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First Step to Healing RAD: Passing the 5 Tests for Trust with RAD

Oct 30, 2022
girl looking in purse

Children with RAD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, are searching for a super hero to keep them safe. The key to healing their heart AND their brain is that feeling of safety. They test all adults they are entrusted to. That includes: Parents, Teachers, Therapist, babysitter, Sunday school teacher etc. So let’s pass the test so they can begin the healing process!

The first thing to remember is how vital each of these tests are to the child’s healing and make a commitment to pass every test they throw at you! Secondly, remember that children with RAD do not learn from words. Lectures, reminders, warnings, etc. are worse than useless because they don’t work and they make parents more tired. Tired parents are not as effective. The third thing to remember is that the child must work harder on the problem than the parent or the behavior will not change. So with the top 3 under your belt let’s tackle each test so you can get an A+!


  1. Can I interrupt you?

Ignoring a child with RAD scares them, increases anxiety and makes them sicker. “No one is watching me” equals “I am not safe!” to them. They will escalate behavior to get attention so they feel safe because someone is now watching. Bad idea! EVERY interruption should be corrected quickly. I like to say, “ I am talking. I want you to write whatever it is and I will talk with you about it when I am done.” Then when I finish speaking for a few minutes (NOT a long time) I turn to the child and give them my undivided attention, read what they wrote and talk with them about it. If they are too young to write, I have them draw a picture about it and we do the same thing. No anger, reminders, or lectures, just action.


  1. Can I get you to repeat yourself?

I say it once and then have them repeat it back. If they say “huh” or “what?” I ask, “What is it I just said?” They know what you just said. Children with RAD are hyper vigilant and hear everything everyone says! They often do not want to register what Mom said in their brain and need some work on that. (Children with RAD are often allergic to Mom’s voice!) Sometimes they need some time to sit and think to remember what Mom said. It does come to them if we are quiet and let them think. If it is two hours later and they are clearly stuck I will have them do a small task for me to earn the repeat. Emptying a wastebasket or something small works. Having them write the task when you tell them is a great idea.


  1. Can I get you to believe my lies?

We use the Brain Based Behavior Intervention (3BI) every time they lie. Have the child do one of the brain-shifters, get a hug, answer, “What happened?” get a hug and come up with an act of kindness for the person that was lied to. No anger, lectures, or reminders. When the child says what happened, he is saying he knows right from wrong and that you have taught your child well. He just needs more practice being honest. Sometimes when I have a child that really enjoys lying a lot I will switch their family chore from housework to writing a story for the family that they read out loud to us after dinner every night. When they lie to me during the day I have them add it to the story they are working on for the family. When they stand and read their story we all clap and appreciate their work! Lies belong in a story, not in a relationship or a family! Lies at school are handled the same way.


  1. Can I steal from you?

I keep focused so I notice the theft quickly and can correct. I use the 3BI (here’s a free cheat sheet on 3BI) and the plan they come up with to fix the problem includes double the cost of the stolen goods and an act of kindness for the owner of the pilfered item. NOTHING happens in their life when they are stuck. We wait for them to shift gears in the brain to logic and accept responsibility. NO anger, lecture or reminders! When I am working with a sticky fingered child I end up with a super clean house! It works for me! I am careful to not leave my wedding ring, car keys or credit cards lying around when they are not strong yet!


  1. Can I hurt your animals or other children?

I divide and conquer by keeping them away from siblings and animals until we have some conscience development going on. If they still manage to be unkind they do a 3BI very quickly and then an act of kindness for the one they hurt. Whether they hurt with words or actions, they need to do something for them. For a sibling, they can do their chore for them or clear their place at the table etc. They must think of it themselves. It must be accepted by the sibling with a smile or it is back to the drawing board. For the pets, they can poop scoop or wash a bowl, I do not allow them to touch the victim (back rub etc.). Abusing animals is a serious sign of deep pathology. Run, not walk to your nearest trained therapist that knows how to treat RAD.

For more information on Conscience Development be sure and watch my webinar How to Cultivate a Conscience.


Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva

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