When dealing with kids, an important outlook to adopt is that success is relative. This means that we will celebrate all those small steps toward a goal. Even when your child has not completely accomplished what he set out to do, many times, we need to count it a success. Parents and foster parents everywhere want perfect kids, don’t hold your breath. “It ain’t gonna happen.” You will be much happier with the philosophy, Success Is Relative.
You ask your foster son to clean up his room, hang up his clothes, and take his lamp that broke two months ago to the garage. Later, after a reasonable amount of time, you check on his progress. You open the door, nothing has changed, and the room is still a mess. You lose your cool, and start screaming. He looks like you struck him, not because of the screaming, but because you didn’t notice that he actually did get rid of the lamp. He feels he has accomplished something. You see the two jobs he did not do; he sees the one task he did complete. Stop a moment. He actually listened to you and did do one of the things expected. It’s not much, but something. Success is relative.
Your newest foster daughter spends every chance she gets on the phone. The other kids complain because their friends can never get through to them. You missed an important call which meant you missed a vital meeting. Everyone in the family is in an uproar. You take phone privileges away, returning them one week later. You issue stiff warnings that the next time it will be for two weeks. Once again, she is on the phone too long, but not all the time. She heard what you said and reduced her calls. Her perceptions of fair, reasonable, and sharing may differ from your ideas. Success is relative.
This attitude must carry over to your goals as foster parent. If you can keep a child off drugs for one day, you are successful. If you can keep a kid out of jail for one night, you have reached success. Many of these kids you will deal with have been doing the same things for many years. They may have been using chemicals for a period of four or five years, the complete recovery will take time. It won’t be immediate, but you will be successful whenever you are responsible for that child not having a beer or using drugs. Do anything in your power to stop their chemical use.
If something you have said, during one of those speeches you constantly made and think no one has heard, make them stop committing one crime one time that is success. The harm that can befall kids in detention facilities and jail should always be weighed against the advantage of that placement. Use any means possible to keep them away from crime.
As foster parents we always want to do what is best for the kid, but we also feel a need to think we have succeeded. This goal makes us tenacious in our pursuit of perfection in our kids. We will accept nothing less. We constantly forget how long it took them to get that way. This behavior we wish to modify is not new. This child has engaged in it for many years, possibly their whole life. And you Fairy Foster Mother are going to wave your magic wand and change it overnight. I think not.
Success is those tiny steps which make up the whole. You celebrate, if you are like me, the fact that last week, he only got drunk three times, instead of every night. You are joyous about the realization that your teen has lied less about his behavior, and now, mostly about his real feelings. It is an event when your youngest child shares a toy, even though tomorrow he may bop another unsuspecting little girl on the head, when she takes it.
This never means we stop trying for perfection. Our goals are still the same. The only difference is in our perception of the progress that kid is making. Tell, the child, what you expect, don’t let them know, less is okay. But a superb effort should not be viewed as failure when progress was made.
Praise children often, whenever they show any signs of remorse, that could be the only success you see right now. Let them know you appreciate the way they try to reach their goals. It is okay to admit that they need to work harder, but only after you have complimented them on how far they have come in this effort.
Work at seeing the glass half full instead of half empty. If a child experiences no reward for their attempts, they will never reach their goal. It will seem unproductive to them.
Success is relative is a state of mind. It keeps parents from going crazy. It prevents us from losing our cool, when less than perfect is all we get. Why not relax a bit. Never stop pushing toward accomplishing those much needed goals, but stop and recognize your kids along the way for a job well-done. Don’t put yourself or your children on deadlines when unnecessary, it adds too much to everyone’s stress. Patience is the only answer.
This road to success is full of bumps. You will make constant detours, even turning back onto one-way streets. You may reach dead-ends. You may go round and round as in a maze, but the end is in sight for you both if you keep looking for it.
The child may be trying his hardest to do what pleases you, but habit, and genetics are strong influences. Environment may have trained him in a way that is unfortunate, and your way is foreign to him. If he is trying, you must both be proud of the effort he is making. You must realize what a lot of work it is to change ingrained habits. Show him you are appreciative of what he has accomplished.
We appreciate every one of you foster parents and know how important it is to reach your goals, but when you practice success is relative, you do reach goals, almost every day.