Nonviolent Communication for Parenting and Families

“NVC stresses the importance of putting compassionate connection first to create a mutually respectful, enriching family dynamic filled with clear, heartfelt communication. An exceptional resource for parents, parent educators, families and anyone else who works with children.”

Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD.

Nonviolent Communication for parenting and families is one of the most popular topics we cover at PuddleDancer Press.

This is a hugely important topic, because our families shape us, and they are usually our first experience of love and acceptance — and for some people, rejection and trauma.

Our family is our first source of education about ourselves, about relating, and about the world.

And parenting is one of the most challenging tasks! (The challenge of parenting is one that parents know well, and which is sometimes difficult to convey to someone who has not been through it!)

As a parent, you are in charge of teaching another person how to live! And you are also responsible for their nutrition, healthcare, hygiene, education, and socialization.

Any framework that teaches children (and parents) to be empowered individuals, and to increase our emotional intelligence in the service of mutually satisfying relationships, is extremely worthwhile.

NVC is such a framework, and this is why we recommend Nonviolent Communication for parenting and families.

Using Nonviolent Communication Skills to Improve Family Relationships

Using Nonviolent Communication skills to improve family relationships is fairly straightforward and accessible to anyone.

Often, the work begins inside, with yourself.

NVC helps you become more conscious of your motivations and intentions — which means you are less likely to alienate your children.

As you learn to be more authentic as well as compassionate, you can build the bonds of trust that can last a lifetime.

Beyond the roles “parent” and “child” are human beings yearning to love, be loved, be seen, and contribute.

By helping you let go of old stories and relate human-to-human — as well as teaching you how to express yourself authentically from the heart and listen compassionately — you can use Nonviolent Communication skills to improve all of your family relationships.

What is Nonviolent Parenting… also called Respectful Parenting?

Nonviolent parenting is also called respectful parenting because you have the opportunity to bring a certain quality of mutual consideration to the relationship with your children.

Children are not incomplete adults!

Children are complete and whole human beings who happen to be at whatever growth stage and level of development they’re at.

NVC teaches us to relate beyond our roles. Often the roles we play in life —boss/employee, therapist/patient, teacher/student, parent/child — can get in the way of seeing each other as human beings.

When you connect with your child and treat them respectfully as a human being, you also gain a level of trust that can last a lifetime.

Sometimes as parents it’s easy to focus on getting our children to do what we want. Unfortunately, that sometimes occurs at the cost of the long-term relationship.

By issuing requests rather than demands you demonstrate to your child that their needs matter, and you build long term good will.

By keeping both your short-term goals (for example, getting your child to clean their room) and your long-term objectives (for example, having long-term mutual trust in the relationship) in mind, you are more likely to develop the caring, mutually satisfying relationship in the long run.

Nonviolent parenting is also called respectful parenting precisely because it is that: a way to parent that prioritizes long-term relationships of mutual care, trust, and consideration.

Learn to Handle Difficult Conversations with Family Members

NVC gives us clear and effective tools for how to handle difficult conversations with family members.

However, it is helpful if one thing is very clear: usually our closest relationships tend to be the most intense ones.

This is due to many factors, including the fact that we are most invested emotionally with those with whom we are close, as well as the fact that there tend to be more stories in relation to those whom we have known the longest.

One of the mistakes that is easy to make is thinking that you have to resolve everything in your family before you can practice NVC in the world! After all, the thinking goes, if I can’t do it at home then it makes no sense to try in public!

However, the opposite is a more useful way to think about it.

Take NVC out of the book-learning setting and out of the workshop setting and practice it in the real world!

As you gain more tools and better skills, you increase the likelihood of success in the more charged and challenging relationships and situations. After all, no one begins mountain climbing with Mt. Everest. People practice with lower peaks and work up to that. The same is true with challenging relationships.

Two of the capacities that NVC helps you develop are empathy and self-empathy. As you grow in these capacities, they serve you in getting through difficult conversations with family members.

Through using empathy, you will help your family members feel heard and understood. (Remember that empathy does not equal agreement! You’re just letting them experience that you get it.) This goes a long way toward defusing a potential conflict.

As you offer empathic listening perhaps you get triggered. At that moment your NVC training reminds you to turn your attention inward: self-connection and self-empathy! As you re-connect with yourself you become more grounded and your emotional charge goes down — and you can go back to empathic listening or authentic self-expression.

Remember that the other person is more likely to hear you out after they feel heard.

The dance of connection is one of the terms we use for this interplay between honesty and empathy, in which both people increasingly get heard, they find common ground and mutual understanding, and craft mutually satisfying outcomes.

Of course, some situations exceed our skills, capacity, or interior resources. In these cases, sometimes the most skillful strategy is to bring in an NVC-trained neutral facilitator or mediator to help you get through those difficult conversations.

The Benefits of Empathetic Communication Between Parents and Children

What are the benefits of empathic communication between parents and children?

All too often parents experience isolation and burnout.

It’s in these moments — when our interior resources are low — that we can tend to act in ways we later regret.

Parenting is so challenging, that sometimes we forget that being a parental guide is not the same as being someone who bosses others around.

Empathic communication means that we are listening to each other with empathy — full presence along with a quality of respectful understanding or compassionate understanding. (The other side of the coin implies that people are being open, vulnerable, honest — which really helps in order to have a high quality of connection!)

When we hear each other with empathy:

  • the emotional charge of difficult conversations is lowered,
  • we become closer emotionally,
  • we cultivate care and trust in relationships,
  • we increase the chance of more vulnerable honesty in the future,
  • we navigate through challenging topics in a way that is more likely to lead us to mutually agreeable solutions.

Building Healthy Family Relationships Through Compassionate Communication

There is nothing magical or mysterious about building healthy family relationships through compassionate communication (NVC).

The tools are there, but you have to be willing to learn them, apply them, and grow in your skillful use of them.

All three areas in which NVC teaches you to put our attention are important and contribute to this high quality of relating: honesty, empathy, and self-connection.

Honesty means that you’re being real, transparent. When others can count on you — and when you can count on others — to speak frankly, sincerely, and truthfully it builds safety and trust.

Empathy means that we are listening to each other in order to understand rather than just to respond. Empathy means that you listen in such a way that you’re demonstrating both that you care and that you’re trying to get it in a deeper way. This also builds safety and trust.

Self-connection means that you are willing to go inside and get clear: what am I feeling? what am I needing? what am I wanting? what are my intentions right now? where do I choose to put my attention?

Self-connection can reveal where you might be blaming, or where you have story about someone, or a limiting belief about yourself. It can also help you be aware of your deeper needs so that you can help someone else connect to what is most alive in you.

When others can trust that you are — and when you can trust that others are — being self-responsible about intentions, words, and actions, that also contributes to safety and trust.

When someone can hear blame from another, feel safe enough to point it out, and if that other person is self-responsible and vulnerable enough to own it — that could bring the person pointing it out a lot of relief. It also helps their heart soften and helps then feel into their care a bit more.

Dr. Marshall Rosenberg on using NVC in Family and Parenting Strategies

When listening to Dr. Marshall Rosenberg on using NVC in family and parenting strategies, he was speaking from experience, as he was also a father.

In offering understanding to other parents, he sometimes joked that parenting can involve spending an hour with your child and then getting two hours of empathy, then spending an hour with your child followed by getting two hours of empathy, then spending an hour with your child and on like that.

Of course he was being playful, but it offered some compassionate understanding to those of us who know how very challenging parenting can be.

He also had another memorable line, with its own special message. Dr. Rosenberg would playfully say that his definition of hell on Earth was both being a parent and thinking that there is such a thing as a “good parent.”

This is a bit of a warning regarding static thinking about right and wrong, and good and bad. The trap is that as soon as I am imperfect as a parent I can think “well, if I wasn’t a ‘good parent’ then I must be a ‘bad parent’” — and fall into guilt or shame or depression.

Instead of getting caught in static labels which are dependent on interpretation and evaluation (like ‘good parent’) — we can instead use a language of values and needs (e.g.: my actions met or didn’t meet my needs for safety). If instead of falling into the evaluative trap I can connect to what is important at a deeper level, I can still grow and learn as a parent without the emotional and relational cost.

The best time to learn NVC was one or two decades ago. The second-best time is now. Your children — and theirs — will benefit.

Puddledancer Press Books for Family Relationships

PuddleDancer Press is the foremost proponent and publisher of books on Nonviolent Communication and family relationships. NVC has shown time and again that human beings are capable of creating thriving relationships which include the co-creation of mutually crafted solutions.

Because of the trust-building that is built into NVC, and the fact that co-created solutions include everyone’s buy-in, using NVC in families predictably gives us outcomes that meet a greater number of needs and are more durable.

Our books on family relationships 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 educational resources, including the books on family relationships, to help you grow your emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, and communication prowess.

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

NVC Parenting Web Resources

Click here for Featured Parenting Articles.
Click here for Marshall Rosenberg Parenting Articles
Click here for Marshall Rosenberg Parenting Videos
Click here for Nonviolent Communication Parenting Articles
Click here for Nonviolent Communication Parenting Videos

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.