The psych industry standard rationale about RAD says that since a fundamental problem of the alienated child is lack of attachment, a primary component of the solution is attachment. It requires persuading him to trust others. This solution seems logical; it makes a strong appeal to human reason.
So why have I, so far in this series, placed emphasis on trust in God and not parents? It is because of God’s emphasis. He told His people, “Stop regarding man, whose breath is in his nostrils” (Is. 2:22), i.e. who is merely mortal. He even warns, “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted” (Prov. 29:25). As I wrote in my book Parenting the Difficult Child,
While the alienated child takes distrust to an idolatrous extreme,…[it] is true that not one person in the world is worthy of his total trust. (Neither is he himself.) Everyone fails sometime. God is the only being who is perfectly faithful, never fails, and is worthy of total trust. The only hope for an eternal solution and abundant life on earth is to turn from trust in self to trust in Christ. The good news is that because obedience and trust are choices of the heart by the Holy Spirit’s power, no abuse or broken bonding cycle or brain problem can prevent trust in and obedience to God.
Does this mean that placing some trust in parents in wrong? On the contrary, limited trust in some people for some things is right and good. Mutual trust between child and parents is extremely rewarding. It disperses a delightful aroma of welcoming intimacy through the family. It is also beneficial for the child in that it quiets anxiety and eases obedience and the acceptance of correction.
So here are a few considerations for shaping biblical expectations regarding trust in distrustful children:
- A rebellious child already has misplaced trust to a human–himself. How is shifting to a trust in another human qualitatively different?
- Trust in God is the superior option. Man is mortal; “do not trust in princes” (Ps. 146:3), not even in the most powerful people in the land.
- Trust in people must be limited; trust in God and His Word must be total (Jer. 17:5-8).
- Trust in parents is important, just not most important. If I make it primary, I distract the child from what is most important.
- What parents need to pursue is being trustworthy, not to gain the child’s trust but because it is right (Luke 12:41-48).
- Parents cannot coerce the child to trust them. So if they focus on their own obedience in parenting and leave the child’s choice in God’s hands, then whether the child trusts them will not be a point of contention or discouragement.
- God does not command children to trust parents; He commands them to honor and obey parents (Eph. 6:1-4). So if parents teach the same, they will be in obedience to God whether the child ever trusts them.
- It is a great privilege to love the Lord by directing another person to go to Him with their needs for provisions, for safety in seemingly out-of-control situations, for daily forgiveness, and for happiness.
Do you get upset (either anxious or frustrated) that your child implacably resists trusting you or anyone else? Focus on fulfilling your responsibilities while you yourself practice trusting God with your child’s heart.