Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Will you like him anyway?

Love is unconditional.  It's easy to love him.  Like... that's another story.
He's hard to like some days. 

Suspended for punching.
Kicked off the bus for arguing.
Sent to office for stealing.
Screaming at daycare teachers.

I'm not surprised.  Home isn't such a happy place these days either.  We're in a minute by minute survival mode. The meltdowns are daily.

He's hard to like some days.

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is an ugly, complex and scary disorder.  And it's real. So real. 

As ugly as it is, we realize more and more the need for an awareness and understanding of this disorder.

There are some famous people who had attachment disorder- and it's pretty clear the affect it can have on them and the people closest to them...Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Sadam Hussein, Adolf Hitler. 

What causes it?
RAD is a condition characterized by the inability of a child to form long-lasting, strong and meaningful relationships. The basis of this condition is chronic and severe neglect or abuse during early childhood.

What are the symptoms of RAD?
I have highlighted the ones we live with daily.
  • superficially engaging & charming (phoniness)
  • lack of eye contact
  • indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
  • lack of ability to give and receive affection- unless it's on his terms
  • extreme control problems: often manifest in covert “sneaky” ways
  • destructive to self and others
  • cruelty to animals
  • chronic crazy lying
  • no impulse controls (stealing etc.)
  • learning lags and disorders
  • lack of cause and effect thinking
  • lack of conscience
  • abnormal eating patterns
  • poor peer relationships
  • preoccupied with fire, blood & gore
  • persistent nonsense questions and incessant chatter (jabbering)
  • inappropriately demanding / clingy
  • abnormal speech patterns
  • false allegations of abuse
  • triangulation of adults (splitting)
  • parents appear hostile &angry
  • defiant
It may seem these kids do all this out of spite, but the truth is, they can't help the way they feel and don't even understand why they do what they do.  They've suffered so much they'll do whatever it takes to protect their heart from being hurt again. 

So RAD kids need, more than anything, consistent, strong and loving people in their life to show that they are trustworthy and can keep them safe.  It takes a whole team, a support system to do this- school teachers, bus drivers, principals, friends, Sunday School teachers and the family to not walk away in disgust but to like him when he is doing everything he can to push us away to prove that we really aren't trustworthy after all.  We can't do this alone.     

RAD kids feed off emotions.  Chaotic emotions is where they're most comfortable- they want the adults to be "in their world".  And it's our natural tendency to want to punish behavior that seems so intentional, so manipulative, so disrespectful.  To "teach him now" she said so he doesn't end up in jail, as if we don't think about that possibility every day.

Parents of RAD kids try it all, and the only thing we know for sure is that traditional punishment doesn't work. It simply makes it worse.  So, it looks to the people who call wanting us to deal with- fix- stop his behaviors, like we're making excuses for him.  They want us to punish him so he doesn't do it again. Which would be great, if he understood cause and effect. This lack of awareness and understanding makes dealing with school and daycare so difficult- because traditional punishment is what everybody knows.  It's the default.  But, punishment is punitive.  Discipline, on the other hand comes from the word disciple, which means to teach, not degrade or punish.  It takes thinking ahead, staying calm and never reacting, always being pro-active.  And we're trying to teach without shame or anger.  We are desperate for the school and daycare to understand the difference.  Not ignore behavior- but help us in teaching --changing the behavior in a way that will work for a RAD kid, not just punishment. Consistency is key- lack of consistency leads to regression.

It's discouraging spending hours on the phone with people who have so much control over his life when he is away from us,  but lacks the willingness to really understand and partner with us.  Some days we feel like giving up. 

He's hard to like some days.

But there is another famous person who had attachment disorder- Helen Keller.  Her legacy is quiet different. And while we're exhausted, frustrated and scared- we are not ready to give up hope.  Our help comes from the Lord.  So we keep praying for God to change his heart and develop his conscience.

And we know it's a lot to ask you - all the people in his day to day life either by choice or profession-  when he's making it really difficult to like him anyway. 

Together, as a team and with God's grace, we have to believe we can develop Keller qualities in our son.

Happy Wednesday y'all!

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