Child to parent violence affects one in ten families and there was an increase in police reports during lockdown. What is this hidden side of domestic abuse?

There are some mental health situations where the answer is very clear, when there is a woman experiencing domestic violence, all of the professionals issue the same advice: Leave. Being safe from partner violence is everyone’s right.

But what if the domestic violence isn’t from your partner. What if the violence is from your children?

We have all seen toddlers having a tantrum and lashing out. Heard those words “NO! Don’t hit mummy”. Most of us learn to contain these impulses. For a few families, this aggression continues or stops for a while and then restarts later. Violence that is easy to contain in a toddler becomes progressively harder to manage as the child grows. The day will come when they are stronger than you. What then?

This is the hidden side of domestic abuse and it can take many forms including:

      • Physical violence

      • Intimidation or verbal threats

      • Bullying

      • Controlling the parents behaviour

      • Stealing from the parent, perhaps money or valuables or a car.

      • Breaking things, smashing the TV, punching holes in doors.

    Some estimates say that one in ten families have experienced child to parent violence and police data indicates this behaviour increased during lockdown. So if you are struggling to control your child’s aggressive behaviour you are not alone.

    We are bound by those parent-child bonds to want the best for our child, we hope things will change, that we can teach them a better way.

    To make things worse, many people interpret the child’s destruction or violence as a reflection on parenting. There is huge social stigma around ideas of being a “failed parent” in this situation. But while other victims of violence in the home are told to leave, parents who do are then “the mum who walked out on their children” or “the dad who put their child into care”.

    There are clearly relationship difficulties when this type of violence or aggression is taking place but that doesn’t mean the parent is to blame for the violence. The responsibility of a parent is to care. The responsibility of the child is to manage their actions.

    We are going to spotlight this issue over the next two weeks.

    We will be exploring some of the reasons for child to parent violence.

    • Brain changes – Hormones impact on development, impulsivity and lack of reasoning.
    • Difficulty with trust and control – child attachment patterns and aggression.
    • Monkey see monkey do – repeating violence they have witnessed: Domestic violence, bullying, social media and gaming.
    • Caught in the crossfire – child violence within divorce and separation.
    • “What’s wrong with my child?” – the medical model 1, possible neurodiversity underlying violence.
    • “I need a diagnosis” – the medical model 2, possible mental health conditions underlying violence.
    • Group think – Peer pressure, the need to rebel and conform.
    • Running on empty – sleep deprived, food deprived teens and aggression.
    • Under the influence – drugs, addiction, highs, lows, crashes and detoxing.
    • Displaced anger – the impact of adverse childhood experiences.

    For each topic we will think about what may help the underlying issue, I will recommend some things to try, signpost you towards further reading.

     

    We will then be thinking about some of the specialist support that is out there for child to parent violence.

    I am trained in a specialist parenting approach called non-violent resistance training and I have supported families where child to parent violence was influenced by addiction, neurodiversity, attachment and part of a pattern of offending behaviour.

     

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    It can be hard to know where to turn for support if you are experiencing Child to Parent Violence or Sibling Violence within your family. We created this page for any families who are affected and for those who are supporting families affected by child violence.

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    Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

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