One of the most profound teachings I've been blessed to encounter has been Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication (NVC), or as I like to call it, "Empathic Communication" or with the kids "Giraffe Language". The basic idea behind the teaching is that all humans have the same basic needs, and these needs motivate our feelings and actions. Conflict occurs when two or more people's needs do not coincide at the same time. So during conflict, we can choose to look behind another's actions to see what they are needing, and we can thereby strive for constructive resolution.
As parents we often experience conflict. There's direct conflict with our children, when they are reaching for the candy before breakfast, or there's inner conflict such as " I just want to relax and check Facebook, but Johnny keeps annoying me."
What we need to be asking is, "What do you need?" We can ask this of others (empathy) and of ourselves (self-empathy). It may be easy to do this with a baby; they have a few basic needs such as security, warmth, food, rest, burping, eliminating. But all too soon our little ones develop more complex needs, and they also develop strategies for getting those needs met. Studying Empathic Communication helps us understand the difference between needs and strategies, while giving us some formats for expressing our needs, hearing others, and finding resolution.
"Mom, can I watch TV?" (TV can be a strategy for meeting needs for fun or learning.)
"Pleeeease?" (whining as a strategy for getting needs met)
"Are you needing some fun?"
"Then how about listening to an audio book or going for a bike ride?"
"NO, I want to watch TV!"
"I hear that you want TV, but I'm saying no because I'm feeling concerned for your wellbeing, since I know you watched TV yesterday and I believe TV isn't good for people. What else would you like to do for fun?"
OK, more on this later, I can't write a whole book right now. But others have and I'd highly suggest exploring NVC and parenting. Below are links to a few places to start.
Insights into nurturing the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual wellbeing of our children.