Saturday, April 18, 2009

More Things I've Learned (the hard way, of course! :))

So, here are some other things I have learned about RAD, and specifically about Ruthie:

We bought her this beautiful doll for her birthday last year. She has barely touched the doll since then. It is usally on the floor, it's hair all matted, legs and arms askew. I used to be offended and make an issue out of the blatant neglect of this doll. I used to wonder why this child was not grateful for this treasure. I would ask Ruthie if she liked the doll and if so, why did she not take care of it? I have even taken it away from her--with no emotional response from her.

Well, now I know better. I have learned that it is very common for a child with RAD to reject the gift you give them, to treat it with disdain. However, any little trinket given by any other person, will be played with and even flaunted in front of you. I just picked up on this, took me awhile, but it makes sense. Ruthie, now that we are working on "attaching" has picked up her doll and is playing with her, all on her own. Just a little glimmer of hope. Her acceptance of this doll is a sign to me that she is accepting me, because she is ready to accept my gift.

I have also learned to confront EVERYTHING Ruthie does. Really. When she lies I tell her I know she is lying. When she is going slow on her chore, I tell her I know what she is doing. When she is pretending to not know how to do school, I tell her I know she knows how to do it. When she "forgets" to put something away, I tell her I know she did it on purpose. Remember: Kids with RAD are out for the control, thus they are "control-freaks" (I mean this in the nicest way, of course, being a bit of a "control-freak myself!) and will usually attempt to control their environment to the point of being SO neat, SO meticulous, SO organized. Do you really think they "forgot" to put their shirt in the laundry? Took me awhile . . . So, I confront on EVERYTHING, like I said, and here is why: Kids with RAD are afraid to trust, to attach, to let go control. They will NOT attach to any adult they think they can fool. You will be held in contempt. They are testing you to see if you are strong enough to handle them, deal with their pain and anger and shame. It is often better to confront and be wrong than not to confront and have them "fool" you.

So, I confront on everything with kindess, no anger, no irritation, just very matter-of-factly. I then tell her I KNOW why she is doing it. Sometimes I give her the reason, sometimes I just tell her I know why. Then, I will either do the chore or school for her, give her a consequence (like going to rest until she is able to handle it) or tell her that I know what she is doing, but I still love her and then I hug her (she hates this!, esp. if I am obviously happy with a big dopey grin on my face).

What I am also learning, now that we have had a good day and some partial good days, is that Ruthie's countenance reveals what is going on in her heart. She actually looks angry, miserable, or pouty when she is up to no good. If she is pretending to do her chore, but wiping the same spot over and over, she looks mad. If she is lying, she looks unhappy. Contrarily, yesteday when she genuninely obeyed all day, she was SO happy!

She has disobeyed almost all day, which is not unexpected, and she has been miserable. I simply pointed out to her how happy she was yesterday and asked her if she knew why. She said "because I obeyed,". "That's right," I told her, "It feels GOOD to obey. You were happy! How about today? Are you happy?" She told me no. I asked her why and she told me "I am disobeying." It really helps to have that good day of which to remind her. She can hold onto that, she can remember what that felt like inside herself. It is not ME telling her she will feel good if she obeys, she experienced it herself. That is a gift from God!

I have also learned that it is risky to give second chances. It does not work like it does with my biological children. With my biological children, a second chance is another chance to obey. With Ruthie, it is another opportunity to disobey, and take that opportunity she does! It really hurts me when I have to give her a consequence, and then I see her obeying and I want to go back on what I said, but I can't. I know that it will not help her. If I see her pretending to not do school and I confront her and she says "I will do it right," I have learned that she won't. She has disobeyed and the consequence has to happen. However, there have been times when I have allowed her to do something she has not earned. For example, my children know that they cannot play outside until school is done. Well, Ruthie usually does not finish school and she knows she is choosing to not go outside. There have been times when the day is beautiful and I will look Ruthie in the eyes and tell her she did not earn that privilege but I love her and want her to enjoy God's beauty and I let her go. I don't give her a second chance in the moment to disobey, but I do give her undeserved rewards: grace.

I am also learning that Ruthie has a bad morning almost every day, but submits to my authority sometime in the afternoon. I am not sure on this one. Maybe she wakes up ready to battle and just gives up by the afternoon when she sees the futility of the fight. I don't know.

Well, these are just a few of the things I have learned . . . I know every child is different and every child's battle is unique. However, the pain, fear, anger and shame underneath that battle is the same. These kids are hurting and they need to be rescued. They need our love and sometimes that love is tough love. But, it has to be, doesn't it? This love needs to be stronger than "ordinary" love because otherwise these kids will not accept it because then they would not feel safe.

In Christ, Laura


Luke said...

Thanks for continuing to share your insights and wisdom. It is encouraging as I look forward to when our kids will come home.


Sheila said...

Laura, I have just found your blog and what a blessing it is to me. We adopted a little girl from Liberia 4 years ago. She is now 7 years. We are and have gone through so many of the things you speak of with Ruth. I can not express how good it feels to know someone who is experiencing these same things. Blessings to you!

Matt and Lindsey said...

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us! We have four adopted sons and our oldest was diagnosed with RAD almost 3 years ago, along with several other diagnoses. He had been doing so well until about 6 months ago and a lot of these same issues are resurfacing. You are making me aware of things that I forgot about, including the book on my shelf "When Love is Not Enough". We had a rough morning, but I tried some of the techniques this afternoon and it is definitely helping with my responses to all my children. These techniques have also been extremely helpful with one of our children that has been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder (possible conduct disorder).

Thanks again for sharing your story! It is a huge blessing to my family!

Jen said...


You are so right on with all of this! I am sure your blog is encouraging many other families. This Love does have to be extrordinarily Agape Love - VERY unconditional and tough - just like God's love towards us. . . no matter how hard we push him away, he just keeps on loving us. . . and that is how we must love children with RAD. . . because they are SO scared of losing control and submitting themselves to a relationship with a loving parent!