Oppositional defiant disorder Reactive attachment disorder
Reactive attachment disorderReactive attachment disorder

Reactive attachment disorder

Letters from Mothers

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Michelle, 4

Our family was in constant strife because of our daughter. She was disrespectful, insincere, manipulative, and demanding. Her anger was so explosive that even though she was never violent, her emotions were so out of control that there was no way to calm her. We tailored our life to appease her and to avoid confrontations with her. When we were in public, we were her hostages because we would have to give in to her demands to prevent her from making a scene.

I saw her actions as those of an extremely active, strong-willed, intelligent child. She was never bad in school or with her grandparents. She was sweet and charming to other adults. I thought that maybe I wasn't patient enough, maybe I expected too much of her, maybe she needed more physical activity. I thought that she would get better as she got older.

After she turned four, I compared her behavior to mine at the same age. I remember being afraid of displeasing my parents, being eager to make them happy, and being willing to follow instructions, at least most of the time. She never cared about any of this. It was all about what she wanted when she wanted it. Although she was affectionate with me, I often perceived her affection as insincere. Whenever I heard her wake up in the morning, I would secretly dread having to see her, and think, "I'm not ready to deal with her yet." I hated myself for feeling this way.

I was afraid of what the future held for my daughter. If I couldn't control her when she was four, what would happen at 14? I had tried punishing her by taking away toys, sending her to her room, giving her time-outs, and even yelling at her. No matter how consistent we were, absolutely nothing worked. While she hated the punishment, screamed and cried about it, it did nothing to change her conduct. All it did was turn our home into a war zone. I found my two-year-old younger daughter retreating into her own world to avoid conflict. This was not the kind of home life I wanted. I had become a harsh and critical mother. If I wasn't constantly policing my daughter, I felt that she would completely take over our family. In fact, she already had.

A friend told me about the RAD Consultancy and the work Aaron Lederer was doing there. I called, and after spending no more than a few minutes speaking with him, he was able to describe my child to me in a way that no one but me understood. What sold me on his treatment is that our daughter never has to see a doctor, does not take medication, and does not even know that Aaron Lederer exists. All I had to do was change my interaction with her in order to change her behavior. I had heard about RAD but never thought that Michelle could suffer from this because she was adopted as an infant and had never been abused or neglected.

I realized during the first day of our treatment that my child was directing all of her behavior at me. While I knew that her actions were more annoying to me than to anyone else, I never realized that this is exactly what she intended. On the very first day of treatment, a power shift took place. She had been controlling me by pushing my buttons. Once I didn't react in my customary way, her power over me was gone; and we could work on learning how to have a normal relationship. I can honestly say that after a few days, I noticed that our lives were calmer. After a few weeks, there was a real change for the better in our home. I felt as if we could breathe again. After a few months, it was difficult to remember how life had been before.

While we targeted one bad behavior at a time, usually one every week or two, other bad behaviors that were on the list to be dealt with "later" seemed to melt away. For example, one of the things that caused us tension was Michelle's refusal to stay seated during meals. She would get up dozens of times during a meal. When I followed Aaron Lederer's instructions, it worked right away. Within two weeks, she was able to stay seated at a meal without getting up once. We then worked on having her stop screaming in the house, annoying her sister, speaking rudely to her father, not coming into the house when I asked her to, and not standing or jumping on the furniture. Each week or two, we were able to eliminate a behavior.

When I first started following Aaron Lederer's instructions, Michelle expressed anger and hostility, either by screaming or throwing a tantrum. Soon, she began to express her displeasure by calling me stupid instead. While I was shocked at first, Aaron Lederer explained that she was improving because she was becoming able to verbalize her anger instead of going into action; as he predicted, her name-calling soon stopped. Thereafter, when she didn't get her way, she would express sadness instead of anger, but in appropriate ways, such as by asking me whether I still loved her or asking for a hug. Eventually, she simply accepted not getting her way by simply acknowledging the reasons for my withholding. As we progressed, other things that caused us annoyance also stopped without our having to ask her. These included refusing to hold hands when crossing the street, interrupting adults, yelling at us when we refused her demands, refusing to leave a place she enjoyed, having a public meltdown at a social event that would force us to leave, and having a tantrum whenever I left the house without her.

We also learned methods of coping with her when she tried to argue with us. Aaron Lederer would give us statements that we would say to her that put an end to her debates with us. For example, when she would make a request that I would not comply with, she would keep demanding an answer. Instead of having to keep telling her no or explain, I would say, "You already know all there is to know about it." In response to her repeatedly asking why I would not give her what she wanted, I would respond, "I don?t know, I don't understand it myself." Miraculously, she would stop asking or whining.

Available throughout the process, Aaron Lederer was patient, kind, understanding, and calm. When I would present him with a new issue by e-mail in between our sessions, he would come up with a solution to keep me sane until our next session or advice that eliminated the problem. He completely understood what my child was doing and the effect it was having on me. He accurately predicted my daughter's reaction to each part of the treatment, which helped tremendously. Even when Michelle's reaction was negative, I was able to handle it better because I was prepared for it, and I knew that it meant the treatment was working.

Sometimes, I would have a week or two when I felt as if I had failed in the process. Instead of criticizing or judging me, Aaron was patient and would explain why I was having a difficult time. He would offer advice which helped me get back on track to continue our treatment. He would remind me that it is not possible to be perfect in this process and that the treatment can tolerate errors. This was a huge relief to me since I felt, when I wasn't perfectly following the treatment, that I was failing my child.

His treatment helped not only my daughter but my self-esteem as a mother. I had come to him feeling like a complete failure as a parent. With each week of improvement in my daughter, which she accomplished with my help, I began to feel that I could successfully and lovingly mother her. The skills I have learned have helped me be a better parent with my younger daughter, as well.

Michelle is now the loving, cooperative, and kind person I knew she could be. I miss her when we are not together and can't wait to be home with her. She is still strong willed, emotional, and active, but completely within normal limits. These are now her positive traits instead of her negative ones. It's as if a weight has been lifted from her, and she is now free to be who she really is, rather than hiding behind her bad behavior to protect herself from the world. I am so grateful to Aaron Lederer. I believe that without his methods, my daughter would have continued to go through life unhappy, misunderstood, and unable to enjoy successful and loving relationships.
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