Nonviolent Communication Skills and Education

“Children need far more than basic skills in reading, writing, and math, as important as those might be. Children also need to learn how to think for themselves, how to find meaning in what they learn, and how to work and live together.”

Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD.

“Education should not bring about conformity but the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

– Paulo Freire (1921 – 1997)

Nonviolent Communication Skills and Education means creating an environment of safety and trust — in support of learning — for the entire community.

NVC in education creates safety and trust by giving children, parents, families, teachers, and school staff the opportunity to be heard deeply, to experience a community of support, to express fully in a way most likely to lead to connection, and to develop ease and confidence around preventing and resolving conflicts.

Nonviolent Communication skills in education — when considered deeply — elicit a new awareness about who we are as human beings and why we are here.

After all, what is education for?

Depending on our answer, we come away with radically different views on who we are, and the role and function of school and learning.

If we believe that education is for creating compliant workers and voracious consumers, then we see humans as consumers and “labor” — an unacceptably limited view regarding who human beings are and what our potential is.

If education is for allowing children to grow fully into themselves, and teaching children how to think for themselves — rather than merely what to think — then there is hope for future generations solving humanity’s most pressing issues.

Learn Effective Classroom Communication Strategies with NVC

To learn effective classroom communication strategies with NVC means giving ourselves the opportunity to completely reframe how we do things, as well as to liberate ourselves from old patterns which no longer work.

For example, disobedience is not an issue when behavior control is not a goal.

The biggest difference is helping students connect with their intrinsic motivations for learning, rather than extrinsic motivators such as reward or punishment.

When we want students to perform certain behaviors, NVC would have us ask two questions:

  1. What specifically do I want the child to do?
  2. What do I want their reasons to be for doing so?

These two questions we ask ourselves are an important part of learning effective classroom communication strategies with NVC.

By asking these two questions we quickly encounter the limitations of motivating children through should’s, have to’s, and extrinsic motivators like reward and punishment.

Once we are clear why we are requesting what we are, we can engage with students in a conversation about the deeper needs. As a result, our communication strategies for the classroom have become much more effective, not for creating obedient children but for raising human beings who can think for themselves and who can serve others based on a clarity of motivations.

Living Nonviolent Communication in Teaching and Learning

Living Nonviolent Communication in teaching and learning naturally leads to a new model for education. Dr. Marshall Rosenberg spoke about schools based on Nonviolent Communication principles.

He said in such schools, students are often allowed to pick their own teachers, and in more than half of the cases they pick other students. The rationale is that a 5th grader can teach math to a 3rd grader as effectively as an adult — and this approach frees up the teacher’s resources for students who need them the most.

At these schools, living Nonviolent Communication in teaching and learning also means that oftentimes teachers are playing the role of teacher-as-travel-agent. In other words: they know the destinations (topics, areas of research) but they don’t necessarily go on the journey with the student. Students are encouraged to be increasingly self-directed in their learning journey, with the teacher providing guidance and feedback as needed.

Living NVC in schools also means teaching children the skills for resolving conflicts and helping others with their conflicts. By the time children are around 12 years-old they can help younger students with their interpersonal conflicts.

Perhaps the biggest difference in schools trying to live NVC is power-sharing. In the old paradigm, people who hold more power in a system or structure use “power-over” to coerce others into complying. The paradigm NVC brings to education is “power-with.” We share the power we have in a system or structure and use it to uplift and empower others. When children learn to use power-with, both with other children as well as adults, we are teaching them how to be engaged leaders who empower others and can engage in meaningful collective action.

Facilitate Productive Communication Between Parents and Teachers

Nonviolent Communication facilitates productive communication between parents and teachers by focusing on actionable requests in the service of needs. What does this mean?

It means that parents and teachers have the freedom, and the responsibility, to ask: “What needs are we trying to meet?”

NVC facilitates productive communication between parents and teachers by looking deeper than “this is how we’ve always done it”; “these are the rules”; “this is school district policy”; “people shouldn’t act that way” — to the deeper values and universal human needs involved in a given situation.

Whether the deeper need is safety or connection, NVC as a language of universal human needs facilitates mutual understanding at the level of our shared humanity.

Once the deeper values, motivations, and needs are clear, problem-solving between parents and teachers becomes collaborative and can focus on actionable steps intended to satisfy the identified needs.

The frequent problem is that parents and teachers often focus on what to do before connecting and identifying the underlying needs. This leads to solutions that rarely satisfy everybody’s needs because those have yet to be identified.

Facilitating productive communication between parents and teachers means, at first, slowing down to create connection and identify the underlying needs, and secondly, based on the discovered needs co-creating the strategies that will satisfy them.

Actionable requests are a learned skill that take us from mere desires or proposals to something doable that is more likely to lead to concrete results.

Cultivate Healthy Communication Between Students and Teachers

Cultivating healthy communication between students and teachers means looking beyond the roles “student” and “teacher,” and treating each other with kindness and consideration in a human-to-human relationship.

When we do this it is easier to become curious rather than react. When we approach behavioral problems and the difficult emotions underlying them with compassion, we move closer to solving a problem than when we use judgments and punitive measures to control behaviors only.

Cultivating healthy communication between students and teachers also means that children are more likely to grow up connecting constructively with adults, rather than avoiding them out of fear of not being understood or being dealt with harshly.

Improve Communication Skills Between Parents and Children

Improving communication skills between parents and children — as between any humans — involves at least three areas: each person’s intrapersonal communication skills, empathic listening skills, and authentic self-expression.

If a parent is disconnected from themselves — from what they are observing, feeling, needing, and wanting — it impacts their ability to listen with presence as well as their ability to express honestly and with transparency.

Nonviolent Communication gives students, parents, teachers, and all staff the tools and skills for connecting authentically and co-creating mutually beneficial solutions.

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg on the Importance of Communication in Education

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg spoke often on the importance of communication in education.

He worked tirelessly to help students, faculty, administrators, and parents all over the world discover a new paradigm for learning and human relationships, as detailed in his book, Life-Enriching Education.

As Dr. Rosenberg reminded us, learning is so much more than letter grades on report cards at the end of each school year. His words on Nonviolent Communication in education are equally applicable for formal and information educators, as well as learners of all ages and life situations:

“Power-Over leads to punishment and violence. Power-With leads to compassion and understanding, and to learning motivated by reverence for life rather than fear, guilt, shame, or anger.”

– Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Read more here on the importance of NVC in Education, inspired by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg’s work.

Puddledancer Press Books on Communication in Education

PuddleDancer Press is the foremost proponent and publisher of books on Nonviolent Communication and Education. NVC has shown time and again that human beings have more fun learning and demonstrate better educational outcomes when they have the kind of environment of safety and trust that NVC fosters.

Our books on Education can help you:

  • Create exceptional personal and professional relationships;
  • Offer compassionate understanding to others;
  • Know when and how to ask for that same understanding for yourself;
  • Prevent and resolve misunderstandings and conflicts;
  • Speak your truth in a clear, powerful way more likely to lead to harmony than conflict;
  • Create mutual understanding without coercion.

Whether you are a long-time student or are brand new to NVC, PuddleDancer Press has the resources, including the books on NVC and Education, to help you and those in your community grow your emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, and communication prowess.

Check out our catalog of books on NVC and Education… and give yourself the gift of Compassionate Communication!

More Information on Education Books

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There is a wealth of information on Nonviolent Communication – in articles and videos. Of course we endorse all of Marshall’s sharing’s, however, there are many transcripts and videos created by others. Due to limited resources we do not verify the full accuracy of any particular video or articles created by others, even though there is plenty of wonderful and educational information on the web.