“Which of my ages do you want me to act?” My daughter’s RAD age, at any given minute, might be anywhere between four and forty.
Why Don’t You Act Your Age?!
I want to scream that phrase at my daughter at least several times a day. The more I learn about Reactive Attachment Disorder, and other disorders that trouble children from hard places, though, the closer I come to understanding her incomprehensible behaviors. I think that the most appropriate answer my daughter could give to my rhetorical question would be: “Which of my ages do you want me to act?” My daughter’s RAD age, at any given minute, might be anywhere between four and forty.
When my daughter is acting older than her actual age, I tend to forget about her RAD age. Correction: RAD ages.
Do I want her to act forty? Not by a long shot. The situations where she acts forty come from abuse she received before she ever entered the orphanage. That knowledge is understanding that most fathers would prefer their daughters didn’t have until they were married (maybe some of it, not even then). Sometimes she acts like she’s twenty-two, manipulating words and situations like an angry college student at a political protest. I can live without twenty-two for a while, still (and maybe forever). My failure when my daughter acts older than her actual age is that I tend to address her forty-year old behavior as if those actions came from a forty-year old mind. When she’s manipulating words and situations, I’m likely to argue with her like she’s a college aged adult. When my daughter is acting older than her actual age, I tend to forget about her RAD age. Correction: RAD ages.
RAD lies are the most frustrating lies just like RAD age is the most frustrating age, whatever that age happens to be at the moment.
Usually my daughter doesn’t act older than her actual age. She almost always acts younger. Much younger. She can throw a screaming temper tantrum like a two-year-old. She can fight for what she wants (for things as simple as a popsicle or a favorite article of inappropriately worn clothing) with no holds barred, like a three-year old. Just like the three-year-old, she doesn’t know when she no longer has a chance of winning. She will hold out for a win until the death. To the death, I tell you! The trouble is that she isn’t three, anymore. She’s fifteen. I could stop her from taking the showdown clear to the death if she was three. Now I just have to decide that I am not willing to take the fight as far as she is. My daughter can hold to a lie in the face of indisputable evidence like a four-year-old or like the Looney Tunes character “Pooty Tat,” denying his eating of Tweety Bird with feathers hanging out of his mouth. RAD lies are the most frustrating lies just like RAD age is the most frustrating age, whatever that age happens to be at the moment.
If reaching nirvana or finding the Holy Grail feels like I felt at the moment I read that story, sign me up! For the first time I felt like I understood RAD age.
I was always frustrated as therapists told me that I needed to work with my daughter on the mental and psychological level where she was. Yeaaahhhh… That was a moving target. It wasn’t until I read Daniel Hughes’s brilliant book, Building the Bonds of Attachment when the light clicked on with that theory. In the book, a therapist is talking to a social worker about handling a particular child on the mental age level that she was at. Then the therapist told the social worker that if the child was only on a five-year-old level, that she wouldn’t be expected to act older than a five-year-old in that type of a situation. However, the child would be expected to act like a five-year-old who was doing well. If reaching nirvana or finding the Holy Grail feels like I felt at the moment I read that story, sign me up! For the first time I felt like I understood RAD age.
I can get along with people of any age if they’re acting like a good representative of that age. I think that is the secret to RAD age.
I can get along just fine with a forty-year-old who is acting well for a forty-year-old. I’m am great friends with many college aged kids who are in a good psychological place for that age. (In fact, they are some of my favorite people!) My two-year-old grandson is a joy when he’s acting like a two-year-old should act when he’s doing well. (His mother would tell you it’s because we’re on the same level.) I can get along with people of any age if they’re acting like a good representative of that age. I think that is the secret to RAD age. When we try to force our children to act their actual age, they simply aren’t capable. When we listen to the therapists, and let them act like a four-year-old, we see no progress, our homes get unbearable and our sanity is taxed (if not lost).
Fortunately, Daniel Hughes cleared up what it means to work with a child who suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder on their mental or psychological age, rather than their actual age. Whatever RAD age represents the child, they need to be trying to act well for that age. This sets expectations within reach but it also requires effort. This gives our children from hard places hope because they can see that it is possible to live up to our expectations. And then these steps can lead to further progress. Eventually, we’re working with a psychological age of a well-adjusted eight-year-old rather than a three-year-old with terroristic capabilities. Eventually we can get to dealing with someone who acts like a twelve-year-old who is advancing. I know we’re playing catch-up with our child’s RAD age, but hopefully, we can have them acting like a mostly-mature eighteen-year-old by the time that they move on.
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