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Reactive Attachment Disorder Fits: Did I Do Something Wrong?

Warning: This post contains information about behaviors at home after receiving residential care, related to Reactive Attachment Disorder, and may be triggering to some.

This article is about Reactive Attachment Disorder Fits and the question that caregivers most ask themselves, "Did I do something wrong?" I am the parent of two adopted children with Reactive Attachment Disorder

Sunshine is upstairs playing with my husband, as I prepare lunch in the kitchen. 

The usual thoughts keep going through my mind. My Monster Part, Not Good Enough Part, and Problem Solver Part, and The Right Thing Part were working together.

What could I have done differently?

How could I have responded better?

Why wasn't what I did enough to make it stop?

Why didn't what worked last time, work this time?

Did I do something wrong?

Reactive Attachment Disorder Fits: Did I Do Something Wrong

Reactive Attachment Disorder Fits: Did I Do Something Wrong?

Sunshine had a long Reactive Attachment Disorder fit this morning.

It occurred in my bedroom after she had finished helping me sort laundry.

Next on the schedule was taking a bubble bath and getting ready for church. 

Church was going to be at home this week because Bulldozer and Princess are sick.

Sunshine loves her bubble baths. 

She loves wearing a dress for church. 

I didn't see this battle coming.

The Start of the Reactive Attachment Disorder Fit

"I hate church! It's boring."

"That sounds hard. Church can be boring." I responded as positively as I could, validating her feelings." 

"How about we grab your clip board, paper, crayons and some books for you to use during church time, like you did last week. You loved that."

"I don't want to do that! That's boring!" Sunshine's voice was growing louder and more agitated.

"If you aren't up to having church at home today, the rest of us can do church later after you go to bed, if you'd like." 

We do not force our kids to go to church or worship as we choose to worship. They always have a choice.

"NO! I want to do church with you!" With that statement from Sunshine, I knew it was time to listen. Perhaps she just needed to communicate feelings and then she'd be okay.

Unfortunately, all of these responses proved useless.

Sunshine wanted to pick a fight. Her Devil part was front and center.

The Reactive Attachment Disorder fit was beginning.

My husband sensed it too, and came into the bedroom.

Sunshine had already started rolling around the floor, kicking the bed and trunk.

The Reactive Attachment Disorder Fit

"What! What do you want? Why are YOU here?" she looked right at my husband. 

I tried once more to help Sunshine walk through her choices calmly and rationally. 

It didn't work.

"You don't love me! You're stupid. I HATE you!" Sunshine was becoming more and more agitated. 

The space was small with so many ways for her to hurt herself.

My main concern at this point was keeping Sunshine safe until the fit was over.

I came closer to her and removed her glasses so they wouldn't break. She started yelling at me again.

"Give me my glasses!" 

"I will give them back to you as soon as I know you're safe." Sunshine stood up and started coming towards me. 

I hugged her and reminded her that I loved her and we needed to stay safe. I didn't want her to hurt herself, anyone or anything else. 

Miraculously, I was somehow able to get us both safely to the floor where I continued to try to soothe her. 

Sunshine would have none of it. 

Instead she started to kick and grab at anything she could. 

My husband was removing items out of the way as quickly as possible, strategically sitting in front of things that he could not move out of the way that were dangerous.

I was trying to protect Sunshine as she thrashed.

The Reactive Attachment Disorder fit was in full swing. All we could do was keep everyone safe and wait until she was done.

We tried remaining silent, so there wouldn't be anything for her to pick a fight about. 

"Why aren't you talking? Why are you ignoring me?" Sunshine was screaming at us. 

Nothing we would choose to do at this point, would make any difference. Sunshine was ready to have a battle about anything and everything.

She banged her head on the floor. 

We put a stuffed animal under her head as quickly as we could. Under the rug was ceramic tile. It was hard.

Sunshine decided to bite her hand. Thankfully she didn't break skin.

She rolled around, throwing a fit, bringing more and more topics to the conversation.

Bath time.

Craft time with Mommy

Church at home.

Play time with Daddy.

She knew the schedule for the morning and had been looking forward to it. Jessica (the kitten part) had arrived, feeling the weight of the consequences of having a Reactive Attachment Disorder fit and was furious at the Devil part.

A screaming fit between the two parts came next, all the while there was more thrashing and kicking.

I remained calm the entire time, setting firm boundaries when necessary.

My husband and I reminded Sunshine we don't take things away.

Only she does that when she chooses to be unsafe in the moment.

When she chooses to throw a fit at bath time, she's too unsafe to be in the bathtub.

When she chooses to pick a fight when it's time for church at home, she's too unsafe for church at home.

She can always try another day.

When she chooses to stop throwing a fit, we pick up with her schedule according to the time of day.

Sunshine continued to thrash around throwing a Reactive Attachment Disorder Fit for an entire hour, her Devil part making demands.

And then finally, she decided she was done and ready to be safe for play time with Daddy.

My plans for a fun morning together had been replaced with her need to battle.

Did I Do Something Wrong?

As I make tacos for lunch, I replay this scenario over and over in my head, wondering what I could have said or done differently. There had to be a way to stop these fits.

Princess enters the kitchen and senses my mood. I tell her I'm having one of those, "I'm a horrible mom" moments. These fits take so much out of me.

She looks at my watery eyes. 

Princess had been washing dishes in the kitchen, which is right next to my bedroom, when everything happened this morning. We had even carried on a positive and friendly conversation in the middle of it. 

My kids know they can always talk with me during their sibling's Reactive Attachment Disorder fit so that they know everyone is safe and okay.

"Mom, you did everything right. You couldn't have done anything differently. That's a Reactive Attachment Disorder fit. Sunshine decided she wanted to pick a fight and she did."

Princess' comments meant so much, as she herself also has Reactive Attachment Disorder, but is healing and past the fits. 

Princess continued.

"When I threw my fits, I just wanted to fight. I had so much negative energy, I had to get it out. And so I did, until I felt better."

I share this story, because it is so easy as a mother of a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder to feel like things are your fault, that if you just changed something, these fits wouldn't happen.

You can follow all of the same steps that I did:

  • Validate feelings.
  • Offer ideas and solutions to choose from.
  • Pause to listen.
  • Set safe boundaries.
  • Keep everyone safe.

And the fits will still happen.

As Princess has said, that need to fight is part of Reactive Attachment Disorder.

You are good enough. 

You Did Everything Right!

Ultimately, the child with Reactive Attachment Disorder needs to be able to get to a point where they can choose not to pick the fights.

In our home, the boundary not to be violated is hurting others. If Sunshine does hurt others, we do what we've been directed to do by professionals, psychiatrists, and law enforcement.

I know that may seem impossible at the moment that a child can outgrow these Reactive Attachment Disorder fits.

But I'm here to say, Princess did it.

And truth be told, her longest fit was eight hours, just without the physical aggression.

It is possible to heal.

It just may take a LONG time.

For those who would like to follow our journey with Reactive Attachment Disorder, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter by clicking the link below.

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If you liked this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.

What Is Reactive Attachment Disorder Our Pediatric Mental Health Crisis To Be a Mother of a Young Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder What NOT to Do with a RAD Child How to Discipline a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder Must Have Safety Resources When Parenting a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder
Reactive Attachment Disorder Fits: Did I Do Something Wrong?

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