Non Violent Parenting

The following is an article on non-violent parenting from Juno magazine by Shantigarbha is an NVC trainer and friend I appreciate deeply.

We’ve been working together to bring a physical dimension to Non Violent Communication learning, incorporating aikido movements and somatics in NVC. Watch this space for more on “embodied NVC.”


The power of communication – Shantigarbha

A family describes how Nonviolent Parenting works for them

SHANTIGARBHA: Nonviolent Communication (NVC) began in the US during the Civil Rights era as a way of helping black and white communities in the difficult process of reintegration. Since then it has flourished as a process for mediation and conflict resolution worldwide. I particularly enjoy how it encompasses social change and self-development, two parts of my life that I’ve found difficult integrate in the past. Some background: I dabbled in politics as a young adult and have been meditating and practising as a Buddhist for the last 22 years. I joined the Western Buddhist Order and was given the name Shantigarbha, which means ‘Seed of Peace’, eleven years ago. Now, with NVC, I’m integrating social change and self-development in an easy way.

I met Christa through NVC and we’ve tried to practise it in our communication with each other. It’s a real test of what I’m sharing with other people if I can stay with it when we’re both in pain at the same time! I appreciate the depth and freedom that it’s given us – we’ve gone deep in a way that allows us both to be free, to still be ourselves in the relationship. I don’t remember having that before.

Parenting is still new for me – I didn’t have children before I met Christa. Odd as it may seem, even though I love NVC and spend my life sharing it with people, I don’t try to teach it to Lilli and Mona. I know from my own experience as a child the truth of the saying “Children don’t resist learning – they resist teaching.” Instead of trying to teach them something, I try to stay in touch with myself, and listen carefully to what’s alive in them. I remind myself to go for the connection with them and let go of the outcome.

In other words, I want to live in a world where we are all connected and everybody’s basic needs are being met, and I don’t know what that will look like, so I’m hanging in there for the connection and hanging loose to possible outcomes.

A practical way I do this is when I hear them express feelings. Before learning NVC, I used to call some feelings, like cheerful, happy, patient or relaxed, ‘good’; and some feelings, like angry sad, upset or guilty, ‘bad’. Now I don’t give feelings these labels. I’ve come to understand that all feelings (and thoughts, for that matter) are expressions of a person’s basic human needs.

This makes it easier for me to be with Lilli, for instance, when she is speaking at a volume that can be heard in the next room. I try to be present and hear the basic human needs underneath, without hearing it as blame or criticism (particularly of me!). The needs I guess she’s in touch with are choice, autonomy, space, attention, self-value, belonging.

Sometimes I ask her if this is what she needs. Sometimes I just guess silently. It helps me to stay connected. And if I need space, to help me be present with myself, Christa and the girls, I take it – to support us all.

CHRISTA (Lilli and Mona’s mum): One day, when Lilli was eight, I said to her, “Your room is a mess. Tidy it up immediately – I don’t want to look at it any more.”
She replied, “It’s my room, and I like it the way it is.”
I said, “That doesn’t matter. You have to learn to keep things tidy.”
“You don’t have to come in,” she said, and she closed the door in my face.
I opened it again and said, “You have to clean it right now. No discussion. And no TV until it’s done.”

Lilli slammed the door. I heard noise from inside the room, as if she was throwing things around. I looked inside again and saw that she had made a bigger mess than before. I felt overwhelmed and helpless and my nerves were raw.

After this happened, we both thought that the other one owed us something. We had a lot more fights, felt hurt, and couldn’t hug each other for a long time.

After I learned Nonviolent Communication, here’s how I approached the same situation:
“Lilli, when I see the things on the floor in your room, I’m uncomfortable because I need order and to value our possessions. Could you tell me what you heard me say, so that I know I’ve expressed myself clearly?”
She replied, “I should tidy up, and I should take care of my things.”
I said, “I want to keep things that are useful and fun for us safe by taking them off the floor. Are you willing to put the things on the floor back in their places?”
She replied, “Later.”
I asked, “Do you want to decide for yourself when you help out, and
when you do your own things?”
“When I hear that, I’m torn. I’d like you to have that freedom, and, on the other hand, I’m doubtful that it will get done before you go to bed.”
“Could be.”
“For my clarity, could you give me a time by which you intend to do it?”
“OK – by the evening meal.”
“To be safe, would you be willing to set an alarm to remind you?”
“OK – that’s an idea.”

What I like about this approach is that everybody’s needs are valued equally: my need to relax and Lilli’s need to choose when she gives her support. This helps both sides to stay connected in finding a solution that everybody is behind. And it makes it more likely that the agreements we reach will be honoured.

LILLI: Normally, when a mother tells her daughter to do something, the daughter has to do it. Since Mama has been learning NVC, we look together to see what is best for everybody and why. Sometimes I get angry and instead of her getting angry back, she tries to find out with me what the reason is – what I’m angry about.

For example, yesterday I was pissed off with something when she came to pick me up from school. I was shouting at her even though she hadn’t done anything. The whole way home, she helped me to look for the reason why I was pissed off.

Because we’d done this before, it was easier for me to find out for myself. The reason was to do with the rehearsal I’d just finished – for compering a school concert in the evening. I was disappointed in how I’d spoken my part in the rehearsal. And I was stressed because I didn’t feel confident about the evening. Once I’d found this out, I felt better, and in the evening I did the compering in a way I was very happy with.

One thing I don’t like since Mama has been learning NVC is that discussions take longer than before!

MONA: Nonviolent Communication helps me because my Mama can speak with my teachers without them feeling as if they are being ‘attacked’.

For example, my French teacher wanted me to change subjects because I wasn’t so good at French. Mama spoke to him. She tried to understand his point of view. Then she said that she’s confident that I can learn French, and it’s not a big problem that I don’t learn fast. Afterwards, I was pleased because I stayed in the class, and the teacher didn’t feel as though he was being ‘attacked’. Another example is with my sister. My Mama can stand it when my sister flips out. Mama tries to find the reason why my sister is angry.

I am very thankful that my family uses NVC!

Written by Shantigarbha (Chris Warren), Christa Gronow, Lilli and Mona

Shantigarbha and Christa met on a Nonviolent Communication (NVC) workshop in Budapest, three years ago. Both have become certified NVC trainers. Shantigarbha moved from the UK to Germany to live with Christa and her two girls. When Christa is not doing her job as a social worker or looking after Lilli (16) and Mona (13), she joins Shantigarbha on his trips to run workshops abroad.


Illustration by Veronica Petrie.
Photo: (left to right) Shantigarbha, Mona, Lilli and Christa in their garden in Germany.

http://www.nvc-uk/. Info – trainers in the UK – The International Centre for Nonviolent Communication

Available from
‘Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life’ by Marshall Rosenberg, £10.99
‘Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook: A Practical Guide for Individual, Group or Classroom Study’ by Lucy Leu, PuddleDancer Press, £12.99
‘Raising Children Compassionately: Parenting the Nonviolent Communication Way’ by Marshall B. Rosenberg, £4.99
‘Parenting From Your Heart: Sharing the Gifts of Compassion, Connection and Choice’ by Inbal Kashtan, £4.99
‘Respectful Parents, Respecful Kids: 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflict into Co-operation’ by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson, £9.99
‘The Compassionate Classroom: Relationship Based Teaching and Learning’ by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson, £10.9