged him even $50 a week how it could take some pressure off her. Or even better $150 and set aside the $100 for his future expenses that will have a more lasting impact on his life than an upgraded dumpster of a vehicle.

The benefits of grown kids paying rent:

  • Teach them responsibility for oneself and form good habits
  • Take pressure off the family budget
  • Get them used to life in the real world
  • Save for their future
  • Redirect some of their money from being wasted on futile things

How about you? Did your grown children pay you rent while they lived at home? How much did / do you charge?


Preparing your

How to Tame your Toddler

A month or two ago it suddenly became apparent that my wee lads strong little will was well formed and ready to assert itself.  When I think back it kicked in initially around the time he started to crawl and then went up to a new level with walking.  Perhaps the new found freedom and hearing ‘No’ for the first time helped with this.  Either way I had heard the need for discipline started earlier than you would expect so it didn’t take me too much by surprise.  It almost starts off quite humorously when you see the first tantrum or say ‘No’ and see them do the exact thing you have told them not to at twice the speed.  One of those precious moments as they grow up!

But over time the humor of it wears off when left unchecked as the cute determined little baby starts to rule the roost and have everyone walking on eggshells trying to avoid conflict and embarrassment at their behaviour.  Suddenly all those things ‘my child would never do’ are happening and the atmosphere in the home is far from your ideal scenario when you pictured your happy little family!

So how do you avoid this being the ongoing story of your life…I’ll tell you whats been working for me.

Sam (16 months) is a PINCHER,  it almost seems to be hardwired in him.  He has more recently been putting his teeth to the test but his preferred method of attack is a good squeeze of the skin between the fingers, and it hurts!  He has it perfected to a fine art for such a young fellow.  He has one older brother in particular (next youngest in the pack at 9 years old) he likes to test out his skills on and looks at him with pure attitude while doing it. You could say hes a bully as it almost always comes completely undeserved…. Andrew leans quietly against the couch a little too close to where Sam wants to be.  So a good ole pinch will do it!

I’ve been teaching the boys to say in a big strong voice ‘NO’ when he does it as they are so sweet and lovely to their little brother that just get teary if it hurts and forget to say anything to him.  They will tell us often but an instant negative response is needed to help Sam learn.  It recently became clear how important this was when observing a lovely mum who was so sweet to her kids but would only ever speak in a happy tone even as they wrecked havoc. The child needs to understand that the behaviour isn’t desired or making you happy.

What I have experienced and also witnessed a 100 times over with children is that telling them ‘NO’ alone doesn’t achieve much.  It is needed so they learn what the behaviour is that is undesired but its unlikely to be effective until they know that it will be backed up with consequences.  Once they know the consequences will come if the ‘NO’ is ignored it gets easier.

The tricky part can be finding the appropriate consequence in our PC world where smacking is a thing of the past (in NZ anyways).  Often there is a logical consequence like taking away the toy that is being used inappropriately.  But other times its quite a challenge.  In this instance I will tell you what we used as Sam is very young and can also be sensitive (and stubborn!)

When Sam started his pinching with Jared and I, we very quickly nipped it in the bud.  A quick sharp reaction ‘NO’ and removing him from our lap or personal space and putting him on the ground facing the other direction.  This was enough of a consequence for him at this point as he would cry for 30 seconds and then come back to us.  This was a few months ago so he was only about 14 months at the time as it was something he didn’t want to happen.  On many occasions he looks at us, fingers poised ready for the pinch,  but thinks twice and retreats as he knows it is met with a consistent reaction that he doesn’t want.  This may well have been the end of it but with brothers who are a bit more vulnerable, we have had a bit more of a fight to deter the behaviour.  A month or so after he stopped doing it to us I noticed an increase in his bullying of number 2,  so we decided we needed to get on top of that ASAP.  By this stage he’s a bit bigger and more determined and any pinching witnessed by myself or Jared resulted in a growly voice and being moved to the hallway, put on ground facing other way.  He is allowed to return to us whenever he wants as that is enough for him at this age and stage.  He has on one occasion come back and persisted in which case the follow through was into his cot for around 3 minutes.  This has been enough to put a significant end to the pinching for now but it does require occasional reinforcement.  I know some children may take repeating this steps significantly more times before they learn that they aren’t winning.  The key here is that it has to be a consequence they don’t like.  It doesn’t have to be a major but they do have to not like it.

Another example I’ve seen work effectively is with high chair behaviour… the child throws food or is making too much noise (squealing etc), give a warning ‘no’ then simply turn the highchair around for a few minutes away from others at the table.

Now that Sam is 16 months he understands a lot and he is very ready to learn a few boundaries and to listen to mummy and daddy.  Teaching your children to do as they are asked reaps results for a peaceful happy home. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy in the short term to be the good guy in the long run.  Theres a certain order of things and if mummy and daddy aren’t in charge at home life is going to be hard work.  You are responsible for making and guiding your home toward the kind of environment that you want.  Toddlers and children aren’t ready to lead the house even though they do in some.  Children benefit and feel more secure and safe when boundaries are clear and consistent.

Be selective on what you say ‘No’ to.  It should only be on handful of things max in a day. Choose your battles and don’t be on their case all day, but be consistent or your efforts will be wasted.

In summary it is very simple:

  • use your voice tone…make it clear you don’t like the behaviour with a firm ‘No’ or an alternative word if you are slightly hippy and don’t like using no.
  • Follow up if  behaviour doesn’t stop with a consequence, preferably the smallest consequence needed as long as they don’t like.  No need to punish them.
  • Show them love and acceptance again shortly after negative behaviour stops.

Hopefully something in this has been an encouragement or reminder for your journey. If so  please leave a comment or follow me for further posts.