Tag Archives: Child to parent violence

CPV, Home to School and Back Again

This is the second in a recent series of guest posts. Nikki Rutter writes about the overlap between violence and abuse from children in education settings, and in the home. Nikki is an ESRC-funded Doctoral Researcher at the department of Sociology at Durham University. Her research interests include: Child-to-parent violence, domestic abuse, violence against women and girls, grounded theory. She is a member of Durham University’s Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA), and Communities and Social Justice Research Group at Durham University. You can contact Nikki on twitter. See more details of her work on the CPV Research Directory.

 

Child to parent violence is often viewed as a pattern of behaviour that exists solely within the home; however, there are examples whereby children who are violent within the home are also violent in other environments. In my own research – into pre-adolescent CPV – parents often talk about their relationship with school, and how interactions with school can directly relate or influences their child’s violence:

  • School can be a trigger for anxiety related aggression from the child;
  • Phone calls from school can cause anxiety within the caregiver, and friction within the home;
  • Issues within school can cause a Coke bottle effect which spills over into the home environment;
  • One in four teachers experience violence from pupils each week.

Children with social, emotional, and mental health needs are more likely to display violent and aggressive behaviours. Children with these needs are more likely to be excluded from school; which can also increase incidents of violence within the home. The Conservative manifesto outlined that the education department would give Head Teachers more powers to discipline pupils, by making exclusions easier, and there will be an increase in funding to expand alternative provision, for those children who are excluded. One in four teachers are assaulted by pupils each week, so it is important that schools are a safe place for all. However, excluding these pupils is a reactive response to a complex issue and could result in an increase in incidents of violence, for those already experiencing CPV.

Whilst there are many individuals, and organisations who are working to support those families living with, and managing CPV, there is very little policy guidance for those with pre-adolescent children. Educators are expected to manage complex behaviours reactively; which can just result in children who are already struggling with managing these huge emotions within their tiny bodies; these children are excluded from school and made to feel rejected are then being sent home.

Everyone says the children don’t come with a manual, they don’t. We still, however, expect families to instinctively know how to support tiny children with giant, overwhelming emotions. Families do not exist in a vacuum, nor do schools. To support these children to develop strategies that are more helpful, or healthy than violence we need to be supporting families, as well as supporting schools, to support the child.

CPV needs to be less about who is accountable, or responsible for the child; it is not about laying the blame at anyone’s door. CPV responses should be a multiagency, multidisciplinary collaboration in promoting and developing healthy strategies within the child, so they can manage their emotions proactively, and feel secure with their environment. We cannot do this alone.

 

These are important issues, particularly the need to understand and respond to CPV within a multi-disciplinary framework.

Many thanks to Nikki for her contribution.

If anyone else would like to write a guest post, please do contact me!

 

 

 

 

 

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A message of hope for 2020, Break4Change in Rochdale

When I sent out an invitation in November for people to write something for me, I never expected to receive such interesting contributions!  I’m thrilled to be able to start a new year with the first of these contributions from Emily Nickson-Williams, who I have been following on twitter after seeing some very positive comments about the work her team were engaged in around child to parent violence. Emily is the lead for the ‘Relationships Revolution’ at Rochdale Council.  She has worked in Children’s Services for the last 17 years and has pioneered a number of initiatives for vulnerable families.  Her work has been described as ‘inspirational’ and her more recent efforts developing work around the relationships agenda, including responses to child to parent violence and abuse, led to her receiving the Innovation Award in 2017. Emily brings us a letter from a parent who has attended one of the Break4Change programmes running as part of this work.

I think that for me this open letter is a message of hope.  Hope for other families who may be too afraid to come forward to speak to someone because of the fear of consequences from Children’s Services and the Police.  The message we would like to give families living in Rochdale is this…

We are there to help you and your family get back to a time where you perhaps felt more in control, on top of things, confident to parent and dare I say happy?  These things may seem like a ‘wish list’ for families living with child to parent violence and abuse and you may not remember the last time you felt this way.  If this feels like you, let Mary’s letter be a beacon of hope and a step towards the possibility of something different for you and your family. Break4Change is a programme that can support you and your child to address child to parent violence and abuse.  The programme is not easy, it’s a process, we encourage you and your family to examine how you function together and how you might find better ways to communicate so that respect becomes the norm.

We often hear from parents that they want us ‘fix’ their child; what I will say to that is that for lasting changes to occur everyone has to work together.  The programme takes time and commitment from you both – but the rewards are clearly heard in Mary’s own words.  Week by week you will see subtle differences as you start to work differently.  If you choose to attend this programme you will be supported to prepare for it and whilst you are on the programme you will meet other families all going through a similar experience.  After the programme you will be invited to come back at regular re-grouping events to share your progress with other families you have met. 

Here is Mary’s letter …

My name is Mary and my son is John. He is now 13 years old. John was diagnosed with Autism in nursery. He loved primary school and he thrived and had lots of friends. Because of his good behaviour and progress there was no reason why John wouldn’t cope at high school. His teaching assistant from his primary school went with him to the open day and over the summer break he went to the settling in group which he enjoyed with 7 other children who attended.

Once John started high school things started to go wrong. There was an incident where John was pushed in the corridor and that, along with the lighting, the noise, swapping classes for each subject, and the generally chaotic environment of a high school he didn’t manage and simply couldn’t cope.

We struggled on for 3 months and I tried everything to get him there and the more I tried the more and more abusive and aggressive he became.

He was referred to mental health services and offered some home tuition, however the longer he was out of school the more and more socially isolated he became. His world became smaller and smaller and so did mine. I couldn’t possibly go to work. He lived in the front room and his life was his games console.

He became a very angry young person. The main trigger for the abusive outbursts was me trying to get him to school.

This kind of behaviour is often hidden and you lie to people about it because your friends and others say things like,  “you want to sort him out or he will be taken off you”.  My (now ex) partner would say if John kicks off again he would call the Police and social services. I genuinely thought he would be taken from me. I was petrified of that happening and also of him.

He would scream and shout. I was isolated in the kitchen or my bedroom and to get from one to the other I had to walk out of the front door and round the back as I was too frightened to go in the front room. I was scared to go to bed because I was scared to wake up and what that day might bring. I was sick of the same rubbish every day.

He was hitting me, kicking me and I was completely controlled by him. One day my family worker came to my house and she saw him have a major kick off and punch me in the face. I had lied to her as well about how bad it was. That happened the very same day I started the child to parent violence and abuse programme that my family worker had encouraged me to go on. I had never called the Police before but that day we did. It was the worst day of my life and also the best. It was the end and the start.

It’s hard to explain but I was controlled by my child. I was not confident in my own voice; I did not have a voice.  The course gave me my voice. I realised I was not the only one living with this and that course gave me the confidence to realise that professionals don’t judge. I became assertive and acknowledged that I am allowed to tell him what to do – because I am the parent.

The beauty of the programme is that we went together and he is downstairs with a group of other young people and I am upstairs with other parents and we are working on the same things.

I do not really know what they did with my son. On week 3 he demanded my phone and said “give me your phone”.  I said “no, you cannot have my phone because I do not respond to your demands”. He said “Sorry Mum, can I please use your phone”. He was calmer in his voice. Something as simple as that but I knew things were changing. My ex-partner said this will never work. But I had faith and I felt different. I got to speak up in the group. There wasn’t someone at the front talking saying “you need to this, you need to do that”. We all talked about what was happening for us and were given solutions by the programme leaders for each of our unique, individual problems at home.

Halfway through the programme the abusive behaviour stopped completely – I have never been hit or controlled or shouted out since that day.

I didn’t tell the group workers until the end that I had lied at the start of the programme about how bad things really were, because I was terrified of what they might think. But as I grew in confidence with them as a group and heard how awful life was for some of the rest of the group, I felt it was ok to start saying a bit more what it was really like. There were others just like me and I had thought I was the only person in Rochdale that was living like this.

I looked forward to Thursdays, it was so different to anything I had ever done before. I don’t believe it would have worked if John had not come too, as I would have been going home with some random magic solutions and he wouldn’t have understand why I was changing if he wasn’t having to change at the same time.

John got a place at a special school in October. He loves it; it’s small like a primary school and he is happy. The course gave him the confidence to be back with other children in a group setting.

Going on the course and knowing that he was being supported to cope again with other children gave me the confidence to take him to other things. I now knew what to do if he kicked off – I knew I had to speak to him differently. We started off really small, going to the little shop and now he comes with me to the big supermarket. I couldn’t do that before because he would kick off if someone looked at him. We do other activities too now. I trust his behaviour now with other people. He was completely unpredictable before.

I think I want to say to you that anyone who is having a bad time needs this help. Professionals can feel like scary people but they aren’t really. Also you need to understand that some people are not that confident as a parent. I thought this was just another course. It’s different to anything else I have ever done. It’s changed my life.

I went to college and got my food hygiene certificates and I applied for my driving licence. I am now looking for work because John is at school. I never thought I was say this but I am actually bored! I really want to work in a school kitchen because then I can work whilst John is at school and I can look after him in the school holidays. Life’s actually great and I’m really enjoying my front room again!

 

Thank you Emily, and thank you Mary for sharing your story! Your words are so much more powerful than any descriptions or explanations that I could write. It is indeed a message of hope for the many families in a similar situation and, as we start the new year, we hope that the help you and John have received will become more widely available. 

Further details of the relationships work taking place in Rochdale can be found here, and you can also follow the team on twitter using #rochdalerelationshipsmatter.

You can be referred to the Rochdale Break4Change programme by any practitioner already supporting you such as a health visitor, social worker, family worker or children’s centre. Alternatively you can email parenting@rochdale.gov.uk

I always welcome contributions from people for this page: whether about work, family experiences or anything else connected with CPV. Please do contact me if you are interested.

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Compassion and responsibility

On Monday night the BBC aired Responsible Child, a drama, based on a true story, directed by Nick Holt. The programme had been heavily trailed, and so it is not offering too many spoilers to say that twelve year old Ray, the main character, is involved in the murder of his stepfather, and the story follows his trial in the adult court in the context of his early life. Children’s services and education do not come out of it particularly well. Rather the compassionate responses are those of the legal team and a particular member of staff at the secure unit where Ray finally ends up.

What we are shown is a deeply empathetic young man, trying to care for his mother and young siblings and devoted to his elder brother, his thoughts and concerns always for someone other than himself. We are encouraged to consider how much his previous experiences should determine our responses to him. Should he be in an adult court at all? How much did he really understand what he was doing? And how does our growing understanding of brain development – particularly the parts that govern thinking and reasoning, forward planning and impulse control – affect our thinking about this issue?

Why am I writing about this here, when the drama is so clearly not about a young person’s violence and abuse towards their parent in the way we have come to think about CPV?

  • Firstly, the most important challenge of the drama is about how we construct a young person’s understanding and intent, and that is a theme that does come up again and again within child to parent violence.
  • Next there is a reminder of the harm caused to children and young people living with domestic violence and abuse.
  • As we are encouraged to question whether the age of criminal responsibility in Britain is too low, it’s worth thinking about both of these in terms of the debate about lowering the age at which young people come within the Domestic Abuse legislation.
  • And finally a challenge to us all in the way we see and care for children and young people.

It’s nearly the end of the year, we’re all tired, I’m not going to unpack it any more than that now; just to thank everyone for your amazing commitment to the cause, and your insights and work throughout 2019. Many people are profoundly grateful to you!

 

If you are interested in reading further, Kathleen Heide has written extensively about children who kill their parents (here and here ), and Amanda Holt has more recently examined the overlap with child to parent violence, and with adult-child to parent violence and parricide. (here and here )

Responsible Child is available to view on iPlayer until 15th January 2020.

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Raising Awareness of #CPV, Episode 38

I am continually encouraged by the openness and indeed willingness of the BBC and other media to tackle the issue of child to parent violence and abuse. When I am contacted there is a recognition that this is an important emerging topic; and there is an understanding of the prevailing myths and that a more nuanced explanation is called for than simply attributing it to poor parenting. More than this though, I frequently hear “we covered it a while ago and promised were would come back to it later”, and ” we need to raise awareness”. Continue reading

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CPV: Everyone knows someone affected (probably)

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a colleague about our separate work around child to parent violence (CPV). As we rounded things up, a third person, who had been listening in, asked if they might make a comment. They told of a friend’s difficulties with their child, and commented that they had not thought about it in these terms before. I wasn’t surprised. Almost without fail, when I talk about my interest and work, whether at a conference, a party, to someone I know or a complete stranger, someone will seek me out later – ask for my contact details, request a private conversation, or perhaps share their own experience there and then. Barbara Cottrell first recorded this same experience in her book, When Teens Abuse their Parents. I have heard of similar experiences when a media outlet has covered this or another aspect of family violence. Suddenly there is much to-ing and fro-ing in the corridors, as reporters or other staff find someone safe to disclose their concerns to. Continue reading

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CPV: when it’s too shameful to speak the words …

Joining a growing library of leaflets and booklets designed to help parents understand and obtain help around child to parent violence, is a publication from South Tyneside Adults and Children Safeguarding Boards. Ranging from a simple one page leaflet, to more comprehensive booklets, these publications typically give information to parents and carers to help identify whether they might be experiencing abuse, explanations of why abuse might be taking place as well as steps they can take to minimise it, and local or national contact details. Continue reading

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Research Fellow/Officer sought, University of Leeds

An exciting opportunity exists to be part of a team working on a research project funded by the N8 Policing Research Partnership led by Dr Sam Lewis with Dr Jose Pina-Sanchez, investigating the incidence of and police responses to violence by children aged 10 – 17 towards their parents and carers.

Further details can be found on the University of Leeds website, jobs pages.

This is a fixed term contract, till April 2020. Closing date: August 4th.

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