What is Youth Abuse towards Parents?

youth abuse towards parents

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


So lets look at things from the child’s perspective.

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

What is considered Abuse?


  • Hitting, punching, shoving, kicking, spitting, throwing things
  • Breaking things, punching holes in walls
  • Abusive and bullying behaviour to siblings
  • Cruelty to pets

Verbal abuse:

  • Yelling, screaming and swearing in an abusive manner
  • Making intimidating comments

Psychological abuse:

  • Playing mind games – threatening to run away, hurt themselves or telling

lies to control

  • Taunting – going to set the house on fire with you in it while you’re sleeping
  • Instilling fear and intimidation to get control


  • Put-downs & emotional blackmail
  • Playing mind games — trying to make you think you’re crazy
  • Making threats to run away, call child protection, hurt or kill themselves in order to control you or get their way


  • Demanding money or purchases you can’t afford
  • Stealing money or possessions
  • Incurring debts you have to pay


  • Viewing or making internet pornography
  • Engaging siblings in sexual behaviour
  • Excessive or public masturbation

Added Fuel to the fire

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.

How to Parents Feel?

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

  • Impacts negatively on self esteem increasing the risk of depression
  • Increases the likelihood of isolation
  • Can impact on the attachment of her other children – reducing secure attachment
  • Privately she may question her ability as a mother, her parenting styles and can ultimately result in a perception of failure. This can then lead to self-blame.
  • Some parents may blame themselves for their children treating them aggressively


Warzone Circumstances::

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

How can I help?

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.

  •           I am totally alone. I am unable to share this problem with even my closest friend
  •           I love my son/daughter, I just want the violence to stop
  •           I have been undermined by my abusive adolescent and lost the respect of the rest of my family/friends
  •           It’s my fault. He/she is my child and I have created this behaviour
  •           How can I admit that one of my children is abusing me? I am so ashamed
  •           I’m scared. Is this a passing phase, or will it get worse?
  •           I feel powerless. I can’t see how I can fix this problem
  •           I can’t trust my own son/daughter. I have to hide my wallet and keep my bedroom door locked at night
  •           I am exhausted and depressed. Who can I turn to?
  •           I’m a failure as a parent


Let them know that

  •           There is no excuse for any type of abuse
  •           Alcohol and drugs are a catalyst
  •           You are not to blame. Your adolescent is the person responsible for their violence against you
  •           There is no simple answer. You will need support outside of your family unit
  •           Violence toward you and your family may not be continuous. After a violent episode, your adolescent may be remorseful and cooperative until a situation sparks another violent event
  •           Generally, verbal violence increases or changes to physical abuse over time
  •           Trust your instincts – you know if your adolescent’s behaviour is abusive and you and the rest of your family are at risk
  •           Calling the police may be your first step in preventing further abuse to yourself and your family. Naming the abuse enables you and your adolescent to obtain support and assistance
  •           Violence is a criminal offence
  •           There is a range of counselling services that are familiar with adolescent-to-parent abuse and are able to assist you
  •           Abuse thrives in Silence and Isolation


Some strategies to help Regain Control & Healing the Relationship

  •           Have a safety plan – that may mean having the police phone number keyed into your mobile or a secret code word to alert a friend that you are in danger
  •           Don’t keep your adolescent’s abuse a secret – talk to the rest of your family so that you have a shared response to your adolescent’s abusive behaviour
  •           Find out about counselling services in your area. If one counsellor doesn’t provide you with the support you need, visit another
  •           Abusive behaviour is cyclic. Learn to read the warning signals and remove other children to a safer place
  •           Inform yourself about Legal options – It is important to learn about your legal rights and the rights of your child so that you are clear about the full range of options available to you, even if you choose not to take legal action.
  •           Don’t take responsibility for the abuse. Protecting your abusive child may contribute to an escalation of violence
  •           Learn different ways of managing conflict to protect you in the heat of the moment, this can particularly be important if your child knows exactly how to ‘push your buttons’ May be beneficial from learning different ways of relating to your children and dealing with negative emotions
  •           In crisis, call services like Parent line, Lifeline, 1800 Respect, DV Connect, Relationships Australia. If in imminent danger call 000.
  •           Asking them to leave if they are violent to end the abuse – It is also important to get support for yourself at this time. It is common for mothers to experience a range of mixed and conflicting emotions — relief, grief, guilt, freedom and failure.


Our GOAL strategies for working with violent adolescents and their parents

  •           parental authority by installing more confidence in parents,
  •           restoring family members trust into one another,
  •           containing conflict and discovering and supporting strengths
  •           competencies of parents and adolescents


Types of Support to Mothers

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.


This information has been provided by Elena Bishop, Director at Supportive Therapy MSW BScPsy AASW

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 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.

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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.


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