As Catholic parents, we are eager to raise truly moral kids; that is, children who can do the right thing, not because we are breathing down their necks, but out of a genuine sense of love and responsibility. When we read news stories of kids doing horrible things like the recent shootings in Connecticut, we wonder “what happened?” and struggle to understand how some kids can grow up without a conscience.
The technical name for “kids without a conscious syndrome” is Radical Attachment Disorder (RAD). It is not caused by genetics or biology. It is caused when a child fails to receive the consistent caregiving and ample affection he needs for the moral and social processing centers of his brain to develop. Reading that, most of you will probably think of levels of neglect consistent with that of a Romanian orphanage. While those conditition certainly qualify as veritable RAD factories, RAD can develop under far less insidious circumstances.
A few other bloggers on Patheos have linked the article, I am Adam Lanza’s Therapist. It is a chilling look at how normal, well-intentioned parents are unwittingly raising conscience-less kids in neighborhoods near you. The author writes,This is not about blaming anyone. It’s about understanding the infant’s point of view and our evolutionary design to stay with our mothers through our first years. It’s about how important mothers or primary caregivers are. I have heard mothers say, “I didn’t abandon my child. I went to work to pay for her food.” I so understand. Their intentions were noble, but their infant doesn’t understand. She thinks her mother prefers other places and other people more than her….
My son and daughter-in-law just told me of a couple they met that had an infant. When sharing with this couple their plans for parenthood, a vitriolic debate ensued about the Ricki Lake Show on natural childbirth and how to treat an infant. “Infants don’t think,” the couple said. “They don’t care who is taking care of them,” they insisted. “They aren’t smart enough to care until they are older,” both parents argued. I predict they will have a RAD child. At the beginning of every violent person’s life there is some version of neglect, even if not abandonment.
No parent wants to raise an amoral, violent child. Children and parents both deserve better. Getting this message out–that the biological roots of moral reasoning are nurtured in the soil of strong attachment and extravagant affection–is a job that’s especially close to my and Lisa’s heart. That’s why we wrote Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids (2nd Ed. Updated & Expanded). If you’d like to discover what it takes to raise uncommonly loving, responsible, moral kids, from birth to young adulthood, I hope you’ll take a look.