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What NOT to Do with a RAD Child

Answering the question of what to do with a RAD child is impossible. Caretakers are then forced to take a different approach learning What NOT to Do with a RAD Child.

Parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD is no easy task. What's up is down. What's backwards is forwards.  What's usually right can be so incredibly wrong.  

This often leads caretakers to feel exasperated and confused.  

No matter how much research you do, how many specialists you talk to, and what you try, it often does not work.  

Thankfully this is a much easier question to answer as a parent who's been in the trenches for over a decade.

What NOT to do with a RAD Child

What NOT to Do with a RAD Child

1. Don't try to care for a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) alone.

This is number one on the list, because it's so dang important! 


Caring for a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder takes a team of caregivers, therapists, doctors, other specialists.  This is especially the case if you are a single caretaker.

You will not survive this journey alone. 

Caring for a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder is the hardest thing you will ever do. 

Without support, it WILL destroy you.

Be aware that a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder can often triangulate caregivers, pitting them against each other.  

Stay united and support each other during this difficult journey.

Be aware that there may come a time when you are going to need to make TOUGH decisions that you will not be able to make on your own, because of the love you have for your child.  

Having doctors, therapists, and other specialists on board to help with those decisions makes all the difference.  It relieves the caregiver of the heavy burdens that these decisions carry, which is extremely important.

2. Don't try to control your child.

In the midst of all of the chaos that occurs while caring for a child with RAD, it can be so easy to want to control her in as many ways as possible.  This may come in the form of micromanagement, punishments, negative consequences, incentives, and/or reinforcers.

The problem is none of these processes will work due to the brain damage that a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder has.  

The more you try to control the child in any way, positive or negative, the more behaviors will increase.  This will then lead to you losing your mind, which we definitely don't want. 

Instead, follow the child's lead in all that she does. 

Observe what she can handle and what she can't. 

Discuss observations with your child.  

Ask for her input in creating a safe environment.

Provide as much independence as is safely possible.  

In our household, we have found great success with using the Montessori Method both inside and outside of the classroom environment.

Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder want what they want, when they want it, and nothing is going to stop that cycle from happening.  

Pick your battles wisely.

3. Don't use any form of physical punishment.

There may be a time when you want to use forms of physical punishment while caring for a child with RAD.  In those moments resist it at all costs. It will NOT help.

Caring for a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder comes with heightened emotions and the eventual development of secondary trauma for you.  

You will develop your own fight or flight response, whether you like it or not.  

You have a breaking point. 

It WILL be challenged in the home.  

Decide NOW to keep your hands off of your child and come up with a safety plan for yourself when you are pushed beyond your limits.

Physical intervention is only used in times when the safety of the RAD child or others around her are in danger.  

If you find yourself already in these types of situations, contact your therapist, doctor, and/or local police to develop a safety plan that all have agreed upon to use in situations like these.  

Memorize the steps of this safety plan so that in those heated and dangerous moments, you know what physical interventions are appropriate and which ones are not.

And again, never attempt anything alone.  If you are a single caregiver, call law enforcement immediately and have them guide you through a safe physical restraint process if necessary.

4. Don't dismiss behaviors or underestimate your RAD child's capabilities.

Your RAD child's brain is programmed to survive.  This is how it overcame all that it endured in the womb and/or during infancy and early childhood.  

The damaged brain is willing to do ANYTHING to continue to ensure survival in any way it feels necessary.  

Keep in mind that love is the most dangerous thing of all and the brain will fight it at every turn.

If you observe a behavior that isn't "that bad" or raises concerns but "not that serious," report it. 

Document it. 

Ask professionals what to do about it.  Let your RAD child know that you know about it.

Behaviors associated with Reactive Attachment Disorder grow with the child.  

If you do not address an issue now, it will become bigger later, and can often lead to dangerous and unsafe situations for the RAD child and those that care for her.

"My child wouldn't do that!" is NOT a phrase to ever utter.  Be open to being blown away with behaviors a RAD child is capable of.  

This is not because the child is bad.  

It is because of the brain damage, that is not the child's fault.  

5. Don't tolerate abuse of any kind.

Whether your child with Reactive Attachment Disorder is physically, emotionally, and/or verbally abusive to themselves or others, it is important to report it, document it, and ask for help each and every time.

Abuse does not just effect the abuser and/or the victim. It effects everyone who witnesses it, including other children and adults that may be in the household.

It is a natural caregiver's response to say that you can take it, and if you just endure this long enough, things will get better. 

It's natural to want to protect your RAD child from the consequences of her actions.

It's natural to want to blame yourself for your child's behaviors.

But the truth of the matter is, your child needs help. At times this help may be more than you can give.

Help may not come immediately.  

It may take reporting abuse several times to make a case.  

But in all situations it MUST be reported to protect you and everyone else in your family.

6. Don't blame yourself for your RAD child's behaviors.

Fact: You can do everything right when caring for a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, and still have everything go wrong.  

You can not control your RAD child's behaviors and choices.  

This means you can not blame yourself for her choices.

And believe me, she will make sure to let you know that she feels EVERYTHING is your fault.  

This may be through words, phsysical assault, passive aggression, or other behaviors.  

But please listen to me.  

Your RAD child's behaviors are not your fault!

At times a caregiver's guilt prevents them from seeking the help the RAD child so desperately needs.

Sometimes a caregiver's guilt can lead to depression, anxiety, and more.

This guilt you feel, that is not your fault, will destroy you if you let it.  

Do your best.

Ask for help when you feel you're coming up short.

Take care of you.

And when you're able to, please also remember that these RAD behaviors aren't the child's fault either.  

7. Don't let your child work alone with a therapist until you feel comfortable.

When working with a child who has Reactive Attachment Disorder, family centered therapy is the very best option.  

Family therapy prevents so many scenarios that may be damaging to caregivers, siblings, and the RAD child.

Once you have established a comfortable relationship of trust with the therapist, having been open and honest about all that's been going on, with the therapist hearing all sides of the situation, you can choose whether or not you feel comfortable with the therapist speaking to the RAD child alone.

Any therapist who is familiar with Reactive Attachment Disorder will understand your request so long as you are completely open and honest about situations that are occuring in the home.  

If the therapist senses that you're trying to hide details and putting all the blame on the child, this will not go well.  Be open to working as a family unit to improve circumstances.

In the future, if your RAD child is placed in a residential treatent setting, part of that treatment will be weekly family therapy sessions, as well as individual therapy sessions for the child.

8. Don't work with a therapist, doctor, or other specialist you don't feel comfortable with.

Unless your RAD child is in a residential treatment setting, finding therapists, doctors, and other specialists who are familiar with Reactive Attachment Disorder is incredibly difficult.  

If someone you're working with is not familiar with the diagnosis, more harm than good can come of treatment.

You may encounter professionals who feel they have all of the answers and are not willing to work as a team to help your RAD child.  

If you are not on the same page as professionals in regards to treatment for your child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, more harm than good can come of treatment.

Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself and your RAD child. 

Be honest when a relationship with a professional is not working.  You are the expert on your child and her needs.  

If you find yourself in a situation where you are working with a professional that is only making things worse, and are mandated to do so, discuss other options and alternatives with your caseworker.  

So long as you're willing to do the work, they should help you find a better fit, and if not this next tip should help.

9. Don't resist or fight advice given by professionals.

This is by far the HARDEST bit of advice to follow, especially in cases where you find that you are far more knowledgeable than the professional you're working with, when you feel like you're being evaluated as a parent, or when the professional is not seeing the reality of the issues.

Consider follow through on advice given by a professional as documentation that you are doing all you can to help your child.

If you follow through on the advice and it doesn't work, document and report back.  

You did your part.  You showed your willingness to help your child.  It is not your fault that the advice given didn't work.

The best part about this document and report process, is that you will form a relationship with someone who knows how hard you're trying, and that what's going on is not your fault.  

This person, who is an impartial third party can share this documentation with others, which is priceless when obtaining the correct services for your child and protecting you as the caregiver. 

I highly recommend going a step further and asking questions as often as you can, showing a sincere desire to learn from professionals.  

Again, this shows you're willing to go above and beyond to help your child.

10. Don't throw away important papers and documents.

I can't say this enough! Document EVERYTHING!  

Sure you may be made fun of and mocked, but in those moments when it really counts, you will be so thankful you have saved each and every form of documentation you have.

Save every report and appointment write up.  

Save all documents you've created that log behaviors from home. 

Write everything down.  

Choose to use e-mail correspondence instead of phone calls when possible, and save each and every one.

At some point or another, you will need every single one of these documents.  

Trust me, I already have.


Caring for a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder is beyond challenging. 

This is not because the RAD child is bad, but because the damage done to the brain causes significant impairments which result in extreme behavior.

We make the decision to care for a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder because we love them unconditionally, despite these extreme behaviors.

We want to believe that over time the brain can heal and behaviors will diminish.

At times, this can occur.

But in many cases it does not.  

This does not change our love for the RAD child, it just means that we need a lot of help.

If you're struggling with what to do with a RAD child, change your question and focus on what not to do with a RAD child.

There is hope.

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What NOT to Do with a RAD Child



  2. This is HARD! I just want to cry. I know it is a brain thing, but I need hope that it will get better with therapy, extra support