Violent and destructive or scared and hurt…
When an animal is scared, it will often react with aggression and inflict harm if necessary to protect itself.
A human being is no different, even if the threat is not physical or the danger is not necessarily life threatening, perhaps even only perceived.
When our nervous system is activated and we feel threat in some form, our brain and body may react with anger, aggression and violence.
When a parent experiences violence from their child at home, be that directed at objects, other members of the family or themselves, it can be extremely distressing, a source of great shame and something they resist seeking support for.
There are obviously many degrees and forms of violence but parents of neurodivergent young people have often seen it in some way or another at home. It may result in reciprocal anger and aggression as the parent themselves feels threatened or the complete opposite where the parent is overwhelmed and backs down, which does nothing to make the young person feel safe and may actually increase their show of anger.
Angry behaviour is a way to release emotion, it’s a way to get a reaction, whatever that may be, it’s a way to do something, take some action when feelings are big and there seems to be nowhere to go with them.
It takes a lot for a parent in this scenario to look beyond the angry outburst. But when they can look beneath the surface and beyond the behaviour, there are (almost) always feelings of loss, sadness, hurt, disempowerment, confusion and many others which don’t always seem to connect with anger. This certainly doesn’t mean ignoring or accepting the violence, but reframing and reacting to it differently.
Responding to these feelings with compassion and care is crucial. This may be massively resisted by the young person, and not easily supported by others in the family, but when it happens, it will always result in a lessening of the anger. When a young person, or any person in fact, feels heard and validated for what they are feeling, the need to show the hurt in a way that releases it and gets a response is reduced.
As is so often the case, empowering parents and young people with language to label and talk about feelings, validation for healthy expression of emotions and appropriate support for those who reach out for help, is absolutely essential.