What Are Children Like?

Message from Myra

Dear Friends,

I hope you are well. I regret not writing in several weeks because I value dependability. My health has not been good and that’s why I haven’t written in so long. From now on, I will write when I feel moved to do so, so that this activity remains fun. Today, I’d like to write about children.

Marshall Rosenberg talks about an experiment he conducted once while teaching a workshop. He divided the group in two. Both groups were to write instructions to a fictitious guy asking him to tidy up a room. He secretly told the members of the first group that they were addressing an adult and the second group that they were addressing a child. When they got together and read the instructions they noticed a difference. The ones given to the child lacked respect. I have noticed this dynamic myself. When I hear people in stores, I can often guess without looking if it’s an adult speaking to a child. The tone of voice and the words give it away. I understand that parents care about their children and that they want to teach them respect, consideration and other values that will serve them well in life. I don’t doubt their loving intention. I also get that children can try a saint’s patience, at times. Yet, I believe that contributing to the development of children becomes a lot easier when children’s needs are met. I’d like to tell you about one such child.

Recently, while teaching Nonviolent Communication in Guadalajara, Mexico, I met Daniela, an 8 year old girl full of life. Witnessing the interactions between Daniela and her parents it seems to me that her Needs for acceptance, freedom, respect, connection and affection are largely met. On a typical weekday, Daniela has two meals with her parents in a breakfast nook overlooking a garden full of azaleas, poinsettias and other flowers. She tells stories, sings and dances while her mother looks at her with adoring eyes and a smile on her face and her father listens. On Saturdays, she bikes with her Dad to the local farmers market where they pick up organic berries, carrots, cucumbers and other goods. On Sundays she swims with her grandmother in the morning and they go out to eat as a family in the afternoon. Since there is no television in the house, at night she may watch a movie (projected on a white wall) cuddling with her Mom in a gently rocking hammock. Her mother tells me that there are moments of tension in the morning when Daniela wants to dance and her mother wants her to get dressed for school instead. I had the joy of living with this family for several days.

One morning, I came out of my bedroom and I found Daniela in the living room. Her cat was resting on her lap, belly up, while she tenderly sang to the cat Over the Rainbow. “She is Toto and I am Dorothy,” she said. Another time, the adults were talking about the treatment of indigenous people in a certain distant land. Looking down with eyes filled with compassion, she said, “how sad.” The day before I left, Daniela was in my bedroom telling stories of her vacation. We were connecting and having a pleasant time. At some point, I said that perhaps we could talk for 10 more minutes because I wanted to rest. I was not surprised that she agreed to my request and when I pointed out that our time was up, she left easily. She came back to give me a flower and said good-bye.

I am touched as I write because, in my experience, this is how children are when their needs are met. I have children in my life and I witness their natural compassion, cooperation and innocence over and over again. I am very grateful to parents, teachers, and others who care for children and contribute to their well being. Someday, may all the children in the world have adults in their lives who nurture them abundantly and help meet their Needs.

Warmly,

Myra

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About Institute for Empowering Communication

Co-founder of the Institute for Empowering Communication
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