Non Violent Resistance (NVR)

Sometimes parents or carers are afraid of their child under the age of 18 years old. This can be because of abusive or violent behaviour at home used by the child which means that parents or carers feel they cannot be the kind of parent they would like to be. Non Violent Resistance is an evidence-based, non-blaming and relatively short-term intervention model that empowers parents and people working with them to take positive action to end the abusive and/or violent behaviour of a child. It also helps through respecting and protecting children and all family members. People trained in NVR have been offering NVR support to parents or carers through Parentline since 2013. It has worked very well for many families. At a time of COVID 19, social isolation and social distancing, providing NVR over a phoneline, which is how Parentline volunteers have always offered NVR support, can be a lifeline". Declan Coogan, 22nd April 2020

Dr Declan Coogan,
Lecturer, Acting Co-Director of the MA in Social Work Programme,
Research Fellow, UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre,
School of Political Science & Sociology, National University of Ireland, Galway

Describing the NVR.
Non Violent Resistance (NVR) and Parentline in a time of COVID 19
By Declan Coogan & Eileen Lauster, 22nd April 2020

"It’s all your fault"

Patsy and Mike, the parents of 13 year old Marie (not their real names), rang a counsellor at their local family support service in Galway. Their daughter was always fighting with them, refused to join them at meetings with counsellors, shouting that there was nothing wrong with her, that her parents were “crazy” and “it was all their fault”. As they spoke over the phone to the counsellor, Marie’s parents described feelings of hopelessness and helplessness as their 13 year old daughter had over the last few months begun to use alcohol (and they suspected, drugs), shout and scream at her parents and her brother and sister, had broken a door and window and had threatened her parents with physical violence. They could not understand how Marie, who up until recently had been pleasant, happy, out-going and close to her parents, could change so much and treat them so badly. They felt there was nothing they could do. They felt at a loss...and initially, the counsellor felt the same way.

The First Step

Experiences within a family of this kind of behaviour are often surrounded by a veil of silence, with embarrassment, shame and fear. Parents find it difficult to start a conversation with their child about the behaviour. But reaching out and talking is always a good first step. For the people who work with families like social workers and family support workers, counsellors and volunteers with Parentline, listening to parents or carers talking about these experiences is always a good start and listening without judgement is especially important.

But what can we do together to end the use of abusive and/or violent behaviour by some children and young people towards their parents? How can the people at Parentline help?

First we can name the problem and let parents know that they are not alone. Conflict between parents and children is usually a rite of passage, a stage in changing relationships as sons and daughters grow and mature. But in some families, abuse, violence and fear enter the relationship. This can make parents, like Mike and Patsy, feel they are unable to act as a parent.

Child to parent violence and abuse (CPVA) is an abuse of power through which a child/adolescent under the age of 18 years coerces, controls or dominates parents or those who have a parental role (e.g. grand-parents or foster carers). Parents living with CPVA often talk about feeling ashamed, powerless and alone.

Human Rights

This is a question of the human rights of parents and of children: article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no one should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Yet parents or carers who talk with us about the abusive and/ or sometimes violent behaviour of their son or daughter tell us about experiences of cruelty, of feeling degraded or constantly walking on eggshells. And because parents in these situations cannot live in a close and happy relationship with their child, then the child is also negatively affected by his or her behaviour.

No break in a time of COVID 19

Right now, as we live through the time of COVID 19, it is even harder to be at home, together all the time. We are living through uncertain and strange times. Normal routines are disrupted. It is almost impossible to escape the tension and stress without the break usually brought about through the separation thanks to school, training course, work or getting together with friends. There is uncertainty about when and how all our lives can begin to return to some sort of normal routine. In lots of different ways, we have all had to adapt the ways we work and live.

But more than that, life continues to make other extraordinary demands of us all in a time of COVID 19. Social isolation and social distancing is hard. It is also hard for everyone to maintain personal, physical and emotional/ psychological health but especially when living with the strain of life as we need to live now. It is even harder for families living with abusive and/ or violent behaviour.

There is help

But there are sources of help. Many Parentline volunteers are trained in delivering the NVR programme to parents or carers and are there to take your call and get you started on the programme. This can be particularly important in the time of social distancing as Parentline can offer welcome support and a listening ear for parents coping with intense and stress filled challenges. There are also free on-line resources, some of which have been developed by practitioners and academics in Ireland (see and and ).

Where does NVR come from?

NVR for families living with children with abusive/ violent behaviour was pioneered in Tel Aviv, Israel by psychologist and family therapist Haim Omer and others. They adopted the principles and strategies of non-violence from socio-political struggles for civil rights to work with families where children and young people use violent/ abusive behaviour at home.

Involving trained practitioners working collaboratively with parents, the NVR model moves the focus of intervention to where parents can effectively take action to change interaction habits between parents and children that can lead to the use of abusive/ violent behaviour.

What does NVR mean in practice?

Using the NVR model in partnership with parents, the NVR trained practitioner becomes a type of adviser/ coach for parents. Parents are supported to develop skills for de-escalation, self-control, resistance and protest against/ rejection of abusive behaviour. This empowers parents to take their place as a parent in the family. Parents commit to avoiding all forms of abusive behaviour and make a clear announcement to the family that specific types of behaviour are no longer acceptable. Although abusive and violent behaviour is rejected and resisted, the child is treated with respect and love as a member of the family. Parents increase their positive presence in their child’s life and make unconditional acts of reconciliation towards their son/ daughter. Parents often also ask the NVR trained practitioner for help in recruiting and co-ordinating a Support Network (people chosen by parents to take on certain tasks to help them end abusive and/ or violent behaviour at home).

A note about the authors

Dr Declan Coogan is an Acting Co-Director of the MA in Social Work and a Research Fellow with the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at the School of Political Science and Sociology in NUI Galway. An experienced social worker (CORU) and psychotherapist (FTAI), he adapted the NVR model for use with families in Ireland and developed an NVR training programme for practitioners working with children and families. He was the Ireland lead for the completed co-funded EU Responding to Child to Parent Violence (2013-15) study. His book Child to Parent Violence and Abuse- Family Interventions with Non Violent Resistance was published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2018.

Eileen Lauster, independent social worker and tutor with the MA in Social Work at NUI Galway, has worked with Declan since the EU co-funded Responding to Child to Parent Violence Project (2013-15 ). Together with other colleagues they have developed NVR training programmes for practitioners throughout Ireland and further afield. They are both founding members of Non Violent Resistance Ireland, a network of practitioners and academics committed to developing NVR as a helpful intervention for parent, families and practitioners.

All Calls Welcome

Parentline welcomes calls about any parenting issue – a problem which seems trivial at an early stage can easily develop into a more serious issue for both parent and child if unaddressed.

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