Non-Violent Resistance is not new. Many people will think of Gandhi or Martin Luther King when they hear this term. In the context of social and political change, NVR is concerned with bringing about change through peaceful protest and resistance.
In family work, Non-Violent Resistance begins with the parent acknowledging that the child is not the problem - the problem is the problem. This shift in perspective is crucial . When the problem is no longer located in the child, the parent is empowered to begin a change - rather than simply waiting for the child to be assessed or treated by a mental health professional. Over the course of the programme, the parent is supported to take a different position in relation to the child. Skills to de-escalate difficult situations are explored. Many parents report that most of the arguments centre around technology - Playstation, X-box, phone use etc. Through NVR, the parent begins to identify how these situations can quickly get out of hand and to learn new ways to address what can be very difficult discussions with their children.
Although parents who are experiencing this difficulty will often avoid their child when they are quiet for fear of triggering another aggressive episode, in NVR, parents are encouraged and supported to become more present in their child's life. This is where the process of building the relationship begins. In some cases, relationships are badly damaged and parents may need support to find ways to restore and strengthen their relationship with their child.
We often hear parents talking about the shame they feel about their child's behaviour. They may keep this a secret from friends and family - feeling that they have failed as parents. Through the NVR programme, parents are encouraged to build a support network and to allow other people to support them and their child. This is not about shaming the child - the child is no longer presented as the problem. Rather, parents ask supporters to help them with a family difficulty - having acknowledged that the violence or aggression is a habit that has developed and escalated over time.
The programme encourages parents to look at how they have given away their authority over time. Giving in to demands or orders to prevent an escalation of aggression, has often encouraged an increase in demands - for money, clothes, lifts etc. Fear of violence has resulted in parents handing over money, meeting unreasonable demands and becoming increasingly powerless. This is often done to keep the young person quiet. Through NVR, the parent is supported to refuse orders and to move to a position where they become "as strong as an anchor - not as a fist".
It is likely that parents will have made many efforts to bring to an end the violence and aggression in their home. Their methods may have varied from pleading, cajoling and imploring to threatening, shouting and demanding. They become like a pendulum - swinging from one approach to another in an attempt to deal with their aggressive or violent child. The NVR programme supports the parents to make an announcement that clearly states their position - "I am no longer going to tolerate your violent and aggressive behaviour and I will do everything in my power to resist it - without hurting or threatening you. I have invited our supporters - x and y - to help us to bring this to an end". This statement is delivered with authority and is supported and strengthened by the presence - or availability - of the supporters. It conveys to the child that the parent is strong and steady and that his/her power has been restored. It is presented in a way that is not threatening or accusatory - but loving and supportive.
Should the child continue to behave violently, the parent is supported to hold a 'sit-in'. This is where the parent conveys to the child that the announcement remains in place, the parent remains resolute and the violence will be peacefully but strongly resisted. Where necessary, the sit-in can be repeated.
The NVR programme supports parents to make fundamental shifts in how they deal with violence, aggression and hostility. Often, when faced with on- going difficult behaviour, parents resort to an authoritarian style and rely heavily on rewards and consequences that can quickly lose their effectiveness. In an attempt to control the child's behaviour, parents can become more controlling. Conversely, parents may quickly become powerless and resort to giving in to demands for a quiet life. The NVR position is a position that is steady, grounded and consistent. It has proven to be effective for many families in ending the cycle of child to parent violence.
"It's a relief to hear that other parents are experiencing this and finding a way to stop the fighting."
"I'm getting much better at staying calm and avoiding escalating the situation."
"Instead of avoiding her, I'm finding ways to reach out to her - she's starting to respond."
"I have made it clear that I will do everything I can to help our family. I no longer feel powerless and I think that shows."
"My friend and my sister are helping our family to end this -we all need to make some changes. I realise that my child is not the problem and there is lots that I can do to improve things."
"It has been months since he hit me or damaged anything in the house. We watch a movie together every weekend."