Having worked with thousands of children over the past 45 years, I have espoused and practiced many child psychology theories when diagnosing and treating children. Most of the theories worked, but those theories worked only some of the time. In this article, I will refer to my own experiences as the sole source of my research, and present this study as proof positive of my ultimate conclusion.
Logically speaking, the mind, will and emotions of a child are still a mystery; we can predict and change some behaviors using various techniques and treatments. I have had some successes over the decades, but my failure rate is something I personally have struggled with.
Question: Why does one theory and technique work with one child, and doesn’t work with another child who is in a very similar situation and environment?
Let me provide an example as we answer that question: I was working with one child who suffered from a severe case of R.A.D. (Reactive Attachment Disorder is a rare but serious condition in which infants and young children don't establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers, caused by neglect, abuse or being orphaned and is a lifelong condition). I worked with this child for over ten years, from the time she was seven-years-old until she was almost eighteen-years-old. No matter what technique I tried or drug I recommended, nothing worked. Her coldness toward her loving adoptive parents astounded me. Finally, and not surprisingly, when the child turned eighteen, she broke her adoptive parents' hearts and moved away. In this case, when the child turned twenty-three-years old, her adoptive parents reached out to her, and they reunited at a church gathering. Since then they have bonded and become closer than they ever were.
Conclusion: From what I observed in this case, the only thing different from the ten years I was seeing her was that the child finally became serious about attending church and developing a relationship with 'God' and her adoptive parents.
Let me provide a second example: This child was abandoned by his mother when he was about two-years-old. His father did the best he could to raise the child; ultimately the child’s grandmother was there during the daily routines of the child's life. The father brought the child to me when the child turned six-years-old. The child was acting out in school, being disruptive, disobedient and dishonorable. (I have labeled this the '3D' Syndrome). I worked with the child for seven years; and—similar to the 'RAD' case example, cited above—no matter what technique I tried or drug I recommended, nothing worked. One day, the father excitedly brought the child to my office for a routine session. I asked him what happened; he replied that his child had changed after being in church the previous evening, responding to the 'altar call', and 'repenting'. I did not want to quench this positive development, but at-the-same-time, I did not believe it was possible. '3D' takes years of therapy and work to overcome.
Conclusion: After meeting with the child over the period of six months, I was convinced something changed in him. He was a completely different boy; his father claimed he was 'born again'; and I started to wonder.
Let me provide a third example: This child’s parents were divorced when he was eight-years-old. Immediately, the child was filled with anger, bitterness and resentment; he blamed himself for the problems his parents were having. The father left town and never looked back; the mother brought the child to my office about a month after the divorce, on a referral from the 'RAD' child's adoptive parents. In this case, some of the therapies I utilized actually worked; we were able to get the child to face the fact that his parents divorcing was not his fault; and he was not to be blamed. But, the bitterness and resentment in him exacerbated into seething hatred. He wasn’t angry then; just simply filled with hate. But something changed in this boy, too. It was around Easter time; the church he and his mother attended were practicing for the 'passion play' they would be holding at their church. He broke down and cried, apparently realizing the great love Jesus had for him, and asked for forgiveness.
The divorced mother invited me to see the real play, and I repented.
Ultimate Conclusion: Exposing children to Jesus is essential to healing their mind, will and emotions.
I am now a Christian Child Psychologist.
Abigail A. Theos, Ph.D., Psy.D., M.S.W.
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