When we met our children’s new RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) therapist a few weeks ago, the first thing she said to us was, “I teach abnormal parenting.” Last week what she taught us was to tell my daughter to steal. Now before you go all crazy on me, let me explain. My husband and I had taken our first vacation as a couple in eight years and while we were gone, my daughter stole my husband’s nickel collection from the 1950s’s, 1970′s and 1980′s, which she changed into a paltry $13 in bills at the bank. She also stole–and was blatantly wearing when I arrived home- my high school graduation ring.
The therapist told me to buy some cheap jewelry, tell Kaylyn it was in my jewelry box, and then tell her that I wanted her to steal it. What??? Yes. In Abnormal Parenting 101, apparently two wrongs do make a right. Kaylyn steals (wrong #1) plus I tell her to steal (wrong #2) keeps her from stealing (right). Actually, we win either way. If she doesn’t steal, we win. If she does steal, she’s obeying me and we win. Of course, telling her to steal takes all the fun out of it for her. I even put a $20 in there to sweeten the pot and told her I wanted her to steal the jewelry AND the money. Took the whole thrill out of it for her. All money and jewelry is present and accounted for as of this writing.
But the absolute best part, like a dream really, was when the therapist asked Kaylyn how she felt when she got caught, and Kaylyn said she was surprised because she had never been in trouble before. (WHAT??? But I digress.) The therapist, so skilled, so on it, said to Kaylyn, “Were you surprised you got in trouble because you think of yourself as a good girl?” Sweet Kaylyn nodded sweetly and sincerely: Yes. Without missing a beat and with absolutely no harshness in her voice but with absolute firm conviction, the therapist said to our sweet daughter, “Oh you’re not a good girl. I don’t think you’re a bad girl, you’re a worthwhile girl (special and important). But you’re not a good girl, Honey, good girls don’t steal, especially not from loving parents.” I would have paid almost any sum of money for the wham-bam-whoosh-click of solid rightness that was. Ahhhh and to hear it from a therapist no less.
Our super-duper therapist said Kaylyn has total disconnect between her behavior and what it means. Our job now is to use words with Kaylyn that define what her behavior really means and help her start making the connection.
Lest you think my poor sweet daughter was traumatized to be told that she was most definitely NOT a good girl, listen to her first comment when we got back in the car, unbidden by us: “Wow! She’s so much better than all the other therapists we’ve been to.” It’s like these RAD kids are just begging for a loving grown-up to be strong and confrontive with them. These heart-broken kids are terrified of letting anyone else have control but so relieved when a healthy adult actually takes control and lets them be just a kid.
Photo credit: www.jasoncupp.com/1003.