Thank you for your encouragement along this journey. We've begun our work in Step 1 with how we treat ourselves (as well as how we see our own parents). Beginning with self-love and forgiveness is an important step towards becoming more effective parents. I hope you've spent some time this week treating yourself with forgiveness and love. Keep at that list from time to time. It's important work to truly appreciate ourselves and who we are in our hearts.
The next nine steps (including today's post) will be simple concepts that you can integrate in your day-to-day experience with your child. They will not be homework-based or something you do when you are alone. They are in-the-moment changes to the way you think or speak. With some determination and focus they will become a part of how you engage with your family. Each week we'll add more tools to help you create more peaceful connection with your child and slowly you'll build a whole new skill set and with it a new relationship.
Each week I will try to also provide you with an additional resource for those who want to go further with their learning. This week I encourage you to pick up a copy of Raising our Children Raising Ourselves from your library or bookstore. If you want to move a little faster than this 10 step series will take you, this is an excellent place to start. This well written book transformed our home from one with frequent conflict to one with deep connection. I can't say enough about it. I use what I read here every single day.
No, onto step 2!
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Identify the Need Behind the Behavior
Non-violent communication (NVC) is about building relationships on connection rather than coercion. When applied to your relationship with your children, NVC is the foundation of becoming more peaceful parents. NVC is about listening with empathy and speaking your own truth with honesty and love.
At its core, NVC is based on the very important understanding that behind every behavior is a need. Any parent who's been in line at the grocery with a toddler at nap-time has lived this first hand. The expression (the check-out-meltdown) is the expression of a need (in this example the need is for sleep.) They are basic needs that we all share. Like the need for food. For play. For comfort. For love. For quiet. For belonging. For compassion. For rest.
When a person (child or adult) acts out that behavior is the expression of an unmet need. And if you as the parent work to see the need beneath the expression you can address it (along with the behavior). (Personally I would attest that addressing the need is a much more effective strategy than addressing the behavior. Sometimes both are needed, but often times simply just addressing the need is enough.)
A complete list of basic needs can be found here. For the sake of simplicity, I have pulled out a shortened list of needs that your children may be expressing.
- To be understood
- Rest or Sleep
- Exercise or movement
- To matter
The next time you are in a parenting struggle, instead of saying "Hey! You can't hit me!" or "Sit down until you are excused from the table." or "Don't talk back, young man." pause for a moment, take a breath, and ask yourself:
What is the need my child is expressing?
Because knowing the need might dramatically shift how you address the behavior.
To identify the unfulfilled need, consider what else is going on in your child's moment, day, week, or life. Is she hungry, tired, scared, or ashamed? Did he have a hard day at school or home? Is she struggling with fitting in or succeeding at what she tried to accomplish? Dig deeper than the expression of the moment.
That's all we are working on this week. Learning to see the need our child is expressing. This important perspective shift can help you focus on the needs of your child rather than just the expression of that need.
I'd love to hear your thoughts now, as well as your experiences are after you've had some time to practice. Have a blessed weekend, friends.