Tag Archives: anger

NVR Training opportunity

Today’s post is from Penny, who has arranged a course on NVR, taking place in Northampton at the end of March…

When I contacted Vicki about publicising the course that I’ve organised on this website, she suggested that I ‘write a guest post about what I’m doing and why’. Timely. The course commences in under three weeks and not enough places have been sold yet to meet the costs of this venture. Some reminding of ‘what I’m doing and why’ might be just what I need!

Before you read anymore – here’s the flyer for the event.

I’m not a business woman, I’m a counsellor/psychologist; my post graduate training has been in Counselling Psychology and in recent years I qualified as a Systemic Practitioner. Since 2010, I have been in private practice in Northampton, with a steady turn-over and a good reputation; most of my new clients come to me via recommendations. I’m doing ok. But cases concerning child-to-adult violence have consistently left me feeling helpless and ineffectual.

Tantruming toddlers, challenging children and rebellious adolescents, on the whole, respond well to ‘naughty-steps’, reward charts and the giving and retraction of privileges. Super Nanny has been clear – set boundaries, ignore bad behaviour and reward the desired behaviour.

But raising children is not always the same as teaching a pigeon to push the right levers (to release a food pellet reward, rather than the electric shock). There is a minority of young people whose experiences have taught them that the adult world cannot be relied upon. As adopters you will know some of these children and the heart-breaking tragedies and the stomach-turning betrayals of trust that they have experienced.

These traumatised and attachment-injured children, understandably, are prone to respond to authority with anger and defiance. Their motivation to avoid being controlled is deeply rooted in an anxiety-based, survival response. Reward and punishment will not work with them, because compliance to authority is experienced as psychological annihilation. They might play along for a bit, perhaps even long enough to get the reward, but they’ll soon feel manipulated and their resentment and anger will grow– and then they will punish person and/or property.

In April 2014, the Department of Education published the research report ‘Beyond the Adoption Order’, which made it clear that an intact adoption placement does not necessarily equate to a happy or stable one. Researchers found that 20-25% of surveyed adopters described their family life as ‘difficult’.

‘Difficult’ was option ‘C’. Option ‘D’ was ‘child no longer lives at home’; I wonder how many of those 20-25% might have selected ‘On the verge of breakdown’, had it been a response option. In my experience, where the placement is ‘difficult,’ families have often resigned themselves to ‘lives of quiet desperation’.

For those who manage to overcome their shame enough to ask for assistance, the Super Nanny-saturated culture is there, ready to point the finger. Parents are typically informed that the situation is of their own making; their boundaries were too vague and not enforced with sufficient vehemence. Too often, the necessary back-up is not there. The report tells of parents,

“…having ‘to do battle’ with professionals to get support which, even if provided, was often time-limited and uncoordinated. Adopters also commented on feeling personally ‘let down’ by their assessing local authority’s failure to keep their promise of being there when needed, or reneging on support packages.”

In the defence of time-crunched, budget-less professionals, if all they are equipped to offer, are more boxes, leavers and pellets (i.e. reward and punishment based parent training courses), their ability to help will remain very limited.

This is not a simple matter of educating the parents. Nor is it possible to take the individual child to a therapist to be ‘fixed’. For children who have been severely psychologically damaged in contexts where the community did not (or could not) protect them, healing will require a community approach. A loving, committed parent or two, in a community that merely throws the responsibility around, won’t stand much chance. Yet we still abandon parents to deal with dangerous behaviours from deeply disturbed adolescents. Some of these parents are my clients.

If we could pan out a bit from adoptive parents, to the general population of parents, we’d see many more of my clients. Not all children escape their traumatising environments – many domestic tyrants manage to keep their behaviour just shy of being prosecutable. Just under the radar. The 2015 Home Office ‘Information guide: adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA)’ began to address the prevalence of adolescent-to-parent violence in the general population. It describes parents living with tyrannical off-spring, experiencing corresponding levels of shame, blame & fear and helpfully explores how various professionals could do much to help.

Both reports recommend Nonviolent Resistance and accordingly, the Adoption Support Fund promotes this approach and pays for adopters to train in NVR (do claim if you’d like to do this course). But both reports are relatively recent and I didn’t do my training in this county. When I booked the trainer and the venue, I had no idea that NVR had yet to land here. Last week I told an adoption social worker from Solihull about the blank responses I get around here when I mention NVR – “you must be living in the dark ages down there!” he commiserated.

Indeed it seems that I greatly underestimated the groundwork that is necessary around here. When I tell people about Nonviolent Resistance, what they seem to hear is ‘Passive Acceptance’. One adoptive parent exclaimed “I am not Ghandi! Are you suggesting that we just stand there and let him punch and kick us?!” (Absolutely not). Perhaps this is why Haim Omer chose to call his next book ‘The New Authority’. There is nothing weak about this approach.

Panning further out and the personal becomes the political. ‘Old Authority’ thinking places power in the hands of those strong enough to apply force. Parents and professionals who are smaller, weaker or less physically able are largely condemned to remain vulnerable. ‘New Authority’ (exercised via NVR) can empower all, because it harnesses the synergy and influence of the collective. Of course this is political – NVR has its roots in political struggle and we enthusiasts find ourselves speaking almost as if we’re part of a social movement! To equip people with a source of strength that is not contingent upon being bigger, stronger and more prepared to use force is radical indeed.

From high ideological strivings, back down to earth with a thud – two weeks left until the training course starts and there are still many spaces to fill; this is the bungee cord that I’ve been attached to of late. And I am back thinking about the individual cases that have inspired this possible rashness on my part. Today their children are primary school age and things are already unbearable; both reports site adolescence as the time when these situations really escalate. In my opinion, NVR thinking can provide them, their supporters and the professionals involved with the necessary strategies to weather the coming storm. That’s why I took this risk and organised this training course. So, that’s ‘what I’m doing and why I’m doing it’. Thank you for prompting me to remember this Vicki. ☺

Penny Ruth Willis

Feeling Different

Today’s post is from John, an adopted adult who shares his views and feelings…

When reading the stories of other adoptees, I often feel that I am odd or unusual. Going for a walkTheir stories talk of a yearning to find out their roots, or of feeling a sense of loss or anger. Yet, I have never had a deep longing to discover my roots nor I have ever felt a sense of loss or anger. I have always just accepted my adoption as a fact of life and feel secure in my identity as my adoptive parents’ son.

I have met my birth mother. She gave me up voluntarily and clearly loved and cared for me. I wanted to let her know that things had turned out well. We do get on and I do see our similarities but, for me, there is not the deep connection others sometimes speak of.

I often wonder what makes my story different from so many others.

I was given up voluntarily by a loving, responsible birth mother who cared for me in the womb and for the first week of my life. I believe that I was given up because of her love for me. I am sure that she would not have given me up had she not felt it was in my best interests. I was also adopted as a month and a half old baby into a well matched, loving home by parents who were utterly devoted to me and who told from me from an early age that I was adopted. I cannot remember not knowing. I also look very like my adoptive parents so I could easily hide that I was adopted if I wished. I did have difficult times in my teenage years but I don’t believe these were any more difficult than any other teenager trying to find their place in the world.

I have been reading the Primal Wound. As an adopted person, I do not particularly recognise myself in it but I do believe what it says is true of other adopters. I see much of what it says in the experience of my sister. She has felt a deep sense of loss and anger which she has had to work through over many years.

Clearly, there is something subtly different in my sister’s experience of adoption and my own experience. We have both enjoyed a similar upbringing and much of what I describe above about myself is true of her yet her emotional response to her adoption is completely different to my own. I have my theories on why this is. From reading the Primal Wound and from considering my own experience and my sister’s experience, I believe that first few days after birth are critical. I was cared for by my birth mother for a week after my birth. She was not.

This is why it is so important to hear from adoptees. Each adoptee has their own, distinctive story of adoption. We need to hear their story to understand why one adoptee has one experience of adoption and another a different experience so that we can use this information to improve the experiences of the adoptees of tomorrow.

We must give adoptees the space to share their story. It will be in this patchwork of adoptee experiences that answers can be found that can help the adoptees of the future.

He’s not *that* strong is he?

Another guest post today from an anonymous mum – sharing her experience of Child to Parent Violence.

We don’t experience the same levels of violence that other families do. And we’re very lucky that now, at 8, it appears to be slowing down and petering out a little…although I know it could return. Peaks and troughs – that’s how we roll.

But when it was at it’s worst, we experienced scary violent moments – the worst, for me, were the black eye (after I held him and got headbutted), the concussion and the threatening with cutlery thing. They stand out, but there are many moments where I have been hit, punched, landed on, kicked, scratched, or had threats of all those things.

After being headbutted, I approached our post adoption social worker and asked for safe holding training.

“We don’t approve of restraining methods” I was told.

Oh. Well I’ll continue to get hurt then shall I?

“Here, have some theraplay/counselling/life story work instead” was the response. It didn’t matter how I worded it, what I said, how I tried to tell them that I’d gotten hurt.

Friends would say:
He’s 5 – how can he hurt you?
He’s 6 – come on, he’s not *that* strong is he?
He’s 7 – can’t you hold him, so he can’t hit you?
He’s 8 – he just needs to work that anger out, have you thought about Karate?

Along with the lack of support from our post adoption support term, those comments made me feel absolutely useless. I questioned myself, wondering whether it was my fault for getting in those situations, maybe I was causing the anger somehow.
Deep down, I knew that this was my son’s way of communicating something really hurtful to me, although we struggled to decipher what that was, but the lack of understanding and support made it difficult to hold that thought in mind, especially when repeated day after day, year after year and when suffering the physical and emotional pain of violence from your child.

These days there is less anger, and we take a step back. Rather than trying to help him calm and regulate with soothing words and reassuring touches, we make sure he’s in a safe space and stay reasonably close by to make sure he doesn’t get hurt.
But I know that we will have to investigate NVR in the future to protect him, and to protect ourselves and I’m not prepared to wait until it’s too late.

And I now know that we are not the only family who experiences this, and I’m not ashamed anymore. We need to speak about this to make sure that those children, and those families that live with this kind of violence don’t feel alone, or judged, or unsupported.

Stop the Blame Game

This anonymous post has been written for our BlogIess Blogging section where people without blogs can write, or people with blogs can post anonymously. If you’d like to write for this section, please do contact us.
PicMonkey Collage

I started Tweeting for me. It was a personal thing. I found a broad group of people involved in adoption – adoptees, adoptive parents, prospective adoptive parents, wider family, kinship carers…all sorts.
This circle of tweeters became an additional support network for me, initially at a time when things were tough at home with my adoptive children.

I tweet a lot. Sometimes snippets of my life. Sometimes links to longer blog posts. Sometimes I retweet things that are interesting, or that I can identify with. And I read lots of tweets, and blogs, from all sorts of people.

What I’ve been surprised at, as an adoptive parent is the attitude of some adoptees and some birth parents towards me personally. I tweet to get things off my chest and to reach out for support. I get an awful lot of support, but I get a fair bit of abuse too. I’ve been called the worst names, things I couldn’t repeat here, really properly vile, evil names. And not just on Twitter, via Facebook groups that weren’t properly moderated, in real life and on my personal blog.

I just want to say – I DIDN’T ADOPT YOU – I adopted the children who are upstairs in their beds right now. And I’m doing my damned best to right the wrongs that happened BEFORE we came to be in each other’s lives. Their birth parents abused them. The institution of adoption may have damaged them. But I DIDN’T. I don’t suggest I saved them, because I didn’t. I’m just prepared to love them and keep them as safe as I can. I have a life semi-planned in my head, I have hopes and dreams, and ideals for them. That doesn’t make me a bad person, it means I care. I don’t deny them their pasts, we share and talk about those pasts, we talk about their birth parents, we’re in safe, managed contact with members of their birth family that want it, but mostly I try to live in the present, in order to give them a future, that may or may not include their birth parents.

And to birth parents – I DIDN’T TAKE YOUR CHILD AWAY. Social Services took your child away. Focus your anger at them if you have to. I am aware that sometimes children are removed when they needn’t be, but I do know the history of my children, and I do know that it was right they were removed. Adoption isn’t always the best thing, but it was the best option at the time for my children. I don’t project my sadness and anger about the behaviour of my children’s birth parents at you (or anyone in fact), please don’t project your anger at me.

Often my life as an adoptive parent seems full of justification. I have had to justify my past to a social worker, I have to justify my parenting skills to other social workers, I have to justify my parenting to other parents, I have to justify the decisions I make on behalf of my children, when they’re older, I’ll have to justify to my children why I took those decisions. But do you know what…all I ever wanted was to be a parent, who are you to judge me? Who are you to question me?

It’s hard enough raising traumatised children without accusations, abuse and judgements. If you have something useful and constructive to say that will help me parent my children, then by all means share it, but aiming your frustrations and anger at me makes my job even harder…it’s a shame because I think we could all teach each other something if we were prepared to listen more and shout at each other less…

What do you think? Could we all learn from each other? Have you experienced problems with people from different sides of adoption? Or have you found it easy to reach different groups of people? Leave your comments here…