Our families are where we first learn how to understand and relate to ourselves and others.
As parents, we can feel a huge amount of pressure to get it right - sometimes we believe that to be a good parent we have to be a perfect parent.
This is not true!
Our children learn most from us when we are real, accountable and relatable. NVC can help you to do this while building a loving, deeply connected relationship with your children (and yourself!).
Connect with Your Children
It’s easy to get caught up in reacting to our children’s behaviour that we see as “bad”. We feel frustrated, angry, and even hopeless. “If they would just do what I want!” is something many overwhelmed parents have exclaimed!
In truth, all behaviour is a means to getting our needs met, whether we are a newborn or a centurion! A shift happens when we start to connect on a deeper level and understand what the needs are beneath the behaviour.
NVC teaches us to connect with our children’s feelings and explore what unmet needs could be underlying them. Sometimes it’s simple - a toddler having a meltdown could be needing food, sleep, or attention. Sometimes it’s more complex - a rebelling teenager could be needing a sense of agency or belonging, or paradoxically, a more authentic connection with their parents.
When your child displays challenging behaviour, consider these points:
- What are they feeling right now? If you don't know, just ask or reflect to help them make sense of their feelings. “You seem to be feeling…, is that right?”
- Explore their possible unmet needs in the situation and engage with them. “Are you feeling grumpy because you are hungry?”
- Is there some way that you could meet their needs in a way that is agreeable to both of you? Is it possible to at least start the conversation about how to do this?
The more we can have these conversations without shame or blame (however clumsy they may feel at first!), the more our children will believe that their feelings and needs matter. When they know they can trust us, the more likely they will be to keep sharing and our connection with them will deepen.
Connect with Yourself
Parenting is not just about our children. As a mother, father, or guardian you are 50% of that relationship so it is essential that you connect with yourself too.
When you talk about your feelings and needs, your children learn that they are acceptable and valuable parts of who we are as human beings, not something to avoid or be afraid of. Verbalising your feelings and acknowledging your needs also helps your family to build up a vocabulary, which is one of the foundations of emotional intelligence.
When you show your children how to connect their feelings to their needs, you equip them with the tools to do this for themselves. Here is an example:
“I’m feeling a bit grumpy today because I’m really tired. I need a rest. Would you like to come and lie on the couch and watch a movie together?”
It’s simple really. If we look beyond the external behaviour and reconnect with each other as humans, we remember that we all share basic needs for love, safety and acceptance. When we understand this and take action to find ways to meet those needs in mutually satisfying ways, we build lifelong connections with our children.