What can you do when your son or daughter becomes violent towards you? We share advice and support on parent abuse. Do you have any advice for this week’s A Problem Shared…?
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Please help, I’m feeling desperate and don’t know where to turn. My 14-year-old son bullies me for money and has started become violent (pushing and grabbing) when I don’t give in to his demands. As well as having witnessed the bullying and violence, my 8-yr old son is scared of his brother, as he hits him too when he gets angry.
I am worried that the violence will get worse and that my younger son might end up copying his brother when he gets older. Their father left 5 years ago and we have no contact. I haven’t told anyone about it as I feel so ashamed and embarrassed that I’ve lost control as a parent. What can I do?
Our FamilyPoint Advice
I’m really sorry to hear that you and your family are going through such a difficult time. You’ve been very brave in reaching out for help and you clearly want the best for your family. I would like to reassure you that you’re not alone in experiencing child or adolescent to parent violence or abuse. Research shows that it appears to be on the increase in the UK. However it is often hidden as parents feel ashamed or that they are at blame and are reluctant to talk about it.
In 2009 Parentline Plus reported that they received an average of 95 calls to the helpline every month from parents concerned about their child’s verbal and/or physical aggression towards them: 91 per cent of the callers were female, with the majority of children aged between 13 and 15 years.
There isn’t a current legal definition of child to parent abuse. Yet one that is often used is: ‘any act of a child that is intended to cause physical, psychological or financial damage in order to gain control over a parent.’ (Cottrell 2001:3). From what you have described, your son’s behaviour towards you is abusive and this is unacceptable. You and your family have a right to live without fear of harm. It sounds like your son’s behaviour is out of control and that he needs help to stop it.
Contact Social Services
You mentioned your worry about the situation getting worse, and that your son hits his younger brother. We would advise you to get in touch with your local social services as soon as possible. By doing this you can begin to get the help you need to improve the current situation. It can feel scary asking social services for help. However they are there to help families to make changes and to put an end to whatever harm or abuse may be happening.
Apart from helping to keep you and your younger son safe from harm, social services will ensure that your son receives help to understand that his behaviour is wrong. Additionally they will also find ways of managing his feelings in a safer and more respectful way. If he does not get this kind of help whilst he is still young, there is a strong possibility that he might go on to use violence in his future intimate relationships.
You said that you haven’t yet told anyone about what’s been happening at home. I understand your reluctance. I imagine it must be lonely and frightening dealing with this situation all by yourself. However you might want to think about confiding in a close friend or family member. Someone you can trust to be supportive to you and your family. You could consider asking them to be there when you meet with social services and to support you through that process.
Furthermore, you might also want to think about asking them to have a conversation with your son. This could be along the lines of, “I’m aware of what’s been going on and it needs to stop, for all of your sakes. Your mum is going to get some help for all of you. But I will check in with you and your mum to see how things are going in the meantime.” Your son is less likely to continue with the bullying and abusive behaviour if he knows that someone outside of the immediate family is aware of the situation and will be keeping an eye on things.
It is also important that he is made aware that he’s breaking the law in using physical force and that you might have to call the police if it continues. If he knows there are consequences to the negative things that he does, he is less likely to continue to do them.
Here are some links to sites you might find useful
- Family Lives is a national charity providing support in all aspects of family life. They have a free helpline – 0808 800 2222.
- Holes In The Wall is a blog that documents parent abuse. It is written by a social worker that since the 1980s has been working with families that experience child-to-parent violence.
- Single Parents’ Confident Parenting is a short course that aims to help single parents. Topics include: parenting alone, our responsibilities as parents, rights of children and parents, practical and emotional development at different ages and stages, behaviour and discipline techniques.
- Welsh Women’s Aid is the national charity in Wales working to end domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women.
- Live Fear Free campaigns to end violence against women, domestic abuse, and sexual violence. Their helpline number is 0808 8010 800
- FamilyPoint Cymru – find local and national support and information and up to date news for your family.
Finally ring 999 if you feel you or your younger son are at risk of serious harm.
I hope the above is helpful and that you’re able to get support to help you and your family.
If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
I hope this advice has been helpful. Good luck.
The FamilyPoint Cymru Team
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