Parenting the Difficult Child

9780985043031-web-smA Biblical Perspective                                                                          on Reactive Attachment Disorder

Is your child defiant, often angry, frequently lying, inordinately affectionate to strangers, lacking in remorse, and seemingly unable to trust anyone?

Behaviors and attitudes like these can lead to a diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Adopted children are especially prone. Their behaviors challenge the whole family.

Using many specific examples, this book explains how parents can apply the clear, practical solutions of Scripture to correct the habituated heart motivations, thoughts, and actions of an alienated, angry child. It offers encouragement and guidance for parents and siblings who themselves struggle with difficult or sinful emotions.

This book brings hope to parents and siblings of children who are caught in difficult behaviors.

  • Biblical answers to parenting a child labeled RAD
  • A biblical understanding of your child’s behaviors
  • What the Bible says about an inability to trust and lack of a conscience
  • How you can help the siblings of your child labeled RAD
  • How to structure your home
  • What your child needs to know
  • How to handle manipulation
  • Some principles to guide your evaluation of attachment therapies
  • How attachment theory contrasts with biblical thinking
  • And much more

TOC – Parenting the Difficult Child

 300 pages | Charts | Scripture references | Practical Application Ideas


Purchase on Amazon (can order from Amazon even if listed as “out of stock”)

Purchase on Barnes and Noble

Bookstores: For bulk purchases please consult the list of distributors here.


What Led to the Writing of Parenting the Difficult Child

Thanks be to the Lord that although we don’t see the road ahead, He is good and trustworthy to graciously work His character into us through the mountains and valleys of our travels through life. When we adopted two precious children between the ages of two and six years from outside the U.S.A., we knew that we were taking a risk and did not expect it to be easy. The risk proved out. They displayed behaviors that, to us, were inexplicable and extreme beyond what we had ever encountered or imagined. We originally thought that if we just loved them enough, including a well-ordered lifestyle and appropriate discipline in addition to generous doses of affection, eventually they would accept us. We were headed for disappointment.

In researching for answers, the only explanations we could find were those that pointed to what was, at the time, called Attachment Disorder. For diagnosis, the DSM-IV describes it as a disorder involving disturbed social relatedness that begins prior to age five and is associated with maltreatment in infancy. The theory is that when the child’s needs are not met, he grows angry and even stuck in rage. He fails to attach to a primary caregiver. Due to lack of attachment, the child cannot (or will not) trust or attach to others. Therefore, lack of attachment underlies the alienated, antisocial behaviors and prevents the child from developing a conscience. The solution is for the child to achieve attachment to at least one caregiver. If he does not, then he will never trust and never be able to have a positive, loving relationship with anyone. It is common for attachment theorists to weave theories on brain development and neuronal disorganization into the explanation. To us, attachment theory was appealingly logical, seemed to fit our child, and “everybody” believed it.

As time went on, though, the psychological explanation did not adequately explain what I observed. For example, when sweetness and sullenness can be turned on and off like a switch when entering and exiting the church, it is obvious that those attitudes and behaviors are choices, not a psychological “disorder” nor a “mental illness.” When revenge is being audibly planned, a person is not helpless to some disorder. In addition, the Bible was contradicting the theories. For example, if the Bible says, “Do not steal,” then theft is a choice, not merely a symptom of a psychological disorder. We grew persuaded that the Bible must hold the true explanation and solution.

Eventually, the day came when I learned about something called “biblical counseling” and had the opportunity to study it at The Master’s College. Understanding my child was not on my list of reasons for further education. I was fine with leaving that aspect of life behind. Nevertheless, as course work progressed, I couldn’t ignore the growing number of “Aha!” moments when increased understanding of biblical truths also made sense of our child. Theology pieced together a much more accurate view than did the psychologies.

I decided to write my thesis on a biblical perspective of RAD for two primary reasons. One, I wanted to clarify my understanding of how biblical principles apply to it. I especially still had questions about the reports of behavioral and brain research. Two, I wanted a biblical view made available to other parents, some of whom might be experiencing difficulties similar to what we did and be searching for answers.

As I researched for the thesis, I discovered only one biblical resource. In an age of Google and Wikipedia, only one! Even the big-name Christian psychologists propound attachment theories.

Also, I noted that no book offers help for the siblings. The RAD books all focus on the alienated child. What can a parent do to help children who live in close quarters with a brother or sister who incessantly attempts to manipulate, betray, bully, terrorize, endanger, or even plan their demise?

Parenting the Difficult Child begins with a composite case study to which it returns periodically to illustrate principles. It describes and explains RAD behaviors through the grid of a biblical worldview to build understanding of children and counter false teachings, such as claims about emotional needs, and that some children are unable to trust, lack a conscience, and are unable to show remorse. We need to know God’s truth before we are able to understand our children and apply His solutions to them.

The second section of the book offers practical applications for parents to apply to themselves, the difficult child, and the siblings. This includes direction on rightly handling fear, anger, and other emotions. It instructs on structuring the home, what to teach the children, discipline, handling manipulation, and handling one’s own temptations. Practical ideas for implementation are listed where appropriate.

The last section explains the dominant attachment theories that parents are likely to hear in adoptive or RAD circles, exposing their historical and philosophical foundations. It brings Scripture to bear upon those theories and upon behavioral and genetic research presumptions, processes, and conclusions. With this knowledge, parents can more wisely assess proposed therapies as well as theories.

I absolutely believe that God’s Word is the authority on RAD. It doesn’t just hold counsel, it is the relevant, accurate, perceptive, comprehensive, clear, explanatory, solution-oriented, authoritative, and sufficient counsel on RAD. It deals with the roots of the issues. I also absolutely believe that although God does not give us guarantees about the choices of our children, He can transform parents and children through the power of His Word and the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to the Lord for His abundant grace.

Parenting the Difficult Child is intended to provide a useful handbook for applying God’s Word to ourselves as parents, to angry, alienated children, and to siblings of a difficult child. The goal is that every family member would be aided in seeking God’s glory and living in a God-pleasing manner. I hope and pray that it will be so for you.

13 Responses to Parenting the Difficult Child

  1. Jenny says:

    Thank you for your being a voice I needed to hear!! We have been on a journey with our little five year old foster to adopt child for a year now–a hard journey–wondering about her behavior at first, knowing something was not right for a number of months, but not sure what, then suspecting RAD at about 4 months, then a few more months later, we took her to an attachment therapist who diagnosed her with RAD. It was nice to know what was wrong, but what to do about it has put me on my knees like nothing else. We are making progress by God’s grace. The various opinions on how to deal with this RAD, the pervasive psychological perspective, and worldly therapies have caused a struggle within me between these worldly techniques and my Christian worldview. Your blog has captured my heart! It has given words to how I have been feeling for some time. I have been so concerned with being “attachable”—yet, I felt deep down this does not seem right. I am to please God and God alone. Yet, clarity on the situation evaded me. Then God brought up your book when I did a google search for “biblical reactive attachment disorder”. THANK YOU for serving our Lord in sharing what He has taught you. I am anxious to get your book. I ordered it and read your entire blog as well yesterday. I am praising God for your service to Him. God Bless, Jenny

    • Linda says:

      Thank you for your kind note. I honor your compassion and dedication in taking on the rearing of this child. May the Lord be your rest and grant you His abundant compassion and wisdom as you follow His faithful Word.

  2. Shannon says:

    Thank you for writing this book!!! After going to our pastor with so many bizarre behaviors he searched for a book to help him understand us helpless parents. He found this book and after reading it and finding it so biblically sound (which is rare) he got us a copy right away. I have absolutely eaten it up! I am tabbing and highlighting it as a guide to renew my mind daily in God’s word as I run into so many obstacles while parenting! We have recommended this book to everyone who has also fostered or adopted and grandma is reading it too to understand her grandchildren! Thank you SO much!

  3. angela Ford says:

    I can so relate to your journey of trying to understand our children…. I cannot say my children are RAD. There was a time I considered it.. but there is so much more to it. I have struggled to know how to reconcile Biblical teaching with what we are being taught online, etc… in how to handle behavior in our adopted children. So looking forward to reading your book.

  4. Linda says:

    When it comes to reconciling biblical truths with the philosophies espoused online or in other venues, you can rest on the absolute reliability of the Bible. In Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is the truth and His Word is truth. (Col. 3; John 14:6; 17:17)
    While psychology makes some helpful observations about behaviors, categories are manmade. Whether or not we determine that a particular label fits our children’s behaviors is not all that important for thinking biblically about them. Take each behavior or known thought of your child to the Bible to understand it and find how to respond.
    My book addresses many behaviors, not just RAD. Check out the resources in the back of the book. They’re outstanding.
    God’s Word speaks to every moral behavior no matter the variations through history because it addresses the foundational principles of every moral behavioral category. God’s Word, rightly understood and effectively applied, will never let you down. It always leads to truth. Rest your full weight upon it with confidence.

  5. Sue says:

    What would be your response in dealing with adults with RAD, who have managed to survive but maybe still experiencing the deficits and who feel hopeless. The biblical principles would, of course, be unchanged, but dealing with sins in a child and teaching them right from wrong would look different when working with an adult, wouldn’t it? Have you addressed or explored this in any way? I would love to know more. This could be important and I believe this whole concept is. Thank you for this.

    • Linda says:

      Thank you for writing. You pose an excellent question. The answers might be of great encouragement to people who truly want to change but struggle with the intoxicating worldview and behaviors that psychology calls RAD.

      This is a brief answer. The nuts and bolts would require much more discussion.

      I believe there is reason for tremendous hope. Look at the apostle Paul. He was transformed from a hardhearted murderer to a self-sacrificing servant of the Lord and lover of people.

      You are right that principles are principles. “Consider others more important than self” is as true for an adult as for a child. The application of those principles varies with every person according the particular circumstances in which they are living.

      One necessity is regeneration. Without a regenerate heart, it is impossible for the person to have the right desires, to have forgiveness, peace with God, or the indwelling Holy Spirit to enable biblical change. But with salvation, the old desires, beliefs, and priorities pass away (1 Cor. 5:17). Now in Christ, the forgiven person has new, God-given desires, priorities, and beliefs. Sin is still present and tempts to old ways, but in Christ he is free to obey God. The Holy Spirit indwells and gives the power to obey.

      A second necessity would be a commitment to obey God’s Word no matter the cost. Turning from old habits is hard work and offends our pride. Particular to the RAD-type person, he would have to turn from habitual lying, excuse-making, and manipulations of others. He would have to put off old assumptions by which he has been living and viewing others, and adopt a biblical worldview. It would likely require rethinking topic by topic, but would reap wonderful changes.

      One advantage for an adult would be his ability to think. Children are simple-minded, more easily deceived (Eph. 4:14). Adults reason more capably than children (1 Cor. 13:11). They have mature brains. A greater number of experiences, along with the ability to remember and look back and reevaluate, provide a broader reference for judging the facts of a situation. It is true that choosing to remain foolish keeps a person relatively naive about evil even into adulthood, but if he turns and chooses the fear of the Lord, he will receive instruction and grow wise (Prov. 1:4; 21:11).

      One possible disadvantage for an adult might be habituation. He has practiced unbiblical habits longer than a child would and they may have grown more automatic and entrenched. But God… Those are two of the most wonderful words in the Bible, and you can find them in the next passage. Paul wrote the following to Titus and I think it is fitting:

      “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Tit. 3:3-7)

      God’s grace be yours,

  6. pastorrayjr says:

    I am a bookstore. Could you tell me how to purchase several copies of your Difficult Child book for resell?

    • Linda says:

      Dear Sir,
      Thank you for your request. I have added a drop-down page from Parenting the Difficult Child. Find it here. On it is a list of distribution channels for bookstores where they may buy in bulk. If you have any other questions, please contact me at

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  9. impressingminds says:

    Do you have a Facebook page or course to take? I have a blog I’m starting and have had a child with RAD. I just started your book and enjoy your perspective! I’d love to use it as I post on RAD and foster care!?!?

    • Linda says:

      Hi Kristen. Yes, I have a Facebook page ( but posts there are rare. While I have lectured on RAD in workshops at conferences, I do not have a course to take. My book is out in the public sector so you are welcome to quote it as long as you attach proper citation and do not quote so much that you violate copyright law.
      May the Lord Jesus shape the heart of your beloved child and make you effective in encouraging others.

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