One of the things that we’ve learned as we go down the path of parenting Reactive Attachment Disorder children is that in many ways you don’t parent them the same way that you parent attached, bonded kiddos. Here are 10 things that work for RAD kids that you might not expect.
- Strong sitting. When they get stuck in the back of their brain it’s necessary to “jog their brain” to get them out of it. One of the ways to do this is to have them strong sit. This involves them sitting cross-legged on the ground facing the wall with their back straight, and their hands either on their knees or crossed under their chin. This helps them to get out of the back of their brain and into the front logical part. This is also a very good exercise just to do several times a day, whether they’re stuck or not.
- Five strong jumping jacks. Another way for their brain to get unstuck.
- Jump on a mini-trampoline. Yet another unsticking mechanism.
- Answer crazy with crazy. When they say something crazy like “What’s the weather like outside?” (basically a question designed to use your brain instead of theirs) answer them with a crazy statement like “When camels fall down from the sky the lakes will all run uphill and turn purple”. Have fun with it – whatever comes into your head, say it. That’s what they’re doing – why not you? For some reason the RAD kid will look at you kind of weird and say “yeah”, or go along with it, or just kind of start thinking. Hardly ever will they say “That was a dumb thing to say” like an attached kid would. There is a great video at the end of this post from a RAD mommy, Christine Moers, talking about her spin on this technique.
- Sugar them. Hold them in your arms like a baby (kind of hard if they’re a teenager, but do the best you can) and give them sugar. Mints, caramels, whipped cream (but not chocolate). Make sure you feed it to them by sticking it directly in their mouth, don’t let them take it from you and eat it themselves. This is good because it kind of recreates the sweetness of breast milk, and helps the child bond with you. Very important – more so for moms, but good for dads to do too. Have a pocketful of candy with you at all times so when they’re just walking by you can pop one in their mouth.
- Talk over them. Talk to each other (mom and dad) when they’re within earshot. Say something like “Billy’s being very weak for himself right now. If he decides to run away, we’ll have to decide what to do – call the police or what”. Have a conversation about them, but not to them and don’t include them in it. You can also do this on the phone, or even pretend to do it on the phone. This really works for us. It makes them use their brain. Amazing!
- Fast and Snappy. This is a term you want to use when you want them to do something. For some reason, it works for RADishes.
- Prescribe the behavior. If they like to pick their nose, give them an allotted time every day in their room for doing it. Tell them you want them to be the best nose-picker they can be, so they need to practice it. Stealing is also a behavior you can prescribe. Nancy Thomas talks about some interesting ways to do this in When Love Is Not Enough.
- Hold them. Sometimes when they are really stuck, or out of control, you want to hold them to keep them safe. This can be on your lap if they’re small or on the floor if they’re bigger. Hold their hands to keep them and you safe, and continue to look at them with loving eyes and tell them how much you love them. Hold them until they look back in your eyes and tell you they’re ready to obey, or they love you. If they’re big, it may take both of you. This might seem cruel, but I assure you it’s not. It’s loving and they really like it, though at the time they act like you’re killing them. Some of the most powerful healing happens during a holding time. It’s amazing! RAD kids didn’t get held when they were babies like they were supposed to and they need that to get healthy.
- Don’t give them information. RAD kids want to know what’s going on at all times, and if you always tell them they think they’ve got power and they get sicker. Don’t tell them what’s for dinner. Don’t tell them about a trip ahead of time. Don’t tell them how long until you get somewhere. Keep them in the dark – they need to learn to depend on you, not themselves!
There you go, with ten wild and crazy things to do to help your RAD kids get healthy. For many more ideas, tools, and techniques make sure to check out When Love Is Not Enough by Nancy Thomas for about $12. Another solid resource is the Total Transformation program, though not RAD-specific, we use it in conjunction with Nancy’s book. These are two of the most important books you can get. Buy each one today!