Parent Case Study
Initial Enquiry: Single Mum of 2 children - experiencing behavioural problems with youngest son.
This client reached out to me because of her young son’s aggressive behaviour. We spent ten weeks working together on the Ultimate Success course. Read here how her son’s aggressive behaviour lessened during them ten weeks and how now this parent has a happier, calmer home life.
1. Where were you in your parenting before you worked with Fiona (What were your biggest struggles?)
The biggest issue was the aggressive behaviour from my youngest son (7), towards other children, his brother and I. I couldn’t understand where it came from, how to reduce it, how to manage it socially. I was really worried that the future with “A” would involve situations where this behaviour got worse. I knew that he wanted help to reduce the angry feelings he had, but despite books and online materials, I could not find solutions.
We had tried to live with my partner “J” and his children in 2018 but that failed due to these aggressive issues and even spending a day with other families was so difficult. It was extremely isolating. At that time I was treating “A’s” moments with restraint and distraction or love and cuddles, knowing that it was an emotional reaction, but that wasn’t helping the situation. I felt very lost and trapped and scared for the future.
2. What made you realise you needed some additional support in your parenting?
I had read lots of books, tried to get assessments via health workers, social workers, been to court twice to reduce the childcare on their Dad’s side. The school said they could not fight the legal opposition from their Dad, so I kept finding blockers. Any assessment of the boys and I was very positive – we had regular routines, used activity prompt cards and lists to help with activities, ate healthily – there wasn’t anything obvious I was doing wrong. I realised during lockdown that I could coach myself or find some way of training myself to help “A”. That led to some research and several phone calls with parenting coaches and then it was obvious from the first contact that Fiona offered something interesting.
3. How did you initially find the 10 week process?
I wasn’t sure how relevant the course materials were to the needs of our family, but these made more sense as I worked through them. I was really excited about the book recommendations and the fact that Fiona had suggestions to all of the issues I raised. I really disliked the intrusion into my childhood but understood the reasoning. There were some uncomfortable moments and some unwelcome memories which surfaced, but it helped me grow. I didn’t expect to see an improvement in the relationship with my Mum, but we have found a peace together as a result of behaviours improving (me and the boys) and as our relationship improves, she is helping me more. She is helping on four days in the holidays and this is a massive change, for which I am extremely grateful.
4. What was Fiona like as your coach?
Calm, inspirational, non-judgemental, focused on my needs and situation. I didn’t feel like she had a preconceived agenda or routine, she listened to anything I wanted to raise and then had so much experience to share – content from books, youtube videos, expert examples. I have studied much of my adult life so am hugely impressed with anyone who works hard to become an expert in their field, who keeps their knowledge relevant and is humble enough to learn from the experience of their clients. She is a beautiful human being.
She has created one of the most life changing experiences of my life and definitely the most life changing experience for my children and I. The exciting thing is that we have only just begun and what Fiona has actually provided is the tools and faith to keep trying and listening, stepping back and seeing what the children are really needing from me. I will really miss our chats because I began to enjoy the act of sharing with another human being, it made me feel less alone and it made me feel like I was doing the right thing. That feeling cannot be underestimated as I feel there has been so much criticism and negativity – from the people I love (or loved) the most.
5. What do you feel was your biggest breakthrough?
Recognising that “A’s” anger comes from place of fear, anxiety, sadness. My heart just leapt to his side. Before that I just couldn’t relate to the behaviour.
6. How would you describe yourself as a parent now? (What were the biggest changes made)
I feel like my senses have been awakened. I am listening to my children, watching for non-verbal cues, supporting them, preparing the way for our future relationship. I am modelling emotional awareness which is doing me good (I do have emotions and it’s okay to share them). I am letting them troubleshoot when there are lagging skills or problems we need to work through. I feel like I am helping them to grow and develop. I realise that I had lagging skills, that life hadn’t prepared me at all for parenthood and that I was finding it hard on my own in a difficult situation.
7. Would you recommend the 10 week process to friends and family?
I’d recommend it to anyone who I thought could benefit. I think you have to be in want of change and sometimes it’s a state of desperation which brings that about or a fork in the road.
8. What would you say to someone sat on the fence about going through this process?
I thought I was a good parent. I give my children everything I have to give, I read books to understand how best to be, I do lots of activities with them, I play, I read, I share my knowledge and experience. As a single parent I have no adult distractions, so I can indulge that time with my children. Despite all that, we had serious problems. The 10 week course took me to a new understanding about parenting and relationships. There were gaps in my skills I didn’t even recognise. No-one is ever a perfect parent, but this course teaches you to recognise the gaps in your own knowledge, to understand the person you are as a result of your own past and experiences, then to break the mould and build from the ground as the human being you want to be. I feel like there’s an exciting future and I’ve only scratched the surface regarding the things I can achieve. I can be a much better Mum because of this course. And when I’m not, I have learnt to acknowledge that and model humility.
9. What does your family look like now, after the process?
We are all growing. I can see it every day. “A” is making lots of eye and body contact, he comes for cuddles and holds my hand so much more, he trusts me. If I ask him to step up or cope with a change, he does that, we negotiate and plan together. “A” wants to share with me and talk and talk and talk. Tonight he gave a teddy of his to our puppy and I could see him working through the emotion. We talked about all the feelings and that it was totally his choice. Afterwards we laughed at how much joy that teddy is now giving us all because the puppy is enjoying it – it was only sat underneath “A’s” bed for the last year. This is significant because he is showing empathy and being more open to sharing and giving. There are still school problems and I hope the holidays doesn’t mean that they come home, but I know we are so much better prepared to work through them. He is sharing and explaining emotions. “A” feels loved and supported – I had no idea how badly I was failing in this area, I felt like I was loving him so much, but it turns out, not in the way he needed.
“S” is being very playful now that “A” is in good shape. He’s into music and enjoys me playing Fortnite with me (I’m doing my best). “S” is really enjoying the stress relief – we used to live in constant fear of physical outbursts, we had bruises, bite marks, and were anxious. Leaving the house was an ordeal, but it’s completely changed. “S”seems to have grown up, I think he was on hold before. He’s a very emotionally intelligent child and I learn from him. I try to protect his childhood though, as mine was so lost. I need to engage more in play and keep his youth fresh and free. This is one of my key focuses.
Regarding finding joy – I am closing my work laptop down more and pushing those work hours to other parts of the day (it’s not that I enjoy work so much, just trying to make up full-time hours). It can make life more exhausting, but to focus on the children through chat and recognising their requests for play (it was amazing what you revealed regarding “S” hiding and baby language behaviour) are really important and are building our relationships. We had a home disco tonight and I felt carefree and laughed as they danced around and played with the puppy. I am giving myself permission to be free and have more fun. The same goes for myself – the kickboxing is wonderful and feels just for me, a release of tension and I can feel some of my old (more toned and fit) self returning.
What we worked on:
It was clear when this parent came to work with me that she was desperate and had exhausted all previous options. It was the physical aggression from her youngest son (age 7) which brought on the catalyst for change. From our very first consultation I discussed how we were going to move away from judging the behaviour and instead get curious around what feelings were beneath this behaviour. We explored the work of Ross Greene in his book “The Explosive Child” and also the work of Mona Delahooke in her book “Beyond behaviours” both books were instrumental in this parent’s journey and radically transformed how she viewed and approached her son’s behaviour. In the first few weeks of working together we explored how her own childhood experiences could be impacting her today then gradually focusing on her youngest son. We came to understand that he was feeling unsafe and his behaviours were automatic fight or flight survival responses linked to the stress he was feeling and likely linked to earlier stress from the environment and difficulties they experienced as a family. This is when we then focused on ways to help her son regulate his nervous system, feel safe and to be prepared for any changes which could trigger big reactions from him.
“Fiona, you’ve given me hope and provided knowledge and the means to better educate myself as a parent and a human being. From our first conversation I knew that you had the skills which would encourage me to grow but I had no idea such incredible transformations were ahead. Thank you, Fiona, for everything you have shared, all your research on our behalf, for your expert knowledge and such genuine love of the subject you work in. If I can ever help you, please ask – with a review or future client reference – please call on me. I am going to miss you and will always remember you for the happiness and hope you have brought our family.”