Being a parent could be the most amazing, joyful and profoundly meaningful experience of our lives. But in our modern, overwhelmingly busy lives, we often struggle just to “keep our head above water.” In between getting our kids out the door in the morning and getting everyone to bed at night, our days are full of big and small conflicts and numerous power struggles which sap the joy out of being a parent (or being a child, for that matter).
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a way of relating to our children and ourselves in a way that honors everyone’s needs and aims to find solutions that work for both people. NVC offers a “partnership” approach to parenting, which is neither authoritarian (i.e. “do as I say or else…”) nor “permissive” (i.e. “do whatever you want”). In NVC both needs matter – my needs and my child’s needs. When children are treated in this way, they gradually develop the ability to treat others in the same way. Importantly, when children’s physical and emotional needs are met, they are more likely to want to cooperate with us and behave in ways that we enjoy. The outcome is a win-win for everyone.
When we have a disagreement, I like to call it a dilemma, rather than a conflict. In conflict one person is up against the other one. In a dilemma, two people are thinking together how to resolve it. I say to my 8 year old son, “Here is a dilemma: you want A and I want B, what are we going to do about it?” In the end we often find what works for both of us. I invite him to be a partner in finding ways we resolve our differences.
Ways to stop a power struggle:
1. Pause or take a break to figure out what you feel and what you need in the situation. You might feel frustrated, disappointed, concerned or simply tired. You may need peace, ease, understanding, support, harmony or cooperation.
2. Make a best guess of what your child feels and needs in the moment. He or she may need autonomy and choice (which are major developmental needs children face at multiple ages), fun or play, attention and connection (which help your child feel safe), or he or she might simply need a snack or a nap.
3. Having all your needs and your child’s needs, think of some strategies that may work for both of you. Don’t be attached to a single strategy, but approach this dilemma with curiosity.
4. Now you are ready to return to your child and brainstorm solutions together. Not only you are more likely to find a more satisfying solution, you will teach your child valuable skills and build a stronger relationship in the process.
To learn more about Nonviolent Communication and develop new skills, that can transform your relationship with you children, and your partner, there is a short introductory video about NVC available on YouTube.
Image Credit: Rene Harvey