'Abusive' | 

National helpline inundated with calls from parents being abused by violent kids

“Parents are living in fear in their own homes.”

Act of violence© PA

Aileen Hickie


Níall Feiritear

Aggressive children abusing parents accounts for roughly 40pc of calls received by Parentline in Ireland, with reports of bruising and black eyes leaving guardians terrified in their homes.

Violent kids accounted for two in every five calls to the national helpline in 2022, leaving the service inundated by abused mothers and fathers.

"At its heart what it does is it leaves the parent in fear of their own child in their own home because of the abusive and the violent behaviours that are being directed by the child at the parent," said Parentline CEO, Aileen Hickie.

The Chief Executive spoke on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about the damage being caused by this problem across society, regarding cases of emotional and verbal abuse, controlling behaviour and damage to property.

“It is an unspoken part of domestic violence,” she said.

Aileen Hickie

Ms Hickie said that often parents “feel helpless” as though they have failed in their role. It often leads to “secrecy” as people do not want to discuss the abuse with others.

"We have a programme called the non-violent resistance programme. We work with the parent, not with the child, because it's all about empowering the parent to deal and to take positive action to try and end the behaviour.

"Ultimately it works to try and change the reaction of the parent to the behaviours being exhibited at them," Ms Hickie said.

The programmes are intended to help parents address issues including violence, verbal abuse, coercion, controlling behaviours, intimidation, school refusal, and damage to property.

7.4 pc of calls to the charity were concerned about school refusal. Fathers receiving abuse is on the increase. Nearly one in five callers to the helpline is now male, an increase of 25pc on the number of men ringing Parentline in 2021.


An increase in calls regarding anxious children is another worrying statistic.

“Anxiety is a normal and natural occurrence. But it can become overwhelming. Children can experience anxiety about different issues at different stages of their lives.

“Anxiety can interfere with a child's daily life and severe anxiety can harm a child's mental and emotional wellbeing and affect their self-esteem and confidence,” she added.

Ms Hickie said most calls about anxiety related to teenagers, but that kids as young as seven are suffering symptoms.

The charity, set up 40 years ago to support new mums, has grown into a national helpline covering a range of issues.

As a result of an explosion of calls during the pandemic, Parentline requires more volunteers to cope with demand.

Parentline can be contacted on 01 873350

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