Dear Institute for Attachment and Child Development,
It feels as though my children with reactive attachment disorder deliberately want to crash and burn. When does my rescuing become facilitating or enabling them? I’m tired of being the only one who cares if they succeed. Where/how do I draw the line?
First of all, know that you’re not alone. Parenting children with developmental trauma is extremely frustrating, overwhelming, and lonely. We work with parents everyday in your situation.
It’s not that you shouldn’t care whether your children fail or succeed. Of course you do as a caring parent. Your goal as a parent of children with developmental trauma, however, is to get your kids to care about their success. I know that’s exactly what you want and attempt to do. Yet, that’s the very problem. You can’t do it for them. They won’t care if you do all the caring to get them to succeed. In fact the more you want it, the less they will. You’ll need to give them back their responsibility. That’s not always easy as a parent.
Here at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development, we join with children’s resistance based on the Love and Logic parenting approach. In other words, we allow them to own their choices. We support our kids but do not work harder than them toward their accomplishments. For example, we give them quiet places and ample time to complete their homework. We also allow them to experience the natural consequences should they choose not to take these opportunities, including missed homework assignments and poor grades. In simple terms, this is how we approach most things with our kids. Again, we support them and we don’t work harder than they do.
Of course, many people aren’t accustomed to this philosophy. If you do it well, you’ll probably feel resistance from other adults, including their teachers, grandparents, and even your own friends perhaps. Unfortunately, many people want to rescue children from the gift of natural consequences. Again, you’re not alone here either. Many parents come to us feeling lonely and misunderstood.
You’ll need to create your own team of people, no matter how large or small, to support you and surround your children with opportunities to make and experience their own choices. I recommend that your first step is to find a clinician who truly understands the dynamics of attachment disorder. That person can help your child, as well as you, gain confidence in yourselves. Your children can learn to take responsibility and you can learn to trust in yourself as their parent.
Take good care,