Tag Archives: Non violent resistance

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

Resources for Child to Parent Violence, #CPV

We have collated a resource list, which may be helpful in relation to child to parent to violence. Whilst we believe the content to be of use, we suggest that individuals carry out their own research to ensure it will be of use to them.

Websites, Web Pages and Helplines

Young Minds – Information on dealing with a violent and angry child and advice on looking after yourself. If you are struggling and need to talk to someone, you can call their Parent helpline 0808 802 5544

Adoption UK Helpline 0844 848 7900

Family Lives – A charity promoting positive family experiences. They have some content on dealing with arguments and violence. Helpline

Holes in the Wall – A site run by social worker Helen Bonnick which aims to raise awareness and campaign for greater support for those affected by child on parent violence. there is a comprehensive Directory of Services and a good Reading List.

Rosalie Ryrie Foundation – Offers support for domestic abuse victims.

Parent Partnership Projects – pages giving guidance and details about NVR.

Information Guide : Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (APVA) – Government document including guidelines for how practitioners should respond to reports of APVA/CPV

Beyond the Adoption Order – government document detailing the research of Julie Selwyn into adoption disruption.

Community Care Article from Peter Jakob on NVR

Jane Evans – is a trauma parenting specialist offering a range of services and informative blog posts.

NVR School – for information

Training Courses and Conferences

AdoptionUK Conference, Cardiff – None Violent resistance. Managing aggression in children and young people.

PAC – Workshops for parents and carers including one day NVR training.

Parent Partnership Project – NVR certificate course.

Books and Television Programmes

Non – Violent Resistance: A New Approach to violent and self-destructive children by Haim Omer and Shoshana London Sappir

A Non-Violent Resistance Approach with Children by by Avraham-Krehwinkel and David Aldridg

Parenting a Violent Child by Islay Downey and Kim Furnish

Happy Families  by  Carmelite Avraham-Krehwinkel

My Violent Child – Channel 5

Born Naughty – Channel 4

For Peer Suuport

The Open Nest – forward thinking adoption support charity.

The Potato Group – parents of traumatised adopted teens organisation

Using Non Violent Resistance (NVR) as a strategy for coping with CPV

Today we have a guest post from an anonymous mum speaking about her experience of Child to Parent Violence and the course she attended on NVR…

I know that Child to Parent Violence happens in other families. And it is a strange sort of relief to be aware that we are not the only ones. Though I could never wish this situation on anybody else.

I do not know exactly how it feels for other parents, however, I can only speak to my own experience. Our boys had a difficult start in life and witnessed some very unpleasant events. We were not particularly surprised when they were aggressive. Nor was anyone else. People (both ‘experts’ and friends) who heard about the boys’ violent outbursts vacillated between some phrasing of ‘surely it’s not that bad’ and ‘what did you expect?

Well, sometimes, especially as the boys grew older and were able to throw me against a wall, it did seem pretty bad. And, somehow, knowing that there is a sort of explanation for their behaviour didn’t really help.

We found out about Non-Violent Resistance some time ago. I read up on it and then we attended a course put on by Adoption UK, where we met Peter Jakob.
He talked about the function of aggressive outbursts (and indeed much of our children’s behaviour) was to exert control. We cannot control children who do not want to be controlled, but we can control our own behaviour. Changing my goals from changing the children’s behaviour to changing my own was a freeing prospect. Finally, I could be in control of whether or not I succeeded!

Then he talked about ways of regaining our own ‘parental presence’.
The most exciting thing for me was Jakob’s advice for what to do during ‘incidents’. I have always struggled with the best way to handle the really difficult moments and found Jakob’s down to earth approach reassuring. He pointed out that heightened arousal levels inhibit our ability to plan and to read others. We cannot change the child mid-incident. So we must act on the incident much later, after we’ve calmed down. He emphasised that we can assume control by choosing when the defer our responses, we don’t have to accept our children’s invitations to respond right away. He even gave us a phrase to use: “we’ll deal with this later, when the time is right”. During an incident, Jakob encourages us to prioritise safety, try to minimise risk and, when necessary, run away. I think that I needed permission to run away sometimes. It is strange to realise, but I have long felt that there was a kind of honour or sacrificial duty in staying beside my hurting child. But, sometimes, the only way to protect my hurting child from becoming a violent bully is to run away.

Jakob recommends ‘persistence not insistence’.
His process begins with an Announcement, which should be prepared in writing and delivered deliberately and clearly. He suggests this pattern:
1) Something positive about your child, a maximum of one paragraph.
2) State clearly what the problem is. No more than three problems should be mentioned, so prioritise.
3) Expression of concern for how the child’s behaviour effects others, working from the outside in, finishing with the effect on the child themselves.
4) The parents state that they cannot accept this behaviour and they will take action, won’t do this alone, and will not be violent themselves.
5) A positive vision of the future, where the child can be trusted to do something that they cannot do yet.

The idea of not doing this alone is central to Jakob’s method. He told us that we ‘don’t live in normal households’ and we ‘need a support network not friends’. He suggested that safe and supportive adults were the ones who make us feel ‘sufficiently comfortable yet sufficiently energised’ when we talk about our children. They are the adults we should recruit to help us.

After an incident, we can contact these supporters and tell them what happened. We then ask one or two to contact the child and express concern, following this pattern:
1) State that they know what happened.
2) Express personal concern for the behaviour and its likely consequences.
3) Make some appreciative comment about a good side of the child. And offer to be there if the child needs to talk in future.
We would also need to be transparent with these supporters about our own behaviour. Jakob suggested that we consider our own natural tendencies to be aggressive or avoidant. The idea of talking about what happens in the home is that secrecy is actively unhelpful. It feels like it’s right to maintain our privacy, but Jakob believes that allows our children to believe that hurting their parents is OK.

We have not been using these techniques very long at all, so have yet to see whether they have the long term impact that we are hoping for.
But, ending the secrecy, while terrifying, has been wonderful for me. I am not going to tell everyone that my son throws chairs at me, of course not. Yet, having a few people who know makes me feel far less alone in those slightly scary moments. We gave up using behaviour modification techniques years ago, it created shame and made everything worse. Years of there being no consequence for hurting me, however, were crushing. It felt as though my bruises and cuts didn’t matter, and that didn’t help any of us. Now we have an answer (though, I acknowledge it is only a partial one). People express concern when I am hurt, and that makes me feel like a real person again. These conversations with supporters are not intended to be any kind of punishment and, as parents, we must be vigilant to ensure that they don’t become hurtful. The conversations can happen a long time after the incident, giving the boys plenty of time to cool down.

This is a remarkable strategy which puts the family’s support network at its very heart. It works for us because we are lucky enough to have a wonderful support network of people who care deeply about our boys and are willing to go to great lengths to help us and them.
But, this strategy emphasises the massive importance of everyone learning more about how to support struggling children and families. The more people who understand, the more choice we will have in picking our supporters. So, I am beginning to realise that we need to talk about this.

My experience of CPV

Continuing with our Sore Point week on Child to Parent Violence, today we’re pleased to bring you a guest post from Single Adoptive Mum @fishercoaching on her experiences of CPV and how she dealt with it….

shutterstock_178086416As a single adoptive mum I knew it would be tough, but I hadn’t realised just how tough.  No one can explain to you how it feels the first time you meet your child or the fear that first night they stay over.  I hardly slept as I kept worrying about whether or not he was OK.  I’m sure that all adoptive parents feel like this but as a single adopter you have no one to talk to in the middle of the night when you’ve checked on your son for the 4th time, and yes he is still breathing!

The first few weeks were hard, there was no honeymoon period really, other than a few days, and then things became really difficult.  Over the first few months things got harder and harder.  Yes, there were amazing moments when I remembered why I’d adopted but the tough times got tougher.

My little boy was 7 when he moved in and had spent a long time in care.  In his owns words ‘I wondered if anyone would ever take me in’, hearing those words broke my heart.  He was with one foster carer whilst in care and had built strong attachments to them.  The transition to living with me was very hard for him, part of him was so pleased to have a family (even if it’s only me and I don’t have a red front door or dog) yet part of him was terrified.  What he had yearned for, for so long was finally a reality and that scared him.

His grief and fear started to come out as tantrums.  Full blown tantrums that lasted anything up to 3 hours.  He would shout, scream, kick and punch.  He slammed doors, locked me out of the house and told me to take him back to his foster family.  It was so hard to stay calm, not to take it personally or react.  I was often left covered in bruises.  But underneath the fear I knew I had a lovely, kind, caring little boy with a beautiful smile and a lovely laugh.  When he wasn’t lashing out we got on well and were building a bond.  We spent hours playing outside and going to the park.  Outside he could usually control his anger and fear.  It was when we were alone that it all come out.

We were having theraplay which seemed to be working but I wasn’t convinced that the therapist really understood my little boy.  Following her advice helped sometimes but not at others.  She told me not to call anyone for help when he was kicking off and that I had to deal with it myself.  As a single adopter it was hard not having someone to hand over to, but I followed her advice despite my gut telling me it made things worse.

After about 4 months of being covered in bruises he completely lost it one Saturday morning.  As usual his outburst came from nowhere and after 3 hours I decided to go outside to calm down and protect myself.  Shutting myself in a room hadn’t helped, he just kicked and kicked at the door and I was worried he would hurt himself.  I’d already tried everything else I could think of.  In tears I rang his sw and she arranged for someone to come round and give me a break.

That day was a turning point.  The following morning I sat down with my son and we talked.  That was 9 months ago and the violence did lessen as he became less scared, but it didn’t stop completely.

In January of this year I went to a course on NVR and that changed our lives completely.  I understood more about where the fear and violence was coming from and have been able to work with my son to help him.  He doesn’t like being that upset and angry and wants to stop feeling like that.  Slowly I’ve been able to help him understand his feelings and be able to express them.  The outbursts still happen but they are usually very short lived and further apart now.  Very rarely does he kick or punch anymore, just the shouting which is much easier to deal with.  I try to just stay silent and not to react at all until he calms down and then we talk about it.  It’s hard but it is working.

CPV is so much more common than we think and it has been brushed under the carpet for too long.  His sw didn’t believe me until I showed her the bruises.  I really believe that the violence was my child’s way of expressing his distress and the grief he was going through after leaving his foster carers.  He needed to know that I really was going to be there for him, no matter what.

Living with CPV is hard and it can feel like your fault, but you can get through it.  You’re not alone.



With the Violence – What Actually Works?

Today our mum from Life on the Frontline is asking for your help.

A Problem Shared1

We seemed to have moved back into a time where Tall is being violent. We have been here before and managed to move away from it, however never fully and now the frequency with which violent episode occur is increasing.

He is violent toward myself and my husband by using aggressive language and actions. He’s also destructive to his surroundings, using objects and parts of furniture he has dismantled as weapons and missiles. We have asked for help on this matter for our Social Worker, who is very good but none comital on who to deal with it. She did give me some info on NVR which have read and I’m now hoping to book my husband and I on a course.

One of our biggest problems is that when I can see him going to this horrible place, I start to shake and I know he can see he has control of the situation. We do restrain him and hold him, to minimise damage and harm to himself and us but it is our own method we have devised, we have never been offered or received training.

My question is this, what has helped any other families in this situation. Be it therapy, courses, workshops, your own methods,anything. I’m so scared now he’s getting bigger that some one is going to get really hurt.