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.