How to React When Your Foster Child Wants to Be in Control

Children often test limits as a normal part of establishing their self-identity. However, in some cases, they may develop control issues that cause conflict with parental figures. Adolescents and teens in foster care can have difficulty establishing and maintaining healthy relationship boundaries.

Some children react by attempting to control their circumstances through manipulation or other methods. According to Foster, Adoption, and Kinship Care, “To respond appropriately and effectively, foster parents should use discipline that praises and reinforces positive behavior.” Havenwood Academy uses evidence-based treatment programs to help teens learn essential skills like emotional regulation and conflict resolution.

Early Childhood Trauma and Foster Care

Children learn to form relationships and engage in healthy social interactions very early in life. If they live through adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), trauma, or major stress, they may not have the opportunity to develop these essential skills. Instead of learning to identify and regulate their emotions, some children try to control their environment to lessen emotional distress.

Untreated trauma and other issues can cause some children in foster care to develop maladaptive coping mechanisms. Professional mental health care and a nurturing home environment can help children feel more comfortable trusting that adults have their best interests at heart.

Overcoming Behavior Issues Using Positive Discipline

Children react more favorably to positive instead of negative consequences of unwanted behaviors. Adopted children are more likely to repeat good behaviors when parents use positive consequences rather than enforcing negative consequences for poor behaviors. Foster parents who have difficulty controlling their child’s behaviors may benefit from using the following techniques:

  • Praise them when they make positive choices
  • Reward actions you want to encourage
  • Avoid conflict by ignoring mild negative behaviors
  • Redirect attention to something positive and uplifting

According to the previously mentioned article by Foster, Adoption, and Kinship Care, “Positive disciplinary methods are preferred as they teach important skills that children will need not only in foster care, but also in life.” Positive consequences help teens increase aptitude in these areas:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Conflict resolution
  • Coping skills
  • Emotion regulation
  • Effective communication

Negative Consequences to Unwanted Behaviors

Unfortunately, positive reinforcement does not always work. Teens who respond better to negative consequences may need discipline to help them understand the cost of acting out. A few examples of negative consequences include the following:

  • Having certain privileges revoked
  • Time-out
  • A curfew
  • Temporary loss of access to games or smart devices
  • Limited access to hobbies, toys, or events

Treating Control Issues Using Trauma Therapy

Residential treatment is one of the best options for children who do not respond to positive or negative reinforcement. Foster parents may not have the knowledge or skills necessary to help their children overcome severe behavioral issues. Havenwood Academy offers compassionate residential treatment personalized to each teen girl in our care. Our facility teaches young women how to process and regulate their emotions and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Distrust, fear, and early childhood trauma can cause children to develop control issues. The professional mental health treatment we offer ensures that teens learn to trust others and regulate their emotions. Some of the therapies we offer include:

  • Talk therapy
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Brain spotting
  • Neurofeedback therapy

Residential treatment at Havenwood Academy focuses on empowering girls and giving them the tools they need to thrive and succeed in recovery. We help families find new ways to resolve tension and internal conflicts. Our team also educates foster parents on how to retain control during family conflicts.

Childhood Trauma Affects Control Issues

Once a child completes our treatment program, parents must ensure they return to a safe and nurturing home. Consistency is essential to ensure children maintain the healthy routines and behaviors they develop in treatment. According to Bruce D. Perry in The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog, “Traumatized children . . . need predictability, routine, a sense of control and stable relationships with supportive people.” Often, control issues are motivated by fear, and children who feel safe, loved, and supported have less motivation to wrestle for control.

Supporting Your Foster Daughter Without Giving Up Control

Children in treatment gain self-confidence and healthy social skills. However, as a teenager, they will still sometimes test boundaries. Parents must maintain expectations and respond to unwanted behaviors with consistency.

Foster teens may push for more independence and grab for control even after they learn healthy coping skills. Parents should hold them accountable for these behaviors. Some common conflicts include:

  • Establishing romantic relationships
  • Ignoring curfews or other structured house rules
  • Manipulating situations to get the desired result
  • Ignoring direct requests

Parents can effectively control these situations by ensuring teens understand the consequences of acting out and then upholding those expectations. Doing so helps teens maintain emotional and mental health progress while parents can maintain control of situations. Every moment of conflict is an opportunity for children to grow and develop healthier behaviors.

Some children struggle with control issues due to past trauma or a lack of social skills. Difficulty coping with stress might cause them to use manipulation and other tactics to maintain a sense of control. Your foster child might only think they are safe and secure when they feel in control of every situation. Fear of losing control or facing the unknown might cause them to lash out and ignore family boundaries and rules. Havenwood Academy provides treatment and support for children who struggle with mental health and behavioral issues. We show teens how to develop healthier means of coping with stress and uncertainty. To learn more about our programs and services, call our office today at (435) 586-2500.


Think Havenwood Might Be For You?

We encourage any visitors considering placing their daughter in treatment to fill out our online assessment as soon as possible. This two minute form will give our admissions team all the information needed to determine if your daughter is a good fit for our program.