Breaking the Cycle of child-to-parent violence and abuse

It’s always good to see new books published in this field, and so I was pleased to take a look at this “self-guided course for parents of angry, aggressive adolescents or teens” from Elaine Morgan and Laurie Reid. Published by Breaking the Cycle Consulting, Breaking the Cycle of Child-to-Parent Violence and Abuse is available direct from the authors or from Amazon.

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Both Elaine and Laurie have been instrumental in developing and leading a programme for families experiencing CPV in the US.  (Laurie gave an interview for this blog back in August last year.) The team at Breaking the Cycle have worked with over 600 families in Central Florida in the last 6 years, and are highly experienced in supporting families. “Breaking the Cycle was founded on the belief that parenting is no easy task, and parenting an angry, aggressive or even a violent child is 100 times more challenging.” Elaine has since moved on and now runs her own therapeutic services.

This book is quick and easy to read (less than 50 pages), and is intended to be so in order that families can begin to use the techniques recommended as soon as possible. The authors make it clear that it is NOT a substitute for therapy, but it suggests coping mechanisms and techniques, which have been developed in direct work with families, to help lower aggression and improve communication in the home.

Chapters are categorised as Facts, Perspectives or Skills: information to gain a better understanding of family systems and communication, means to help detach emotionally and look at things differently, and exercises to do at home to reduce the violence and abuse.

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There is a strong emphasis on perspective and on the understanding that ultimately we can only change our own behaviour; and so the reader is encouraged to take personal responsibility in adopting calming and de-escalating behaviours, whether in recognising their own emotional and physiological responses, in listening and speaking styles, or in the expectations placed on others. At the end a further series of exercises for parent and teen reinforces what has gone before.

Who is this book for? Reminders about non-violent communication styles are always good, but I fear those experiencing more severe abuse may feel that they are already well past the stage where such direction can be useful. Certainly they will be looking for other interventions in order to “Stay Safe”, which the authors remind us is key, and the first chapters examine situations in which violence and abuse may develop, reminding us that other therapy or interventions alongside CPV work can be crucial to a successful outcome. But to dismiss this book because it is so quick and easy to read would be to miss the point. However apparently entrenched an issue, it is always important to take responsibility for our own response – and also to understand the limits of our own responsibility.

For those early on in their experience of abuse, and with a teen who recognises the issues themselves and wishes to change, the recommendations and exercise are clear and helpful; and parents may find that changing their own style of interaction may also bring about relief, even if a young person is resistant to engaging. This volume may not be helpful for all situations, but if it is beneficial in helping to restore calm and healthy relationships for some families, then for those it is well worth the read.

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