Therapeutic Parenting for Childhood Aggression and Violence

When you live in a home soaked with distress and violence, you soon find out there isn’t too much advice around that it helpful. Those with first hand experience all have their stories of rubbish slash offensive advice they’ve been given. My own includes ‘fishing’ and ‘jigsaws’. In a gathering of the great and the good, I was party to a conversation that went something like: ‘they need to be encouraged to hit a cushion or something else soft’. I recall another reference to blowing into a paper bag, but I may well have imagined that. All this advice is of course well intentioned.

It’s not true to say that you need to have lived a situation in order to understand what it might be like and help people, but it’s not untrue either. If you need tips for surviving a war zone, it’s probably best to go to someone who has at least been to a war zone.

Co-author of my latest book Carly Kingswood has the war zone experience as well as being a busy, in demand therapist. I could not have come close to producing The Unofficial Guide to Therapeutic Parenting for Childhood Aggression or Violence without her. Together we take a look at what violence actually is and how knowing a bit about its roots informs the parenting approaches to take. The bulk of the book is practical. What do you actually do when you’re faced with violent behaviour? In the real world? What can help to bring down the temperature and allow repair and healing to take place and hope to re-emerge?

We’ve come to think of this kind of parenting as both a science and an art. It’s good to know the science and to have a set of approaches, but a lot of the skill is in adjusting, fine-tuning and riffing on a few themes. Some days something will work like a dream, and other days it won’t. This is one of the reasons why parenting children who really struggle with distressed behaviour is so very hard. There is no one set of fail safe rules.

Another reason it’s so mind-blowing difficult is because living with constant, grinding fear is corrosive and traumatising, and especially so when the generator of that fear is a child/parent relationship. It’s the ultimate challenge to our preferred, simplistic views of the world like good/bad, victim/perpetrator, right/wrong. For that reason, it is a total head fck.

Carly and I both get contacted by parents and carers who are emotionally and physically on their knees due to the strain of parenting in the face of distressed, violent behaviour. They talk of loneliness, guilt, a deep, cold feeling of fear every moment of every day and a dread of what might be coming down the line. We don’t have all the answers, by a long way, but our book is a letter of support to all those who are on their knees. It’s not your fault and it’s not your child’s fault. Beginning to unpick the mess and find a different way through is not easy, but it is possible.

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