Monday, August 13, 2012

I Know My Kid has RAD, but My Spouse Won’t Support My Approach: What Do I Do?

by John and Diane. 

Whether you are dealing with a bio-kid, an adopted or foster child or a stepchild, when parents or caregivers don’t agree on discipline or the fact that there are behavioral issues with the child, there is a huge problem, both between the spouses and for the child.

Unfortunately, this is a problem I have heard about from many of our readers and friends, especially when it comes to children with reactive detachment disorders. The reason for this? RAD kids are especially bright, manipulative and love to play caregivers against each other when they sense that there is a weakness between them.

Especially problematic for a stepparent who comes into a delicate parenting situation already, trying to tell a bio-parent that their child might have an attachment disorder and may have behavioral issues may seem like a marriage ender. The child might act like the perfect kid when the bio Mom or Dad is home and like a little terror when the bio parent is away.

So, what are you to do when you are at home with a RAD kid and get no support?   You try to set boundaries and use tools to control the behavior you see, and try to get the other parent to agree and support your use of things like House rules, Chore lists, disciplinary and reward charts and other tools.  If the other parent refuses, you still have an option.

This is the exact issue that was brought to us on the blog. The step-Mom of an 8-year-old RAD kid who displayed manipulative and tantrum behavior at home had a bio-Dad that didn’t support the use of any disciplinary tools. The step-Mom felt helpless.

Her solution, although extreme, was based on the fact that the child was intelligent and that the step Mom had no support from the Father. The step Mom had to turn the tables on the RAD child and use the child’s desire to be liked against her.

After a talk with the husband, relenting to his wish that she just “leave the step child to do what she wants,” we talked to the step Mom about a “fall-back” technique.  We instructed her to, instead of catering to the child, just do the bare minimum and to isolate the child socially from her normal nurturing style. 

So, for example, instead of providing the child her favorite cereal in the morning, give her a lesser cereal, leave it on the table, in the box, alongside a bowl and the milk, instead of serving it to her.  Do not say “good morning,” do not smile at her, do not stay and eat with her.  Give her the cold shoulder. 

The child will ask what is wrong … say, “Nothing.”  Continue the “cold shoulder” behavior and soon the child will start behaving like a “good” child to try to get the step Mom to “like” her again. The child will try to manipulate the step Mom into doing nice things for her again by acting nice and behaving—which is after all, the desired behavior.  This time, however, the child is doing it herself because she sees that she will be the one to get the reward or the punishment for the good or bad behavior.

So, by the Step-Mom changing how she acts towards the child, she can manipulate the child’s behavior to an extent.  Until she can get her husband on board with the other techniques or get a doctor or counselor to back her up with a diagnosis, at least this technique can give the Step Mom something proactive to do and help her make it through the day. 

AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Jeremiah Ro

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