Foster Parenting 101; Behavior is Learned and Therefore can be Changed

As many of you know, my wife and I have gone through training to become foster parents through the Methodist Home for Children.  We hope to be eligible for foster children come July. Once we’re eligible, then much in the way like Jesus’ second coming, no one knows the day nor the hour when the phone call will come and we welcome into our home children in need of foster care.  I thought I’d share with you over the next couple of articles a few bits of wisdom I learned during the training. The number one principle I learned is that behavior is learned and therefore can be changed

The first, behavior is learned and therefore can be changed, derives from behavioral studies that have shown that we are formed into habits.  That is to say, children (and adults!) learn how to interact with the world through our parents, our teachers, our friends, and our society in general.  If behavior is learned, then it means that it can change. That’s hopeful, not just for children who have learned bad behavior but also for us adults who have also learned bad behavior.  

Artists and musicians will tell you the same. Someone desiring to become a musician will learn to play by imitating his or her teacher or some other master of that instrument.  For me, when i first began to learn how to play guitar, it was Dave Matthews. I studied how he played, learned the chords he used, played his songs in the same way. Over time, I found that had become in general a better guitar player capable of playing a variety of music.  If I had copied someone who knew little of the guitar or didn’t know how to play the guitar well, my ability to play well would substantially different.

The great apostle Paul also knew something about behavior and how it can be changed.  He repeatedly writes to faith communities to imitate him as he imitates Christ. Our behavior changes as we learn to imitate others good behavior.  What Behaviorists won’t tell you. but the Apostle Paul will, is that true transformation comes by and through the Spirit of God (See Romans, especially chapters 8 & 12). Jesus offers us the picture of one who completely and utterly follows God’s will.  Jesus offers us a pattern of behavior to follow but it is the Holy Spirit that empowers us to be transformed.

Lacey and I are excited for this great opportunity to be foster parents.  We look forward to opening up our home to help care for children. Thank you for your prayers during this time of waiting and watching.  I’m excited for the changes and transformations that are to come. Pray that we will be open to the transforming work of the Spirit. I pray that you too will be open to God’s transforming work.  




Rev. Matt Seaton

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