I was a bit reluctant at first, never liked school, and anyway, if I need training, I thought to myself, why did they hire me?
Other half stepped in and pointed out that in-service training is the norm almost everywhere nowadays. It's done to keep employees abreast of new ideas.
I liked that. Cutting edge stuff, hot from the press. New thinking. Box fresh.
Here's the thing. When you are at school you learn as much from your experiences in the playground as you do in the classroom. I know teachers disagree, but how do they know, they're never in the playground...
When you go to training there are nice long coffee breaks, and you pick up as many new techniques from other carers as from the actual session.
Let Them Learn the Consequences of their Own Choices:
One of my friends is a very relaxed foster carer. Never gets het up, it's all water off a duck's back. I mentioned to her I was having trouble getting mine to wear a coat to school as coats 'aren't cool'. She said that if they don't want to wear a coat, let 'em. If they get cold they get cold, no-one else to blame. I tried it and it worked 100%.
The Art of Changing the Subject
To be fair, they touched on this (the art of distraction) during a training session on de-escalation (taking the heat out of the moment). But over coffee we knitted the formal advice into a game plan, which is as follows; don't get sucked in when a foster child is trying it on, instead;
Carer:"Time for bed"
Carer: (Walking out and up the stairs) "Oh and I keep meaning to ask, what do you want for your birthday?"
Turning It Into A Game
Wrong way: Carer: "Put your shoes on it's time for school" (Wrong, because a) It's an order b) there's no 'please' - see below - and c) any use of the word 'school' is going to antagonise).
Right way: "Welcome to the House Olympics where the champion shoe-putter-onner Wayne is attempting to beat his own world record of 24.7 seconds for putting his shoes on and tying both laces. he's sitting on the stairs ready, the crowd goes quiet...and Go!"
They say punctuality is the politeness of Kings, but for the rest of us politeness is the politeness of fostering. I heard this brilliant story from a foster parent who was eleven years in the army, he's about seven feet tall, no-one would argue with him, but he is hot on politeness. Told us about the time he was sneaking back into base late one night and an RSM was waiting in ambush. "A very good evening to you Sergeant Smith," he said "I trust you had an enjoyable evening at the Dog and Duck? I wonder if you would be kind enough to come to my quarters after parade tomorrow please?" The RSM informed him that his 'punishment' was to babysit for him every time he and Mrs RSM wanted to go out to the Dog and Duck. It was while looking after the junior RSMs that fostering crossed his mind.
Once the penny drops that you should be as polite to children as you want them to be to you, you suddenly notice the rudeness of most adults towards their children. I reckon plenty of children get to the age of 18 and no-one older than them has ever said "Please".
Everywhere you go adults are ordering children to say "Please". Never asking.
Make 'Em Laugh
Laughing About It.
We laugh a lot at training. Or, to put it another way, aren't too serious about whatever it is. A lot of good carers turn the fun on at home. If child leaves their peas on the plate, lean across and eat a forkful, then keel over like you've been poisoned. A good funny game is where they get to act like you and you get to act like them, done with care always funny, and good for the soul (yours as well as the child's).
Obviously if the moment is about something very real and dark to the child, it's time for your serious side. But playing the joker at the right times often gets the job done.
If the worst comes to it, tell a joke. We sometimes swap them over coffee, then tell our foster children. This one caused five minutes laughter then twenty minutes discussion:
"The first full sentence ever spoken by a human was 'I have no idea what you're talking about'."