Limits help both children and young people feel safe and secure and to know what is expected of them. As young people mature, limits need to be adjusted to enable them to become more independent. It is important to remember, parents need to be in control but there is a difference between being in control and being controlling.
When you are both calm and relaxed, it helps to:
- Set ‘house rules’. Be clear about what things they can decide for themselves, what things you will decide, and what things are household decisions.
- Talk about what behaviours are OK. Let them know what you will do if they become violent or dangerous. They may need to leave the house, either by agreement or by you calling the police.
To become mature, young people need to learn to accept the consequences of their choices. If they haven’t had to face consequences for abuse or violence they might see no reason to stop. They may continue to be violent in future relationships. Consequences send a clear message that you won’t put up with violence. It also helps you feel more confident as you take back your right to be the parent.
It is important to:
- Start small and focus on one behaviour which needs modifying/changing, eg instead of trying to stop your child swearing, think about focusing on one swear word
- Try to think about a consequence to put into place if your child uses that particular swear word
- Your child must be informed of the consequence so they are mindful of what will happen if the behaviour continues
- It is vital that the consequence is used at all times once it has been set. This may be very difficult to maintain but it is of upmost importance or behaviour will not positively change
- Reflect on and recognise positive behaviour and let your child know when they have presented good behaviour. It is easy to focus on abusive and violent behaviour but is also important to recognise and reinforce the positives.
However, if they are violent, there is no negotiation. Consequences help young people learn they are the ones choosing to use violence – they can’t blame others.
Know the triggers
Notice what happens before your young person gets aggressive or abusive. They might lash out when they are stressed or frustrated, when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or when there is conflict.
- If arguments trigger abuse or violence, look at what causes fights. What happens as a fight brews? What are the warning signs?
- When these signs are present, make sure you act early and give each other space
- If you need to leave the house, take other children so they are safe
- If alcohol or drugs contribute to violence, have clear rules about your young person not being in the house when affected by substances
- If violence or abuse is out of character, think about what else may have happened or changed for them. Has anyone new had contact with your family? Have there been other changes in the family, or upsets with friends?
Help young people find ways to manage their feelings and deal with stress. They might want to talk with a trusted adult or youth counsellor.
Strengthen your relationship
It can help to work out ways to build your relationship. Work together at making the relationship more important than any differences you might have. You could:
- Let them know you love them and all the good things about them
- Notice what they do well and talk with them about it
- Spend time talking and getting to know their interests
- Talk about problems only when you’re both calm
Take action to stop the violence
It is important to take control early. It’s also important to plan what you will do in an emergency. You could have:
- A list of people you can call for help
- A safe place you can go and take other children
- Spare keys for your home and car, and some cash in a safe place in case you need to leave in a hurry
Look after yourself
Dealing with violence in the home is difficult and stressful. Recognise positive changes, even if they are small steps. Taking early action can help you feel more confident as a parent. It sends a clear message that you won’t put up with violence.