Your foster child will look to you for guidance and answers to many questions. When they ask Big Questions like “How do I know right from wrong?” will you know what to say? The following is a list of questions your foster child may ask at some point. It is important to think through these questions and have well-thought-out answers prepared. These answers will also help you in dealing with day-to-day issues even if the questions never come up directly.
- Why should I tell the truth?
- Why should I care about myself?
- Why should I care about others?
- Why does life have a value?
- Why should I follow any rules?
- Why should I not take drugs or drink alcohol?
- Why should I not become pregnant?
- Why is it wrong to steal something I want?
- Why should I work to get “A’s” in school when my friends will only make fun of me?
- Why is it wrong to curse?
- Why is it wrong to hit kids when they annoy me?
- Why should I listen to my teacher?
Foster children have typically been in a chaotic family situation before reaching your home. They may not have had the benefit of stable parents taking the time to teach them through both words and example the answers to these right vs. wrong questions. They need to understand why they should do the “right” thing and how to choose the “right” action in the first place. You will need to gain respect from your foster child by answering these questions consistently in your words and through your actions. Further, by being consistent in your parenting with them, they will learn to respect you and other authority figures in their lives.
Here is a possible conversation regarding right and wrong between “Dad” and “Stacy.”
DAD: Stacy, tell me why you should tell the truth?
STACY: Because lying hurts people.
DAD: Okay. But what if your lie doesn’t hurt people, then what?
STACY: Ah, I don’t know.
DAD: Stacy, you need to have a foundation on which everything must stand, something bigger than yourself, a perfect standard to measure your actions and behaviors. That standard is the Bible. We should tell the truth because God says we should in the Bible. When we lie, we know that we did something wrong because our standard tells us. We are not guided by just our feelings and what we want. Then after that we can try to make the wrong right if we are able to. What do you think about that?
STACY: Okay, I think I get that.
DAD: So are you going to be honest and stop cheating?
STACY: Wait, what is cheating?
DAD: Cheating is just like lying, but it is lying through our actions. For example, when someone does your homework for you, that is cheating. It is also lying because you allowed your teacher to believe that you did the work by yourself!
STACY: Okay, I get it.
We need to give each foster child a standard to live by and good, stable role-models they can follow. If they do not have that, they can’t begin to do anything as simple as being honest because without a standard, there is no understandable reason to do what is right. Without good role models there isn’t anyone for them to be accountable to. Children are mainly interested in ME and NOW! “What will give ME the best outcome? If it makes MY life easy then it must be good.”
Having a standard gives us something outside of ourselves to look to when we have a problem. A child needs guidelines, ones that they know deep in their hearts to be right. Without these standards and guidelines, they may begin blaming their poor behavior on others. Model good behavior and the positive effects of doing what is right. It is extremely important to “practice what you preach.” Your actions will bring your words to life and give them REAL meaning.
Remember that these foster children are real people. Many times they have been treated as though they are insignificant; treat them as significant. When you find yourself growing frustrated with excuses and regression, remember that within a secure environment they will blossom and grow. They need time and consistency and love. Be a model for them of doing what is right and in time they will follow.