disciplining abused childrenQ: What are some practical tips for disciplining foster/adopted kids who have experienced abuse and neglect.

A: According to Dr. Karyn Purvis, the first thing to remember is that previously abused children are thrown very easily into flashbacks and many types of discipline can actually accelerate aggressive behaviors because of the child’s survival instincts. Adults must remain calm and not correct in anger. They need to be aware of their tone of voice, the intensity of their facial expressions and other nonverbal cues that may be interpreted by the child as threats.

Maintain connection throughout correction. Make it clear that you are not rejecting the child, but rather you are there to help them succeed. Use as little intervention as possible, with the understanding that an overzealous adult can drive a fearful child into worse behaviors. Dr. Purvis has developed an acronym for behavioral correction called the IDEAL Response. A brief explanation can be found here.

Dr. Karyn Purvis is the author of The Connected Child, and the Director of the TCU Institute of Child Development. She has also been the guest on many Creating a Family radio shows. For more information on this topic, listen to the Creating a Family radio show: “Raising and Healing Abused & Neglected Kids” and visit our blog: “7 Essential Things to Do When You First Meet Adopted/Foster Child.”

Image credit: stephanski