Tag Archives: NVR

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

Review of One Day NVR Workshop

Sarah from The Puffin Diaries shares her thought on an None Violent Resistance course she attended.

Recently my husband and I attended a course based on the practice of NVR, None Violent Resistance. This course was hosted by PAC and delivered by Rachael Alymer of Partnership Projects.

The first thing that struck myself, my husband and indeed many others, was that we were a room, full with over thirty people and everyone of us had experienced violence from their child. This in its self had a huge impact on many of us; there was an instant feeling of not being alone.

Rachael introduced the course and explained that this one day of training was really only a taster day for NVR. The application of NVR is actually a very intense process of therapy, where a family work on a one to one bases with a therapist. This would be my first and only real criticism of the course, in that I didn’t feel the way that PAC advertise the course makes this very clear. Also, those qualified in implementing this therapy are relatively thin on the ground especially in the north of the country.

Rachael suggested that she would like us to leave with two or three strategies that we could start to use at home.

We first talked about “de-escalation , the idea that conflict and violence can be avoided if we  approach trigger situations differently. It was easy to recognise myself and my husband in the styles of escalation we discussed. My husband can’t let go of it once he’s in a battle and the battle goes back and forth between him and our son, this is known as symmetrical escalation.

We did a number of exercises her, with our partners, to demonstrate how hard it can be to not get involved with someone who is taunting you and pushing your buttons. We were advised to “ignore the behaviour with silence, not sarcasm”. I think for myself and my husband and I this was a useful section because we can both become too involved at this early stage of a fall out. It reminded us that our calm and resistance to the child’s need to escalate things put us in a much greater position of control. However this is often more difficult that it seems in the moment.

The next exercise I found the most useful part of the day. We were asked to list all the behaviours of our child, which we don’t like. Our list went from punching holes in his bedroom wall to not flushing the toilet.

We were then asked to imagine we had three baskets a small, medium and large. In the small we were to place the behaviour we really wouldn’t tolerate, in the medium behaviour that we could negotiate on, and in the large, behaviours we are prepared to let go, not even mention.  In the small basket there were to be only two behaviours, in the middle a few behaviours and in the large basket the majority of behaviours. The idea being that you concentrate on the two behaviours you find it most difficult to live with first, you are not letting everything else go forever, but making life more simple for you and your child. I know in our house it does sometimes feel like we are constantly on my oldest son’s back about everything.

As Rachael said “If leaving the toilet seat up really bothers you that much, why don’t you do something about it, it’s obviously not that important to your child”. I know this is hard for lots of people, the letting go but for me I can see the sense in it all, you are helping your child to focus on the behaviours that really do affect you all, once you’ve cracked these, you can move other behaviours into the small basket.

We were also told that “NVR does not do rewards or sanctions”. The idea here is that you talk to your child once a situation is over, using a “sandwich” of positive, negative, and positive.

For example “I want you to know how impressed I was with you clearing the table for me tonight, thank you. However, when you swore at me this morning, that behaviour is not acceptable, it upsets me and I don’t want it to happen again. Now I’m really looking forward to watching a DVD with you let’s go and chose one”

In theory I really like this approach but in practice I know I will find it hard to not provide sanctions for violent, destructive behaviour.

At the end of the day we prepare our announcement, this is a statement of your intention on how you are going to behave going forward. We were encouraged to write this in a letter format which you can physically give to your child. In the announcement you list the behaviours which you will no longer tolerate and make a commitment to altering your own behaviour when responding to the behaviour. It was suggested that you could laminate the letter if you fear your child may try to destroy it. Also included in the letter should be positive aspects of the child’s personality as with the sandwich example given above.

In all, the course was a useful day and I could see how the intense version of this therapy could be very successful. Whilst I came away feeling I’d discovered a couple of new tools to use with my children, without the intense support of the full therapy I envisage it will not be easy to always implement these methods. I wish I’d known more about NVR before applying for our Adoption Support Funding and also that more therapist were available in my part of the country.

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

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.