Message from Leslie
When my son and daughter were about 10 and 13 years respectively, they had a large dispute in our bathroom about who was going to take a shower first. The debate escalated in tone and loudness and I arrived at the scene wanting to bring my Nonviolent Communication, NVC, consciousness to support my children in this dispute.
I said “I’d like for this dispute to be resolved with respect and care, and for everyone’s needs to be considered.” My children both agreed that they didn’t want my assistance and could handle this on their own, and so, with some sadness that my support was not wanted, and curiosity about whether they could get to a resolution on their own, I waited in the hallway. After a minute of loud voices, my son stepped out into the hallway to address me and . . . slam, the door was shut and locked. My daughter ‘won’.
Son: “See how stupid and mean she is! I could just punch her.”
Me: “This is what makes me most scared, that disputes can so easily move to physical violence. I really want our disputes to be resolved with words, and for everyone to be heard.”
Son: “I don’t get why everything has to go her way.”
Me: “I’m guessing you’d like some fairness in deciding who takes showers first.”
My son went to his room and I spent a few more minutes in the hall feeling frustrated and mourning that this NVC was not as effective as I had hoped. On his way to bed about an hour later, my son said, “Mom, I’m really glad you remembered your NVC, it really helped tonight.”
I was absolutely shocked by his words and then I realized it was both what I did and didn’t do that helped. On other occasions I would have insisted that I become the mediator and in some way force a solution. What I had chosen that night was different than other times of conflict:
a) I had decided I was not going to use force unless there was imminent physical danger to them.
b) I heard and respected their desire for independence in solving their own disputes
c) When they told me they didn’t want my support, I decided to connect to my feelings of sadness and discouragement and to what I was valuing, wanting to contribute to my children’s ability to resolve conflict, peace in our home, and to peace in the world.
While the argument didn’t get resolved in the way I first hoped, the conflict didn’t escalate. I think taking time to connect with what I valued most, expressing it to my son and empathizing with his unmet need for fairness all helped de-escalate. A few days later I was able to remember the conflict and with my children addressed making some agreements about using the bathroom in the evening.
When I first began trying to use NVC skills and consciousness, I may have only brought the consciousness to situations one out of eight times, but even in those few times I began noticing a shift toward more trust and respect in our relationships. If you are interested in some NVC parenting resources, many resources focused on children’s well being can be found at the Center for NVC Book Store http://www.cnvc.org/bookstore/cnvc-store-printed-items. Please visit us at the Institute for Empowering Communication.