Nonviolent Resistance: A Treatment for Parents of Children with Acute Behavior Problems

By Weinblatt, Uri; Omer, Haim | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Nonviolent Resistance: A Treatment for Parents of Children with Acute Behavior Problems


Weinblatt, Uri, Omer, Haim, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy


Nonviolent resistance (NVR) is a new training model aimed at helping parents deal effectively with their helplessness, isolation, and escalatory interactions with their children. The purpose of this study is to evaluate training in NVR with the parents of children with acute behavior problems. Seventy-three parents (41 families) were randomly assigned to a treatment group and wait-list control group. Measures were taken at pretreatment, posttreatment, and a 1-month follow-up. In comparison with the wait-list group, parents who received training in NVR showed a decrease in parental helplessness and escalatory behaviors, and an increase in perceived social support. The children's negative behaviors as assessed by the parents also decreased significantly.

The treatment of children with aggressive or other acute behavioral problems' is often conducted through the parents (Kotchick, Shaffer, Dorsey, & Forehand, 2004). Programs of parent training have been inspired by a variety of therapeutic approaches (Cavell, 2000; Forehand & McMahon, 1981; Henggeler & Borduin, 1990; Henggeler, Schoenwald, Borduin, Rowland, & Cunninggham, 1998; Patterson, 1976; Price, 1996; Sells, 1998; Webster-Stratton & Herbert, 1994). The data on the effectiveness of parent-training programs support this parent-based strategy (Brestan & Eyberg, 1998). Yet, although parents play the major role, the programs usually remain child-focused, viewing the parents as mediators or co-therapists who are responsible for changing the child's behavior.

Over the years, however, parents are growingly being viewed as clients in their own right. Some treatments now present themselves as "parent-therapies" (Cavell, 2000). In this view, improvements in the reactions, self-esteem, perceived support, and well-being of the parents should be viewed as goals in themselves. Parental variables should accordingly be no less important than child variables in estimating treatment success. After all, parental suffering is no less real and deserves relief no less than child suffering. Moreover, improvements in parental feelings would most probably benefit the child, particularly if achieved through an increase in parental presence, and a diminution of the parents' impulsive reactions and escalating behaviors.

Nonviolent Resistance (NVR)

Nonviolent resistance was originally developed in the sociopolitical arena. Groups that were power-disadvantaged or morally opposed to the use of violence in their fight against exploitation and oppression, but who felt that dialogue and persuasion by themselves were ineffective in helping them to their goals, developed a variety of nonviolent methods for conducting their struggle. Gene Sharp (1973, 2005), the foremost authority in the history, principles, and strategies of NVR, has described the wide scope of the approach and its influence in innumerable confrontations throughout the 20th century. Until recently, these ideas have received only sporadic mention in the psychological literature (Kool, 1990; Schiff & Belson, 1988). However, recently, the NVR training program has been developed to help parents cope with child and adolescent violent and self-destructive behaviors (Alon & Omer, 2006; Omer, 2001, 2004; Omer, Irbauch, & Schlippe, 2005; Omer & Schlippe, 2002, 2004; Omer, Shor-Sapir, & Weinblatt, 2006). Originally developed in Israel, this approach is presently being applied in many treatment centers in Germany, England, Switzerland, and Holland. This is the first controlled study of parental training in NVR.

Parental Helplessness and Escalation Processes

The theoretical rationale for using NVR with the parents of children with acute behavior problems has to do with parental helplessness. The parents of children with severe behavioral problems often view themselves as having less power than the child (Bugental & Lewis, 1998), believe that nothing can work, and feel defeated in advance when it comes to demands or confrontations (Webster-Stratton & Herbert, 1994). …

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