Beyondpondering's Weblog

Northwest Arkansas Therapy

What is the RAD child saying? November 28, 2008

Dr. Heim Ginnott, a child psychologist, states children speak in a foreign language which adults must decipher.  Adults have to find the hidden meaning within the words and beneath the behavior.   

How do we do this?      We could ask the following questions.     Who is the child around when a behavior happens?  What leads into a behavior?  What happens during a behavior?   What happens after the behavior?    When does the behavior happen?  Where does  a behavior happen?  Okay….These can help you see a pattern…….but it does not give you the “why”.     

Now, go back and consider those 2 primal “states of being” mentioned some days ago:  Life or death. Warm, comfortable, secure ……………OR,  cold, painful, and fearful.   Safe, secure, and loved……….Or  threatened, dangerous, and unloved.   Love versus fear.  To a child….life is “all or nothing”;  black or white;  life or death;   loved or unloved………………………. AND AS A CHILD, YOU DESPERATELY WANT TO BE LOVED.                                                                                                                           

So what if the only behavior people listen to is negative behavior.  More negative behavior means more people listen.  Finally mom and dad come to school, finally mom and dad are showing concern.  Finally someone is listening!  Finally someone is showing concern!  And in a child’s confused state of being…….this could be the closest thing to love a child has ever experienced.  The negative cycle perpetrated and conditioned to happen again.   

“BUT THERE IS NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF”, you say.  “HE HAS FOOD.  HE HAS CLOTHING.  HE HAS A FAMILY. WHAT DOES HE HAVE TO BE AFRAID OF?”   Life might have been really scary at one time if the child has been abused  or threatened.    Life still might be scary, if the child has been sent from home to home to home because no foster home wanted him.  He does not have wisdom to know what is predictible and what is not.

Fear travels from the exterior superficial  to the interior primal state of being.  Could the child fear he will be sent away again?  Go deeper.  Could it be the child fears that no one will ever love him?  Go deeper.  Could the child fear he is unlovable ?  He might have been thrown away before.  Why would anyone throw away something valuable ?  Therefore he concludes, his core being is valueless and not worthy of love. Ultimately this means to him, he is completely meaningless, valueless, and unlovable. 

How sad, to come to the conclusion you are disposable, replaceable, not worthy enough to keep.   There are plenty of throw away things in our society.  Spouses are throwaway. You help the other through grad school, you dedicate yourself to the other with the hope of reciprocal love and devotion……then then you are disposed of ,,,,replaced.   Paper cups, toys, …you name it.  Today it is a disposable society.  Is that what you are really teaching a child,,, that your love is transient,,,,,,,,replaceable, disposable  …..throw away something  if you are not happy with it. 

You see… is not our logic which is important.    The child’s perception is what counts.   What does respite look like to a child afraid of abandonment?    What does being sent to his room alone look like to this same child.  He is not worthy to be around, he is not valuable, he is disposable.

Sad and scary, isn’t it.                                                                                                     

Would not your heart have compassion for a child lost in a store crying for Mommy?  Would you not want to comfort that child?  Why then, do we lack compassion for RAD kids?  Because we have been taught that they are angry, controlling, bossy, domineering, and oppositional.  We are taught they need to know the adults are in control so they will relinquish their control.  Where does this idea come from?  The false teaching that the children are angry.  When we are faced with an angry person, our own defenses automatically go up causing the power struggle to continue.  

So we follow what we have been taught.   However, when do we finally know when something is not working?   When we seem to be in a perpetual negative cycle?   When everything we try just does not seem to work?   How long must we continue until you finally get to the point we are willing to try something different?   When you are sick and tired of being sick and tired? 

How many respites must we put a child through?  Would we feel our spouse truly loved us ………if he or she did not want to be around us?     Is his or her love so transient that we are only loved if we fit in to a particular mold?  As an adult I would fell hurt, sadness, and fear the love was only imitation.       

What is REAL love?  How would you like your spouse to love you?  What would communicate to you his or her devotion is real?  What would make you feel cherished and treasured?  If your spouse did not want to talk to you or spend time with you, would you feel loved?

What if you were afraid your spouse was going to leave you?  Would you long for the love you felt you have missed? What would you do?  Adults have been known to do all kinds if irrational, stupid things.  Now consider, if you do not have the maturity or wisdom of an adult? 

How does a child communicate what they need to communicate when the adults have ears but do not listen.  What can a child say if they talk and no one understands?  What is left?  Something more and more outrageous? What is left when words do not  work?  What is left?  BEHAVIOR.  What does the child have to do to get their message across?  


When we try to parent a foster child, an adopted child or traumatized child……sometimes we have to go back before we go forward. 

Go back and fill up that empty emotional gas tank instead of using power against power.  Go back …..and bring that child closer to you instead of sending the child alone to his bedroom.  Go back….and spend more time with the child instead of sending the child away to demonstrate our power.  That child already knows, as an adult you have power over his life.   Would you feel the need to demonstrate your power to an infant?  Your child may still be an infant emotionally .

Go back and nurture your child starting at whatever emotional age he is…..1, 2, 3 years old …….

Listen to his behavior.  Maybe he is trying to tell you that school is overwhelming and scary.  Maybe the social worker would always show up at school to take him to a new foster home.  Maybe he needs the security of home schooling.   Maybe he needs to know where you are, and, home is where he feels safe.

Does he always delay and procrastinate when he is sent alone to his room to clean it alone?  He may need the security of having your presence.  Go be with him (in a calm gentle loving way) while he is cleaning his room.  If you had a friend,,,would you be willing to help?  Why not lovingly work side by side your child to clean his room?  This is a win/win situation.  You get the room clean is a shorter amount of time, less anger and less frustration.  The child gets your company, assistance so he is not overwhelmed, conversation and connection with you.  You are filling up his emotional gas tank and teaching him how to work as a team.  

You must be willing to do this in a loving compassionate way.  How would you teach a three year old to clean his room?  How would you show love to a three year old?   See the RAD child as a scared child and develop compassion for him.  What do you have to loose?  You have tried every other thing.  Is it working?  Has the negative behavior terminated?.  The negative behavior may have been put on hold but has the root of the issue resolved?  What is the child trying to say? What is the hidden meaning within the words and beneath the behavior? 



Blessings to all.