Nonviolent Communication and Children

“[The] objective of getting what we want from other people, or getting them to do what we want them to do, threatens the autonomy of people, their right to choose what they want to do. And whenever people feel that they’re not free to choose what they want to do, they are likely to resist, even if they see the purpose in what we are asking and would ordinarily want to do it.”

-Marshall Rosenberg, Raising Children Compassionately

“Young children respond to being shown how to act and live rather than being told. I tried to teach through the example of my actions and left the teaching through words and logic for a later age….When I want to establish a boundary for the child I try to be as conscious of myself as possible. I try to put any form of emotion behind me. It helps when I can speak with a quiet voice. I do not allow myself to be moved from the stance I have taken, and if necessary I repeat what I have said. Thereby I assure the child of the enduring relationship I have to him.”
-Margret Meyerkort in Lifeways: Working with family questions

Recently I have been trying to work with the principles of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) designed by Marshall Rosenberg. My questions surround how these techniques work with children. The center of the techniques is to calmly verbalize the conflict situation: When I see (hear, observe, etc.)…I feel…because I need….Would you please…? For example: When I see you hit your sister, I feel scared because I need her to be safe. Would you please use words instead of hitting?

In theory, and sometimes in practice, this works great even with children. But I wonder how this works with the anthroposophical/Waldorf idea that young children need to be guided with authority, and that the young child cannot rationalize yet and should be directed primarily through actions instead of words.

Many times instead of using words with Napoleona, I will simply move her bodily away from whatever is happening that I would like to stop. In fact, she has an uncanny ability to become totally deaf when I am verbally asking her to stop doing something! Waldorf parents are familiar with this is a sign of the overriding “will” phase of early childhood, where the child is ruled as it were by the will and bodily senses and not the intellect or emotions.

But SillyBilly is a bit intellectual and awake for his age, so sometimes I have tried the NVC technique with him, and sometimes it works. I have definitely seen that if I try to remove emotion from my voice, he listens to me more easily and the situation doesn’t deteriorate. The big question here is, in using all of these words am I working with his actual state of being, or am I promoting wakefulness in an unbalancing way?


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Filed under Nonviolent Communication, Parenting

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