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RAD: The Roots of Violence

reactive attachment disorder (rad) Nov 06, 2022
eye surrounded by shadow

The eyes are the windows to the soul. Yesterday I got a piercing hate look from a big, 15 year old boy that I am working with. It was a portal to cold, dark, evil. It was a long look as he walked by and drilled it into me. It is still echoing in my heart. He clearly wanted me dead.

Was I scared? YES! Was I scared for me? No, I am heavier, smarter and more highly trained than he is. I was scared for him. To see what was inside his soul scared me to my core. I was looking into the depths of a killing rage. Is that what his future holds? I was scared to death… for him and those in his path.


What Causes Violence in Children?

I have spent my life helping to heal violent children. They are my favorite! The first child placed with me had killed over 50 animals before his family figured out what was happening and the mystery was solved. I do love a challenge and when children have crossed the line of killing they are in the extreme category. Can they be saved? Is it too late? Yes, They can heal! We just have to have the right tools. It is not too late. However, the sooner we start, the better the success rate. What causes this problem? The roots of violence are: attachment, input, fuel, poison, lack of conscience and leadership. Let’s take a close up look at these and some solutions.


Attachment Impacts Violence

I believe, and research shows, that the foundation root of future violence is set in the first three years of life, where the brain is developing at Mach 1. When there is too much stress, fear, or trauma, research has proven, and we sure see that these damage the development of the brain. Attachment and protective care from a loving caregiver protects the baby and the brain during stressful times. Without a trusted caregiver a baby is in trouble. Abuse, neglect, rejection or abandonment during the first three years puts a child at high risk for behavior problems and mental illness in the future. Are all adopted or abused children headed to be psychopaths? Absolutely not! Were all psychopaths abused, neglected or rejected as children? YES! According to the FBI profiles of serial killers, they were.


Violence In, Violence Out

Input adds another layer of risk to a developing child. If they are exposed to a high level of violence such as domestic abuse, movies, TV, video games, even books filled with aggression and evil are input that shapes a child’s mind. Does it make them violent? Not if they are stable to begin with. If their foundation root is not stable it can fuel the fire of fury in them and someone is going to get burnt! Remove it from your family life when you have a child that needs to heal!


Fuel the Brain to Avoid Violence

“Fuel” means what we feed the body that runs the brain. Yup! Have you heard of the “Twinkie defense” for the murderer years ago? Garbage in- garbage out. We have to fuel our children’s bodies with healthy proteins and veggies and good stuff. “Drive by” eating does not work with a child whose foundation is cracked from trauma. You want a bad day? Feed them a bowl of sugared cereal, a donut or a pop tart for breakfast and stand back for the wild ride! Without the right fuel they backfire and sputter all day not thinking straight.


Poisons That Power Aggression

Poison is a huge problem in our culture today. Whether it is lead and arsenic from methamphetamines, toxins in the water, hormone overloading soy formula, MSG, red dye or others, it affects the brain and that effects behavior. Many of our children were marinated in a vat of toxic chemicals before they were born. Their tiny livers, unprepared to start filtering out poisons, were forced to go to work too early in an attempt to counteract the damage. Afterwards, when the body needs to sort out toxins, chlorine, artificial colors and flavors, medications, etc. it goes into overload. An overloaded liver shows up as aggression. Top it off with some alcohol, or drug use and you have kerosene on the fire. Combine that with one or more of the above list, you have trouble, big time!


A Conscience Stops Us from Causing Harm

Our conscience is what stops us from doing harm. The foundation for our conscience development begins during the first year of life. When a baby has a need for food, closeness, etc., they cry to have their needs met; then when a loving, caregiver answers the cry quickly and meets the need the baby learns to trust. Trust is the platform for all relationships. When a little one feels like someone understands their needs and cares enough to provide, they learn to trust. This cycle is completed thousands of times during the first year of life building a solid footing for later relationships based on trust. Abuse, neglect, and abandonment break this cycle, and when the first year cycle is not completed enough times, the second year is a nightmare.

The second year cycle starts at the first birthday. This is the correct time for parents to set appropriate limits by saying “no” when it’s needed. The child learns to accept limits. When the first year cycle is interfered with and loving parents attempt to say “no”… it ain’t happenin’! “You and who else are going to stop me?” becomes the child’s mantra. Exhausted, frustrated parents try everything; changing the world, bubble wrapping the house, because it is nearly impossible to curb the rampaging human tornado. When parents have not been able to complete the 2nd year cycle for the little one to stop when momma says no, and halt when daddy say so before they reach their 2nd birthday, that task becomes nearly insurmountable. Inept parents begin to focus on appeasement and forfeit their needed role as loving leaders. The future is then bleak unless loving leadership can be established by a caregiver. The conscience can then be built!


Lead Them to Love and Peace

I have leadership listed last but it really is one of the most important. Who is the child to follow? A gang leader in their teen years? A person on the latest movie they adore? They will follow and internalize the person in their world they perceive as the most powerful. If they can get Mom to turn purple and scream they won’t follow her. If they can suck Dad into an argument they won’t see him as powerful enough to follow either. Anyone they test by attempting to con, manipulate or control that flunks the test is off the list of leaders in their eyes. A child must have someone in their life they see as strong and loving in order to develop a conscience!!! Without that they are lost to lying, stealing and hurting others.


We Have Work to Do

The icy death-glare I got yesterday was after hours of defiance and belligerence. It continued all day. He never raised a fist. He never struck out at anyone. He used to! Hours a day he would have to be restrained like a rabid dog after attacking someone. His loving mother would sit calmly with her strong arms around him, keeping him from harm until he would come back to his senses and re-gain self control. It has been years since he had to be held. Why? Because he has internalized his powerful Mom. He is not a threat because even in the depths of his hate-filled anger he has self-control. All of us have the ability to get furious. Combine that with self-control and a conscience and everyone around us is safe. We have work to do to build those in our wounded children.

I have lots more solutions in a webinar for you “Victory over Violence” We hope to have a recording available soon.

We can make a difference, Nancy Thomas


Photo by Raphael Brasileiro

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