If you haven’t heard of this before, yes this is real and typically unspoken hidden concern. If you know someone with children or blended families with children 12 to 20 & have suspected something is not quite right- this may be that gold nugget that puts the pieces together. For those who are not familiar, you may be thinking “but they’re kids, how much damage can they do, how do their parents let this happen?” The approx. statistics suggest only 7% of parents speak up, & during lockdown it increased by 20% (hypothesised). And no, its not just ‘troubled kids’ from troubled backgrounds, this can be any teenager at home on their devices late at night, mum keeps asking them to get off and go to sleep, nope, nope, nope then she turns off the Wi-Fi and “#%$@”
The significant lack of information on parental abuse – reflects social attitudes which blame parents and carers for the violent behaviour of their adolescent children. There is a profound sense of shame that will go through this behaviour from the parents (who think) they are not able to parent properly, and from the young person who is worried about others finding out.
The Goal : Power and control is obviously a huge motivation behind this behaviour. Abuse is any behaviour used by a young person to control, dominate or coerce parents. It is intended to threaten and intimidate and ultimately puts family safety at risk
Whilst it is normal for adolescents to demonstrate healthy anger, conflict and frustration during their transition from childhood to adulthood, anger should not be confused with violence. This is not ‘Acting Out’.
Most abused parents have difficulty admitting even to themselves that their child is abusive. They feel ashamed, disappointed and humiliated – blame themselves for the situation which has led to this ‘imbalance of power’. There is also an element of denial
Teenage logic- yes you guessed it, brain and logic hasn’t fully developed. The frontal lobe (above the forehead) responsible for impulse control, decision making, reasoning, and understanding consequences; doesn’t fully develop until 25… imagine that, mixed with dependence on the amygdala (fun word) which is associated with emotions, aggression, and instinctive behaviour. Remember those times when you watch kids doing reckless, silly stunts & you think “what are you doing?” this is why! BTW, have you heard of the phrase ‘raging hormones’ officially a trifecta of chaos.
Hormonal Changes: Perhaps because of the relative ease of quantifying hormonal levels in animal models, it is tempting to attribute all adolescent behavioural changes to “raging hormones.” An important aspect is the distinction between “hot” and “cold” cognition. Hot cognition refers to conditions of high emotional arousal or conflict; this is often the case for the riskiest of adolescent behaviours
Behavioural Changes: (1) get bored and want to do new things; (2) increased risk taking; and (3) a social affiliation shift toward peer-based interactions
lies to control
Substance misuse —may be more aggressive and show less remorse when they are using drugs and/or alcohol.
Mental illness — In 47.4%, the PIPA (The PIPA Project: Positive Interventions for Perpetrators of Adolescent violence in the home) research found evidence of adolescents having a diagnosis that would equate to psychosocial or cognitive disability.
In 23% of cases, the adolescent was recorded as being on the Autism Spectrum or having a cognitive impairment sufficient to impact their capacity to comprehend or comply with the police orders.
Trauma and loss — War, migration, death, family separation, illness and grief affects how a child develops, copes with stress or conflict, makes decisions or handles emotions.
Experiencing family violence — Children who experience family violence may be more ‘at risk’ of using violence themselves, particularly if they are male children. They may begin to see violence as a normal and acceptable way of communicating or resolving conflict. Like adults, they use violence to gain a temporary sense of control and power in an out-of-control situation where they feel powerless and worthless.
Sexist attitudes — Common attitudes in our society allow males, including young men, to feel they are entitled to control women and the household. Physical strength and dominance are seen as defining qualities of being a man. Such attitudes and peer pressure can encourage macho behaviour in boys.
Men’s violence toward women teaches children to be disrespectful to their mother and undermines her authority. Children who grow up with these abusive attitudes unchallenged are more likely to abuse and use violence against their mother.
Attitude of over-entitlement — Some children see it as their parents’ job to make them happy — at any cost with no responsibility
Temperament —personality traits such as being stubborn, impulsive and combative.
These factors may make abusive behaviour more likely, more severe or harder to control. It’s important to remember that none of these things ‘cause’ violence.
Honestly – Ashamed, guilty, embarrassed, failure, trying to protect their family so it doesn’t get out. This is a big secret to protect someone who is hurting you. Like walking on eggshells, and during lockdown; being trapped with a caged lion. The obsession to keep this ‘in house’ leads to isolation, self-blame, and depression. This can be a perpetual state of anxiety resulting in trauma #facts
There is a profound sense of shame that will go through this behaviour from the parents (who think) they are not able to parent properly, and from the young person who is worried about others finding out. Which then is a mothers guilt cycle of not reporting the abuse.
Mental Health Impacts on Mother – current & long term
There has been descriptions such as “walking on eggshells” in the home or like “living in a warzone”. Being constantly in this anxious state or the Flight Fight Freeze mode can lead to chronic anxiety, trauma (trauma is defined as an event that overwhelms your body’s normal responses from coping with the situation) and ultimately PTSD.
Additionally, the pressure and guilt of ‘dobbing’ on your child can have long term and permanent implications that can impact their future, that the mother generally tends to feel responsible for. Once a child becomes labelled by the courts or a service as a “perpetrator”, they can potentially be precluded from key supports, such as crisis accommodation or out-of-home care, because of their use of violence against others. Adolescents who use violence are also vulnerable in other ways, such as being dependent on adults for housing or finances.
Fear that reporting would risk criminalising their adolescents or having other children removed. This was a particular concern in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) communities, for whom the involvement of statutory child protection authorities – and legal system agents more broadly – carried an additional layer of compounded trauma and fear.
In CALD (culturally & linguistically diverse) communities, was not widely recognised as a concept. including trauma from migrant or refugee experiences – may be far more relevant than any particular cultural context
Be empathetic and put yourself in their shoes, see how they may be feeling – This helps understand barriers that has prevented them asking for help in the past and also reinforces that you need to be patient and work at the pace of the mother.
Let them know that
Anonymous support through a phone service like WIRE or Parentline is a good place to start. They offer a safe place to talk things through, explore options and put you in touch with further support.
Individual counselling can offer a supportive space to explore what’s happening at home. Different counsellors have different areas of expertise; look for someone who has a family focus in their work.
Family counselling treats the family as a whole but may not be appropriate if your child is intimidating.
Support groups offer understanding and learning from others in a similar situation. There is a small but growing number of support groups specifically for parents with abusive children. You can read about mothers’ experiences of support groups in Anglicare’s downloadable booklet ‘Adolescent Violence: Women’s Stories of Courage and Hope’. You can also find parenting services and support groups through Better Health Channel, or explore the resources offered by the DEECD.
Family violence services generally specialise in partner violence. However they may be able to offer assistance and support in understanding your situation, especially if there is a history of violence in your family. Call WIRE on 1300 134 130 to discuss whether there is an appropriate program in your area.
Parenting education teaches valuable skills such as setting boundaries and handling conflict. Look for resources geared specifically towards parenting abusive young people, as more generalised advice might not suit your situation. Specialised publications available online, such as Adolescent Violence To Parents — A Resource Booklet For Parents And Carers, give you practical information and tips on dealing with the problem.
Help is always here. Its ok to fall apart. Tacos fall apart sometimes, but we still love them. If you get that joke you are still with us & want to know answers. Let your mates know they are not alone; we don’t judge you; we just don’t understand. You are not to blame & don’t be scared anymore. Get your power back. Yes, you’re exhausted, but don’t give up! No, you’re not a failure. That there is no excuse for any type of abuse, even if it is from a 12yo (they can be really mean!). There is no simple answer, but if we don’t resolve it now, then when? FYI. Abuse thrives in silence & isolation.
Break the cycle of violence so it doesn’t repeat when they have kids. You got this. I believe in you.
If you are looking for more information or even to talk to someone about what you are experiencing, please feel free to contact me at www.supportivetherapy.com.au. There are a lot of free resources for you to access, as well as online store so you can view self-guided therapy sessions and eBook’s that may benefit you.
You are not alone. There is always help. Thank you for your time.
All the information contained in this document is general advice only. This is not specific to any situation or person or based of any clients case study. This information is from the main concerns facing the majority of my clients as a collective and has proven to have made a significant positive difference in an individuals or couples experience.. If you are triggered or offended in any way, please contact Supportive Therapy immediately so we can make you feel at ease and explain our perspective. This information is intended for empowerment and knowledge in the best interests of my clients. This is not intended to replace therapy, but to aid in personal growth, personal development and the recommendation that this book is to be reflective within in person therapy. Everything contained in this document is the intellectual property of Elena Bishop, director of Supportive Therapy Arana Hills. You do not have permission to share, reproduce, copy, adapt, display or anything similar that violate copywrite laws. The consequences of ignoring copywrite of the contents within this document will result in legal action. I have worked hard and reserve the right to protect my property without it getting into the wrong hands and being used unethically or fraudulently.
I started my practice to make a positive difference – to have a voice for the voiceless. I am someone who inspires positive change in people’s lives. I support you in exploring your current concerns & investigating your history to uncover patterns that you may not even be aware of. I motivate you to feel strong & confident, to evolve into a better version of yourself and be happy in your relationships.
As well as running my Private Practice, I am the Brisbane Mothers’ Mental Health Network Coordinator, Publishes monthly articles in several outlets, and customises Training & Education for my clients on her YouTube channel. These are examples of a holistic approach to my clients needs for education, empowerment and normalising how we all can struggle at maintaining our unique and healthy relationships.
Any questions? Send us a message and we will get back to you. We offer counselling, mental health & wellbeing, mothers support, couples therapy and psychotherapy in Arana Hills, QLD.
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