New Member
I have a 7 year old son who is very defiant and aggressive with me. He has been diagnosed with ADHD and is on Adderall. I have tried a lot of different counseling and am now seeing an attachment counselor. She thinks he has insecure attachment but not Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

The attachment approach is a lot different than other approaches I've tried. I'm wondering if other people have tried this approach and if it has worked for them? This approach doesn't believe consequences are really effective, they just make the child worse and seek revenge. That is the part I struggle with, not holding him accountable for his behavior in some way. However, I tried consequences but it didn't work but I wasn't totally consistent either.

Also, his dad who has him about 2 days a week totally believes in consequences and is not behind the attachment approach at all. difficult child does not act out with him so his dad thinks that is proof that his way is the right way. Is he right or does difficult child just save it up for me and keep it together when he's with his dad? I think he's scared of his dad and doesn't feel safe enough to act out with him.

Thanks for any thoughts you have about this!


Well-Known Member
Forget about Dad for now. I assume you have primary custody (or hope you do). I agree with you that he feels safe with you so he acts out and is probably afraid of Dad, especially if Dad believes in corporal punishment, humiliation or overly harsh punishments. Is there a stepmother living with him? Is she ok, if so?

What kind of professional diagnosed your son? Why does he feel he has insecure attachment? What are his behaviors? Does he lack empathy? Is he mean to animals (if so, it's time to rehome the dog!!). Does he like or play with fire? Does he pee or poop in inappropriate places? Deliberately hurt people or break things? Lie even when it makes no sense to lie? Steal? Did he have chaotic early years. Was he exposed to dangerous people in maybe his dad's house? Now a hard question...did you drink while pregnant? Have you sought out attachment counseling? It is way different than any other type, but you need to be sure his problems are with attachment. It's pretty easy to spot attachment disordered kids.

1/They do not have autistic spectrum disorder

2/They had very crazy early lives

3/They are extremely angry and also do not trust anyone but themselves thus they care little about others and display extremely out-of-the-norm behavior. Hurting animals (why is dog scared of him?), smearing poop on walls, playing with knives, cutting up toys, backtalking, cussing, hitting you, trying to hurt classmates, being sexual at a young age...all of these things and more are part of attachment problems. NO EMPATHY is the biggest clue. Not just acting like they have no empathy, like some autistic kids do, as THEy can not express it, but actually not having any...thus maybe finding it amusing to squeeze a hamster to death.

There is a spectrum for attachment disorders...mild to severe. And only recently do SOME professionals even know much about attachment disorder and how to spot it and treat it. It is more likely to end up being called Conduct Disorder.

I hope you feel safe enough to share more and hope we can help. I lived with a severely Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) child so I saw the worst of it. I also did a lot of research into attachment because of that child. I'm no professional, but I probably know more about it than most laypeople.

It's nice to "meet" you. Don't let Dad try to hang this on you. If he starts up on you, it is ok for you to say, "This conversation is over" and to leave. If he is not trying to help the situation and is abusing you verbally, there is no reason on earth for you to listen to anything he has to say. If he becomes cooperative and non-blaming and actually wants to help your son, well, that's different. Until then I think I'd be saying "This conversation is over" and leaving or hanging up a lot. Nobody has the right to verbally about you...not Mom, not Sis, not Neighbor, not Kissing Cousin and definitely not clueless ex. Be strong and refuse to listen to any abuse. Learn this earlier than I did!!!!

So sorry for your hurting mommy heart.


Well-Known Member
I'm not quite sure what kind of attachment disorders and treatment you are talking about. There are two quite different kinds to my knowledge.

Other is how DSM and ICD and medical community talk about it. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a disorder that kid can develop if early life is very adverse. It's not usually diagnosed after age 5 or 6 or so, because the normal development hides the diagnostic criteria. (Basically, not bonding with anyone or not having preferred caregiver.) It is usually treated with very sensitive and emphatic parenting. And according to studies, if kids get to stable and loving environments, they recover from it very well. Many use attachment parenting (Sears type) to treat it. In attachment theory there are also less dire attachment issues described as different attachment patterns such as secure, insecure and disorganized. I did attachment parenting with my boys, especially my easy child when they were young and I also have a dear friend who adopted institutionalised pre-school/kindergarten aged siblings from Russia, whom were diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). They were advised to use very emphatic and 'soft' child rearing methods and kids recovered very well. They had also some other issues (other has quite clear Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)-issues for example) and some rather bad behavioural challenges, but now as teens they are doing really well.

Then there is this other definition of attachment disorder that isn't really supported by medical community and they diagnose Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) very differently. Their list of symptoms is a mile long and has about every possible bad behaviour child can have. And sometimes lack of. Some also use very controversial treatment methods that have led to deaths and horrible abuse of many children. With these types of treatments (holding therapy, very punitive parenting etc.) you have to be very careful. It is very easy to engage in battle of wills with the child and become very insensitive and start to see everything they do as manipulation, deliberate etc.

However, which ever it is, if you have tried consistent consequences and they are not working, I do agree it is time to try something else. My kids didn't have attachment issues, but both, especially difficult child but also easy child, learned best through of course modelling but also positive reinforcement. I used lots of ideas of latest science when it comes to training animals. I didn't use clicker, but I got lots of ideas from operant conditioning and how you use positive reinforcement in animals. Reward charts tended to be little too long term and demanding for my difficult child, but buying their weekly candy week before the day they got it and adding them piece by piece to glass jar for a reward for wanted behaviour worked well. I also tried intermittent reinforcement and that too seemed to work (unfortunately I too used it more often accidentally to reinforce unwanted behaviours, like usually happens with kids), but that of course can be little difficult do in practise with kids (well, to do in purpose to reinforce wanted behaviour tends to be difficult, it is extremely easy, almost inevitable to do so accidentally and reinforce negative behaviour.).
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New Member
Whoa! How did we turn difficult child's into some clueless, humiliating, verbally abusing ex? I don't know your life, or your situation. So I'm not going to make assumptions about who is right or wrong. No one here should.

My unobjective opinion is if something is work for difficult child's dad and his son is behaving then he shouldn't have to change. If it's not broke don't fix it. Besides you can't change anyone but yourself and how you handle a situation. difficult child's dad seems to have something that works for him, you need to focus on what works for you when difficult child is with you.

My difficult child niece is completely disrespects her mother, throws fits and is rebellious. But when she's with her father she's on good behavior, same as when she comes over to my house once a week. The reason was we've both establish with her what was acceptable behavior and what was not. And part of it is because we've removed her from her natural environment. That could also be a big factor, he's at home with you and comfortable.

And it's good to explore what works.

However, I tried consequences but it didn't work but I wasn't totally consistent either.

How can you say something isn't working when you didn't really stick to the program? Kids need boundaries. They need to know when they do something good with lots of encouragement and praise and when they step out of line, you need to be there to firmly scoot them into line. If you aren't consistent then you're sending him mixed signals. He's going to keep acting up because you've taught him that sometimes he can get away with it. So why should he change? I believe in consequences. Everyone should be held accountable for their actions.

Negative behavior should have a price. = Time outs, no Tv time, standing in a corner, no video games, early bed time...whatever it works. But most importantly...good behavior gets rewards!!! Stay up a little later, maybe a sweet treat, gets to watch his favorite movie, or go out for pizza.

Be consistent, set rules and stick to your guns! You can do it, it will be hard at first for both of you. But it will pay off in the end.