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Transforming a violent, aggressive teenager

Clean in Coaching and Therapy

A 13-year-old boy was aggressive and sometimes violent, liable to ‘explode’ without warning in the classroom or playground. He was among a group of teenagers, all in danger of being excluded from their school in Derby, who were sent to independent learning consultant Pamela Hadfield for six hours over six weeks in an attempt to salvage the situation.

Clean intervention

Pamela explained: “I was supposed to be exploring why they don’t do well in school but they all just say: ‘It’s boring!’

“So I would get them warmed up with some activities exploring things about the brain and how it works, and then start to talk to them using Clean Language questions. I didn’t give a long explanation – that would just be another boring lesson.

“There was a fight in the group and I sat this lad down, he expected me to shout at him. Instead I asked a Clean question and listened to what he had to say.

“As a fairly small boy for his age, he felt vulnerable in the playground jungle. He said: ‘If I didn’t go out there and make the first move and show them I’m not going to be bullied, I wouldn’t last five minutes out there.’ He had a metaphor of his aggressive approach as being like a pack of dogs with sharp teeth protecting him. 

“He would always be exploding in class and walking out, one time he jumped out of the window. He was used to being shouted at, used to being judged at every turn.

“By sitting with him in a quiet room, listening with respect and not judging him, subtly, over time, things started to change. It was really quite magnificent.

“His metaphor for the dogs changed. At first the dogs were his protectors, and the bigger the dogs and the sharper the teeth the more protected he felt. Later he was able to control them: he’d got a kennel where he could send them, he could tell them to come and go whereas before they were always there.”


Pamela the boy and one of the lads he had been fighting with met up, and she watched as they shook hands. The boy had never done anything like that before. He said: “There’s another way. Instead of fighting we could just agree to disagree and walk away.”

The boy’s parents and teachers noticed the change in him. He started to attend lessons more regularly and he could therefore understand more of what was said each time, making classes less boring. He even found a subject he enjoyed!

All the members of the group attended all six sessions and were given a certificate of attendance: for many, this was the first certificate they had ever received.

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