Non-Violent Resistance as a response to a “Wicked Problem”

Declan Coogan’s new book, Child to Parent Violence and Abuse: Family Interventions with Non-Violent Resistance, was published in November, and I am very pleased to finally be able to read and review it!

Coogan first encountered Non-Violent Resistance (NVR) as a therapeutic intervention in 2007, and has been instrumental in piloting it as a response to child to parent violence, offering training and consultation, and ultimately in introducing it as a nationwide model in Ireland. As such, he is very definitely qualified to present this book as an explanation of, and introduction to, the practice of NVR, particularly with reference to violence and abuse from children to parents.

The book is in two parts. The first part offers some background to the issue of child to parent violence and abuse as a “wicked” – or complex – problem, without a simple cause or solution; followed by an overview of both Solution Focused Practice and Non-Violent Resistance. The text is full of quotes from practitioners and parents, with very practical examples and guidance for those new to this type of work. The anxieties of practitioners are acknowledged all along, while also advocating a strengths-based approach, which places parents as partners and joint experts. There are a lot of references to academic research backing up the discussion, or for those wishing to explore in more depth, which does tend to break up the flow of the writing a bit, but the conversational style overall makes this an easy book to read and digest.

Part two drills down further into the principles of Non-Violent Resistance, with each of the eight core themes examined in more detail. The general style of the first part is maintained, and there is discussion on assessment, and on working with parents generally where this is an issue; and once again the chapters are packed with examples, quotations and some very helpful skills practice and reflection. The practitioner is taken by the hand and led through each stage of the work in a way that makes it all seem much more understandable with the possibility of integrating it straight away. This is an additional tool to add to those already in use when other things don’t seem to work. Indeed, the aim is very much to up-skill practitioners, at the same time as helping empower parents to reduce and end the abuse. Some families may see an end to the violence, others may reach a way of living with reduced levels of conflict, but the overall message is one of hope – hope that this new authority can restore a healthy and harmonious family system.

Non-Violent Resistance is an approach which many families have found helpful in delivering an effective response and way of living with violence and abuse from children; and so I hope that this book will be of use to all those seeking to support families with this emerging issue.

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