Why is my child/teen violent towards me? While working with families experiencing child to parent violence (CPV), this is the big question I get asked. While Non Violent Resistance (NVR) does not require an understanding of the why in order to be effective, it is important to some parents/carers to understand for themselves. Here’s what we know so far as to why some children/teens are violent towards their parents/carers.

Studies to date would tell us that:

  • Some children have learned they can have their way by threats and violence

  • Some children have learned that by behaving aggressively they can coax the parent into behaving aggressively also. This can help them to feel justified in their actions.

  • Escalation habits have shown the child that if they behave in a more extreme way, they will get what they want

As well as the above reasons however, we must remember that there is a feeling behind every behaviour. It can be difficult for children/teens to express these feelings to us in a healthy way. Perhaps they do not understand the feeling themselves to begin with. For this reason, troubleshooting reasons and feelings with the child/teen who is perpetrating the abuse may be pointless. However, one element of the NVR intervention addresses this discord. That element is what we call ‘externalising the problem’.

When there is violence in the home, all positive acts tend to be abandoned and replaced with bitterness and contempt. One truly wonderful aspect of NVR is encouraging the parent to externalise the problem. In other words, the behaviour is the problem and not the child. This can be a challenging concept for parents to grasp but when they do it can be life changing.

Externalising the problem, allows the parent to make room for the positive aspects of the child. In the same way it allows the parent to take a break from being the ‘bad guy’ and encourages positive interactions with the offending child/teen. Reintroducing positive interactions shows the child/teen that they are still part of the family and importantly, that they are still loved. Externalising the problem and reintroducing positive interactions with the child/teen again, allows room for the child/teen to behave in a better way also.


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