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Nonviolent Communication With Your Children

Jun 20, 2008
After attending a workshop last month in Los Angeles at the Center for Nonviolent Education and Parenting given by the founder and director Ruth Beaglehole, it became quite apparent to me that most childcare providers along with most parents are completely unaware of this amazing method and positive approach to child rearing. I, myself, was embarrassed to see that so many of the old and unfavorable practices that I acquired from my own parents have been used by me on my own children.

When I was first introduced to the idea of visiting the center, my thoughts instantly reverted that this would be a place where one goes to stop physical violence; yet, I quickly learned that there are many ways where violence is communicated not just through physical means but through a vocabulary of feelings and needs, between observation and evaluation and between requests and demands, and the role of power and punishment.

So why is this notion of nonviolent communication so important as it relates to child development? According to Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg author of "Nonviolent Communication - A Language of Life" (a book I highly recommend for everyone to read), "NVC helps us connect with each other and ourselves in a way that allows our natural compassion to flourish. NVC fosters deep listening, respect and empathy and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart."

There are many ways we communicate to children that can be damaging to their self-esteem and development. If we begin with the concept of "observation vs. evaluation" consider the way we constantly observe people and their actions with the use of moralistic judgments that imply wrongdoing and badness because these are not in harmony with our values. We often attempt to motivate our children through insults and criticism and by guilt and shame.

For example: What if your child is having difficulty with mathematics and he answers a problem with the wrong answer. The first reaction would be to say something critical as in "how could you possible make such a silly mistake." Instead, the better response would be "I'm confused at how you came up with that answer. Could you show me how you got that?" You have now made an evaluation that will help this child get to the right answer instead of instantly providing him with an observation that only made him feel bad.

Punishment is another form of violence that never works. People are often led to something with the use or threat of punishment. The reason we know this doesn't work is because of two questions: what do you want the outcome to be and what do you want the person's reasons to be for doing as we request? If a person is doing something you want out of fear or as a result of punishment then you have not achieved anything because the desire to do what you wanted has not come naturally from within. Instead, the action comes about through force and fear.

Guilt is another form of violence, but in order to be successful at it, you need to convince people into believing that they can create your feelings. For example: "It really hurts me when you don't get your work done." The guilt trip you have just laid on this person is played when they believe they are the cause of your suffering.

Shame is another form of violence: any attempt to use labels to make one feel bad about their actions. For example: You call a child "lazy" in an attempt to make them feel bad about not completing their chores. This doesn't accomplish anything other than perhaps having the child grow up thinking that he/she must be lazy since doing the housework is something they struggle to do.

The basic vocabulary of nonviolent communication is feelings and needs. The idea that both Dr. Rosenberg and Ms. Beaglehole want to instill is that if you can speak to feelings and needs, then it's easier for other people to see our humanness. When we are living the nonviolent communication, all we can see is the feelings and needs of others. The trick is to put our own needs and feelings aside so that we can have a better understanding, communication and overall relationship with others and particularly with our children while teaching them how to communicate in nonviolent ways.
About the Author
Marta Perrone, author of How to Find, Hire, Train and Maintain Household Help. Free report: Top 10 Mistakes Household Employers Make When Recruiting Help.
http://www.domesticpublications.com, http://domestic-connections.com, http://martaperrone.com
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