discipline strategies in foster care

Discipline Strategies: A Focus On Children Who Have Experienced Trauma

Price: $0

This course discusses discipline strategies recommended to use with children who have a history of trauma.

Course Description

In this free course we look at the different areas of the brain and discipline strategies used with children who have a trauma history.  It is explained that children with a history of trauma are hypersensitive to threats and treat many interactions in their environment as such. One way to help children manage this and respond to threats appropriately, is to help regulate their internal systems.  Additionally, caregivers who respond with consistency, attentiveness and patience will assist more effectively when using discipline strategies. Caregivers who regularly engage in self-care are more likely to avoid secondary trauma and burnout.

Detailed Summary


This course for foster parents is presented by Les Harris, of Utah Foster Care, to discuss different areas of the brain and discipline strategies used with children who have trauma history.  He begins by discussing the primitive brain, or reptilian brain, which is activated when a threat is presented to someone. It is explained that potential responses to these threats can be fight, flight, freeze or faint.  When trauma occurs, the primitive brain is activated repeatedly and becomes hypersensitive to threats. The brain will begin to respond that everything in the person’s environment is a threat. Historically, children’s behaviors are psychopathologized, however now there is more research supporting that children can experience a faulty physiological system due to trauma.

It is recommended in this video lesson, that children are helped to regulate their internal system to respond in a more effective and appropriate way to threats.  Children who have an exaggerated fear response in their environment, have a difficult time recalling from memory or problem solving during times of stress. It is important to remember when discussing the production of behaviors for a child who has experienced trauma, that there is a deficit in the way their brain functions.  It is important that a caregiver allows the child to feel some control over what is happening to them when consequences to their behaviors are presented.

We discuss being present and parallel with a child, as well as being attuned to a child’s response to help the child feel part of a nurturing, loving and caring relationship.  To be attuned to the child is to understand when the child needs their caregiver and when they need to be left alone. Some ways to support comfortability for the child is engaging them in non-threatening, incidental activities, such as patty cake.  Caregivers must understand the child’s behavior before a punishment or consequence is presented. Building in routine and consistency is important for children who have been traumatized. It is helpful for them to know what to expect and provides them with a feeling of security.

Paying attention to the way a parent responds to behaviors is important.  Children will typically mirror behaviors of their parent or caregiver. It is unfair and unreasonable to assume a child is going to act without aggression if they observe a parent responding with aggression.  Listening and being able to give full attention to the child is also key. This helps the child feel heard and nurtured. Also, understanding the child’s developmental age and being patient about this helps avoid frustrations due to unrealistic expectations of the child.  Lastly, self-care is an important skill for caregivers to engage in to avoid secondary trauma and burnout. By taking care of themselves, caregivers are more equipped to meet the needs of their children.

For a full transcript of the video this course is based on, click here

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