Tag Archives: holidays

Nonviolent Resistance

OmerI never thought I would enjoy therapy, but Tony and I are finding our weekly art therapy sessions a useful space to think about where we are and how to deal with the children’s behaviour. Our adoption worker also recommended looking at Nonviolent Resistance. One of the books I ordered was Haim Omer’s book, Nonviolent Resistance: A New Approach to Violent and Self-destructive Children (CUP, 2004). I have only dipped in so far, but it makes a lot of sense. I turned first to the chapter on ‘Violence towards siblings’ as Billy’s attitude and behaviour towards Jo is the cause of most violence in the family. I was thankful to read (p.113-14) that the author stresses the need for parents to be supported rather than judged:

We have seen that the prevailing assumption that parental abuse is the real cause of violence towards siblings is little more than a widespread dogma. This blaming stance toward parents precludes any possibility of building a therapeutic alliance with them. Professionals thus jettison in advance their main potential collaborators in the fight against the child’s violence. In effect, we can hope to cope with the hidden endemic problem of violence toward siblings only by moving beyond the prevailing accusatory stance and evolving an attitude of trust toward parents who are willing to get help. We therapists should approach these parents with the assumption that they are motivated by true concern and an honest desire to help their children and themselves. Viewing the parents as defensive, as sabotaging the therapy, as trying to invade their children’s privacy, or as bent on preventing her independence are professional habits generated by the erroneous view of the parents as the main pathogenic factor. What the therapist views as a parent’s resistance to treatment is often nothing but a reflection of the parent’s feelings that the therapist’s suggestions are not helping.

The same could be said for social workers and educationalists. We are fortunate at the moment in having some professionals around us who do recognise our genuine care and concerns for our children and who are working with us in trying to find solutions. We were working towards many of the principles of non-violent resistance anyway, including setting clear boundaries, keeping ourselves safe and taking back control – so far by keeping the children apart, but now we have the Easter holidays, which we meet with some trepidation. I wrote a letter to Billy, a kind of contract, which included some of the non-violent resistance ideas, including making it clear that we would not hide his behaviour, and that we would be present when he is at home – he might consider intrusive – and make the decisions as to what is and is not acceptable without entering into negotiations. The bottom line is that we will call the police and have him removed from the house if we can’t cope with his behaviour towards us or towards Jo.

Tony picked Billy up from College and took him to MacDonalds, our neutral space for talking. He explained that there was a solicitor’s letter and a letter from us for him at home, and talked him through the situation he was in. From there he led onto how Billy can help himself and meet our expectations of him. Billy is keen to avoid a custodial sentence and unusually open to suggestions as to how he can do this. Last time I spoke to him he thought he was fine and didn’t need to change, so maybe something has shifted. The good influences in the form of Jane and friends, as well as family, probably help. It is impossible for us to really know what and who is a danger to him and should be avoided, and who can help. Naturally at 16, living away from home, most of his life is hidden to us, and even when at home so much of his life is online that it is still a mystery, as we found out recently to everyone’s cost. Billy has arranged to have friends staying for part of the holidays which suggests to us that he is aware friends can help act as a corrective to some extent on his behaviour. These things are a delicate balance between control and firmness on our part but without communicating rejection or anger.

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Second Letter to Billy

Dear Billy

Things we can and can’t do for you.

We can and will:

  • Continue to love you unconditionally.
  • Be proud of your achievements and celebrate your successes.
  • Welcome you and your friends – as long as you and they behave well, and treat the family and our home with respect.
  • Try to support you when things don’t go well.
  • Be upset and disappointed when you don’t take advantage of your opportunities, let people down, let yourself down, and make bad choices.
  • Decide if and when you can come home if your presence or actions have an overly disruptive effect on the family.
  • Call the police if we decide that your actions are more than we can cope with.
  • Continue to liaise with social services, adoption services, the police, solicitors and Department of Work and Pensions on your behalf.

We can’t:

  • Make choices for you.
  • Mitigate the consequences of your actions.
  • Undo your mistakes or minimise the seriousness of what you have done wrong.
  • Turn your life around.
  • Help you discover what you really want to do and be in life – that’s for you to do.
  • Find you an apprenticeship or job – but the College and other agencies can help if you take advantage of their services.

We won’t:

  • Tolerate bad behaviour in the home. This includes (1) being rude, provocative or unkind; (2) smoking or taking anything legal or illegal, apart from tobacco, in the conservatory or outside; (3) damaging the house, furnishings or belongings; (4) any violence, verbal or physical, whatsoever; (5) stealing; (6) lying; (7) misuse of the Internet; (8) excessive drinking.
  • Seek to minimise or conceal your behaviour in the past, present or future.
  • Bargain with you over what is or is not permitted.

We expect you:

  • To be polite and considerate.
  • To keep your room and belongings tidy.
  • To actively plan for and work towards your future in a constructive and realistic manner.
  • Ask for and accept help when needed.
  • To keep yourself safe and behave in a responsible manner.

Mum and Dad

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Good Enough Parenting

It is always good to get a pat on the back. Neither Billy nor Jo are programmed to say “Thank You!” or show outward gratitude. They are still operating at a much younger level than their chronological years in many respects. Most of life is self-referential. ‘How does this affect me?’ ‘Am I safe?’ ‘Can I get away with it?’ Luckily we don’t parent in order to get these rewards, although learning to say “Thank You” is a useful skill they will hopefully acquire along the way.

aeroplane-in-sunsetI was therefore very touched by Edgar’s Christmas card message, which I read this morning (having got back from Heathrow at 1am). The plane had been delayed and the baggage took an age, then Billy insisted that he and Edgar go to the smoking area before we left, overshooting our two hours of parking. Pricey, but it was very good to see Edgar again after about six months absence. The message read:

 You can’t believe how happy I am to be with you now!…

It’s been AMAZING those 2 years with you all!!

My grades have luckily gone up a bit. I hope Billy is on his right path too….

I remember the first time I came over… we had Domino’s, MacDonald’s and KFC in one weekend, haha! ­Jolly good (splendid!).

Maybe Billy could come over to [X] again sometime again?

I just want to thank you all again for everything you have done for me… you can’t believe what it means to me (honestly, those 2 years have been the best in my life yet).

So enough talking, let’s celebrate 2015!

Lots of love, kind regards, yours sincerely etc.

Edgar

 The envelope was endearingly addressed: To the most splendid family on this planet!

It is good to know we have made some difference to this young man’s life. He hasn’t had it easy either, and lacks the stable family background Billy and Jo have enjoyed. I guess we are all damaged in one way or another. Sometimes its very visible – a broken leg, a congenital disability. In others it’s hidden; a neurological and emotional handicap from a difficult start in life, even before birth. Others are damaged by dysfunctional relationships, a lack of love, or extreme poverty. Edgar was part of our family  when Jo began her public gender transition. Her first attempts to go out as a girl were a little extreme. She hadn’t had much practice and didn’t have a big choice of clothes. She had not decided on the look she wanted to achieve. The first time Edgar was sitting at breakfast and Jo came into the kitchen as a girl his spontaneous remark was “That’s disgusting!” We probably hadn’t forewarned him, which I did subsequently with all Billy’s friends. Jo was understandably upset and retreated to her room. I had a word with Edgar about gender transition and how important it was to support Jo, especially as Billy was being as unkind to her and as difficult as possible. Edgar took it on board and from then on was kind and, at least in our company, was careful not to say anything inappropriate. He made an effort to adapt his language to the change of name and gender.

I was amused to have my lack of domestic skills set out in a series of fast-food outlets. If I read that about someone else I would probably be making judgements about the sort of family who just stuff the kids with junk food rather than sit round the table eating nutritious home-cooked meals. I do try to do that too, but especially when they have friends over we are often trying to keep so many balls in the air, treading on eggshells, trying to keep the kids apart and prevent a meltdown. Giving-in to requests for over-priced Domino’s pizza, or getting a MacDonald’s after a trip to the cinema or on the way back to school, can be a small price to pay for some happily occupied and relatively compliant children.