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Using Effective Communication methods to parent your RAD child

Using Effective Communication methods to parent your RAD child

Children diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) are often resistant to expressing their emotions and strive to be independent of others, which is why communication can be especially difficult with a RAD child. Due to their attachment difficulties, establishing effective communication methods with your child becomes even more important because it gives specific guidelines and boundaries to follow so they know what to expect. Predictable communication patterns and expectations of how to communicate appropriately will set your RAD child up for success when they do express themselves.

The following communication methods are basic, applicable, and can be adapted to best meet the needs of your child.

Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact can be uncomfortable, especially during conflict, but it should be the first step in establishing better communication. Eye contact lets the other person know that you are listening to what they are saying and it also helps you listen better when you are focused on looking at them. You also gain greater understanding through observing facial expressions. The use of texting and online communication is a great example of how ineffective communication can be when you are not looking at a person or hearing their tone of voice. It is difficult to tell exactly what a person means beyond the words when using these communication methods and misunderstandings and anger are more frequent. Even the addition of emojis cannot replace the clarity of looking a person in the eye when having an important conversation.


When discussing an important topic remain in close proximity to your child rather than talking loudly across the room or down the stairs. Come down to eye level to equalize your approach. Towering over a child can be intimidating for them. Another helpful tool focuses on the direction you face while talking to your child. Face your child directly when giving them praise so they fully internalize the positive feedback, but sit next to them and talk as if the problem is in front of both of you when giving a consequence or correction. Children accept negative feedback better when they do not feel threatened and can talk about the problem as if it is outside of them.

Calm voice tone and facial expressions

Maintaining a calm tone of voice is probably the most important communication tip if you want to keep the discussion calm and talk effectively with your RAD child. You can still be firm, if necessary, when talking to your child without yelling. When you start to yell, most likely your child will begin to raise their voice as well which can lead to increased anger. Don’t interrupt when your child is stating their point of view. As with yelling, your child will also begin to interrupt and then neither party is listening to each other, which does not lead to positive communication. If interrupting is a weakness for you, try incorporating a talking stick, where only the person holding the stick can talk and when they are finished they pass the stick to the next person who wants to speak. Also avoid rolling your eyes, shaking your head, or other negative facial expressions that might cause your child to refuse to communicate further.

Take time-outs

If you or your child cannot remain calm, then take a time-out. It’s better to resolve the situation at a later time than to say hurtful things to one another. Establish ahead of time a word or sign that can be used when a break is needed to calm down. Once you both acknowledge that you’re calm enough to talk then you can resume the conversation.

Family Meetings

In addition to normal communication throughout the day, establish weekly or daily family meetings as a regular time to talk, give praise, and discuss feedback. The routine of family meetings can help a child with RAD overcome many of their communication difficulties simply because it is expected and they can plan ahead of time what they want to say. Family meetings are also a good time to teach skills to help them improve any behavior, including effective communication.

Effective Communication skill

In addition to the techniques that have already been discussed, Smarter Parenting’s skill of Effective Communication provides a framework to make communicating with your child as effective as possible.


Learn, role-play, and model using the skill first. Then teach your child the skill, breaking it down into pieces if needed. Once you have taught the skill role-play several times to ensure they understand it and will be able to use it during a real situation. The website includes many activities to make the learning fun and to further practice the steps of the skill.

If your child shows the signs of reactive attachment disorder refer to the issue specific lessons on the website for additional tips and skills that can be taught along with Effective Communication.