Helping parents with violent and destructive children
This approach uses ideas and methods of Non-Violent Resistance (NVR) developed by Gandhi, Martin Luther King and others, which have been adapted for use in family and community settings to help parents and carers with parenting.
Is your life as a parent like this?
As parents are you faced with really challenging behaviours such as:
- continual windups that lead to confrontation;
- angry outbursts, especially if the offending child/young person is denied something they have asked for;
- arguments that end in abusive language and sometimes in threat of or actual violence;
- risky and self-destructive acts such as sexual promiscuity, use of drugs and alcohol;
- violence against self (e.g. cutting), others (e.g. bullying) or property;
- school truancy, on-report or exclusion for ‘bad behaviour’, dropping out of school;
Do you notice how some arguments get out of control: your child raises their voice, you raise your voice, your child shouts, you shout, your child shouts louder, you shout louder? The argument can end in violence on both sides. Sometimes a second pattern happens: your child shouts, and after a while you give in and let your child have their way. Your child learns that they get their way if they make a fuss and will repeat this pattern as long they can. When there are two parents one may use the first pattern while the other uses the second one. This makes the situation even worse because it is confusing for the young person.
NVR offers you a completely different pattern which aims to help you stop the child’s destructive behaviour and prevent escalation and violence.
What is the effect on parents?
Usually parents feel quite helpless when confronted by these sorts of behaviour. They often blame themselves, thinking they must be ‘bad parents’, and feel a sense of shame. They wonder what their neighbours, friends and other family members will think and so keep silent about their troubles. This often leads to them being more and more isolated from possible sources of help and feeling very much alone in it. Life can seem like continually walking on eggshells, leading to a growing sense of resentment, increased stress and even depression. Parents often end up not liking and finding it increasingly difficult to love their child.
If any of the parents have experienced physical or emotional abuse in the past, then they are likely to be particularly sensitised to emotional or physical attacks from their child, which makes it even more difficult to cope with their child’s behaviour, as old wounds are ‘opened up’.
Why do children develop disturbing behaviours?
Research shows that for these types of behaviours to develop three necessary, though not sufficient conditions must be present:
- A particular disposition in the child – for example stubbornness, or a diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder);
- Reduced parental presence – when a child has got out of control then you may have lost ‘parental presence’ in your own house. This means that your influence in the house is no longer strong enough to help your children know how to behave. When parental presence is lost, children lose their sense of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. They no longer have you in their mind as a ‘presence’ in their lives;
- An environment where the child can practice control There are many reasons why we parents give in to our children, and some times it’s the right thing to do, but if it becomes a habit the child will see getting it’s way as a ‘right’ and will become intolerant of being thwarted, leading to increasingly difficult behaviour.
Our approach to working with these kinds of difficulties is to see these problems as located in the family interactions rather than simply in the child. We do not seek, nor will we work with a family to ‘fix’ the child. The ‘problem’ is a family problem and the ‘solution’ is a family solution. In practice this means we work mainly with the parents to put into place new ways of relating within the family and community that will impact positively on the child.
What will you learn to put into practice in this programme?
The main principles of NVR are:
- taking a firm stand against violence, risk-taking and anti-social behaviours;
- holding back from physical or verbal violence;
- increasing your positive presence in your child’s life.
In line with these three principles you will learn how to:
- de-escalate conflicts with your child;
- stand your ground with your child;
- take a firm stand against any acts of violence done by yourself or your child or adolescent;
- recruit and utilize a network of supporters who will help you work through these tough situations;
- break the cycle of shame and silence;
- rebuild your presence in your child’s life;
- create and use reconciliation gestures with your child designed to show you love your child and want to rebuild the relationship;
- deal with a situation if your child runs away from home.
These ideas and suggestions are guidelines and will be explained to you in more detail in a face to face consultation with Swift counsellors.
What does Swift’s offer?
Basically, our role is to ground you in the principles of NVR and then to enable you to put the various aspects of the programme into practice through:
- face to face coaching sessions;
- telephone support between sessions if needed;
- any therapy that might be helpful to deal with past trauma in parents’ lives that make interactions with the child more difficult than they need be.
This programme takes a significant degree of commitment from parents and before entering it parents must be aware that:
it is unlikely that you will need to work with a therapist for fewer than six sessions on a weekly or two-weekly basis, at least initially;
you may need to have telephone conversations with a therapist once or twice a week initially;
parents may need to allocate as many as 10 hours a week in interactions with the child, your support network and other family members.
What do you need to do next to take this programme forward?
Please get in touch with us to arrange an initial consultation to discuss the programme in more detail including costs; and remember: an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind
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- Childhood neglect: No longer waking up each morning thinking about past and childhood
- Sexual assault: Red is now just a colour rather than blood
- Family & Couple Therapy
- Individual Counselling