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Heart of Parenting
The Heart of Parenting
Nonviolent Communication in Action
By Marion Badenoch Rose PhD
 

"He drives me mad when he won't tidy his room." Frustration and anger are common when our kids either do things we don't like, or fail to behave in ways we want them to.

NVC allows us to shift our thinking from good and bad judgments to heartfelt connection with ourselves and our children through focusing on the universal human needs we are both seeking to meet. Keep reading this article below >>

 
 
Parenting Quick Reference
Parenting Quick Reference Guide
By Marion Badenoch Rose PhD

Remember, the most important part is your intention - CONNECTION. The precise words used are secondary. At any given time, you can choose between giving self-empathy, offering empathy or expressing yourself using Observations, Feelings, Needs, and Requests.

Keep reading this article below >>

 
 
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Inspiration
 
Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. talks about the keys to prevent all forms of conflict and violence in this 10-minute video.
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NVC Quote of the Month
Children need far more than basic skills in reading, writing, and math, as important as those might be.

Children also need to learn how to think for themselves, how to find meaning in what they learn, and how to work and live together.
 
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ARTICLE 1 Heart of Parenting... continued

Often we respond with judgments, "He's so stubborn," or, "I'm such a failure as a parent." We deal with our feelings by using labels, blame, criticism, and diagnosis.

But the problem is that judging our children and what they "should" be doing will lead us to feel angry. If we instead judge ourselves as at fault for their behavior, then guilt, shame, and depression result. If we feel hopeless about our children's desire to cooperate, we may try to motivate and coerce them with rewards or punishments.

Thinking and communicating in this way is part of the Domination model. Families, schools, workplaces, relationships, and politics run on this system. Hierarchical power relationships and unequal privileges abound. People (particularly children) are viewed as inherently selfish.

Defending, Resisting, and the Need for Autonomy

Whenever we try to make our children behave in a certain way through demanding or coercing, we evoke resistance because humans have a universal need for autonomy. Their resistance comes as submission (leading to resentment and deadening) or rebellion (leading to anger).

Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Nonviolent Communication, says of his kids, "And here were these young children teaching me this humbling lesson that I couldn't make them do anything. All I could do is make them wish they had... [and] anytime I would make them wish they had, they would make me wish I hadn't made them wish they had. Violence begets violence."

Wanting to avoid conflict, many parents take the permissive approach. They aim to meet all their child's needs and ignore their own. This leads to resentment in the parent, models self-sacrifice to the child, and prevents the child's needs for contribution and cooperation being met.

A New Definition of Violence

Marshall Rosenberg grew up in a turbulent Detroit neighborhood and has initiated peace programmes in areas such as Rwanda, the Middle East and Northern Ireland. He describes some everyday violent behaviors:

  1. Reward and punishment, "Punishment is the root of violence on our planet."
  2. Guilt, where we trick others into thinking that they are responsible for our feelings, eg. "Now you're really making me angry."
  3. Shame, where we label someone when they don't do what we want, e.g. "You are so rude."
  4. Denying responsibility for our actions - using, "had to," "can't," "should," "must," and "ought." Rosenberg describes how this kind of language was used by many Nazi war criminals.

Talking with our kids in these violent ways spirals into disconnection and conflict. In the long term, it affects a child's self-esteem, relationships, and communication, as well as their intrinsic desires for contribution, cooperation, trust, and connection.

When teaching Nonviolent Communication these violent communications are sometimes called "jackal," since jackals live in hierarchical packs. However, judgments and violence are tragic distortions of unmet needs, so behind all jackal talk is a giraffe waiting to be heard.

The Giraffe Heart  

Nonviolent Communication is sometimes called giraffe language, because giraffes have the largest heart of any land mammal, they stick their necks out, and their saliva digests thorns! Shifting from jackal to giraffe requires changing the way we think and communicate. Intention and language are both involved.

Using giraffe, we intend to connect compassionately with ourselves and others, and inspire compassion from them. Aiming to create a quality of interaction where everyone gets their needs met, our goal is to make life more wonderful for all. We move from power over to sharing power.

Rejecting the domination language of blame, judgment and coercion, we embrace life-serving needs of compassion, cooperation and contribution. "The most powerful and joyful intrinsic motivation human beings have for taking any action is the desire to meet our own and other's needs."

Permissive parenting this is not, since communicating our unconditional love and respect doesn't mean we have to be permissive, give up our values, or even like what our children are doing in any particular moment.

We aim to get what we want, but not at our children's expense. "Our needs are met most fully and consistently when we find strategies that also meet others' needs." When a child is not criticized or coerced, they do not need to defend themselves, can open their heart to their feelings and needs and empathize with others, leading to a wish to cooperate.

"Rewards and punishments are not necessary when people see how their efforts are contributing to their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of the other."

A Spiritual Practice

Using Nonviolent Communication, our thinking, hearing and speaking can depart from our cultural and habitual conditioning. The intention and tools enable us to reveal what's in our heart and to empathically receive what is in our child's heart.

As with any practice, consciousness and effort are required. At first using the model may seem confusing and unnatural, but remember Gandhi's words, "Don't mix up that which is habitual with that which is natural."

Compassionate Communication is a process language which focuses our here and now awareness on feelings and needs, and actions to meet those needs. The model is a practical way to put the intentions into practice. Three options for connecting are: self-empathy; self-expression; and offering empathy.

The model consists of four steps: Observations, Feelings, Needs and Requests. Attention on needs is at the heart of this practice, from which the other steps arise.

Making Life More Wonderful

When parents practice NVC they can contribute to a more wonderful life for their families.

Children learn that their feelings and needs matter. They have intimacy with their parents whilst having clear boundaries, knowing that they do not cause their parents' feelings. Self-acceptance comes from living without judgment and blame.

They experience doing things from their own internal motivation rather than from external punishments and rewards, and are thus more satisfied. They learn how to hear the feelings and needs behind others' judgments or anger, and so create their own emotional safety. They learn to express their feelings in a way that is likely to be met by empathy and cooperation. They experience the satisfaction of contributing to their own wellbeing and that of their parents, friends and others.

Parents have the pleasure of contributing to a family where everyone's needs matter rather than using either authoritarian or permissive parenting styles. After acting in ways that don't meet their values, they can give self-empathy and find a way to meet these needs next time rather than attacking themselves with guilt and shame.

Simply aiming to understand their child's feelings and needs behind any behavior contributes to connection. Concrete tools help prevent parents from reacting with anger, punishment, judgment and blame and make understanding and the desire to contribute more likely.

Mutual trust and respect becomes the core of the relationship as each member of the family experiences the joy of willingly contributing to making other's lives more wonderful.

 

Marion Badenoch Rose gained her Ph.D. from Cambridge University researching the mother-infant relationship. She held a private practice in Psychosynthesis Counseling and Psychotherapy in England and worked as a University Research Fellow investigating infant cognitive development. She lectured on The Therapeutic Relationship to M.A. students. Since moving to Australia she has qualified in HypnoBirthing®. She found Nonviolent Communication through an Aware Parenting web group. She has been practicing NVC since September 2002, particularly with her husband and daughter, and is working towards CNVC certification. She can be contacted at

This article first appeared in Byronchild magazine, www.byronchild.com. This excerpt from the original article is reprinted with permission by PuddleDancer Press.  Find the entire article here in our Parenting Article Archive.

 

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Parenting Quick Reference... continued

Below are various examples of these three ways to reframe what you choose to say.

Giving Self-Empathy
Instead of
"He is such a stubborn boy. How dare he act like this when I have done so much for him today."
With NVC:
"When I see him looking in the other direction after I ask him to come here, I feel helpless because I value cooperation and sad because I value harmony."

Instead of
"I just can't get her to do anything I say. I'm such an ineffective parent."
With NVC
"When I remember that she said she would do the washing up and now I see that she has not done it, I feel frustrated because I'm really needing support, and exhausted because I need some rest."

Instead of
"He is such a monster."
With NVC
"When I hear him say to me, "shut up mum," I feel resentful because I really value respect.

Offering Empathy
Instead of
"Look at how nicely Anne-Marie is playing. Why won't you play like that?"
With NVC
When you take that toy car from Peter, are you feeling curious, because you are wanting to explore and learn?

Instead of
"Please be a good girl and help daddy put your clothes on."
With NVC
"Are you feeling really frustrated because you want to choose when you put your clothes on?"

Instead of
"If you just sit there and don't join in, we're going home."
With NVC
"Are you feeling a bit nervous about playing with the others, and wanting some help? Would you like me to come over there with you?"

Instead of
"Stop crying now, we can come to the park another day."
With NVC
"Are you feeling sad that we're leaving because you really enjoyed playing today? Would you like to come to the park tomorrow?"

Expressing ourselves using Observations, Feelings, Needs, and Requests.
Instead of
"This place is a pigsty. How can you live in this mess?"
With NVC
"When I see your clothes lying on the floor I feel jittery because I love order. Would you be willing to pick your clothes up and put them away by the end of today?"

Instead of
"Get in the car now ... we're going to be late again .. if you don't get in the car, you'll be sorry."
With NVC
"I'm feeling agitated because doing what I said I'd do is important to me. Would you be willing to get into the car now and bring your game with you?"

Instead of
"Billy, you should do your homework. You know you will make your teacher angry if you don't."
With NVC
"When I see that you haven't done your homework yet, Billy, I feel worried because I value learning. Would you be willing to tell me what you heard me say?"

Instead of
"You are so patient and well-behaved, Simon."
With NVC
"When I remember that you played quietly whilst Aunty Trisha was here, Simon, I feel really grateful because I appreciate helping each other."

 

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Parenting Quick Reference