Category Archives: Islay and Kim’s thoughts

Help please.

Whether you are a parent living with a child who is violent or a professional
supporting families experiencing violence we would appreciate some help with a
current project. Our aim is to provide easily accessible 1-1 support to all
families experiencing child to parent violence (CPV) in the UK and beyond.

To help in our bid for funding for this innovative project we are currently
evaluating the provision of parenting support and professional training for CPV.
We would be grateful if you could take the time to fill in a short
questionnaire about your experiences.

For parents, we are interested in the type of parenting support that you have
been offered; in the type of support you are receiving/have received and the
type of support that you would like.  For professionals we are interested in
what training you have received for CPV, what training needs you have identified
and what would help you support the families that you are working with.

If you are willing to complete a questionnaire please email [email protected] and a questionnaire will be sent to you.

We appreciate any help from you in enabling this project to succeed.


To the next Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister:

Over the decades we have seen an erosion of family life. Families are struggling to cope, mental health is on the increase across all ages, aggression amongst the populace is rife and violence has become a popular way to deal with conflict. This is not a prescription for good emotional health.

Previous governments have set up various interventions to work with families who are struggling to cope. The Labour government introduced Parenting Orders and subsequently the Respect Agenda; The ‘Think Family’ project followed. They put ‘family’ at the core of their agenda by changing the department name to Children, Young People and Families. It seems that the government had recognised that parents are at the heart of family life. They introduced policies, which encouraged parents to take responsibility, enabling a greater chance for change. The Conservatives stayed with the theme and brought in the Troubled Families Agenda, building on the already successful Family Intervention Projects.

However, the one error in all of these early interventions is that the emphasis stays firmly on the children while parents continue to get side lined. Of course children need to be kept safe and that has to be paramount, however we shouldn’t do this at the detriment of looking at what is happening to the parents. Supporting agencies continue to focus on the child’s behaviour and very rarely support parents to change their own behaviour at an early enough stage. At present a meeting is held with the parents, as a tick box exercise, and then the focus is back on the child.

The recent disclosures of failings in Rotherham and Oxford around children being sexually abused makes lots of noise around the shortcomings of the agencies working to protect children, but we hear nothing about the failure of the parents to protect their young.

Of course no one wants to blame parents but we have enough clues when children are young to be able to work out which children are going to be more vulnerable for grooming, mental health problems, offending etc as they grow older. However, we do little to use this information to enable a different path.

Our early intervention vision is simple but effective. It is an intervention that encourages parents to remain the biggest influence on their children. However, it will help parents understand why they need support and how to provide that support effectively for themselves. At present we wait until children are showing difficult behaviour or there are clear signs of neglect before we take action. It is often too late and children are already suffering.

We have recently written a book called Parenting a Violent Child. The subject of child-to-parent abuse is one that has been sadly neglected and parents are now starting to talk openly about the difficulties in managing their children. Part of this openness has come from the Channel 5 series ‘My Violent Child’. Since the first episode in June 2014 we have received several emails from parents desperate for help. Some of them are finding it hard to cope with children as young as 2. These are the children who usually end up with a diagnosis, which does nothing to change the behaviour. Often these children go on to cost the taxpayer dearly. Our book helps parents to look at what they can do differently. It helps them to look at their own emotions and triggers. It is already helping to change children’s lives for the better.

On page 98 in the book we have devised a questionnaire, which encourages parents to look at how they deal with normal every day stresses of being a parent. It helps them to work out if they have a balance between being warm, firm and fair. It then looks at how they deal with their emotions as their child grows up and how they are looking after themselves. These are keys areas where parents who are experiencing difficulties struggle.

We would like to design several questionnaires for parents based on the one in the book. These questionnaires won’t just focus on children’s behaviour as all this does is put the blame on the child for what is happening. The parents can then absolve themselves of any responsibility. Our questionnaires will focus on the parent’s emotional coping strategies. Our vision is that a questionnaire will be given to parents at their children’s different milestones.

The first questionnaire will be when the mother is pregnant. There will be one for mum and one for dad. They will need to answer questions around how they are feeling and it will look at their ability to show empathy.

The second questionnaire will be around the age of 2-3. This is a testing time for many parents and one where they struggle to say ‘no’ to their child. It will look at how they manage with their own emotions when their child is being difficult. It will look at parent’s ability to be firm and fair and also whether they have support around them.

The third questionnaire will start to link in with school. It needs to be given to parents when their child has been in school for a year or so. This will highlight whether parents are accepting they have a part to play in what is happening with their child or whether they are starting to put blame elsewhere.

The fourth questionnaire will be in year 6 before their child moves from primary school to secondary school. This is a time when parents are usually more engaged with their child’s education than at any other time. It will look at whether parents are allowing their child to take responsibility and whether they are letting go appropriately. It will highlight their feelings , as their child becomes more challenging.

The fifth and last questionnaire will be around year 9 – before a child chooses their options for GCSEs. This is another crucial time for young people as they often start to doubt themselves. Parents are essential in enabling their children to feel valued.

Of course these questionnaires would be voluntary and the parents would be able to score themselves to find out how they are doing. For the majority of parents it will encourage them, as it will show them they are doing well. However, it will also help those who are struggling, and persuade them to access help. It would then give advice as to where they can get support locally.

It will be a tool for midwives, health visitors, nurseries and schools to use. It will take the emphasis away from ‘there must be something wrong with my child’ to ‘what can I do differently as a parent to enable change to happen?’ It will help parents to look at their own emotional knowledge and help them to understand themselves better.

Change needs to happen and there has to be a fundamental shift to give early intervention help to parents. Early intervention help does not just mean at birth and a few years after. Appropriate and effective early intervention is a continuation of support for parents throughout the stages of child development. Each life stage produces a different challenge for parents and many struggle with this on their own. Our vision will give parents the understanding, knowledge and support to change their own behaviour along their parenting journey. This in turn will have a positive impact on their families. This makes financial sense for the government and will help to build the foundation of good emotional health for all families.

The chance for change comes when you put down the magnifying glass and pick up the mirror

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Islay Downey and Kim Furnish

After the cameras have left.

Some people may be wondering how Pauline and her family are doing now that the cameras from My Violent Child have left. It’s often the case that when a parenting consultant has stopped working with a family the original problems start to re-emerge. Has this happened with Pauline? Is Sapphire still ruling the roost? Is anyone taking notice of Jorja? How is Spencer getting on?

With Pauline’s permission I thought I would let you know how the family are doing.

Pauline will say it’s been a struggle. She loved the weekend away at Avon Tyrrell (3rd episode) and for the first time in a long while she was enjoying her twin daughters. They were listening to her and helping. They were outdoors and learning new skills. It would have been hard not to enjoy it. The challenge would be to transfer those feelings to their life at home. Would Pauline be able to keep hold of the power that she had found within herself?

Pauline had never really felt power. She didn’t know what it was like for people to listen to her feelings and for anyone to do what she wanted. She was too used to things going wrong for her. So much so that when anyone said life could be different she didn’t understand what that meant. She didn’t realise that she could effect that change herself. After all, why would she?

The one bit of control she did have was when she walked away from her abusing partner. The abuse had gone on for years. Pauline’s inner voice was telling her that this was all she was good for and it was all her fault. She was getting what she deserved.

Exit one abusive partner and one would have thought things would be better. But Pauline was too used to being treated in an abusive way. Once her children started abusing her, although she didn’t like it, it all sounded familiar. This is what her life was supposed to be like.

However, Pauline had reached a point where it was too much and suddenly without realising it her inner being was screaming that life was unfair and it could be better. That inner Pauline, the one that had been hidden for such a long time, was ready to emerge.

Pauline, by her own admission, had done lots of parenting courses in the past. She had been on a couple of groups that I had facilitated. So why was it that she hadn’t made the changes earlier? She could have saved herself so much heartache and pain. What was the difference now?

Though hard to say, Pauline was always capable of making changes but she never believed she could until now. It’s not necessarily about the cameras, as Pauline had taken part in a TV programme a few years ago about living with ADHD.

Pauline began to change when she allowed herself to recognise how the past messages she’d been given by various people were controlling her life. Everything negative that happened to her was evidence that she was useless and had no power. She went straight back to being a little girl who had to do what she was told. Her ex-partner also made her feel responsible for anything that went wrong. Yet, none of us are responsible for how someone else feels. The minute we feel that is when we hand power over to them.

Pauline was allowing her children to make her feel responsible for their unhappiness, regardless of what it was. They didn’t like the way she said something, they didn’t like the way she cooked etc. She would then immediately try to change the situation so that they were happy. Her trying to make them happy was making everyone unhappy.

Then came the weekend away at Avon Tyrrell. Pauline started to realise Jorja was copying her. Pauline was able to see that Jorja was retreating in the face of confrontation. Sapphire was being the abuser. It took her longer to work out what was going on for Spencer. The main thing was that Pauline was able to enjoy herself. I’m not sure she had ever fully enjoyed herself before. Pauline started to get a glimpse of children who did what they were told. The children were working together rather than against each other. Pauline started to feel important and valued.

Back at home it was tempting to let things go back to where they had been before.

However, the inner Pauline had experienced what it was like to have people consider her and she had been given the message that she was important – she wasn’t about to let the inner Pauline be buried again.

It was touch and go a few times, but Pauline held strong. She did a radio interview and started to realise that she had a voice, she was asked to go on This Morning and met Amanda Holden and Philip Schofield.

Suddenly things were happening. She was having experiences that she’d never dreamed she would have. It was a heady mix.

What about the children? I hear you ask. The great thing about Pauline is that she is grounded. She knew that the attention wasn’t going to last and she knew she needed to feel valued at home, not just from the media.

Pauline has implemented some great strategies for her children. They absolutely know that if they try to take control in a negative way there are appropriate consequences in place. However, Pauline has recognised that children still need to feel in control. She has set up bank accounts for them and has learned to hand over responsibility in appropriate ways.

Life is calmer. The children are back at school and doing well. Pauline takes them out, they go to the park and they plan what they are doing. Pauline has learned that having children needs energy and she has now got it in bundles. Before, everything was too much effort, now, nothing is too much effort. She doesn’t feel responsible for making them happy 100% of the time. If they have done something wrong and there is a consequence she doesn’t get sucked into trying to save them from the negative feelings.

The balance is back. Spencer has agreed to try new foods and Pauline is giving up smoking. Pauline has learned that it’s necessary as a parent to look after yourself. With the money she saves from not smoking she’s going to have a massage from time to time.

The greatest difference is the way Pauline looks. She smiles a lot, even when in pain. She delights in her children and is recognising just what a lovely mum she is. She has my greatest admiration. She has saved her children and has changed the old patterns of behaviour. She is an inspiration to all parents who feel stuck and believe that nothing will change.

Parenting a Violent Child: Steps to taking back control and creating a happier home by Islay Downey and Kim Furnish was published on February 26, in paperback, priced £9.99. It is available at

More information can be found on the parenting work, help and support of Kim and Islay at Meanwhile, Islay featured in Channel 5’s, ‘My Violent Child’, available on demand from the Channel 5 website.

PaVC twitter blog



And so for our leaders……

With the series ‘My Violent Child’ on Channel 5 ending last night, my mind turns to this question: ‘Have any of our leaders been watching and if so what do they make of it?’

It has been so distressing to watch the anger unfold and hear the heartache of the parent’s inability to deal with it. These scenes are echoed in homes across the country and people are left asking, ‘what causes it and what is the best way to deal with it’? And that is where the problem lies. In the same way that parents are struggling to make sense of what is going on, those who hold political power haven’t a clue how to manage the issue of child-to-parent violence. This leaves everyone floundering with no clear direction.

Recently Boris Johnson, the Conservative Mayor of London, was interviewed on the radio. He was asked about child-to-parent violence and what he thought were the causes. It was pathetic to hear him speak. He mumbled (nothing new there) and talked about the riots a couple of years ago in London. Typically, in the style of a true politician he didn’t answer the question. However, when pushed about discipline within his own home he admitted that he ‘leaves all that sort of thing to his wife’.

What an appalling admission and role model for dads. When working for the Youth Offending Team part of my job was to work with parents who had been given parenting orders. When a young person is involved in the criminal justice system the magistrates can order parents to attend parenting groups. It was very common for the magistrate to only issue the parenting orders to mums even if the dads were present.

We need to stop this and help dads everywhere to recognise just how crucial they are to their children’s well being. Parenting is a difficult job. When Tony Blair’s son Ewan was arrested in Leicester Square for being drunk and disorderly he stated, ‘being prime minister is hard but being a parent is harder’.

So, it is simply unacceptable that parenting should be left to the mums. Yes – there are some circumstances when it isn’t possible for dads to be involved, but these are in the minority. Sadly too often dads use work as the reason for not spending time with their children, or they take themselves off to the pub. This is a common problem.

Now, back to our leaders, those who make the decisions on what is going to happen, on what works and what doesn’t work. Most of them are men. Recently we have seen some of them showing how they balance family life with work, something mums take for granted that they will have to do and don’t make a song and a dance about it. It seems that if there is a dad who is having a positive interaction with his children or is helping with the chores then its big news. It should be a given. If you have children, you must be involved in their lives, whether you are dad or mum. It needs to become the norm for dads to play and do positive activities with their children and to do the mundane routine things as well: bath time, reading a story, taking them shopping and so on. They need to step up and be balanced, with love and limits for their children. Both parents need to teach their children respect for others. Whether together or separate it starts by being respectful with each other.

Boris and other leaders out there please learn about what works in family life. Don’t separate a family into different problems, where one child is identified as having the problem, or parents are the problem. They are a family unit and the successes and problems are intrinsic to that family.

Parenting a Violent Child tackles all the difficulties within family life. It doesn’t just focus on the ‘violent child’. It looks at all the issues and who in the family may unwittingly be contributing to the status quo. Parenting is exhausting. There’s no two ways about it. You need considerable energy to keep on top of everything. Couples need to work together and single parents need support from extended family members or friends as well as the absent parent.

I would strongly recommend that Boris takes the time to read Parenting a Violent Child. It will enable him to have a better understanding of what is going on for some families. Hopefully, the next time he is asked a question on the radio he might at least have a more sensible answer. And who knows it might stop his mumbling!

PaVC twitter blog

Family Dynamics

So what do we mean when we talk about family dynamics? Families can be extremely complicated. Where you are in the family may well determine some of your behaviours. You may have heard of ‘middle child syndrome’. The eldest child will initially get all your attention. They are the only one. However, they also get all your nervousness. After all you were new parents. This is very scary. Then another child comes along and they can often be more placid. Part of that is because you have experience and so don’t react to everything. You have learnt what is important and you are more relaxed. Then you may go on and have more children. Eventually the last one will be your baby and will stay your baby for far longer than any of their siblings.

It’s important if you are having difficulty with one child, to think first where they sit in the family. Then think about your emotions at the time of their conception and subsequent birth. What was going on for you? Was it a difficult time in your life? Did you have support and was it appropriate?

Our children develop labels given to them by us from the minute they are born. We don’t realise we are doing it and we may have never considered the labels our parents gave us. It’s important that we do, because subconsciously we maybe passing those labels on.

Think back to the sorts of things your parents said to you. Was there a theme? It may not have been so much as what they said but how they said it, or, how they looked at you. It can leave children feeling left out. Of course, the opposite could happen, where a child is always being praised and so they get the feeling that they are very important. It’s back to balance. Too much negative and a child will feel sad and angry. Too much praise and a child will constantly need acknowledgement in what ever they are doing and may not be able to cope with failure.

Where patterns of behaviour have been set for a while as we have seen on the Channel 5 programme My Violent Child, it means family members have developed a place for themselves in the family. The child that is hitting probably has a label as the ‘naughty child’, or ‘violent child’. Other children may have the labels as being the ‘quiet child’, ‘the good child’, ‘the helpful child’.

So what happens when parents change their behaviour as we have seen through the last two programmes? The ‘naughty, violent child’ is becoming more reasonable, less reacting. It’s great to see the change and just how desperate the children are for a better relationship with their parents. But what happens to the ‘good children’ in the family? Suddenly their position is being threatened.

What we often see is that when change occurs it can happen at every level.

What we didn’t see behind the scenes on the programme is how the ‘good children’ may have been winding up the ‘naughty child’ knowing that they have a short fuse. Once lit they sit back and watch the sparks fly. The positions within the family stay firmly in place.

Parents find it easier if they understand what may happen. Things may get worse before they get better. We often hear from parents, ‘we tried and things got worse so we stopped doing it’. Although difficult, if you understand why you need to stick with something you are more likely to effect change. Being told what to do only works for as long as the person supporting you is there. Once gone there will be a tendency to go back to how you normally behave.

Understanding what is going on for all your children will give you the confidence needed to sustain change.

Our book Parenting a Violent Child will give you the insight you need. It doesn’t just focus on the child you are having most difficulty with; it will help you to work out what is going on for all your children.

There is a reason we started the book with a quote from Anthony De Mello’s Awakenings:.

“There are those who think that problems are solved through effort. These people merrily succeed in keeping themselves and others busy. Problems are only solved through awareness. In fact – where there is awareness – problems do not arise”.

The more you understand what is going on the less problems arise. It’s true. Things that happen no longer take you by surprise. You start to notice the patterns that are being played out in your family. You then have a choice, of doing something different or not.

Be brave and be less critical of your self. Allow the opportunity of changing the way you view your children. Look for the evidence of whether your labels are correct and if not then ditch them. Be careful of the labels you give your children. Be aware of what is going on.

‘Where there is awareness – problems do not arise’.

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Where are you getting your excitement from?

We have lots of needs, which, whether consciously or subconsciously we will meet every day. We have a need to eat food and whether we eat healthily or not we will eat. Our need for food is being met.

We need warmth and so we dress appropriately to ensure we stay warm.

We need to feel safe and secure so we will ensure our doors are locked and we give our children mobile phones so we can contact them. Whether they want us to is questionable.

However, what about excitement? This is a need that gets forgotten about. For those of you who know Maslow (the social scientist) then where does excitement fit in?

Maslow talks about basic needs, safety needs, love, affection and a sense of belonging, self-esteem and then finally, as long as all those needs are being met appropriately, you will be able to reach your full potential. All extremely important and a good way of working out whether your needs are working for you or against you.

But let’s come back to excitement …

  • What makes a seemingly perfectly happily married person go off and have an affair?
  • What makes 3 talented young girls fly off to Syria to become Jihadi brides?
  • What makes young people join gangs?
  • What makes people shoplift?
  • What makes children become violent within the home?

For many people their needs according to Maslow are being met and if you look into it, they may appear appropriate. So what is going on?

This week the media is full of ‘why?’ It’s looking not just to blame but to find an answer to a very complicated question.

The one thing that stands out in all this is that one style of parenting doesn’t fit.

You can’t say it’s all down to wishy-washy parents who can’t say ‘no’ to their child, as some of the broadsheets would have us believe.

Neither can you say it’s down to parents being too strict and not giving their child love.

Children being violent can happen in both cases. But the one thing that stands out to me in all cases is the lack of positive excitement, a feeling that is important to all of us and is absent in many families.

We need the adrenaline rush of feeling we are achieving something. That thing that makes us feels good. Maslow’s theory looks at our need to belong, to know that we are doing something well, so we feel good about ourselves. So how do we get that?

For many parents they will get that need met through work. ‘Well done, you did well’, your bonus (if you’re lucky to still get one) reflects your good work. You may feel also proud of your home life.

After a while, there is a danger of it all becoming much of the same. There is a lack of excitement, the same thing day after day. Oh dear, this is possible danger territory.

So, we come back to the original question. Where are you getting your excitement from? For some it maybe in creating a new piece of crochet; for others growing their food to eat or climbing a rock, swimming in caves, diving to great depths.

We all have this need to feel excited and to enjoy what we are doing. It comes in different levels in all of us. I like to have risky adventures, but for others they would find that too scary. Our excitement comes in many forms.

We need to discover this side of us and find appropriate ways of getting this need met. The danger is that if you don’t, it will then spill out into dangerous and, or unhealthy ways. Driving while knowing you have had too much to drink, rioting, anything that in more sober moments you know is not appropriate. Alcohol lowers your normal inhibitions and will enable you to say and do things that you wouldn’t normally do. We saw this recently in Paris on the underground when a group of fans from Chelsea FC racially abused a black man.

However, recognising these behaviours in ourselves and also in our children, will enable you to think about what you are getting from behaving in a negative way. It’s important to know, as this need will still be there even if you stop drinking alcohol. The effect alcohol gives you will still be a driving force in your life and unless that is replaced by something positive your subconscious will just find an equally unhealthy way of getting that need met. Understanding yourself is the key.

Our children are the same. If your child is being violent, ask yourself how much of their need to feel excitement is the prompt for their behaviour? What would happen if you gave them opportunities to feel excitement in a controlled, positive way with you?

Our society has changed. Computer games play a large part in the majority of children’s lives. Some of the games make children aggressive as the level of excitement grows. Children need excitement but not aggression. The aggression has no outlet. Think about giving your children excitement with an outlet, and you need to be part of it. Yes, children need to do exciting things on their own and that’s where clubs can be invaluable. However, it shouldn’t be at the expense of family time. Build in the excitement for all of you. Your children will be much less likely to go and find it elsewhere and neither will you.

A core theme running through our book Parenting a Violent Child is to get to know yourself. Get to understand what makes you tick. You are unique and so what makes you tick will be different from your partner and your children. So not only do you need to know you, you need to get to know your children. Chapter 4 (‘The necessities of life’) explores what our needs are and how we maybe getting them met in either safe or unsafe ways. It will help you to learn more about yourself and your children. It will give you suggestions and prompts in helping you to change things if that is what is needed. Give it a try, after all what have you to lose?

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Whose responsibility is it?

When a taboo subject such as child to parent violence is discussed there is bound to be strong opinions and feelings aired. When the behaviour of a violent child is witnessed, as it was last week on Channel 5 ‘My Violent Child’, emotions and opinions run sky high. Some people give their judgments freely – ‘I wouldn’t have dared to do that to my parents’ in other words the child is to blame, ‘they shouldn’t let them get away with it’ in other words the parents are to blame. Some take a more impartial view and ask ‘ who is to blame?’ before they consider where the blame lies. What good comes from blaming anyone? Why are we so interested in who is at fault? Rather than focusing on who is to blame we should be asking ‘what is the problem and what can we do about it?’ A parent and child do not exist in isolation therefore how can blame possibly be determined. Presumably those who blame the child believe the child needs to change, those who blame the parents think the parent needs to change.

Surely, we would all agree that the violence in the two families had reached such a pitch that something needed to change. How did it get to this point and what can be learnt from these situations? Of course there will be various influences on the parent/child relationship and each case needs to be considered individually. In chapter 8 of our book ‘Parenting a Violent Child’ we explore what thoughts and feelings are underneath the behaviour of both parent and child so that we can get closer to understanding what is really going on. Parents tell us they feel helpless, useless and ashamed. Children tell us that they are unhappy. All of these feelings chip away at self-esteem and lead to apathy and stuck patterns of behaviour. The only way to change this is for someone to take responsibility for breaking free of the violence.

So, whose responsibility is it? On the programme last week we saw how two parents took responsibility for changing their situation by bravely asking for help. Taking this step enabled the delivery of a variety of interventions that improved the family relationships and increased self-esteem. The parents from South Wales took responsibility for change and this is appropriate. Parents are the adults in the relationship and therefore have a greater capacity for reasoning and making informed decisions. All parents are responsible for meeting their child’s needs. A child is not responsible for meeting the needs of their parents. A child is highly unlikely to take the first step to change.

Taking responsibility doesn’t come naturally for most people. It is easier to blame someone else for what is happening in our lives. In ‘Parenting a Violent Child’ we talk about picking up the mirror instead of the magnifying glass. The mirror reflects our own behaviour and we can choose to take responsibility for it or not. When we pick up the magnifying glass we are focusing on the behaviour of others. In Chapter 9 we look at where we spend most of our energy, whether it is trying to change our own behaviour or trying to change others. When we become clear about what we can do and what we can’t do our attention will go towards changing our own behaviour. We will be taking responsibility appropriately.

Responsibility is something that needs to be taught and it is never too late to learn. When taught appropriately by parents a young person becomes responsible in a gradual transition from dependency to independence through childhood. When children have no sense of independence they can become frustrated and both parent and child can get locked into a power struggle. When a child shows challenging behaviour it is harder to trust that they are capable of being given responsibility. Fear grips parents and they can only imagine the worst outcome ‘he would never be able to go there on his own’ ‘I couldn’t possibly trust him with money’. Being trusted is essential to our self-esteem, so what message does this give to a child? A child will feel that they are not trusted and that they are not good enough which then leads them back to poor self-esteem.

Where there is violence within the home both parent and child are drowning in a sea of despair, shame and misunderstanding. In their own way they may be trying to stay afloat but it is just not working. It is a parent’s responsibility to ask for help and support. Outside help in the form of a lifebelt can give the respite required to calm the desperation and provide safety from harm. The problem arises when parents have had outside help and the situation is still extreme within the home. What can they do then? It is a parent’s responsibility to pick up the mirror and act upon what they see.

We have seen how quickly people judge both parents and children when a child is violent. The blame and judgment can be quite vitriolic, but how does this help?  In terms of receiving help and initiating change the responsibility lies firmly with a parent. Lets not forget that we all have a responsibility to break the silence on violence and one way to address this is to drop blame and judgment. This means that more parents will be able to talk about the violence they are experiencing in spite of the shame they feel. For parents living in secrecy and fear ‘Parenting a Violent Child’ will take away the blame and give them understanding, which will lead to change.

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How are you coping?

Parenting today is hard and every parent will struggle from time to time. Many parents tell us they are not coping. They are worn down by constant worry and can feel as if they are walking on eggshells, tiptoeing round their family’s feelings. They live in fear that their child is in trouble; whether it is the phone call from the school or visits from the police. Parent’s worry their child’s behaviour is out of control. There is a price that parent’s pay for living each day with worry and fear and that is exhaustion.

As exhaustion sets in we all call upon our coping strategies to help us through. Our worries start to overwhelm us and we find ways to distract ourselves, even for a short time. This somehow keeps the constant fear at bay. Our coping strategies help us to avoid the problem when it is too difficult to deal with. These coping strategies, although helpful at first, are likely to have a negative impact on us over time. So, how do you cope when your child is being violent?

For some it may be by having a drink, a way to relax, to forget for a while, maybe to help you sleep. Others may distract themselves with cleaning. The house is spotless and the routines become rigid. Then there is work, fitness regimes, inappropriate relationships, eating, or not eating, spending money, etc. These coping strategies can bring calm to chaos. Some of these could be deemed positive activities. They can contribute towards a healthy lifestyle, and we all want to be healthier, and happier.

But what happens when your chosen activity, your coping strategy, is used to excess? When suddenly you can’t get through the day unless you have hovered every room in the house, or gone for your longest run. The very thing that is supposed to be healthy takes over and suddenly it is in control of you. ‘As long as I get this done I will feel better.’ You could be stuck in a pattern of behaviours where your own needs are not being met appropriately.

Now is the time to think about whether your coping strategy is working for you or against you? What are you teaching your child about how to cope? Our coping strategies are likely to have a negative impact on us overtime, especially if we overuse one strategy rather than having a few strategies that we can call upon in times of need. Ask yourself what else could you do, to help yourself? What/who is your support system?

Meeting your needs appropriately will make a huge difference to your energy levels. Accept that sometimes you will slip into old patterns and that is ok. Learning to use healthy coping strategies is like learning a new skill. When we learn a new skill it takes time and effort. Try not to get blown off course by an increase of violent behaviour or by judging yourself. Meeting your needs in a positive way will not only give you the energy for change, it will also help you to remain calm under pressure and maintain appropriate boundaries.

In Chapter 5 of ‘Parenting a Violent Child’ it looks at our coping strategies and will encourage you to think about the ones you use. It will help you to work out which ones are positive and which ones are negative. It will inspire you to see what is within your power to change and it will show you the small steps that make a big difference. It looks at the challenge parents face when managing violent behaviour, and the importance of looking after yourself in a healthy way. This book is all about balance and it enables you to think about the balance in your life and whether the scales are tipped too much in any direction.











Love is a complex word and can mean so many different things to different people. The Ancient Greeks used multiple words to help understand the different meanings. It is generally thought that they had four main words that described the different types of love:

Agape – Love for everyone

Phileo – Deep friendship

Storge – Long standing love

Eros – Sexual and romantic love

Do we ever stop and ask ourselves what kind of love we are showing and how it is being interpreted?

For example, do we show the same love to our friends as to our children and should that love be different?

What love were we shown when we were growing up? How has that influenced how we show love to others?

Agape – Love for everyone.

What does that mean and how do you achieve love for everyone?

What about when people hurt us? Should we really love the guy with the dog who is begging?

And yet giving financially to causes is at a record level. We see need and we show care. This is Agape love at it’s best. It’s not personal; as we often don’t really know the people we are helping. The hard bit is showing Agape love to the people closest to us.

That’s where Phileo love comes in. Deep friendship. Love the people we know. It takes you up a notch from Agape. This is personal. Friends can, and sometimes do, let us down. We don’t mean to hurt people but it happens. Deep friendship overcomes the hurt and accepts people as they are. It forgives.

Then there’s Storge – long standing love. It’s the love given unconditionally. It accepts that we have flaws and faults and allows forgiveness. This love enables its receivers to feel safe and secure, valued and loved. You see it between partners who have been together for a long time. They accept each other’s differences and don’t feel threatened by them. This is the love we need to show to our children to enable them to flourish.

The last one is Eros – sexual and romantic love. This is high-octane love; a love that makes everything pale into insignificance. It happens at the start of a new relationship and then gets forgotten about as the mundaneness of life takes over. Many relationships flounder for lack of keeping a portion of this alive.

Of course a crucial part of love is having fun and the enjoyment of life. Finding enjoyment in the small things. Using your senses, such as: listening to birds singing, feeling the touch of the warmth of the sun on your face, watching the waves come and go at the beach, or listening to the wind rustling through the trees. These can nourish you and enable you to pass pleasure on to others.

The four different kinds of love help us think about love in terms of loving others. However, to do that means we must have an understanding of loving ourselves. This is the tricky bit. Love of self. We think we know ourselves; we think we know what we are really like. We have those dripping messages running through our heads, the ones we have grown up with and that have taken hold of us. The thoughts that come unbidden to us, diminishing our sense of self. How can we love ourselves when we think we know what we are like?

However, this is crucial.

How can we not love ourselves?

How can we not forgive ourselves?

When we look at these 4 types of love, should we not first think about this in relationship to our self?

What about loving everyone? Can we see ourselves as being worthy of love by others?

Do we see ourselves as deserving deep friendship?

If our closest relationships have broken down, whether with partners or children, do we see ourselves as being ineligible for long standing love?

Lastly where does sexual and romantic love fit into it all?

When do we participate in the enjoyment and fun in life?

Can we love ourselves? Can we recognise that much of how we see ourselves was given to us through others people’s words and actions.

Once we can stop seeing the negatives about ourselves, and start to recognise the positives, we can begin to change some of the messages we are constantly giving ourselves.

What kind of parent are we?

How do our children interpret what we say and do?

If our sense of who we are, is: ‘bad things happen to us’, then how are we going to be able to value and love our children? How do we provide reasonable and appropriate boundaries for our children?

On page 98 of ‘Parenting a violent child’ there is a questionnaire designed to help you consider the type of parent you are. Be brave and fill it in honestly. It could provide you with some clues of where you need to focus your energies.




L – Listen

O – Observe

V – Visualise

E – Energise

Listen to yourself and to your child.

Observe, both yours and your child’s feelings and observe the motives behind what is being said and done.

Visualise how you want things to be. Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want.

Energise yourself to be the kind of parent you wish you had had.


Why’s my child like this?

Often parents say they want help for their child. They tell us what is wrong with their child and how no one has helped them in the past.

None of us are born with a parenting manual and a lot of parenting is trial and error. But parents get worn down; they lose confidence and somehow forget just how important they are. We are told there is an expert out there, someone who is going to make our lives better. Even though we know there is no magic wand we think someone else has the solution to our problems. We think that an ‘expert’ will make it better for us.

When a child is hitting their parents most people’s first thought is ‘What is wrong with my child?’ If the question is what’s wrong with my child?’ we are then handing over our power to the child. We are expecting an answer or a solution and the onus is on our child to change. When they don’t we can feel depressed. Disbelieving that this could be happening to us.

Imagine changing the question from ‘What’s wrong with …….?’ to ‘What can I do differently?’ how would that change things for you? Who would be in control then?

Your child may have a diagnosis; they may need medication and professional help. BUT it is still unacceptable for a child to be lashing out. Somehow within our society there is an attitude that if your child has ADHD, Autism, or Learning difficulties, that this excuses them from, or gives them a reason to be violent. Parents who don’t have a diagnosis for their child can be desperate to get one. That will explain their behaviour – it will prove ‘it’s nothing to do with me’

We live in such a blame culture that it is hardly surprising we want someone to blame. We only have to look at the politicians blaming each other for what is wrong with the country to see that this approach can trickle down to family life.

Parents tell us ‘there is nothing wrong with my other children so there must be something wrong with this child”. As parents we are so afraid of being judged that as soon as someone mentions we could do something differently we become defensive.

Here is an alternative perspective from ‘lets find someone to blame’, to how about changing your own behaviour?

As long as we continue our old patterns of behaviour nothing will change. We will always get what we have always got. We have become cynical – We don’t vote because our attitude is ‘what’s the point’.

We don’t change our behaviour because we think ‘what’s the point’.

Not only do we resist change, we also think we are supposed to be perfect. We know that we’re not perfect but if we say, ‘I could do something different’ then that says we have been doing something wrong. Admitting mistakes is not an option. It makes us feel like we’ve failed.

The difficulty is that without understanding ourselves any strategy given to you by ‘an expert’ is likely to fail, as there will be little understanding of what brought you to this point in the first place.

It’s like a rubbish bin overrun with maggots, it looks rotten and smells awful. As a quick fix you stick in an airfreshner. It won’t last long and it certainly won’t work long term.

The answer to the bin problem is to turf out the rubbish, clean the bin and start again.

‘Parenting a Violent Child’ encourages parents to do just that. It’s saying parents are the most important people in their children’s lives. However all of us come with baggage. If we understand that our baggage is affecting our children, isn’t it worth taking the time to work out to what extent?

Read the book with the approach ‘What can I do differently?’ If you can start to understand yourself and recognise your feelings, life will then change. Things that used to wind you up before won’t have the same hold over you.

You will be doing your child a great service.


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