Parenting the RAD Child

Reactive Attachment Disorder Parenting Tips

Parenting a Reactive Attachment Disorder child, who has not learned to trust, is difficult. Without trust, there is no respect, honesty, or real affection.

Lectures, warnings, hollering, bribes, second chances, and reminders do NOT work. You are wasting your time and breath. Your child knows the rules he or she just refuses to obey your rules!

Remember – his or her actions are often automatic responses learned from infancy. Your child is in their element when you have lost your control!

Natural Consequences:

  • Did not bring homework home – go back and get it or assign your own homework.
  • Room not cleaned – stay in your room until it is clean.
  • Does not want to eat – no problem, they will not starve, but they will sit at the table while the family eats (NO snack before next meal).
  • Misbehaving at dinnertime – remove them from the table. They can go to their room until dinner is over– so the rest of the family can enjoy a peaceful meal.
  • Broken object – they must replace it with their own money or with chores.
  • Foul mouth raised voice, rudeness, and backtalk – can be rewarded with chores, exercise (jumping jacks, sit-ups, running on the spot) or payment to money jar.
  • Hurt someone – they must apologize and lose privileges (having friends over, watching TV, playing video games, using the telephone, etc.). Most likely, they will not mean the apology, but it is a habit-forming process.

Avoid control battles! Your child wants to control you, even if it means making you angry and them being disciplined. No one wins and you will end up frustrated. Try, “When you clean your room properly, you can have ____,” (lunch, playtime, etc.) –whatever fits the daily schedule.

Never believe your child, “Honest, Mom, I’m telling the truth! Why won’t you believe me, you never believe me!” Don’t let that sway you; your child is one of the best liars around. Should a miracle happen and you later find out your child was telling the truth; look them in the eye, apologize sincerely and reward – perhaps with a favorite dessert/comic/hug. If you find that more and more your child has told the truth, then you can start to let your guard down.

When giving compliments give them in ‘now’ time. “You showed great sportsmanship today!” or “You did a really good job on the dishes. Thank you.” Do not be surprised when your child sabotages these good moments. This is their only way of regaining control of their environment. Until they learn to trust you, this is their safety net.

Disciplines and punishments should also be in the ‘now’ time. Groundings for the week(s) may sound good to you but your RAD child lives in the ‘now’ mode. Cause and effect are not easily understood, if at all; especially if the effect lasts more than a day or two. You will find that if the grounding is too long or heavy your child will act out even more as they think, “Why not, I’m already grounded from everything”.

“Ain’t Misbehaving” Money Jar – Each week have a roll of $2/nickels or $5/dimes and place in a jar; then for each negative behavior take a nickel/dime out of the jar. At the end of the week, your child gets to keep the money in the jar. Be sure to point out how much money was in the jar at the beginning of the week.

Do not leave RAD children in the care of adults that will allow the child to manipulate them. No child will trust and respect others who are weaker than them; this includes grandparents, childcare, teachers, etc. Weak caregivers will just reinforce your child’s belief that adults cannot be trusted and they can only depend on themselves for survival.

The strains a Reactive Attachment Child puts on your family can be enormous.

Effects on the Family of a RAD Child

  • Dreams of the perfect loving, caring family are squashed. There is no such thing as a perfect family, but a RAD family can become quite dysfunctional.
  • A RAD child will play one parent off the other, which could result in a rift between parents.
  • Siblings often feel ignored or overlooked as the RAD child takes up so much of the parent’s time. Schedule, daily or weekly, one-on-one quality time for each child in the family.
  • Friends, family, church members become critical of parenting and attitude.
  • Due to the child’s disruptive behavior, parents often withdraw from social functions.
  • Siblings and pets can often be targeted and threatened. It is extremely important for RAD children to have their own room – for their own good as well as the safety of siblings.
  • Family events, like Christmas, can be filled with anger and frustration due to RAD behavior.
  • Parents appear to be unfair, strict, and sometimes hostile, as parenting skills used with healthy children do not work with RAD children.