Toughlove coming to town


Toughlove Waikato Trust’s chairperson, Tracy Roose, has brought the parents’ support group to Cambridge.

Toughlove is starting a parent support group in Cambridge from Monday, aiming to provide support and suggestions for parents struggling with the behaviour of their children.

Leading the group is Tracy Roose, the chairperson of the Toughlove Waikato Trust, as well as a trained representative and volunteer who can assist families, and a parent herself.

Tracy’s ‘Toughlove moment’ came 17 years ago, when a seemingly minor altercation with her oldest son turned into something much more serious.

Tracy was standing in the kitchen doing the dishes, when her then 12-year-old came in asking if he could have a sandwich. “I said ‘no’, dinner’s almost ready’”, she recalled, “then I looked up and saw the reflection in the window of him holding a long, sharp knife”.

She remembers thinking, ‘I didn’t know I was going to die today’, as she kept doing the dishes, too afraid to turn around.

“I heard the knife just clatter to the floor and the door slamming…I collapsed onto the floor crying.  I just couldn’t do it anymore, it had got too hard,” she said.

Someone then suggested Toughlove, so Tracy and her husband went along to a meeting in Hamilton.  Originally thinking they were in the wrong place – there was too much laughter, she said – it was to be the start of a journey for Tracy and her family. “It gave us something we hadn’t had in years… hope.”

Tracy said there had been plenty of early warning signs that her son was going off the rails, but she ignored them. “I can go back to (age) three and see behaviours that I should have had firm boundaries on,” she explained, “but I was in denial.”

Those early behaviours escalated to physical and verbal abuse, and damage to the family home, culminating in the knife incident. And the behaviour also had a major impact on the couple’s other children, as Tracy found out some years later.

“Our kids said how they had really intense feelings about how he (the oldest boy) had monopolised our time. We didn’t see the manipulation for what it was, but he knew that if he could just get us to start fighting, he could wander off and do what he wanted.”

That was 17 years ago now, and Tracy has spent that time giving back to Toughlove.

People have many reasons for coming, she said, and it’s not so much about the age of the child as it is about the types of “adolescent” behaviour they are exhibiting, Tracy explained, adding that in Hamilton the youngest child causing attendance is six, with the oldest being 31.

The Toughlove weekly support group kicked off on Monday, April 9 at the Cambridge Community House on Shakespeare St, 7.30pm – 9.30pm. Participants are welcome to join in at the next meeting, and are asked to arrive 15 minutes early to help set up, and to please make other arrangements for children (you can’t talk about them if they are there).

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