(RAD) Parenting: Scolding = “Mom Hates Me”

Compliments, support, and encouragement are part of my role as a parent. Those are easy, and usually welcomed by any child. Reprimanding, correcting, enforcing consequences, sticking to rules is not as easy, and in this household it feels like a crime. My conundrum lately has been: what on earth is a parent to do when the latter sends a child spiraling into an abyss of anger, sadness, depression, self-loathing and contempt for his parents? Well, I should say contempt for me, specifically, because even if Daniel does the correcting, Sky decides it’s me he’s upset with. It makes no difference that the scolding happens with the most calm and firm tone. In Sky’s perception he’s flawed, not good enough, we’re pointing it out, therefore we must hate him, and as a result he hates the mother figure more than anything. The extreme reaction takes the attention off what he’s done, and skillfully places it upon those scolding him and what they’re doing to harm him. It’s his way of punishing us for punishing him.

This extreme reaction is not a typical problem most parents of psychologically healthy children deal with, so I’m hesitant to write about it. I have four kids who have handled corrections the usual way, so I know what it should look like. Most parents will not understand where I’m coming from, but I know there are thousands of parents out there with kids who have serious attachment issues, so maybe I should write about this stuff anyway.

This is a daily issue, and it occurs multiple times throughout the day. RADish children (those with reactive attachment disorder) tend to misbehave around the clock, and they make a sport of it. Everything is a game to them, they’re rarely straight with parents about anything, and are always, always, always seeking control. This makes being in the authoritative role of “parent” the most difficult role on the planet. It’s a lose-lose position to have, and the pay is terrible unless you’re willing to do some major inner work on yourself. In that case, it can be an enormous blessing, like winning the lottery. But at the end of the day you still have to bring your strengthened, empowered, healed, and more wise self back home with someone who despises you 80% of the time. That takes a great deal of self-discipline and mental focus– focusing on yourself and the well-being of the entire family far more than the one RAD child, which the child also despises. Have I lost my non-RAD parents yet? I wouldn’t blame you.

This morning’s scenario: I switched on the light to wake up Prasad and Sky for school. Prasad usually gets up first to use the bathroom while Sky lies in bed, whining. This time, Prasad was walking to the bedroom door, and Sky ran, shoved him aside at the top of the stairs, and bolted out the room to be first in the bathroom. It was extremely rude, and Prasad was very upset by it. Sky said nothing. No “excuse me” or “sorry, I have to use the bathroom badly”… nothing. I told Prasad I’d have a talk with his brother, and not to make it a big argument. When Sky came out of the restroom, I took him aside and in a matter-of-fact way pointed out his behavior and how rude it was, and that it hurt his brother’s feelings. Again, no words, he just walked away and went to get dressed. As he walked away, I told him I wanted to hear an apology to his brother this morning.

When Sky came down after getting dressed, he was pouting and sulking. His whole demeanor had changed, and he seemed very depressed. One would guess he felt guilty for treating his brother badly, but when asked what’s wrong it’s always about himself, and me disliking him. He also says often that he’d prefer it “if everyone could be nicer” to him. He feels victimized every time he’s told that he’s done something disrespectful, unkind, or dangerous, regardless of how others are affected. This is a core problem with RADish children- they have little empathy, they think the world is out to get them, and they work so hard at making sure it doesn’t. He has stated that he’d like it if we didn’t point out what he does wrong, and that he’d “be happier and nicer that way with a more open heart.” So, if he has to follow rules and keeps receiving corrections, he’s going to continue being unpleasant? The logic used to make my head spin, but I no longer try getting inside his head. I remain in my own, rational, nurturing & maternal mind, and let him know I love him. If I didn’t love him, I would never correct or scold  him for anything because I wouldn’t care. I remind him in a very matter-of-fact way that all the people in our home have the very same rules to abide by, I speak the same way to all of the kids, and love them all equally. He knows this is true on an intellectual level, but he can’t seem to grasp it emotionally, especially when he’s been corrected.

I guess the difficult aspect for me is the sour taste after every incident. The very real sense that while he’s being corrected, he’s thinking about how much he dislikes me.. feeling it. It becomes so personal. From our past discussions, I know he’s always wishing he were back in Guatemala, and never adopted in those moments of being corrected. It’s the old Grass is Greener on the Other Side Syndrome. Darkness pours from his eyes, yet I keep flooding love back at him through mine. It’s an exchange that often leaves me empty until I fill it up with love for the light that I know lives inside him. I’ve seen and felt it, so I’m well acquainted with it. Being despised, and remaining loving through all that negative energy is the key. That’s the test. It’s why I have a RAD child. It’s difficult, but I’ve learned it can be done. To scold or not to scold? By definition, I don’t mean yelling and criticizing, but loving corrections. Everyone needs those. Love goes beyond warm and fuzzy feelings, or making your kids happy in the moment. I don’t know about my RADish, but I’d feel pretty lost and forgotten if my parents weren’t paying enough attention to how I treated others. This role I have to play is more than tough, but I’m playing it out; I will compliment, support, guide and even scold as long as I truly love my kids. Anything less, and I would understand being despised. For now, I need to work at letting that wounded darkness go. It’s heavy, and I’m sad it’s there, but it’s not mine to carry or heal. With parenting, in the end it’s all about ourselves and our own growth… RAD is one of the greatest fertilizers on the planet.

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7 Comments

Filed under Adoption, Family Happenings, Kids, Living with RAD, Parenting, RAD kids, Thoughts & Insights

7 responses to “(RAD) Parenting: Scolding = “Mom Hates Me”

  1. Hang in there! Consistency, consistency, consistency is the ultimate key. I hate to have to say this, but your RADish may not actually be as emotionally fraught every time he gets scolded as he appears. He may just have learned what response you are most affected by and he uses that to control the situation and control you and make you feel badly. Our daughter is a master manipulator and can turn on and off tears, yelling, and rudeness at a snap of the fingers. It all depends on how she reads the situation and what tactic she thinks she can get the most leverage with. Lately she’s taken to whacking her older brother (hitting him) whenever she gets angry at anything – or even sometimes when she’s bored! When we call her on this, tell her that hitting is unacceptable and that when she’s upset she can’t just punch, she totally freaks out – major tantruming – even when we’re all being calm. A lot of times it’s just as act that turns off when we walk away – and turns back on if she thinks it will help her. We went through this with our son and all I can repeat is CONSISTENCY! Our son recently told us, “You know, I’ve decided to do good in life now. All those times you lectured me about making an effort and actions having consequences, I just ignored you. Until one time I listened.” Keep doing what you’re doing. One day it may sink in that no matter how terrible he is, you’re always going to be there. No matter how terrible he acts, you’re always going to consistently deal with it – you’re not going to throw your hands in the air and give up on him or start ignoring his behavior. YOU CAN DO THIS!!! best wishes

    • Thank you for sharing. I have often believed it’s an act, especially when he has repeatedly said “Mom hates me” right after being called out on something terrible. It’s been a great way to switch the focus off what he’s done, and I can see how it has worked. His therapist & case manager pointed out yesterday that he’s a master at getting them off the subject when he’s uncomfortable. He like to direct where everything goes in a conversation, and it can never be about anything he’s done wrong, nor can he own it easily. They said he has to be prodded and pretty much forced. He uses anger, tears, self-pity, everything to get out of owning up. Anyway, it helps to have other parents point out that he’s probably just manipulating the situation (which he’s doing almost 100% of the time) because if I say it to most parents they think I’m being way too hard on my kid. Unless you have a child with these very same issues, you cannot possibly get it. Makes for some very isolated parenting at times.

  2. Fortunately most parents don’t have children like we all do! You are in a different situation from most, but you’re not in a unique situation at all. There are a lot of us dealing with similar problems! We’ve never had success with our daughter in therapy. Our son is relatively in touch with his emotions, fears, and thoughts, but our daughter completely resists any attempt to even acknowledge those parts of herself. It’s as if inside of her is this huge aching hole that is scary for even her to look at, and yet it’s what drives her outbursts, neediness, and antisocial behavior. She has known great pain and as a result is going to put everyone else around her in as great of pain as she can manage to inflict. As my husband often says, most people have no idea how cunning and manipulative children can be when they’ve adopted those skills as fundamental coping mechanisms. Remember: consistency! No member of your family can be allowed to hurt others, to wantonly disregard them, or to control every aspect of your lives. Love him, reassure him, but consistent consequences until you’re blue in the face. Hang in there.

  3. One more thing. Sometimes you can take the sting out of these situations by directly, playfully, acknowledging them. When he says, “I hate you” you could respond with “Well, that’s okay, but I still love you.” I did this once to great effect with our son who got increasingly frustrated as he tried to make me hurt with all his might. I was in a calm place that day and could take it and respond calmly and lovingly. He said, “well, would you still love me if I destroyed ___”. “Yep, I’d be sad that ___ was gone, but I’d still love you.” Finally he went all the way to “What if I killed you?” and I said, “well, I’d be dead, but I’d still love you.” He really didn’t have anything else to say at that point and he never went that far with it again.

    Alternatively, when he says “I hate you!” you can respond “Thanks! I know that’s your way of showing how much you care about me. Right now I’m scolding you and that makes you feel unhappy with yourself. You must care about me an awful lot to get so upset when I scold you.”

    With both of these, you’ve got to be in a calm place to make it work. It’s surprising how calm I can be at the time that the horrible things are being said to me – and how much I can hurt later.

    It does get better, at least it has for us.

  4. Thanks so much for this. I’m so happy to hear your son is doing so much better! Such great and hopeful news.
    The problem with Sky is when he’s feeling hateful, he doesn’t say it, which leaves little room for discussing it. I can feel it, and I see it in his eyes. I’ve said “I know you don’t like me very much right now, but I still love you, and as your mom I have to scold you.” It feels like a gerbil wheel, I’ve said it so many times. I guess I just keep saying it until he believes it.
    And you’re right. We can be extremely calm in those moments, but it can hurt a great deal later on. That’s just showing us where we still need to work on ourselves… the pain is usually rooted in something older than the relationship we have with our children. When that’s acknowledged and starts healing, our kids have far less power to hurt us, and we become more competent. Thanks again for all your thoughts and being so open. It helps. Continued blessings to you and your family.

  5. Patti Dickinson

    Sometimes what works is “I’m sorry that you feel that way…” spoken compassionately when you are told that he hates you. Takes his power away. He won’t know what to do with being “dismissed”. It means that you are not taking those words seriously and that you won’t get into lawyer-ese when he makes his case of all the dozens examples of how you hated him and when. You denying, trying to change his mind just increases the engagement that he wants. Those words are manipulative, not genuine. Instead, say, “Hey, when you’re feeling a little different about things, let’s play Clue.” That puts it on him to get himself out of his self-created funk and frees you to go on about your day. Boy, who said this parenting gig was easy, eh?

  6. Easy?? I wish. But then anything easy wouldn’t be as enriching or worth it, would it?
    Sky rarely says the words “you hate me.” Instead he goes around thinking it, using hateful glares, comments and insinuations. Because of that, I don’t usually talk about it at all. It’s just felt and experienced on another level, but in therapy he has admitted to feeling this way most of the time, which confirmed what I was sensing all along. Anyway, I’m usually quite calm when he says anything like it, and in reality he’s projecting his own hatred for me and himself at those moments. It’s all a bunch of dark goo, and I have to shake it off daily. It’s like tar, so it doesn’t come off easily! He’s given me so many skills and personal insights I never would have received otherwise… growth is never easy, but it’s what parenting is really all about.

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