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First Steps in De-escalating Challenging or Aggressive Behaviours

By Jane Micthell


Before we start, please take a moment to remember the trauma your child has endured in their early life – whether this was in utero, as a result of maternal illness, post birth trauma or as a result of Domestic Violence, Abuse, neglect or any of the other reasons that children can have a challenging start in life.


Your child had to learn to survive. They were powerless. They had to use all the tools at their disposal – but these were so limited – they could cry, scream and move their arms and legs, but with no ability to speak, move with intention or even know what their needs were they were uniquely vulnerable. Now when they have a survival trigger, they have new skills. They can lash out both verbally and physically. They are super strong because their bodies have adrenalin fuelling a fight flight response. Finally, they feel powerful – they are not vulnerable and helpless anymore. They can prove to the adult that they are strong. Alongside this, it is important to remember that the triggers for their fight/flight response when it comes to adults and basic needs being met is stored in implicit memory – so it is an emotional and sensory memory, and as such not readily accessible to reason (such as CBT therapy). To help them recover, we have to re-train their brains. That is the hard bit, requiring time, patience and the ability to be an endless broken record to develop new connections and ideas.


Finally - practise self-care to keep your own brain connected so you do not go to low brain responses but forgive yourself for slipping up!


Related information/handouts from NATP:


1. Managing Violent behaviour Course Day one option

2. CPR for the Brain Handout - can be found in the members area under resources.

3. The Internal Working Model Handout - can be found in the members area under resources.

4. The Trauma Room Handout - can be found in the members area under resources.

5. Blank Visual timetable – can be found on he NATP shop.




NATP Ltd trading as

The National Association of Therapeutic Parents with company registration number 10705603.

01453 519 000

The Priory, Long Street, Dursley, Gloucestershire,

GL11 4HR