My friend Aggie called me a few months ago to confess she’d done
something unthinkable: she’d slapped her son.Not hard, really, but it
got his attention.
She’s a Beyonder, and was in the middle of a hot flash when he
got in her face. On purpose. Again.
It all started out when her adopted fifteen-year-old son asked to go
downtown for lunch on a school day. They live in a small town, too, so it wasn’t like she was turning him loose at the
mall food court. And the school lunch period is only about 45 minutes, so he wasn’t going to be gone for hours.
But her phone rang at about …ten minutes into her son’s lunch time. She was busy just then, icing down the back of her neck. It was the receptionist at Social Services, telling her that her child was at the convenience store next
to their building…in a car…smoking. “After all,” she said. “If it was my child, I’d want
GOT THE SET UP? OKAY…AS PAUL HARVEY SAYS, “NOW, FOR THE
REST OF THE STORY.”
Aggie got another call from the school at about . It was her child. He was sick.
“Can I come home?” he asked. “I’m throwing
WELL, OF COURSE HE WAS.
So he walked home (2 blocks.)
Nothing had worked to quell the rising heat in Aggie’s face and
on her neck. By the time her boy entered the house, she was steaming…literally.
“What made you sick?” she asked him.
“I think it was something I ate,” he said.
YEAH. THOSE FILTERS WILL PRETTY MUCH GET YOU EVERY TIME.
Aggie did the right thing, at first. She told him she knew he was smoking.
He denied it, right?
No. The little worm admitted smoking and told Aggie she couldn’t
do anything about it. If he wanted to smoke, he’d smoke.
Aggie said nothing.
Then the kid pushed it one step too far. “And I’ll do anything
I want to do. You can’t stop me. I don’t need old people to tell
me what to do.”
THAT’S WHEN AGGIE CROSSED THE LINE. SHE SLAPPED HIM ACROSS THE
“You can’t do that to me,” he screamed.
SO SHE SLAPPED HIM AGAIN.
The kid yelled that he was going to tell social services and Aggie
told him to go right ahead. After all, he was her child now, and slapping him was not against the law. Right?
Anyway, that’s when Aggie called. She felt terrible. I assured
her that, faced with the same situation, I might have bopped the kid one myself. Now, I am not advocating hitting a child.
I’m just saying that, under certain circumstances, we all break.
Then Aggie told me about the other things the boy was doing. He lied
a lot, and the funny thing is, that’s about the only time he made eye contact with her. He refused to abide by the house
rules, even though he’d been told them many times.He argued about whether
or not studying was homework…and got angry over that issue. He had an annoying way of repeating stupid phrases over
and over, even in inappropriate context. When he wanted something, he took it: sodas from the fridge, candy from the other
kids in the house, money from an organization’s cash drawer, CD’s from the store. And when asked about the thefts,
why he’d taken things, he readily admitted he’d taken them because he wanted them…no other reason was necessary
That piqued my interest. I’d just done a study on RAD for continuing
education hours for my foster care certification. Several of her child’s traits were symptoms of Reactive Attachment
Disorder. RAD can be caused by many things, and usually kids are affected in their first years...as babies.
But the lifelong results are the same...children who can't love.
(Without intervention...there is hope for RAD kids.)
Kids with RAD don’t bond with others…at least not easily.
They’re loners, too…don’t really have friends.
They don’t make eye contact with you. Unless, of course, they’re
lying to you or throwing a tantrum or trying to manipulate you.
They do things, and don’t understand that every act carries consequences.
Aggie’s son saw no relation between not turning in his homework and Aggie’s grounding him.
Kids with RAD have no morals or conscience. If they want something,
there is no reason why they should not have it.
Because they have no conscience, and because they don’t care
about other people’s reactions, they steal. They have no control over their impulses.
There were other symptoms, but the ones I’ve mentioned covered
Since that day, Aggie’s child has been diagnosed with RAD. And
she’s learned some techniques for dealing with him.
The first priority is
getting him to bond with her and Vance (her husband.) They attended training
on RAD and the facilitator talked about a concept called “claiming the child.” When another adult asks if her
son can sit with him, or stay overnight at his home, Aggie says, “No, I’m sorry, but Ronny is my kid and I’d
miss him.”Sometimes, then, she relents and lets him go, but it’s
always after that initial phase where she tells other people that he is her son and she doesn’t want to be away from
Recently, the boy stole several CD’s from WalMart. Aggie said
she admitted to the boy that his behavior was driving her crazy. But then, she told me, she looked him in the eye…forced
him to maintain eye contact with her…and told him if he was trying to get sent away it wouldn’t work. He was her
child and she loved him no matter what he did. THEN she doled out the consequences.
And she’s been increasing his boundaries. She read something
that said kids like Ron didn’t need fewer boundaries, they need more. Ron doesn’t like the narrowing of his freedoms.
But Aggie discovered that if she put her hand lightly at the base of his neck, or rubbed his back, while she talked to him,
he generally listened, agreed and rebelled less.So, evidentally—at least
with Ronny, touch is important.
So are consistent and appropriate consequences. Losing his allowance
was appropriate for the CD stealing thing. But not enough. Since he took them to begin with, not having money to purchase
more didn’t matter. And, he had an allowance when he took the CD’s so it was not the determining factor. Aggie
thought that, in addition to losing his allowance, he had to give up some of his time. He has to scrape the house to get it
ready to paint.
He’s doing really well right now. But I expect to hear from Aggie
again. From my training, I understand that it takes a lot of time to reverse RAD. And in some children it doesn’t change.
But if Ronny’s behavior sounds familiar…if you are struggling
with a child who might be RAD, I would encourage you to seek input from community mental health, and also to check out some of these super websites.
RAD children are a challenge for anyone to parent, but especially for
Beyonders. Our generation didn’t have this concept, and often we just classified these kids as “Bad Seeds.”
We were wrong.
And frankly, we sometimes don’t have the stamina to deal with
a child with this serious disorder. But to give yourself a fighting chance, pay attention to your own health.
1)Aggie’s striking out at Ronny was understandable. At the time of his episode she
was dealing with her own complications (hot flashes complicate most things.) It would have been better if she could have delayed
confronting her son until she had calmed down (and cooled down)…maybe until Vance got home and cooler heads might prevail.
Maybe she could have sent him to lie down (he was sick, remember) until dinner.
2)Aggie needed a way to short circuit the stress. Taking a walk might have put things into
a better perspective for her. Physical activity is ALWAYS good for Beyonders.
It helps us reclaim some of our Beyonder Logic, and the wisdom for which we Beyonders are known.
3)Aggie could have called in reinforcements. Seeking out other people’s wisdom and
viewpoint could help balance the problem for her. She could have differentiated between a real crisis which requires immediate
action and a problem which allows her to take some time to think about it.
4)Aggie…and you and I, fellow Beyonders, need to keep ourselves in good health. Take
our meds if we have them, watch our diets, stay hydrated, get plenty of rest and—if
we need help—remember that there is no shame in seeking counseling for ourselves. After all, everything we experience
is filtered through a lifetime of “stuff.”
5)Learn, learn learn. There’s a world of information out there to help us. Too many
of us form our opinions and don’t want to be confused by the facts. But there is comfort in knowing what we’re
up against. Remember “Star Trek’s” prime mission: To Seek out and Explore new frontiers and to go where
no one has gone before. Never before have so many people of Beyonder age been called upon to raise foster children, or their
own grandchildren. It truly is a new frontier.