How can I discipline a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)?

How can I discipline a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)? 

Best Answer

  • Answer ✓

    My suggestion with children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder would be to work very closely with a therapist to seek discipline methods that are appropriate for the child and that will work.

    I fostered a little boy who had RAD, and being that he was in foster care I was already limited on what I could and could not do as means of discipline, and the RAD just made it that much more difficult.  He was 3 years old and extremely strong and aggressive.

    For me it wasn't so much about finding methods to discipline him, but more ways to help him function and behavior better.  I worked with an occupational and behavioral specialist that helped a lot in changing some of his aggression that nearly got him kicked out of daycare.

    There are some articles and blogs that may be useful:


  • Hi Virginia,

    I totally agree with the above poster. Having a therapist is crucial. Children with RAD have been abused and/or severely neglected in the past and, as a result, have failed to develop normal, healthy attachments and relationships with people. There are serious trust issues, as well as the need for the child to maintain control at all times. You'll want to provide a calm, structured environment. Also keep in mind that children with RAD are often much younger emotionally than their actual age, so you'll need a good amount of patience and be willing to explain things in a simple way.

    Remember that children with RAD do not respond well to traditional discipline methods — this is key. Providing a "consequence" for the child's action will likely only make matters worse. Instead, look for the reasons behind the child's behavior and talk to your child about how he/she is feeling to establish trust. Try not to lose your temper and approach your child in a kind, nurturing way instead of with anger or frustration. I know this sounds difficult to do, but with practice you'll get better at it. Keep in mind your child is hurt and needs all the empathy you can give him or her. 

    To manage aggression/temper tantrums, biofeedback or neurofeedback therapy can be very helpful to slow down the brain and help teach your child to deal more effectively with stress. In school, your child may benefit from a 504 plan, where classroom activities are tailored to help him or her learn more effectively without frustration.

    There are a ton of articles on the subject that you may find helpful. Here are a few:

    A Guide to Parenting a Child with RAD
    How to Help Your Child Through RAD
    RAD Support Group for Parents

    Best of luck to you!

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