Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I Love the Terrible-Twos!

When I started this journey into parenting I remember distinctly thinking that since I was being licensed to foster older children (up to 12 years old) there was no way I would get placed with infants or toddlers, plus everyone else wanted the younger ones. And that was perfect! Babies were too needy. Two year olds scared me. I wanted already potty-trained. But then came not one, but TWO needy infants, soon to be two scary, potty-training two-year-olds.


I do believe God blessed me with the exact children He wanted me to have. The exact children to establish, stretch and grow my love, joy, peace, patience, kindness gentleness and self-control. He didn't give me perfect, regenerate, naturally-obedient children. He gave me little sinners always in need of gentle correction or training and loving patience ("definition of patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset."). I always have to remind myself that it is only in the trials that I can practice patience (it does NOT come naturally), and oh boy, do they give me plenty of opportunity to practice!

I have realized that this parenting journey is primarily God working on ME! NOT God using me to work on my kids. Although He does use us parents, if I am worried only about letting God transform MY HEART more and more into the likeness of Christ then reaching my children's hearts comes naturally. If I am focused on obeying Jesus' commands in Scripture then teaching my children to obey comes naturally. If I am taking time daily to soak in the love and grace of Jesus then graciously loving my children flows naturally.

My two-year-olds are not terrible because of age, they are just little trouble-presenters to see if I am going to act terrible. They are my little patience-testers (again, patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset).

And God gave me TWO two-year-olds (plus 3 big kids)! He must have known I had very little patience to start with and wanted to grow it real quick with so many little patience testers constantly presenting trials. Remember, the definition of patience requires us only to not get angry or upset during troubles or suffering but Jesus in the book of James steps that goal up when He says,
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:2-4

My God wants me to be perfect and complete, lacking nothing! Doesn't that sound amazing!?! To be lacking nothing!?! To be perfect!?! But we have to count all our trials joy? And develop such a tremendous amount of patience to reach this goal? But my God, in His goodness, provided me a fast track to perfection. He provided me with two master patience-testers and five trial-presenters. All for me to have plenty of patience practice and much joy to count, so that one day I may be complete!

Trust Mommy, Trust Jesus

God is working on me ALL the time! Parenting is hard, but I have found out one thing, well-trained and trusting children produce much more joy in between the trials.

Here are the 5 most important things we trained our little ones up with:

1. Sleep training or as I call the "anywhere nap": Our little ones, since 10 months old could be laid down anywhere during naptime to sleep. I would tell them their current behavior, whining, being easily irritated, or clumsiness leading to falling, were symptoms of them being tired and lay them down. Cranky babies are good tools for patience practice, I just kept laying them back down. I didn't have a sleep routine, no I must be rocked, no I must have at least 3 stories, no you must sing me songs until I drift off. Remember, I had instant chaos, five kids, all ages, at once. I couldn't be everywhere at once and when my little ones were tired, they were T I R E D and cranky! They needed the remedy for crankiness, but didn't know what it was. Trust mommy, sleep is the remedy. Maybe one day, if you can learn to trust mommy, you can trust Jesus.

2. Blanket training or as I call "sit, stay, play": With so much going on and homeschooling the big kids it was often necessary to know where the little ones were and what they were doing. They couldn't be trusted to play quietly alone in their room, they would un-doubtedly be shoving beads up their nose or "washing" their hair with the toilet brush. I would put them on a blanket (for visual boundaries) or just ask them to stay sitting and give them toys to play with. This requires lots of reminders and some patience practicing during rebellion when they want to get up. But loving, consistent boundaries that cannot be crossed or changed create a child willing to just play with toys. Trust mommy, it is safest for you to play here next to me with no worry of getting in harm's way. Maybe one day, if you can learn to trust mommy, you can trust Jesus.

3. Hold or stay training or as I say "hold mommy's skirt", "hold the car", "hold the wall". When we are walking and I need to know where two little bodies are but need one or both hands free to carry groceries or what not, I will ask the twins to "hold mommy's skirt. If we are in a parking lot loading or unloading the car I will ask them to "hold the car" while they are waiting so they don't play or wander in front of a car. If checking out at a store and I need my hands to count money or sign something I will ask them to "hold the wall" so I know where they are. Another time I use this one a lot is in the bathroom, when I don't want them making a game of crawling on the floor or licking potties, I will ask them to "hold the wall" at the stall door. Trust mommy, to keep you away from danger you need to stay where I ask you. Maybe one day, if you can learn to trust mommy, you can trust Jesus.

4. Be kind to others training, believe it or not, the golden rule is not innate. Hitting, biting, yelling or taking is not tolerated. Period. If it is over an object (which it mostly is) I will explain that your brother or sister you just hit, bit, or yelled at is much more important than this object. If you cannot value them I will not allow you to value this. They can then choose to apologize to the victim of their outburst and share the object or mommy keeps it. A sorry and a hug are modeled. These are definite patience practice moments as they often involve two or more heated, angry parties. Trust mommy, relationships will always be more important than stuff. Maybe one day, if you can learn to trust mommy, you can trust Jesus.

5. Be sweet training, this is when that bad attitude creeps up and bites them leaving them with a fowl mood that is a temper tantrum waiting to happen. If a pouty lip or furrowed brow appears I will explain what I see, what I think that means they are feeling, and maybe even the reason they are feeling that way, if I know. For example, "you have a pouty face, you must be upset, maybe it is because your sister has a toy you want? It is okay to be upset, why don't you go to your room until you are ready to be sweet?" or "you look angry because mommy said no. Mommy gets angry too, please go sit in that spot until you are ready to be sweet." My little ones have never had a knock down, drag out, on the floor temper tantrum because I stop them at the first symptom. As a mom I often have to excuse myself to pray or get my act together before I deal harshly with my children. Even at two they are able to exercise that same self-control, sometimes they are even better at it! Trust mommy, God doesn't want us led by our emotions and tempted to hurt others. Maybe one day, if you can learn to trust mommy, you can trust Jesus.

All Children, Good or Bad, are Trained

I am told all the time how well-behaved and sweet my kids are. I am always being asked how I do it and have even been accused of having "robotic children". I am just a new mom, only two in mom years, and often find myself crying over daily failures and praying for strength for another day's trials. I am definitely not perfect and do not always practice patience as I should. But my kids are definitely not forced robots, they sin often, but they are being trained during trials to exercise self-control and peace as much as I am practicing putting on joy and patience. We are, together, exercising our trust daily!

God always knows what He is doing, when He gave me 3 older kids that were full of chaos, unruly, untrained, and habituated in sin He really showed me what the verse in proverbs means:
"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6
This is not just a promise for the well-behaved child, this is a proverb, a statement that shows if you do or act this way then that way is the typical outcome. We were placed with 3 elementary age children that were trained up (all kids are trained whether you want to think yours are or not). They were trained in not being able to trust adults, especially parents, and to reject authority. They were trained to hit, bite, scream, pout, and rebel to get their way. They were trained to only obey if it was their idea to do it and they got a large reward. They were trained to lie, cheat, steal, manipulate, and blame to achieve their own selfish goals and desires. My older kids were habitually trained to get what they wanted first, to meet their own needs, regardless of any hurt caused around them and this was modeled also by the adults in their life. As proverbs points out once trained they are most likely not to stop that behavior into adulthood. Habits are hard to break! (Click here for previous post about my big kid's behavior struggles)

With lots of re-training needed, and still needed, I vowed to be proactive with my little ones. I wanted them to be habitually trained to think of others first, to seek after good instead of evil, to have confidence they can self-control their own bodies and to trust authority figures God has sovereignly placed in their life.

Again I am NOT perfect, but I trust Jesus and I want all my kids to one day, Lord-willing, also know that trust that lets us safely and comfortably live in the firm boundaries of our loving Father!

Posted by Shannon
Soli Deo gloria - Glory to God alone

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What Does the Bible Say About Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD?

I am eating up a book that our pastor gave to us to deal with some very difficult and painful behaviors we have been experiencing since our children came to us. It is Parenting the Difficult Child and offers a biblical perspective to Reactive Attachment Disorder. My children are not officially diagnosed with RAD but when I was desperate one night to figure out my children's behaviors I began googling them and found my behavior searches always led to websites about RAD. We see or have seen all these listed behaviors in some form or fashion in our home over the past two years. All my google searching led me to very hopeless lists of behaviors I would encounter and I couldn't find any Godly counsel on the subject anywhere. The author of the book I am reading, Linda Rice, is excellent at helping her readers understand the whole picture of why these hurting children now hurt others. This is the list of typical RAD behaviors and her addition of "looking at the behaviors through a biblical lens."

This is a list compiled from three different charts in the book (pg. 17-20, 24-28, 29-33): 

Typical RAD Characteristics:

 Sleep Problems
Sleepwalking, Nightmares or Night Terrors, Bedwetting, etc.

 Lack of Eye Contact
Eye contact is excellent only when the child is manipulating or is extremely angry. Otherwise, contact is avoided by averting or rolling the eyes, or by rapid blinking.
Biblical Lens: Averting the eyes can be a fear reaction (Exod. 3:6), a sign of guilt feelings (Ezra 9:6-7), a way to hide desires that the eyes might reveal (Prov. 6:13; 16:30), or a method of manipulation (Prov. 6:25). Perhaps there is an abiding shame from guilt over infractions never rectified. Eye contact communicates awareness of the other person, so lack of eye contact can be a method of alienation, revenge, hurting the other, or conveying disrespect (Ps. 27:9; Prov. 30:17; Isa. 1:15). 
Resists Affection on Parents' Terms
Affectionate touching and hugs are verbally and physically rejected. The child stiffens, pulls away, or turns the face away from a kiss on the cheek. Hugging a RAD baby can be like hugging a board. Gifts are often rejected. Praise and affection do not build reciprocity; he does not unconditionally give affection or gifts to family members.
Biblical Lens: Risk of pain from loss of relationship may be avoided by rejecting present relationships. Refusing to be affectionate can also be a method of revenge or a rejection of authority (Luke 15:28-30; Matt. 23:37; Luke 7:32)

Inappropriately Demanding and Clingy
Although he resists parental affection on the parents' terms, he will, in his own timing, initiate ultra cuddly-sweet, even desperate, hugs.
Biblical Lens: A child's rebellious behavior can induce guilt feelings or at least reap negative consequences. By showing extremely affectionate behaviors, the child can persuade himself that he is not so bad after all, even if the affection is all show and no heart (Luke 6:46). Shows of affection can manipulate attention from others. Demanding love on his terms puts him in control. If authorities do not cooperate, their seeming unkindness becomes the brush from painting them as mean (Luke 7:32). Then he can justify defiance and his demand that giving and receiving affection be on his terms.

Superficially Engaging and Charming
The child presents himself as mannerly, cute, sweet, bubbly, demure, cuddly, adoring, or helpless. He will laugh, hug intensely, rub his cheek on the adult's hand, and even cling to new acquaintance with appealing possessiveness. Shy or bold, RAD children are shrewd analysts of others and calculate precisely how to get whatever response they want.
Biblical Lens: Charm can be a deceitful way of getting something without showing one's true thoughts or desires (Prov. 2:16; 12:2; 29:5; 31:30). Attention received can temporarily dull the ache of loneliness. Fleecing another person can spark a thrill (Prov.9:17). It can also inspire a sense of achievement and/or control. One motivation that is likely not at the base of attention-oriented behaviors (clinging, affection toward strangers, charm) is desire for approval. This child is the card shark, not the circus clown. He wants control, the fleece, the ally, or validation of how mean and inept his authorities are.

Phoniness, Deceitfulness
The unattached child diligently studies people and practices how to con others. He tells others what he thinks they want to hear. He becomes so skilled at an appearance of normalcy that is may be months before a person realizes he has been emotionally duped. The constant phoniness creates a sense of disconnect or remoteness in relationships.
Biblical Lens: This characteristic is similar to that above. Hypocritical love (Rom. 12:9) fakes relationship without commitment; it keeps the other at arm's length. It keeps up appearances while the person also covertly pursues his own agenda. Jesus addressed the phoniness of people's supposed close relationship with God when He said, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46).
 Poor Peer Relationships
The antisocial child is usually a loner even if he appears to be friends with everyone. He tends to play with younger children because peers avoid him and younger children are more easily manipulated. He lacks long-term childhood friends.
Biblical Lens: Any child who is centered on protecting himself, his rights, and his possessions, and on trying to control others, is going to have problems keeping friends (Prov. 13:10; 16:28). A loner is selfish (Prov. 18:1).

Abnormal Speech Patterns
The unattached child speaks not to communicate but to control. A favorite technique is mispronouncing a word so that the adult will correct him. Slurring, mumbling, and nearly inaudible speech keep adults asking "What?" Yet, enunciation is crystal clear during an angry outburst. Giving ambiguous, rather than direct, answers to questions keeps adults probing for information. Other techniques include squeaks, forced laughter, incessant laughter, and incessant chatter. Nonsense question, questions about the obvious, or questions that make others feel awkward are also utilized.
Biblical Lens: Speech and language abnormalities, like persistent nonsense questions and incessant chatter (Prov. 10:8, 19), are an easy and effective control method. The book of Proverbs is packed with verses on foolish and manipulative speech.

Learning Problems
RAD children have trouble learning, so they test out at a lower level than their age mates.
Biblical Lens: While some RAD children truly have learning problems, the learning problem of many is simply that they refuse to learn. Quickness to learn what they want belies test results indicative of retardation or learning disabilities. There may be several reasons for the refusal to learn. A child obsessed with safety is too distracted to learn and avoids risk of failure (Matt. 25:24-25). Learning is hard work. An appearance of being stupid can dupe others, possibly inducing teachers and parents to reduce the work load and expect less (Prov. 12:20). Learning situations are opportunities to play control games (Prov. 9:17;10:23; 26:18-19). Some people take delight in showing contempt for knowledge (Prov. 1:22, 25). Whatever the reasons, learning time is wasted and education lost. Then, it can appear that the child is less intelligent when the real problem is refusal to learn (Prov. 1:7; 22).
Abnormal Eating Patterns
Patterns include stealing and hiding food, hoarding and gorging, refusal to eat, and eating strange things.
Biblical Lens: Fear and revenge can motivate stealing and hoarding (Luke 12:18). Eating odd things may stir a sense of control over natural reactions, produce a thrill, or gain attention. 
Theft, Pointless Theft
Theft is chronic, brazen, cunning, and even nonsensical. A grade-schooler named Charles stole baking powder, something useless to him. They enjoy being sneaky.
Biblical Lens: Many desires motivate theft, including anger. Possession of a forbidden object gives a sense of power over the object and over those from whom it was stolen (Prov. 9:17; 20:17). This is true regarding possession of pets and, in adults, kidnapped people. 
Destructive to Self, Others, Property, Cruelty to Animals
A RAD child recklessly desregards safety and appears to have no fear of dangerous situations such as cliffs and fire. Tolerance for pain is unusually high. Hurting oneself may be intentional. Hurting others is sport. The RAD child will deliberately be a nuisance, and bully, terrorize, and humiliate others. He underhandedly stirs trouble with others in a way that they are blamed. Vandalism may include anything from adorning the wall with mucous, to punching holes in walls, to arson. Animal cruelty is common. Because the child is so cunning , violent acts are seldom seen or appear to be accidents. If the child is accused, blame is effectively shifted to someone else.
Biblical Lens: Anger commonly leads to destructive behaviors. Revenge motivated Esau to plot to kill Jacob (Gen. 27:41). Fear could be the motive when there is a desire to avoid discovery of a crime. The Pharisees plotted Jesus' death to avoid facing the truth about Him. Cruelty to animals can excite a sense of power (control) or be a convenient and "safe" outlet for anger.  
Preoccupation with Blood, Gore, Fire, Weapons
Depending upon the severity of the disorder, the child will be more or less obsessed with those things associated with evil. Drawings go beyond those of dragons and demons to incorporate blood and gore, and can be frightening. Girls and boys may be overly fascinated with uncouthness, sensuality, and promiscuity at an unusually young age.
Biblical Lens: The child who is afraid will think about what he can use to protect himself (Matt. 12:14; 26:4-5, 59; 27:1-2). The child who is angry plans how to get revenge.

Difficulty Learning from Mistakes
No matter the consequences given by parents and society, the child will continue the behavior. He does not learn from positive or negative reinforcements.
Biblical Lens: Proverbs 27:22 describes the RAD child when it says, "Though you pound a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him." The foolish accounts that he wants is worth suffering the same consequences repeatedly. Habits are hard to change. 
Poor Impulse Control
A RAD child may speak kindly one moment, viciously the next. He may steal one moments, be generous in the next.
Biblical Lens: Often, when people are feeling afraid or furious, they do not think logically. They react impulsively (Prov. 12:16, 18; 17:14). Lack of self-control becomes a habit. 
Intense Control Battles
The antisocial child works persistently to wrest control of the household away from the parent. He behaves well when he wants something. Otherwise, testing, bossiness, arguments, baiting others, and pushing the limits continue unendingly. Every conversation is a manipulation opportunity. He pretends to not hear, not understand, or to misunderstand. A simple morning greeting might be delayed, dramatized, normal, a deliberate snub, a contemptuous grunt, a glare, a burst of laughter, or an antagonistic "What do you want?" A minute incident may start a control battle that continues unresolved for hours or days. He is as likely to sabotage a fun game as he is to participate.
Biblical Lens: For the child who is afraid, control of others produces a sense of power and invulnerability. For the child who is angry, provocations can achieve revenge. Besides, contest can be fun. That is why people play games and sports. Some people enjoy wrangling over words (2 Tim. 2:14, 16, 23), so Paul warned Timothy to not get caught up in it. Like a coal to fire is a RAD child to strife (Prov. 26:21; 17:19); he is constantly hot to spark a fight for control.

Hyperactivity, hypervigilance, and anger are common.
Biblical Lens: Someone who feels constantly threatened, who feels driven to maintain control, must be always on the alert. Hypervigilance keeps him attuned to people. For example, feeling threatened, the Pharisees watched Jesus, spied on Him, and tried to trap Him (Matt. 20:19-20). Like a boxer, the hypervigilant person studies others to find weaknesses and stays ready to seize opportunities. 
Chronic Lying, Lies About the Obvious
Lying is highly skilled, chronic, blatant, and sometimes so ridiculous that the child seems unaware of reality. With his hand in the cookie jar, the child will answer, "What jar?" Lying is not reserved only for escape from trouble. It is a lifestyle. The child may lie about the color of the shirt he is wearing or who was at the birthday party, lying when it gains him nothing and when telling the truth would require less effort.
Biblical Lens: Lies ward off punishment and guilt and keep others baffled. The Pharisees lied to themselves, and lied to others by refusing to answer when they did not want to admit to the obvious (Luke 20:1-8). Lying may arise from an abiding sense of guilt. "The wicked flee when no one is pursuing" (Prov. 28:1). Tricking others can also be a thrilling challenge. Whatever the reason, lying becomes an automatic reflex (Hosea 11:12-12:1).
Lack of Remorse, Seeming Lack of Conscience
When confronted with misbehavior, the child rationalizes, minimizes the harm he caused, shows total indifference, offers excuses, or blames the victim. Remorse is shown only to reduce or prevent punishment. He becomes insolent or furious if an authority expects him to admit wrongdoing. His actions are justified. The expectations of the victim and/or the authority are unreasonable.
Biblical Lens: Feelings of remorse are unpleasant, so people avoid them. A feeling of guilt implies a fault or weakness, which produces fear. Some people get angry at the idea of being wrong. The child becomes all the more desperate to rid himself of remorse feelings by justifying his actions. to the person who considers his own survival to be the ultimate value, it seems logaical that self-defensive behaviors must by rightful and good. With this view, the survivalist determines that he deserves what he steals or that he deserves the right of retaliation. People who love control will not care who they hurt to get the things they want (James 4:2-3). They will care more about keeping everyone under their control than about the basic needs of others (Matt. 9:9-13; 15:1-9; Luke 13:14). Examples of hardheartedness and shamelessness are throughout Scripture--Sodom, Esau, Pharaoh, Israel's child sacrifices, the Pharisees. In these examples, people demanded to do what they wanted without responsibility to any authority for it.

Refusal to Request Help
Biblical Lens: This characteristic is not listed in RAD literature. I have added it based upon my own observations only because I think it is an indicator of an underlying attitude essential to the child's alienation. The observation is, an antisocial child obtains what he wants by his own way (through power or manipulation) or else not at all. Just like the angry people described in James 4:2-3, he will suffer loss or pain rather than ask for help, or even for simple wants like a toy or an outing. This trait is easily missed, probably because absence of something is harder to spot than its presence. It takes time for parents to realize how often they think, "I would love to have given him that, if only he would tell me what he would like to have. If only he would ask." It is an important piece of the puzzle because it silently shouts, "I don't need you!" A RAD child appears determined to trust in only himself (Prov. 3:5; 16:25; 28:26).

In summary,
From babyhood RAD children develop a pervasive emotional self-sufficiency. Key characteristics include drive for control, hypervigilance, and lack of conscience. Most criminals or rebellious people usually maintain a loyalty to someone, friend or family. RAD children retain no loyalties and exercise a disregard for, and violation of, other people.
Biblical Lens: Our psychological labels are manmade categorizations. Even though the Bible speaks to every human condition, it would be impertinent to demand that it fits out categories. We must find our solutions in the Bible's categories, not vice versa. What people do and say expresses something about their heart desires. Major themes for a RAD child include self-preservation (selfishness), control, fear and anger, bitterness and brooding, and making emotional rather than rational decisions. Over all, the characteristics fit what the Bible calls an "angry man" (Prov. 29:22). Another pertinent big-picture label that accompanies and facilitates anger might be "he who separates himself" (Prov. 18:1), which we might abbreviate "alienated."  
From Parenting the Difficult Child by Linda Rice

If you find yourself dealing with children with attachment disorders or see these behaviors daily and sometimes hourly in your home buy this book! It has been such an encouragement to me and I keep it as a guide to refer back to constantly to point myself and my children to when and how these behaviors and motives played out in the bible and how God handled it. I have been on a short, yet very hard, journey and have changed my way of looking at parenting. For some real posts on RAD, I have two posts that describe some of the behaviors we have met on this journey, see Pursue Me and The Story of a Wicked Woman.

 Glorious Hope of Redemption 
There is hope for the child habituated to fear, anger, and control! Antisocial behaviors can become features of the past! How can that change be effected? It starts with salvation. God promises that when someone agrees that he has sinned and deserves punishment, commits to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, and repents from self to trust in Christ's redemptive work on the cross, God cleanses him from sin and gives a new heart that desires to please Him (Ezek. 36:25-26; 2 Cor. 5:9). With the new heart comes the ability to renew the mind (Eph. 4:22-24). Through God's Word, the child can learn and believe the truth about his world, himself, and God, and change his desires. The Bible shows how to throw away old tools of controlling the situation and pick up God's tools for handling trouble effectively. He can decide that when fears arise, he will run to God rather than to his own coping strategies (Psalm 18:2; 56:3). When anger boils, he will put on self-control instead (Gal. 5:19-23).  
Change of environment helps a great deal. Parents and counselors can influence him by modeling love and the joy of fellowship with God. They can teach truth and gently challenge or correct misperceptions by a calm, logical application of Scripture. They can patiently provide reward and disciplinary consequences. Prayer is essential. Loving parents can woo a child to choose to change.  
From Parenting the Difficult Child by Linda Rice, pages 52-53.

I am no longer parenting for my kids, to give my them the best life they could have or making sure they are changing their behavior, I am now parenting for me, to practice putting on fruits of the Spirit when, not if, I am tempted and tried by behaviors and conform more and more to the image of Jesus Christ alone.

Click here for a blog post on how I found: 

Healing in the Hurt (Battling fear, anger and bitterness while parenting RAD)

Posted by Shannon
Soli Deo gloria - Glory to God alone