Tuesday, July 14, 2009

RAD's public face

My children have two public faces. One is charming endearing behavior and one is loud anger and defiance. The first appears much more often. It is easy to read it as manipulation of the adults around them but I choose to believe it is because that is the time they are most comfortable and least threatened. When they are talking with strangers they do not feel the pressure of closeness or attachment. It sometimes relieves the stress of closeness they may be feeling at being out and about at a family event. It is unhealthy.


We went to play LaseQuest a couple of years ago. We went into the chamber where they give directions. Bear and Taz went and stood with another family and chatted with them before and after the directions. After we were finished playing our family stood huddled discussing our scores. I looked up to see Bear huddled with a family of complete strangers discussing scores.

I went to a furniture store and was looking at ottomans. It was difficult to talk with the sales clerk because the boys were so busy asking her questions.

At Oceans of Fun last summer the boys tended to get behind us in line and talk with whomever was behind us rather than to us. This was to the point of the people behind us looking very uncomfortable and looking at each other as though very annoyed.

What to do:

Give complete instructions before we go out. "When we go out sometimes I notice you talk with strangers. This is not safe as we don't know who it is OK to talk with and who it is not. To keep you safe dad and I will form a net. Dad will be at the front, kids in the middle and mom at the end whenever we are in line. This is a family time so we would like to talk with you.

Before we check out at any store I try to remember to say "When I am talking with the check out person it is not the time to ask me questions. I also would like it if you did not talk with her as I am trying to take care of business and it is difficult to do this when you talk with her/him." If they cannot do this I have them go stand in a spot about 10 feet away and wait.

Going out can be frustrating because they treat us with anger and wrath so much of the time and then are perfectly sweet to strangers. Remember it is all about feelings of fear and danger. Mom's represent danger. Don't take it personally. Turn on the therapist inside yourself and stay calm. Quietly remove them from the situation by saying "I'd like for you to come stand over here. Under your breath you can say "We don't talk to strangers." or something of the sort.

Have a healing day!



Hannah said...

I am very thankful that (so far) Gabe has not been one to do this when we are out. He does sometimes make big blanket statements to try to get a strangers attention, for example, after I ask him a question he'll say loudly "Mom, don't you know I ALWAYS do this?" or "Remember, these are my favorite in the whole world?"

I am guessing it's him trying to show them that he belongs to a family. Either way, it's one of those sigh and roll eyes moments.

peggysue said...

We see the friendly public face, I only have had public face number two appear maybe twice . . . especially at a young age, this is so dangerous . . . I have warned the counselors at summer camp that my daughter can, will and has walked away with complete strangers and I can tell they do not believe me.

I have had parents at school remark to me that it must be pure joy to raise this girl because she is always so chipper and sweet . . .I just smile in return, it is too difficult to explain RAD.

This has been a very challenging week. Last night my daughter went outside after her bath, before I could catch her, in her nightgown to stand on our front step and wave around in the air the picture she made that day at camp, because our neighbors were sitting out on their driveway . . . she has gone down to the end of our driveway to sing and dance and shout at passing cars to try to attract the attention of total strangers driving by on the street . . I don't know how to therapeutically parent that except to get her back in the house and resume our bedtime routine or move to very cold climate that makes it uncomfortable to go out thinly clad. :)

Brenda said...

Peggy Sue,

I think all we can do us educate them about a few things.

Private vs. public: this is a private matter we talk to or show (such as art work) only family or close friends. Public is polite conversation. Demonstrating it and pointing out ahead of time "I'm going to show you how we talk to strangers and keep ourselve safe."

Educating about stranger danger is important. But we also have to realize that they feel much more threatened by closeness then to the strangers so it would kind of like if someone were suddenly telling us family was unsafe and strangers were safe. It will take awhile before they believe it.

When we were driving to Attachment therapy and hour and a half away I moved Bear (15 at the time) to the front seat so we could have time together on the way. I realized then that he was making eye contact with every driver that we passed on the right and smiling at them. I pointed out that we do not know these people and do not know who is safe and who is not. He then tried to go to sleep or turn on the radio so as not to interract. I finally started having him read to me and we would discuss what he was reading along the way.

Brenda said...


I think I'd talk to Gabe and say that you noticed he makes these statements. If he is wanting to connect with you give him other behaviors that are more appropriate such as a thumbs up, a wink, "1-4-3" (number of letters in I love you. Tell him when he does that he is showing you he feels safe and can trust.

Anonymous said...

Life's mom here (technical problems again with my sign on!)

We live this behavior out over and over each day. Our problem is that "Life" (9 yo girl) thinks she knows better than I do, so pre-warning her is only slightly effective. I have to attach a consequence to the pre-warn. "If you try to hug a stranger, then your behavior is telling me that you would rather wait in the car with Dad." Since she has disinhibited RAD, "Life" really would go with anyone. This makes respite easy for me - I don't go through all that you guys do when I have to leave her with a respite sitter - but she will try to hug complete strangers. We have a strict "no hugging anyone but family" rule, but she will try to convince me that this stranger is family. How do you rationalize with that? We have catagorized all of our friends, family & acquaintances as "huggable," "high five guys" or "just smile and say hello" people. This has helped some, but she will try to convince me that hugging the HS football coach is ok because he is like family. (We don't even play football!!) Since we live in the south, everyone is very friendly and we often really do make eye contact and say hello to strangers, so this makes it even more complicated. Social skills do change with the environment - this is so hard to teach.

Peggysue - the nightgown incident is exactly something that Life would do! I would love to know how you handled that (short of moving!) Any insight would be appreciated.

Brenda said...

That is a touch situation. I'd keep her very close...as in holding hands..when out in public. I'd tell her when she shows she feels safe (not hugging strangers) she can start going out without holding hands.

Brenda said...

I will say that I have also printed out papers with a discription of RAD and when my children insisted on showing RAD behavior in public they know that means I am about to start passing out papers. I took them with me everywhere for awhile.

I consider hugging strangers to be very dangerous as it only takes a short time for the stranger to violate a child with groping or words.

Anonymous said...

Brenda - how much info did you put on the papers? I assume you mean that you handed them out to the strangers? How did this affect your boys? Were they embarrassed? I fear "Life" would enjoy the extra attention so much that it might not work for her. (This is the same child who just sat through all of those unnecessary medical tests and enjoyed it all after fake fainting.) I usually just smile and say "I'm sorry - we are working on that" when she does something awkward in public.

She does hold our hand all of the time in public. She actually prefers to hold our hand. But she will still go in for a hug when I am holding her - I nearly always catch her pre-hug, but the fact that she still wants to hug strangers is alarming.

Just this past Saturday we were in an elevator with what seemed to be a very nice man - grandpa like. "Life" asked him his name first, he chuckled at what a cute little girl she was (she looks 5 or 6 yo), gave his name, then my husband and I both caught her as she was going in for a hug. Right in front of the man I said "I'm sure he is a nice man, but we don't know him. You are not allowed to hug strangers." This embarrassed her (and the man) a little, but I am having to be more and more blunt with her. It does not seem to be as effective if I correct her after the fact.

Anonymous said...

Your words: "It sometimes relieves the stress of closeness they may be feeling at being out and about at a family event. It is unhealthy."

I hadn't thought about it, but we were on a little family weekend vacation at the time. That makes her behavior make a little more sense. Although she does this often enough that it may be more of a pattern of learned unhealthy habits that we just need to break.

ali said...

jack is too "shy" (complete, terrifying social anxiety) to do the stranger chatting part, but does stand 50 feet from us, alone, more often than not. we had friends from CT here last night, hes only met them twice, and he did SO WELL. he acted so appropriately. certainly not outgoing, by any means, but not withdrawn either. i was so proud of him, and without making a huge deal of it, i commended him after they left for trying so hard to break through that anxiety and be polite and friendly, especially with the kids(4 kids,age 9 & under). he even stood and smiled for a few group pictures! sometimes i think hes catching on. ever since i had that big talk with him about how he feels when he walks in a room full of people and told him i have the same issues, he has done better. knowing he wasnt alone, or crazy, and that feeling has a name, seemed to help. but...hey, what do i know? LOL. tomorow is another day!

Christine said...

I will sometimes pull out a piece of paper and a pen, when they are being very chatty, and ask them to put all of those great questions in writing, so we can discuss them later. Most of the time, they just say, "That's okay," and take the opportunity to work a little harder.

With my 9-yr-old, sometimes I can just take hold of her hand and smile at her. She knows. :)

I try to come up with more and more ways like that in public, where they first get a chance (without anyone else even noticing) to redirect themselves. Certainly doesn't work all the time, but on days when they're feeling a bit more safe and strong, it works for them.

And on days when they just have too much going on inside, sometimes we just sprint for the door. :)

peggysue said...

We DO talk about stranger danger, a lot. And appropriate touching, keeping hugs to family. But like 'Life's' mom, my daughter considers herself to be smarter than we are, or at least that is what her attitude reflects.
One time she was in the bedroom and I had cornered her on something, I cannot remember what, and she was screaming at me, "I know everything!" speaking of herself.
What is frustrating to me is that we seem to make little progress and there is never any sign of remorse at wrongdoing. She went outside in front of the house with the dog after having been told many times that only the back yard is a safe place as we live on a busy street. I reminded her of that fact, went to do the dishes, and she immediately went out the front door again. What is the solution? I have to watch her every minute she is home that she is not asleep, either myself of my DH. That gets very tiring.
The other day I went to the bathroom and while I was in there she put the cat inside the dog's kennel with the dog and locked them both inside, releasing them right as I was coming out of the bathroom. She knew it was wrong but thought she could do it and get away with it if I didn't see her.
Last night when dancing in her nightgown, I called her inside, explained once AGAIN why we don't do that sort of thing and finished the bedtime routine. If anyone has any better solutions for curbing the stranger danger and inappropriate public behavior, I'm willing to try it. But it isn't as if we haven't been over this a thousand times.
We've demonstrated appropriate gestures, handshakes, explained who to hug and who not to and whoosh! It flies over her head.
And I can sympathize with the lady who lives in the south, my MIL lives down there and she just calls my daughter a 'mess' and laughs. You'd be familiar with what that term means.

Anonymous said...

It has recently been determined that my 11 yo daughter, B, has RAD...so, while all the behaviors are not new to me, seeing so many common behaviors discussed here is quite overwhelming. Attitudes of anger/disrespect toward me, dishonesty, theft, over-familiarity/friendliness with strangers, feeling she's smarter than everyone, etc. all seem to be quite common.

The timeliness of this topic is amazing as we are planning a family outing to KC. Her anger at me seems to have exploded since I've told her about the overnight trip...she even gets to bring a friend. It sounds like this response is typical (and that because of how little I still understand about RAD, I handled it quite poorly...scolded and argued).

Any recommedations (in addition to starting fresh in the morning) for salvaging the family get-away (I have 2 older daughters) for all of us?

Anonymous said...

Life's Mom here -

Anon B - Your daughter has a friend?? :) Then you are ahead of us!

For the upcoming trip, do anything that you can do to lessen the insecurity of the new environment. Show her pictures on the internet of where you are going. Make out a tentative schedule and go over it with her so she knows what to expect. Try as much as possible to stay on the schedule. RAD kids do not typically transition well. Help to walk her through transition times. With my daughter, it usually helps to have a reward/consequence out there. I might say "and if you can go all day in the car and through lunch without speaking disrespectfully to anyone in the family or throwing a fit, then I would be so happy to sit out by the pool when we arrive at the hotel. If you throw a fit or are disrespectul, then we will just have a rest time at the hotel once we arrive." This is what works well for us, but all kids are different, so you might change this us as to what might work for you.

Brenda said...

We were having trouble with the stranger friendliness at swim meets. Everytime someone would get a cooler out my boys would say loudly "I'm hungry". They knew nice people offer their food when someone says that. So I packed a bag of food and just a one page information sheet on RAD that our therapist had given us. I stuck in a book on RAD. I sat up our lawn chairs. I told them a head of time what was in the bag and why. When one of them started the behavior I pulled out the book and started reading aloud. The behvaior quit immediately and I put the book away. I NEVER had to pass out the flyer or get out the book at a swim meet again. Would I walk around passing them out? NO.

Ali! Great job to you and Jack. I hope to be there with our some day.

peggysue said...

Christine my DH and I both like the idea of the pad of paper for the nonsense questions and interruptions when talking to store clerks. Thank you, I'll be using that one.
The book idea is interesting, I'll have to think about that one as well. My DD also likes to get food treats from strangers and loudly hints about it!

Life's Mom said...

Peggysue - we too have talked about stranger danger a LOT. She honestly just doesn't believe that we know more than she does. It is definitely a trust issue with her. Deborah Gray (in her Attaching book) gave some advice that works when I remind her of it. I will say "I know when you lived in a shelter that you had to be your own boss and look out for yourself. But you are a family girl now and you have parents now. It is my job to keep you safe. You have got to follow the rules that I give you so that I can keep you safe." She really likes to be reminded that she is a family girl now. But we are just at the one year mark with her, so this may not work on a child who was adopted long ago.

Brenda - isn't it funny that what works on one child does not work on another. With our girl's extreme control issues - she is more at peace if she knows what to expect next. She would be seriously escalated if she never knew what was coming. Wouldn't it just be nice if there were just one formula that we could all follow.

I will definitely try the flyer and book idea. Announcing that she is hungry to other people with food is exactly something she would do! Ahtough she could really push it to see if I would hand out the flyer or not. I try to never threaten to do anything that I am not really willing to do - she WILL push the envelope.

Last night's antic - she announced that she was going deaf and pretended to not be able to hear anything we said. She is certain that she needs hearing aids like Grandpa wears. Oh but it's never boring here! :) Of course my emotionally healthy teenagers were having fun with that one - trying to yell in her "good ear," or mouthing the words without actually speaking them. She really is a "mess." Peggysue - that term really isn't an insult here in the south. It is just a referencee that she has a lot of character. :)

BeckyJoie at Leaders in Learning said...

I love the net idea. We kind of do that with our teens. I have to be careful with my boys; they would hold my hand in public all the time but it wouldn't stop them from going to a stranger either. When my husband is around, we do this same sort of thing you do but we never thought about it being a "net". Good description!