Summer Learning (Learn & Play Link Up)

Welcome to this week's Learn & Play Link Up!

This week I'm featuring some fabulous ways to keep the learning going during the summer whether homeschooling or not.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading each and every one my selected features, and hope you do the same.


Summer Learning with Lapbooks from Year Round Schooling

Yes, We Homeschool All Summer from Clark & Luci Learn


Fun Trampoline Games for Learning Letters from Hands On:  As We Grow

Learn & Play Link Up Every Thursday
Now it’s time for this week’s link party! This new link up is for all blog posts that include learn and play activities and hands-on education for kids. We are excited to read your blog posts and to see what you have to share! Please link up below and grab our button to display on your blog.
If you are a blogger, share your family friendly posts here. We are looking for things which include:
  • Montessori Education
  • Homeschool
  • Sensory Play
  • Tot and Preschool Trays
  • Fine and Gross Motor Activities
  • Kids in the Kitchen
  • Healthy Recipes for Kids
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Natural Living
  • Free Educational Printables
  • Family-Oriented Activities
  • Healthy Living
Your post will be shown on each host’s blog where we will individually pick features every other week. That means there is more of a chance that you will be featured!
Everyone, please meet our link party hosts:
learn and play party hostesses
Guidelines for Linking:
  • Please link up 1-3 posts
  • Follow each of the hosts on social media
  • When you link up, please add our button and place it at the bottom of your shared posts or link back with text link.
  • By entering a link, you’re giving us permission to feature an image on our blogs. Proper credit & links will ALWAYS be given.
  • Please visit a couple of shared posts and leave a comment for them
  • Remember that you must link back in order to be featured
Christian Montessori Network

Read More »

Toddler & Preschool Activity Themes for 2015-2016 School Year (Learn & Play Link Up)

This post may contain affiliate links.

It's confession time.  I REALLY struggled while homeschooling Sunshine this year.  Transitioning her into our learning time environment, schedule and practices was so hard, and at times downright awful.  I tried to make things work.  I rearranged the environment. Schedules were changed.  My expectations were lowered.  Still, our first year's experience was not at all what I had hoped it would be.

The sad thing is Sunshine LOVES learning time.  It's her favorite part of the day.  All she wants to do is copy what her older siblings are doing.  She LOVES the activities I create for her.  If she could spend the day in the learning time room she could.

The problems lie in the fact that she's 2 1/2 years younger than the sibling closest to her.  Her cognitive and adaptive skills are well below average making the gap even larger.  She requires a one-to-one at all times.  Sunshine's attention span and focus can be compared to a ping pong ball bouncing out of control.  Every 30 seconds she's up switching out activities, if no one's watching her.  She has a very low frustration tolerance and often tantrums over the simplest things.  Then there's the sensory issues, RAD behaviors, etc.

It wouldn't have been as horrible, if she didn't have three older siblings that require attention too.  But the truth of the matter is, Bulldozer requires a one-to-one at all times already.  Princess' RAD behaviors are real and seem to always be in high gear during learning time.  Dinomite, depending on the day, may have 1 to 5 meltdowns.  Though there are many more positive days than negative ones, learning time can be very difficult sometimes, even without Sunshine added to the mix.

Words can't express how thankful I am that my husband is back home full time again to help with learning time, behaviors, those that need one-to-one assistance with everything, etc. This change alone solves half of our problems.  I feel like I can finally breathe and enjoy the journey again. 

There's only been one other challenge.  I have no clue where to go with Sunshine.  We have worked so hard (going on 2 years now), to teach her shapes, colors, numbers and letters, yet have seen minimal results.  Sunshine can match and sort objects perfectly, but there seems to be no understanding of the content behind the activities.  She's extremely verbal, but doesn't make any sense half of the time.

This month Sunshine is undergoing adaptive and cognitive testing.  We're half way through and have already been told the numbers don't look good.  I'm definitely not surprised, but it's all so very depressing. One would think after having gone through this with three other special needs children, I would do better this time around, but no.  I think the process only gets worse.  Sunshine is more delayed than any of my other children.  All three other kiddos knew all of their shapes, colors, letters, and numbers by the time they turned three.  Bulldozer knew all of them by the time he was two!  Every kiddo is so very different.

We've discussed Sunshine's education plans with her developmental pediatrician.  Sunshine turns four in November, so this year she should be starting preschool curriculum.  The problem is, she's not at all ready for preschool material.  My husband and I have talked at great lengths about how we should approach this next year with her.  Though an understanding of shapes, colors, numbers, and letters, may come any day, we feel that it shouldn't be the main focus of her studies.  Sunshine is teaching me so much about Montessori's concept of following the child.  She wants to learn what her older siblings are learning.  She loves their unit study themes.  Though she can't count or identify all of her colors, she can tell you all about the human body.  Her animal identification and impersonations are amazing.  I don't know of any other 3 year old girl who knows as many dinosaur names as she does.  It only makes sense to focus on things she enjoys and is actually learning.  There will be a few color, shape, number, and letter concepts in each unit, but they won't be as obvious as one might think.  You will see a lot of practical life and sensorial components to her units.

Here are our plans for Sunshine!

July
Unit Theme:  Space
Week 1:  The Moon
Week 2:  Stars
Week 3:  Astronauts
Week 4:  Tinkerbell  (Peter Pan themed Birthday week)

August
Unit Theme:  The Earth
Week 1:  Rocks
Week 2:  Weather
Week 3:  Blue Themed Activities
Week 4:  Toy Story (Preparation for Hollywood Studios, Disney World)

September
Unit Theme:  The Animal Kingdom
Week 1:  Horses
Week 2:  Birds
Week 3:  Fish
Week 4:  Turtles
Week 5:  Frogs

October
Unit Theme:  Vacation & Holiday
Part 1:  Yellow Themed Activities
Part 2:  Mulan (Preparation for Epcot, Disney World)
Part 3:  Black Themed Activities

November
Unit Theme:  My Community
Part 1:  Emergency Vehicles
Part 2:  Road Safety & Signs
Part 3:  Garbage & Recycling
Part 4:  Thanksgiving

December
Unit Theme:  Christmas
Part 1:  Bears
Part 2:  The Gingerbread Man
Part 3:  Christmas

January
Unit Theme:  Learning is Fun!
Part 1:  White Themed Activities
Part 2:  Letters
Part 3:  Numbers
Part 4:  Shapes

February
Unit Theme:  Valentine's Day
Part 1:  Purple Themed Activities
Part 2:  Sweet Treats
Part 3:  Emotions
Part 4:  Valentine's Day

March
Unit Theme:  Vehicles
Part 1:  Construction Vehicles
Part 2:  Trains
Part 3:  Cars
Part 4:  Airplanes
Part 5:  Easter

April
Unit Theme:  Animals Around the World
Part 1:  Kangaroos
Part 2:  Elephants
Part 3:  Monkeys
Part 4:  Brown Themed Activities

May
Unit Theme:  Introduction to Botany
Part 1:  Plants
Part 2:  Flowers
Part 3:  Bees
Part 4:  Orange Themed Activities

June
Unit Theme:  At the Farm
Part 1:  Farm Animals
Part 2:  Crops
Part 3:  Farm Vehicles
Part 4:  Nutrition

I have hope that the upcoming year will go much better than last year!

Welcome to this week's Learn & Play Link Up!

Be sure to check out our amazing features this week!

Montessori Homeschooling-Overcoming Challenges from Montessori Nature

Best Tips to Avoid Burnout While Homeschooling Year Round from The Natural Homeschool

Preparing for Homeschooling Your Child with Special Needs from Golden Reflections Blog

Master List of Homeschool Unit Studies from Gypsy Road
Learn & Play Link Up Every Thursday
Now it’s time for this week’s link party! This new link up is for all blog posts that include learn and play activities and hands-on education for kids. We are excited to read your blog posts and to see what you have to share! Please link up below and grab our button to display on your blog.
If you are a blogger, share your family friendly posts here. We are looking for things which include:
  • Montessori Education
  • Homeschool
  • Sensory Play
  • Tot and Preschool Trays
  • Fine and Gross Motor Activities
  • Kids in the Kitchen
  • Healthy Recipes for Kids
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Natural Living
  • Free Educational Printables
  • Family-Oriented Activities
  • Healthy Living
Your post will be shown on each host’s blog where we will individually pick features every other week. That means there is more of a chance that you will be featured!
Everyone, please meet our link party hosts:
learn and play party hostesses
Guidelines for Linking:
  • Please link up 1-3 posts
  • Follow each of the hosts on social media
  • When you link up, please add our button and place it at the bottom of your shared posts or link back with text link.
  • By entering a link, you’re giving us permission to feature an image on our blogs. Proper credit & links will ALWAYS be given.
  • Please visit a couple of shared posts and leave a comment for them
  • Remember that you must link back in order to be featured
Christian Montessori Network

Read More »

Animals of Africa Activities for Tots & Preschoolers w/ Free Printables

This post may contain affiliate links.

Sunshine's older siblings are studying Africa right now.  She has decided that she needs to study the same thing as they are.  LOL.  It's really quite cute.  Since she's already studied Africa as part of her Green Unit, I thought we'd focus on animals of Africa this time around.  My plans correspond perfectly with the 12 Months of Montessori Zoology theme this month!  (I love it when that happens.)

Sunshine loves zoology more than any other subject of learning and play.  It's through the study of animals that I'm able to teach her concepts she would otherwise not understand.  When we study zoology, we don't just keep activities science related.  Instead we widen horizons and incorporate zoology into every subject area.  You'll notice this with many of our activities this week.  I hope you enjoy!
Z is for Zebra
Sunshine will glue squares of zebra stripes on to the letter Z.  For those kiddos ready for scissors, the zebra striped squares are created in strips (in the printable), for cutting practice.  Also included in the printable is a G is for Giraffe paper with spot print strips.  I know the "g" sound in giraffe is not the first sound taught to little ones, but in Sunshine's case, I'm more concerned about her ability to glue and place squares in between the lines, than I am her learning letter sounds.  Hopefully this make sense.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Animals of Africa Activities for Tots & Preschoolers Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Counting Animals of Africa
We've been working on counting to 4 and 5 for quite some time now.  My apologies.  Sunshine still doesn't seem to understand the concept of numbers.  I promise once she does, we'll progress to bigger numbers.

This week we'll continue to work with the sandpaper numbers and add some adorable animal cards to match up with them.  If Sunshine can't successfully count the animals on her own, we'll at least have fun identifying them in each picture.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Animals of Africa Activities for Tots & Preschoolers Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Animal Family Match Up
Sunshine does an amazing job identifying animal names and sounds. She's also very good at pretending she's an animal.  (You should see her pace like a "boy lion."  Yikes!)  I thought this week would be the perfect time to introduce her to animal families and very specific animals in each of those families.  To make sure the activity isn't too overwhelming, I'm introducing only two families.  I'm hoping we have a lot of fun with the activity.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Animals of Africa Activities for Tots & Preschoolers Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Adult & Baby Match Up
Sunshine knows her African animal names quite well, however she does not know the proper names for baby animals.  This activity will teach that.  There are cards for each of the adult and baby animals.  Sunshine will match up animals to their cards, paying close attention to the age of the animal on each card.  We will then review the names of African animals and their babies.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Animals of Africa Activities for Tots & Preschoolers Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Elephant Movements
Sunshine LOVES to move around.  In fact, it is rare to ever see her sit still for more than 10 seconds.  When I came across these elephant movement cards, I just knew I had to include them with her activities.  I can't wait to see her trying out all the moves on the cards!  And, if she'd like to pretend to have an actual elephant do the moves, I've provided one.

Source:  The free printable for this activity can be found at Training Happy Hearts.

Fork Painted Lion Face
I'm always looking for art activities for Sunshine.  Besides learning about animals, art is her second favorite thing.  This activity combines both passions, so I'm hoping it's a hit.  It also incorporates some fine motor skills.  Sunshine will use the brown marker to draw a face on the lion.  Once her face has been drawn, she will use orange paint and a fork to paint on the lion's mane.

Source:  More detailed instructions and pictures of the completed project can be found at Crafty Morning.

For those interested in the free printables, click on the link below:


If you're interested in more of my zoology activities for tots and preschoolers, be sure to check out my posts!






If you're looking for zoology unit studies tailored to K-2nd grade, be sure to check out these posts:

For more fabulous zoology activities and ideas, take a look at posts included in the 12 Months of Montessori Learning.
Amazing Blogs involved in the 12 Months of Montessori Learning:
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Lower Elementary Reading List for the 2015-2016 School Year

This post contains affiliate links.

Each day at lunch time the four kiddos and I gather around the table to enjoy our midday meal.  After a short blessing on the food, the kiddos begin to eat and I read aloud.  Originally, this tradition was initiated because I was utterly exhausted listening to the kiddos fight and argue during lunch everyday.  As time went on, I became very aware of some amazing things happening.

For the first time ever, Bulldozer was listening to a story.  These weren't just any stories.  I was reading chapter books!  Not only was he listening, but he was absorbing the story, and able to answer questions about characters, setting, content, etc. when I asked.  This was a HUGE deal!  I'd tried for years to sit down with him on the couch and read to him.  He couldn't stay seated or interested.  It was only through the experience of reading aloud at the table that we learned Bulldozer needs to be doing something else when read to.  Since then, not only has he enjoyed stories at lunch time, but also at bedtime with his brother and father.  He may be playing with LEGOS the whole time, but the next morning, he'll tell you almost word for word what happened in latest chapter of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Dinomite and Princess love our read aloud time so much, that they request chapters to be read at dinner too, depending on the book.  They get so involved with the stories and the characters.  Depending on what we were reading, they become extremely excited or very frustrated and sad.  I love watching them make these connections with the characters and stories.

Sunshine is three.  When we started, she was only two years old.  Meal time is one of her worst times during the day.  It can be quite devastating.  Strangely, as we started reading together, she calmed down.  Sunshine was quiet for once, and eating well.  I wasn't sure she was understanding anything we read, but the behavior change was so welcome, I knew it was benefiting her in some way.  Sunshine rarely struggles during lunch while we're reading now.

And when it comes to Sunshine understanding what we're reading...  I can't resist sharing these stories!

We were reading Matilda by Roald Dahl.  It was quite intense.  Everyone's eyes were big all through lunch time as we read chapter after chapter about how Miss Trunchbull treated the school children.  After lunch one afternoon, when Sunshine was particularly upset with me, after not getting her own way, she screams out,

"You're the Trunchbull!"

Resisting the urge to burst out laughing was hard, but I managed to keep my emotions under control.  At that moment I knew she was not only listening to the stories I was reading, but understanding them.

Later during the year we read Beezus & Ramona by Beverly Cleary.  It was very clear to everyone at the lunch table that Ramona was very good at making bad choices.  One day, just after reading, it was mentioned by a sibling that Sunshine's middle name is Ramona.  Sunshine immediately lashed out,

"I AM NOT RAMONA!"  To this day, if anyone ever wants to get Sunshine going, all they have to do is mention her full name, putting emphasis on Ramona.  LOL.

The day we finished reading Beezus & Ramona, we didn't have time for discussion afterwards.  I was sure the older kiddos understood the lesson in the story, but I had no clue what Sunshine had picked up from it, other than that Romana makes bad choices.  It was in the evening.  Sunshine approached me, wanting to cuddle.  As I embraced her, she looks up at me, with serious eyes and says,

"Mommy, I love you just sometimes."

It's amazing what a child takes away from a chapter book being read aloud in the perfect setting and environment.  To this day, Sunshine is always the first to remind me about our book at lunch time.

Last year I included our list of chapter books in our syllabus.  We read almost all of them.  Those we didn't get to, I'm keeping on hand for this year, in case I have extra time.  This year I couldn't resist sharing our reading plans in a separate post.  Choosing chapter books for the year is a very long and difficult task.  I thought if I shared our plans, it might help others when choosing their books.  Plus, I wanted to be sure to record the memories from this past year, so I wouldn't ever forget them.

Here is our Lower Elementary Reading List for the 2015-2016 School Year!


To Space and Back by Sallie Ride

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery


African Critters by Robert B. Hass

Ola by Ingri d'Aulaire

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
*I have not read this personally.  If I find it is too scary for the kiddos, we will read the 2nd book in the Harry Potter Series instead.





The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary







Who Was Louis Braille? by Margaret Frith & Robert Squier


The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler



Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Patrick Skene Catling

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling

Little House on the Prairie (Book 2) by Laura Ingalls Wilder

What are you reading with your kiddos right now?  I always love new ideas!
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RAD: Behavior and Consequences

This post contains affiliate links.

It has been about a year since my husband Jason joined me in writing a post.  I'm thrilled to welcome him back!

This post is the second in a series on parenting children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).  In part one, Renae wrote about our personal experience as parents, raising two children with RAD. Please read that post first (if you haven't already), because it includes a fabulous description of the behaviors and general emotional chaos that children with RAD bring to a family.  For part two, we will focus on behaviors and consequences. These topics are, at best, counter-intuitive, and at worst, just plain baffling and lastly, controversial. Our hope in writing about these topics is to help readers feel empowered and capable of meeting the challenges of this incredibly complex and devastating disorder. (We will use the clinical label RAD throughout these posts, rather than "attachment disorder" or "attachment issues.")

At the core of a child who has RAD is the absence of normal, healthy bonding and attachment with a nurturing, consistent caregiver.  This results in brain development problems that have permanent, life-altering consequences. A basic sense of trust and safety around people and in the world develops in the first six month of life. This process is severely affected by neglect, disruptions of consistent care and abuse from caregivers.  How these traumatic experiences impact brain development will be covered in more detail in an upcoming post, but for the purposes of this discussion, it must be very clear to the reader that RAD is the result of a specific kind of brain damage. This is vital in understanding the difference between "typical" parenting and RAD parenting.

When we think of traditional components of good parenting, terms such as positive reinforcement, time-out. social modeling, and quality time may come to mind. For a vast majority of children, tried and true behavioral supports such as sticker charts, positive parenting, and natural consequences will have many positive, lasting effects.

Typical parenting approaches do NOT work with children with RAD.

Why?  With RAD children, the damage caused to the brain impairs his or her ability to follow through with behavioral plans, in several ways. The first area is lack of trust. Because of their early trauma, there is no reason to expect a positive consequence for good behavior.  Why should they believe that you will provide it for them?  Unlike typical kids, RAD kids, by definition, are not motivated by their parent's wishes and approval. They view themselves as "not good", so they become agitated and fearful when receiving positive feedback. The fear generated by praise will lead them to do all they can to sabotage any attempt to establish incentives and positive reinforcement.   People with RAD seem to get a "high" from breaking rules and flaunting expectations. We know of one 5-year old who gave a response that best illustrates this phenomenon. When confronted by her parents about some missing contact lenses, this child replied that making "bad choices" is fun. Therefore, the (potential) negative consequence IS the reward!  There is no reward that you could offer through a behavior plan that can measure up to that high. Conversely, if you try a more rigid, strict disciplinarian approach with RAD kids, the results will be just as ineffective. No matter how severe consequences may seem to you as a compassionate parent, they pale in comparison to the neglect and trauma these children have experienced in the past.

To make things worse, RAD kids have difficulty "switching sets."  They struggle due to emotional inflexibility and low frustration tolerance, becoming so upset about having to stop a favorite activity to respond to a request, that they eventually explode.  Children with RAD frequently have developmental, emotional, and cognitive deficits or disorders.  Ross Greene, the author of The Explosive Child, perhaps said it best with this statement, "Children do well when they can." In other words, if RAD children were capable of receiving praise or discipline, and responding appropriately, they would.

At this point, you (the reader) may be finding yourself in something of a paradox. Namely, if a RAD child cannot be motivated to change behaviors through traditional parenting...

How do you parent RAD children?  

You give consequences!


Why?  That's a little more complicated.


Safety comes first.  This is one rule that can't be ignored or negotiated.  Unsafe actions, depending on the their severity, have very significant consequences. In society, if you infringe on the rights of another person, you have to face justice. Unsafe behavior prevents parents from fulfilling their role as protector, as law enforcement and child protective services may become involved.  In extreme cases, violent and aggressive behaviors can be so severe that inpatient hospitalization, out-of-home placement and/or juvenile detention may become necessary to ensure the safety of all family members. We have been in contact with a number of parents who have made the choice to place their RAD child out of the home.  We have discovered that, despite nagging feelings of guilt and/or inadequacy, the vast majority of these parents expressed relief that all of their children are safer now. They take comfort from knowing that true parenting is admitting when a situation is out of control and taking action, before it becomes too late. We have been amazed by the incredible love and resolve these parents have shown in dealing with incredibly difficult circumstances.

Giving consequences helps the RAD child feel safe. Having RAD means living in a constant state of anxiety, mistrust, and fear. Consistent, reasonable consequences as a response to inappropriate behaviors provides certainty. More certainty means less anxiety and fear.  The RAD child still won't trust you or your motives.  Consequences still won't be effective at preventing future behaviors.  But, a predictable environment is a less threatening one.  It creates a safe setting for the RAD child to work through fear and anxiety.

 Taking a strictly "hands-off"  approach, may result in the RAD child engaging in increasingly chaotic and/or dangerous behaviors.   Children with RAD feel powerless in a world that seems to be stacked against them.  In response, they strive to either take control or create chaos, through whatever means necessary. RAD children live up to the notion of "give them an inch and they take a mile."  Consistent, firm consequences are the key to establishing the limits of acceptable behavior.

RAD children will learn the difference between right and wrong, if you are consistent.  Parents have the primary responsibility of teaching their children right and wrong.  All children can learn that behaviors have consequences.  RAD children will need more time to associate good choices with good consequences than typical children.  Knowing right from wrong doesn't mean that they will behave any differently, but the concept will be understood.  This lesson will teach them what to expect from real life.

So much time and energy are devoted to dealing with behaviors in families affected by RAD.  Having consistent behavioral expectations for all family members and then recognizing and praising those who meet them, can minimize feelings of under appreciation, resentfulness, etc. in typical siblings in the home.  Other children in the home will feel better knowing their efforts are noticed.  They will see justice carried out when needed.

What Consequences are most effective?

At this point, we need to clarify what we mean by responding consistently. To respond consistently means to give a consequence each time a behavior occurs. The specific consequence that you give does not need to be the same every time. In fact, giving the same consequence every time will make things worse. Predictable consequences will be exploited and manipulated, especially when the thrill of misbehaving outweighs the rewards of being compliant.  The solution then? Unpredictable consequences! 

Distract and redirect is the first line of defense, well-known to anyone who has spent time around toddlers. In order to defuse a toddler who is on the verge of melting down, you simply distract them with a sound, object, gesture, quick movement, etc. and refocus their attention away from the person/situation that initiated the tantrum. With RAD children, this technique can retain it's efficiency well after the "terrible twos", since most children with RAD also have developmental delays.



Use humor! When my 3-year old persistently asks the same question for several minutes, I reply with a random words like "monkeys" or "bubble gum" each time she asks. Using humor helps because it breaks up the negative communication patterns and cuts through the child's defense mechanisms.  It reduces the mounting tension that comes with argumentative verbal exchanges, and it's just plain fun.

Time-in is a behavioral consequence that seems to be tailor-made for RAD children. The parent requires the child to be by her side at all times, everywhere she goes. It may or may not involve the child doing whatever the parent is doing. Remember, RAD children seek the high that comes from getting "into trouble." Time-in takes away the reward and turns the tables on them.  They now find themselves in the exact opposite situation that they had expected.

There are two exceptions to this rule:

1. If the behavior is aggressive or violent to the point of threatening the safety of others, the parent will need to remove the RAD child from the situation and isolate them in a safe place, under close supervision. Note that time in can still be the next step, once the child has calmed down and seems ready to return to the family group.

2. You just need a break. If you are in an emotional state that prevents you from managing your responses to misbehavior appropriately, then it is in the child's and your best interest and safety, to both take a brief time out.  Time outs must take place in safe locations.  It is best that you still remain easily accessible to your RAD child, in case you are needed.  Don't hesitate to avail yourself of a quick timeout; those few minutes of separation can make a huge difference in your ability to manage the rest of the day. In extreme circumstances, when you may need a longer time out, be sure to leave your RAD child with a responsible adult who is familiar with behaviors they may encounter.


Restitution is a "real-world" consequence that requires the child to SHOW that they are sorry with actions, instead of just using meaningless words. It's also a tangible consequence, understandable to even young children. In cases where the child is too young or simply not capable of earning money, restitution can take several forms. Preschool children (ages 3-6) can understand that if they've purposely damaged or broken something, it needs to be replaced. This can mean giving the victim a similar toy permanently, to replace the broken one.   If the RAD child purposely breaks an item that belongs to a parent or other adult, the child gives restitution by losing a similar item of their own.  We know of a 4-year old RAD child that pulled apart her mother's new necklace.  The mother threw away one of the child's costume jewelry necklaces as restitution and explained her reasons to the child.  For lower (ages 6-9) and upper (ages 9-12) elementary school children, restitution can and should be made in money or monetary equivalence.  Denial of participation in an extracurricular activity or special event to compensate for fees and damages sends a very clear message that consequences can stick for a long time.  The child who broke two seat belts in the family van is not able to participate in summer dance class, since the repairs and the dance class each cost around $70.


It is important that middle school and high school-aged children take full responsibility for financial restitution through honest and legal means.  Parents should avoid taking restitution out of allowances or accepting household chores as "payment in kind." Household chores are an expectation and allowance is coming out of the parents' pocket.  Doing odd jobs around the neighborhood for money, holding a yard sale, and/or collecting cans for recycling are all things that most RAD children are capable of doing to earn money, if unable or unwilling to seek employment.

Be aware that requiring a child to pay restitution can be a LONG-term commitment, both for you and for the child. It is effective, but make sure you can dedicate the time to see it through to the end.  Do not choose restitution consequences that are going to require supervising time from you, that you don't have.

Physical component- Let me be clear; this is NOT an endorsement for physical punishment. What we mean here is that effective consequences for RAD behaviors include some sort of physical exertion.  One of our favorites is what we call "dance it out." When we noticed a 6-year old RAD child acting out or being more defiant than usual, we put on loud music, and she dances until we tell her that time is up (say, 15 minutes.) In our experience, the physical exertion works to calm down the anger,  and relieve the tension that is building in the mind and body of the child. She actually feels relief and, most often, completely forgets what she was angry about to begin with.

Pleasant setting/favorite activity This one may seem counter-intuitive, but, like most good things, we discovered it out of desperation.  When recent behaviors have escalated or have no apparent pattern, taking a RAD child with you to participate in some sort of enjoyable activity, such as eating lunch at a favorite restaurant, shopping at a favorite store, etc. can be your best move.  The pleasant setting reduces the child's defense mechanisms, allowing for more free and honest conversation and improved access to the child's thoughts and feelings. It may be tempting to discredit this technique because it appears to reward "bad" behavior with a "good" consequence.  We address this in two ways: One, consequences for any and all inappropriate behaviors that have occurred have already been given. Just because we can see that the child is struggling with something doesn't excuse behaviors that demand consequences. Two, the trip to the buffet is not a reward. It is an opportunity to change the setting and initiate a conversation about whatever thoughts and feelings the parent and child have been unable to discuss in other situations.

Beware and plan ahead for known triggers, anniversaries-  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) results from significant trauma in the past that has not been resolved and leaves a person with irreversible effects on brain functioning.  RAD children suffer from PTSD that began with early childhood trauma. Therefore, becoming familiar with the triggers or cues that precipitate intense flashbacks and emotional reactions is crucial for parents of RAD children. A more detailed description of PTSD, triggers and cues, as well as ideas for helping children who struggle with this disorder will be included in another post. For the purposes of this discussion, being aware of your child's PTSD cues and reactions can guide your decision making when considering discipline options for a RAD child.

Anniversaries, such as birthdays, holidays and Mother's Day, present another difficult hurdle in working with RAD children. Developmental grieving involves an almost unconscious longing for birth parents, and intense feelings of loss and abandonment.  It takes the form of increased agitation, irritability, fear, anxiety, and impaired social and academic functioning. Again, for the purposes of this post, developmental grief is a major consideration to remember when a RAD child displays more challenging and intense behaviors than usual. Check the calendar, and adjust accordingly when giving consequences.

Antecedents- Of course, behavioral or emotional episodes can be triggered in RAD children with no clear indication of PTSD triggers or developmental grieving. Sometimes, they just happen. The trolls in the movie Frozen perhaps explained this best when they sang, "People make bad choices when they're mad or scared or stressed." RAD kids don't want to be afraid all the time. They just can't help it. Frequently, getting into the underlying causes of a major behavioral or emotional meltdown is just as important as giving consequences when they happen.

A few brief points before we conclude:


Time stands still- A skilled therapist that we know shared this bit of wisdom with us. When a consequence is given to a RAD child, nothing else happens for that child until the consequence is carried out. Other than meals, bathroom needs, sleep, school, etc. the child is dedicated to that consequence until it is satisfied. Please note- this could go on for days, so be prepared to carry it out fully.


Don't give consequences that interfere with your plans- This goes hand-in-hand with the last point. If you have big plans for the night, you might want to hesitate before giving a RAD child a consequence that you know will take several hours to accomplish, sabotaging your plans.

Don't give consequences that interfere with your mood- One of the key themes of this entire post is the significance of choices. Parenting a child with RAD is an emotional roller coaster in the fullest sense. In order to survive and thrive, the parent has to demonstrate emotional self-regulation that is independent of whatever the child is doing. A phrase that is heard frequently around here is "You can choose to be miserable, but I still plan on having fun today." Perhaps the best thing a parent can do for a RAD child is enjoy every day to the fullest.

There is no "one-size fits all" approach to parenting a RAD child. This should be obvious by now, but just as every star is different, so too is every child who has brain damage from early childhood trauma.

Conclusion:
Giving consequences for behavior to a child with RAD is extreme parenting When all is said and done, you will know you've done all you could to love a child that can't and won't accept your love in return. You give consequences because you love your RAD child.   You cannot expect to change your child's behavior through consequences, but you will be able to prepare that child to function in the world, if possible. You can have the assurance that, when it comes to right and wrong, you taught your child the difference and that he or she will always have a choice.

Resources consulted while preparing this post:


About the Contributing Author
Jason has a master's degree in Marriage and Family Counseling.  He has spent the last eight years working as a therapist to adults and children, in a private and group counseling sessions, and in residential facilities.  At home, Jason has four plus years experience as a foster parent with his wife Renae, caring for children ages newborn to eighteen years of age with multiple special needs.   He is also a parent to four special needs children, two biological, and two adopted, with diagnoses of autism, ADHD, RAD, PTSD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome of Effect, anxieties, and sleep disorders.  Within the last year, Jason was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD and Anxiety Disorder NOS.

Disclaimer:  Any advice or suggestions that Jason writes here CANNOT be considered therapy or professional consultation, due to counseling ethics standards. It is not really practical or possible to do counseling with someone he has never met. What we hope to offer IS our personal experience as as parents and foster parents of special needs children, plus things Jason has learned as a professional counselor.  Take any advice that fits, leave aside what doesn't fit.
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