Parental presence: A child or young person’s sense that their parent is there for them, that the parent is a safe, solid and dependable person who can be relied upon. A child or young person's sense that their parent knows their whereabouts and cares what they are doing. The child or young person is aware of their parents' values sense of right and wrong.
Loss of Parental Presence: Parents are supported to acknowledge fluctuations in their levels of involvement and presence they have in their child’s physical, emotional and social life and how they relate to the development of unacceptable behaviours. By exploring their own experiences, unmet needs and developing an inter- and intra-personal awareness, parents affirm their parental values and become conscious how they communicate them. This helps them to (re-)build their parental presence.
Rebuilding the relationship: When relationships have become characterised by challenging, harmful and self destructive behaviours there are very few opportunities for people to relate more positively. The relationship needs to be rebuilt based on acknowledging the negative, escalatory patterns along with a commitment to learning and implementing ways to (re)connect with each other.
De-escalation: Parents and carers learn to identify when situations are escalating and how to step out, thereby changing the pattern. Two types of escalation tend to occur: one where both sides escalate simultaneously (here the escalaton may end in violence) and another where the parent chooses to give in. Parents often do both. In NVR parents learn to wait until things are calmer and respond instead of reacting using the maxim ‘strike when the iron is cold’.
Supporters: Parents and carers identify individuals who can support them, the focus child and other members of the family; caregivers are specific about how supporters can help them resist the young person’s challenging behaviours.
Breaking the silence: Parents and carers share the child's difficult behaviour with other people who care about the family. Caregivers may also share their feelings of hopelessness and helplessness as well as their need for help.
Helping siblings and others: By taking time to listen to their experiences and explaining the changes in approach, parents support siblings and others, who have been impacted by the child’s destructive behaviours.
Sit-In: If the child or young person repeats the behaviour/s addressed in the NVR Announcement (for example, punching a sibling), the parents/carers will carefully plan an NVR Sit-In. The purpose of the Sit-In is multi-functional: a) to raise Parental (or adult) Presence; b) to aid connection between parent/s and child/young person; c) to assist the child/young person to think of ways they can change their behaviour/s; and d) to demonstrate their love and commitment to the relationship and towards achieving change in a peaceful way. In an NVR Sit-In the parents/carers (or a parent and a supporter) enter the child/young person's bedroom* in a non-threatening way and explain their presence in a calm and quiet manner. They then sit quietly or silently for a pre-determined time, or until the child has made a constructive suggestion*. The Sit-In is an important piece of the NVR jigsaw. *Adjustments are made according to the child/young person's age, ability and presentation.
Campaign of Concern: Originally called ‘message campaign’ by Haim Omer, concern is the attitude or mindset in which we would like the family to communicate with the young person after a problematic or positive incident. The support network is informed by parents or other caregivers of such an incident, and the parents nominate certain supporters to approach their child by text, email, letter, video call or in person. In the case of a problematic incident (a ‘small basket behaviour’), each supporter expresses their concern for everyone affected by the incident, including the young person who has instigated it. The messages should be neither blaming nor minimising. There should be at least as many ‘positive incident’ messages as ‘problematic incident’ messages. Positive incidents are exceptions to the problem – e.g. when the young person has controlled themselves during an argument rather than resorting to aggression as in the past – or an example that shows the young person beginning to thrive or reconnect with other family members, e.g. when they have become able to sit through a maths lesson which they had previously been unable to, or when they have sometimes taken a meal with their parents again as in the past. In the campaign of concern, the support network becomes a containing social environment for the child or young person.
Tailing and Telephone Round: When young people run away from home, truant from school, or stay out at night rather than returning home at an appointed time, they increase their exposure to risk. Examples of these potential risks are gang involvement, child sexual exploitation and rape, drug misuse; they are also vulnerable to being drawn into drug dealing and trafficking. The physical and psychological harm to the young person tends to be significant, and parents and other caregivers lose their parental presence when the young person withdraws from their sphere of influence. ‘Tailing’ reverses this process. By ‘leaving footprints in dangerous places’, caregivers strategically raise their presence with people and in places the young person frequents, e.g. by meeting other parents of other vulnerable young people the child has contact with, gathering contact details, communicating with other adults and young people when their child has not come home, and seeking to locate the young person’s whereabouts. In the telephone round, caregivers contact a wide range of people who may be able to communicate with their child. It is important to persist in these efforts, time and again, when young people show a pattern of absconding.
Announcement: Parents and carers carefully construct an NVR Announcement to their child explaining they love and care for the child but are are resisting the negative behaviour because they want things to be better for everyone. The parents and carers commit to a non-violent stance (verbal and physical). There are no threats or warnings. The NVR announcement is short and specific. Parents and carers refine the NVR Announcement until it embodies and resonates with both their love for their child and their stance of resistance. Parents and carers carefully plan the delivery of the NVR Announcement.
Reconciliation gestures (or ‘relational gestures’): Parents and carers make regular small gestures of unconditional love and kindness towards their child. These may be small gifts or actions (items of food, repairs to things that have been broken, special messages, watching the child’s favourite TV programme with them) which are made irrespective of how the child has behaved. They are also made without expecting anything in return or pointing out the act of kindness to the child. Reconciliation gestures are intended to help the parent enact feelings of warmth and love towards their child. If the gesture is spurned, parents do not react.
Active resistance: Parents choose to resist attempts to engage them in escalation. They resist the temptation to have the last word. Parents engage in peaceful protest against harmful behaviours. Parents stop giving in to unreasonable demands (internet access throughout the night, bribes/rewards so the child will attend school, unlimited taxi and laundry services).
Communication Model: Child-focused NVR is a form of therapy that was developed to help children with problematic behaviours such as aggression and violence, running away, truanting or self-harming (some of whom were abused or neglected in the past), to overcome some of the emotional difficulties that have remained hidden behind their behaviours. This is achieved by supporting parents and carers to reconnect with their child and initiate a ‘caring dialogue’. First, the NVR practitioner helps the caregiver experience a ‘moment of strength’ by remembering a strong yet non-escalating response to the child's problematic behaviour, they may then plan another one. The parent or carer then makes use of the NVR ‘relational/reconciliation gestures’ in a specific way – to address unmet needs in the young person. In the process, the caregiver is supported to imagine such a dialogue, in which the child will be able to show vulnerability, the parent will be able to provide care, and the child will be able to accept their care. Imagining such positive future interactions builds hope, strengthens parents and carers further, and enables them to attune to their child in a sensitive and caring way, even when the child continues rejects such care.
Connecting conversations: After the deconstruction of old patterns, parents and carers can start developing new ways of being with their child and learn to respond rather than react. Once they are ready, caregivers can rehearse with supporters some new ways of being with their child. Active responsive listening to the child, noticing and naming how the child feels, reflecting on their own or others’ relevant experiences (without falling into lecturing and preaching), visualising or naming the child’s unmet needs, putting themselves into their shoes and seeing things from their perspective, empathising and asking for forgiveness are all examples of positive reconnection. This is not an exhaustive or prescriptive list. Graduate parents’ testimonies provide inspiration for new parents, who develop their own ways of applying the NVR principles.
Self-Announcement: Parents and carers look in a non-blaming and non-judgemental way at the painful feelings and experiences that may have stopped them from being effective in their parenting. Caregivers commit themselves to being present, aware and involved in changing their own part in the unhealthy escalatory patterns whilst acknowledging their own capacity and motivation for bringing about change.
Use of mindfulness in NVR: Parents and carers are introduced to different mindfulness techniques (the practice of clearing the mind of thoughts and judgements by being attentive to unconscious processes and bodily sensations) which aid parents and carers to reduce a tendency towards thoughtless and reactive actions which often emerge from and maintain patterns of conflict. Mindfulness helps caregivers to relax and take care of themselves better and thereby cultivate their parental presence in a constructive way. These practices also assist parents and carers to develop a non-judgemental and non-violent stance towards themselves and others.
New Authority: The new authority emphasises parents’ self-control and persistence over control of the child, mutual responsibility for escalations over blaming the child as solely responsible for family break-down, resistance over punishment and transparency over secrecy. It is a new paradigm of authoritative parenting that promotes supervision, firmness and discipline replacing distance, power and hierarchy used in traditional authoritarian parenting. The metaphor of the anchoring function of the parent for the child and the importance of social support become central components of a secure parent-child bond.
NVR as trauma-focused therapy In NVR, parents or other caregivers take action in ways they would ordinarily feel inhibited from doing because of the difficult emotions that could arise. One key emotion often experienced when dealing with a young person who responds with aggression is fear. Fear can feel overwhelming to parents and carers who have experienced abuse in the past and can lead to trauma symptoms such as feeling overwhelmed, paralysed, wanting to run away or even becoming ‘dissociative’. However, by exposing themselves to such ‘trauma triggers’ again and again, e.g. by carrying out ‘sit-ins’ in response to ‘small basket’ behaviours, parents and carers can become de-sensitized to such triggers. NVR practitioners can utilise methods that help prevent parents from feeling overwhelmed and give them the sense that they remain in control of themselves. In this way, NVR becomes a form of trauma therapy.
Self-care /Looking after yourself: Parents make time for themselves and for activities that they enjoy, recharging their batteries and restoring their sense of self. These actions therefore enhance their capacity for giving to others.
Graduate Parent Participation: Parents and carers who have completed an NVR programme may become actively involved in all aspects of NVR projects (groups, mentoring, presentations, writing, research) to share their experience with new NVR parents and carers and others. Graduate Parents combine compassion, empathy, containment and support with the a message of hope that parents and carers who are new to NVR will also be able to overcome hopelessness and despair. Parents and carers new to the NVR approach can often hear, believe and accept these messages of hope from Graduate Parents better than from professionals.
SPACE stands for ‘supporting parents in responding to anxious childhood emotions’. The approach is a combination of NVR and CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy), which has been specifically developed to help families in which children suffer from debilitating anxiety but do not cooperate sufficiently in therapy. Parents work along a continuum ranging from ‘protection’ of the child from anxiety-related challenges at one end, to ‘support’ of the child to face these challenges and gain confidence and a sense that they themselves can overcome their fears. In order to re-balance their position and move towards the ‘support’ end of the continuum, parents learn to recognise how they have been accommodating the child to show avoidance of what they are afraid of, and how to overcome such accommodation. By then supporting the child as they gradually come face-to-face with more and more of the situations they have been avoiding, children overcome their problems with anxiety, and parents or siblings no longer have to suffer from the fallout of the anxiety, such as when the child in the past has ‘made’ family members carry out certain obsessional rituals or prevented the family from undertaking pleasurable or wholesome activities.
The Four Core Parenting Values:
1. Safety of the child and of others
2. Developing the child's full potential and abilities in order for them to have a good future
3. Developing and maintaining good relationships
4. Showing respect for themselves, their parents and others
Vigilant Care: Vigilant care consists of three stages which can be compared to a traffic-light-system: The ‘open attention’ position can be compared to the green light. Parents keep their eyes and ears open, stay vigilant for any warning signals during routine contacts with the child (school runs, meals). In the ‘focussed attention’ stage (comparable to the amber traffic light), parents become more vigilant and talk to other people who are closely involved with the child (teachers, friends, grandparents). In the ‘protective action’ stance (comparable to the red light) parents and their supporters take action (announcement, sit-ins, active resistance, increased visual presence, protective actions). Parents regularly shift between these three positions.
Three Baskets: Parents and carers prioritise unwanted behaviours by placing them in three differently-sized baskets. The large basket contains the majority of the undesirable behaviours, that for now, the parents/carers can let go. The medium-sized basket is for behaviours that parents are prepared to compromise on. The small, or priority, basket is for the one or two most serious and dangerous behaviours that the parent/carer is going to resist actively.
Fourth basket or rainbow basket (sometimes also called the flower basket): The rainbow basket provides parents with the opportunity to re-connect with their unconditional love for the child by prompting them to recall special memories and forgotten qualities of the child. This enables the child to be viewed more holistically.