“It’s a type of domestic abuse that no one dares talk about,” UK mum, Debbie, said on breakfast television this week, admitting she is terrified of her son, Joseph, who has been diagnosed with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and who she says has become the “dictator of the household”.
The 10-year-old is violent, she explained, and his threatening behaviour means life for Debbie, 36, and her other children – Sarah-Jane, 16, Vinnie, 13, and four-year-old Harvey – is filled with anguish.
“Everybody in the family is affected,” she told This Morning on Wednesday.
Watch: Debbie tells This Morning about life with her son Joseph, who has ADHD.
“The main outlet for Joseph’s aggression is myself and his younger brother Harvey.”
“It’s a very taboo subject because it’s your child. And to suffer at the hands of a child is frightening.”
Josph has threatened Debbie with knives, wielded a hammer towards her and told her he wants her dead during arguments.
He “absolutely demolished” mainstream school, with Debbie saying he “threatened teachers, as well as threatening me”.
‘It’s heartbreaking, and it’s soul destroying to live with’ – Debbie feared her now 10-year-old son was going to kill her due to his increasingly violent behaviour pic.twitter.com/frllGzX52Y
— This Morning (@thismorning) April 4, 2018
“I am a mum who wants the best for her child,” she told This Morning, adding she initially went into “autopilot” to try and make Joseph happy.
But this was a mistake: “Actually what I was doing, was putting him in control,” she said.
Debbie’s words no doubt resonate with many parents across the world, but they’ve also sparked fierce debate online.
Some viewers are critical of Debbie’s skills in disciplining Joseph, despite footage aired showing the 10-year-old slapping her across the cheek as she tries to tell him ‘no’.
If I hit, spat or swore at my parents when I was a kid my dad would have hit me so hard I wouldn’t have been able to sit down for a week. Kids get away with too much these days. #ThisMorning
— Michael Lavelle (@mikelavelle93) April 4, 2018
I may only be young but i dont believe in ADHD ect its just bad behaviour. Children have too many rights! Looks to me like he needs a good harding!#thismorning
— Leigh cutsforth (@lilmiss2209) April 4, 2018
This kid on #thismorning has actually made my jaw hit the floor. When I was a kid I would’ve got BEATEN for even looking at my mum the wrong way & I had ADHD. This woman clearly has just no control over her children. It’s abit embarrassing. ????
— sash (@_misssSD) April 4, 2018
Others are more sympathetic, saying the segment was “hard to watch” and that it’s difficult to imagine “what it must be like in her position”.
“Watching This Morning and it makes me so sad to see mums being treated so badly by their kids,” one person said on Twitter, Daily Mail reports.
“That’s hard to watch that this mum is so brave all that spitting swearing and kicking,” another said.
“The judging about this mum is staggering. Can’t imagine how hard it must be being in her position,” a third person added.
LISTEN: Can you bribe your kids to do well at school with money? Post continues below.
It was “desperation”, Debbie said, that led her to apply to appear on the reality television program Violent Child, Desperate Parents in the UK.
She had attended parenting classes and hosted home visits with counsellors, yet nothing was working to quell Joseph’s ever-escalating anger.
While on the show, a child psychologist came to live with Debbie and offered advice for handling the youngster’s episodes.
That advice? Step back; praise the positives; ignore and distract.
"I watched the show back and I was actually aghast," Debbie said, before going onto share happier news.
Joseph is finally at a school he enjoys, and her relationship with him has improved drastically since appearing - and learning from experts - on the show.
"I have to praise Joseph, he's the one who's taken these techniques on board and realised it's okay to happy to be sad and to be angry," she said "He's just a different child."
Still, Debbie believes more must be done to raise awareness around violent children and to support families living in a home with such turmoil.
"It's heartbreaking and soul destroying to live with," she said. "But it's a secret, no one wants to talk about it."