Thousands Of Parents Live In Fear Of Violence From Their Own Children

Thousands of parents are living in fear of violence from their own children, a shocking documentary reveals.

Channel 5's 'My Violent Child' – to be screened tonight (Wednesday) – reveals the 'desperation, helplessness and shame' many parents feel because they are attacked in their own homes by kids as young as nine years old.

The documentary uses research from the charity Family Lives which found that calls to its free 24/7 Helpline concerning aggressive behaviour had increased by two per cent over the last two years.

Of 83,469 calls made to the charity, 27 per cent included callers seeking advice regarding children's behaviour.

But what causes children to threaten, attack and even bully their own mums and dads?

The charity believes there are many reasons, including sudden and unpredictable changes to the family routine, such as divorce, parental domestic violence or bullying at school.

The latter, the charity believes, 'causes the anger and hurt to spill out at home'.

It said: "Children or young people often feel that the home is a safe environment to vent ones feelings."

In other cases, a child's aggression can be caused by mental health problems.

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One example, revealed in the documentary, is nine-year-old JJ, who attacks his mum Bobbi on an almost daily basis.

He has stabbed her, tried to push her under a truck and even plotted to kill her. And it's not just his mother who suffers – JJ was excluded from school after he left two of the teachers needing hospital treatment for a detached retina and a suspected broken wrist.

Bobbi said: "He has this absolute anger and strength you wouldn't imagine. He punches me, kicks me, pulls my hair. He has the worst temper I've ever seen in a child."

By taking part in the programme, Bobbi hopes it will increase understanding of, and help for, children with mental health problems, like JJ.

He was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) aged three and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) at seven. A year later doctors realised he also had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and traits of Asperger syndrome.

Mum-of-three Bobbi, from Southampton, said: "I really want people to realise that this beautiful, angelic, gorgeous little boy, who looks totally normal in the street, but suddenly starts throwing things out of my trolley in the supermarket, doesn't need a good whack, which is what people say.

"We actually need more understanding, he does have mental health problems. He doesn't need a slap."

Bobbi explained: "JJ was a very difficult baby. I hadn't experienced that at all with my other children.

"When I was trying to feed him, if I dropped a piece of his chocolate mousse on his tray, he would act like it was going to burn him.

"He would freak out completely. I would clean it away and then he would calm down. It wasn't normal behaviour.

"I started saying to the health visitor that this wasn't the behaviour I would expect from my child, I've got lots of experience. They kept telling me he was fine.

"If somebody made a noise in the house he would scream the place down, if somebody made a noise when he was asleep he would jump 10ft in the air because he was so scared of everything.

"As he got older, we started to realise he was a very scared child.

"As he got able to voice things, he would say he was scared that the sky was going to fall down and crush us.

"It was only when he could talk that we started to see where he was coming from and that he was a very anxious child who was scared of everything."

By six, JJ's behaviour had really spiralled out of control and he hatched a plan to try to kill Bobbi in the middle of the night.

She said: "He had tried to stab me a number of times, so we took away all the knives, scissors, anything that was sharp.

"He tried to involve his older sister. He told her he wanted her to get a knife, and said when I was asleep that night he was going to stab me.

"She was distraught and came to tell me. I told her he couldn't because there was nothing in the house to do it with."

JJ has been excluded twice – from a mainstream and a specialist behaviour school.

He is now at his third. But the exclusions were not the worst of it.

Bobbi said: "He pushed me in the road in front of a lorry. We were on our way home from school and he was angry that he had been excluded again, and he was holding my hand and waited for the lorry to get close enough and pushed me in the road in front of it."

The family and doctors have tried to improve JJ's conditions with medication – but currently he's not on any as Bobbi believes they didn't work for him.

Now she monitors everything he eats and drinks to ensure his behaviour isn't made worse by additives.

She added: "He doesn't want to be like this, he doesn't want to be angry, and he doesn't want to hurt anyone, and he doesn't want to get to that stage."

JJ is one of thousands of children who are violent towards their parents and Family Lives says urgent support is needed.

A spokesman added: "Whatever the reasons, children, parents, families and ultimately society will pay a huge cost if this growing area of concern is not addressed and parents must feel able to come forward to seek support."

Family Lives has a series of Top Tips to help parents and carers experiencing aggressive behaviour from children and young adults in their care:

• Don't exhibit aggressive behaviour to your teen. If you are hitting or screaming at your child, you can't expect them to behave any better. If you want a calm, considerate and non-violent child, then you have to set the example to follow. Remember, anger and aggression is a natural reaction to feeling attacked or injured.

• Do let them know that feeling angry is understandable but that how they express that anger can lead to problems. Explain that violence is not acceptable and that there will be consequences for their aggressive behaviour. Young Minds have a downloadable booklet called 'Feeling Angry' which is a useful tool for your teen.

• Don't fight back when your child is being aggressive – it will fuel the fight. Instead, let them know their behaviour is unacceptable and that you are walking away from them until they've calmed down.

• Do look after yourself. Think about your own needs. Make sure you set aside some time every week for yourself. Feeling stressed and run down will make it far more difficult to handle your child's aggressive behaviour. It may also make confrontations more likely.

• Do talk to your child's school to see if their aggressive behaviour is going on there too. Some schools can offer counselling or link up your child with a local service and worker who can offer advice.

• Do try to give your child confidence in themselves to make good choices – to know their alcohol limits, and to be strong enough to resist peer pressure to engage in risky behaviour.

'My Violent Child' is on Channel 5, Wednesday June 18 at 9pm