How Nonviolent Communication Informs my Homeschool

This is how Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, informs my homeschool.

For me, this is the bible of relationships and communication.

I’ve read a few books on relationships, parenting, connection, attachment, and all things relationships, in my time (okay, a lot of books), but this book is the bible of relationships.

This is how nonviolent communication informs my homeschool…

But first, how does Marshall Rosenberg define nonviolent communication?

NVC (aka Nonviolent Communication) is a language of life that helps us transform old patterns of defensiveness and aggressiveness into compassion and empathy and to improve the quality of all of our relationships. (Definition provided by the Center for Non-Violent Communication).

We all have old patterns that need to be transformed.

And we definitely notice we have reactive, defensive, and aggressive patterns when we attempt to create relationships.

Certainly, we notice this when we saturate ourselves in the homeschool parenting role.

Non Violent Communication is built on these four components:

  1. Observation: Observation without evaluation consists of noticing concrete things and actions around us. We learn to distinguish between judgment and what we sense in the present moment and to simply observe what is there.
  2. Feeling: When we notice things around us, we inevitably experience varying emotions and physical sensations in each particular moment. Here, distinguishing feelings from thoughts is an essential step in the NVC process.
  3. Needs: All individuals have needs and values that sustain and enrich their lives. When those needs are met, we experience comfortable feelings, like happiness or peacefulness, and when they are not, we experience uncomfortable feelings, like frustration. Understanding that we, as well as those around us, have these needs is perhaps the most important step in learning to practice NVC and live empathically.
  4. Request: To make clear and present requests is crucial to NVC’s transformative mission. When we learn to request concrete actions that can be carried out in the present moment, we begin to find ways to cooperatively and creatively ensure that everyone’s needs are met.

(Definitions provided by the Center for Non-Violent Communication).

a mother sitting on the couch with her kids and their dog: nonviolent communication with kids

The first thing I’ve learned from the Nonviolent Communication book…

“What I want in my life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart.”

― Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

This is what we all want: we want a flow within ourselves and between us. But we’re not all trained to enable that flow.

We have walls built up to defend ourselves; sometimes we even have spikes and landmines built up to defend ourselves.

Either way, those defenses don’t build relationships.

Vulnerability and authenticity allow relationships to expand and grow.

So I have to learn to build self-compassion. (An easy thing to say, a less easy thing to do).

The second thing I’ve learned…

“All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently, those people deserve to be punished.”

― Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

We do what we do because that is what we know to do in the scenario at the time.

And in the words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

If we have a growth mindset about life and relationships, how we “do” life and relationships will shift over time.

We’ll grow.

We’ll do differently, show up differently, in the same scenarios five, ten, or twenty years later differently if we choose a growth approach.

When we choose growth, we acknowledge that we didn’t always know the right way to engage something, we didn’t always know how to show up in our homeschools, or our family relationships, and in our lives.

We can look back in regret and shame, of course. Or we can choose to forgive ourselves and grow.

When we do just enough growth to make us humble and self-aware, we realize that others aren’t trying to intentionally cause us pain or friction or trouble either.

(Although they can still do it without intention).

We know that getting punished for our wrong ways of engaging didn’t serve us when we simply didn’t know better.

Punishment doesn’t teach ignorance.

And punishment won’t serve the people that are troubled and engaging us wrong now.

So we choose to relate to others in the same way we would choose to relate to our growing selves over the course of our lifetime: gracefully.

An angry toddler learning to his manage emotions.

The third thing I’ve learned…

“At the core of all anger is a need that is not being fulfilled.”

― Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

Anger is that mighty sharp tip of an iceberg that protects our fragile hearts.

It’s a useful tool to self-protect.

But it also protects or keeps us from connecting with others if we self-protect too hard.

Under the mighty iceberg of anger’s sharp tip is a whole lotta other big emotions. You name the emotion, it’s there.

And those emotions are always fueled by our unmet needs.

So we need to address our own needs and respectfully request that others meet our needs, so that we don’t spend our lives reactively, angrily demanding others meet our needs, and/or never connecting with ourselves or others.

relaxed black woman with little daughter practicing lotus pose at home: nonviolent communication informs my homeschool

The fourth thing I’ve learned…

“We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think, and feel.”

― Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

You know when you’re not a parent and you have heaped judgments on your own parents parenting approaches BUT THEN you have kids???

And all you can think to yourself is DANG, this parenting thing is only easy when I’m not doing it. (& also, I can see now that my parents were doing the best they could do with what they knew to do in their parenting years, no matter how unhealthy things were).

Because parenting is SO CHALLENGING at times.

Every parenting book I’ve read had something to say. And I’ve appreciated most of them for something.

But this core point, that we need to grow in self-awareness and self-compassion has had the most impact on my parenting approach.

I’ve made the gamut of parenting mistakes. I really have. Which means I have regret. (& lest you try to console me for my perfectly imperfect parenting, I will go to my grave regretting them, but I also don’t fuel them with self-contempt).

I know that self-shaming won’t have value in how I engage my kids NOW.

I made mistakes. I’m human. I was not given healthy examples of a whole lotta things. No matter how many parenting books or hours I put in a therapist’s office, I was bound to have a challenge with this one relationship: the relationship with ME.

My defenses and my reactiveness towards things that hurt me or offended me or confused me were my instinctive armour and battle gear that I brought into my family life, as a wife, and as a mother.

I wish this weren’t true. But it is. I had (& still have) armour and battle gear.

Do I like that? Hell no.

Will it serve me to pretend that these patterns weren’t mine at the beginning of my family journey?

Again, hell no.

I’ve learned that including practices in self-awareness has helped me see me a little more clearly (a little more, because there will always be room for more self-awareness, I’ll never see myself clearly).

Or in the words of Carl Rogers, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

woman standing in front of brown wood plank: non violent communication informs my homeschool

The fifth thing I’ve learned…

“My theory is that we get depressed because we’re not getting what we want, and we’re not getting what we want because we have never been taught to get what we want. Instead, we’ve been taught to be good little boys and girls and good mothers and fathers. If we’re going to be one of those good things, better get used to being depressed. Depression is the reward we get for being “good.” But, if you want to feel better, I’d like you to clarify what you would like people to do to make life more wonderful for you.”

― Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

If we don’t acknowledge who we are, that we are separate people, and that we have separate needs, we force ourselves to go underground.

Our identity becomes like vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla is a flavour of ice cream, sure (aka it’s a personality of ice cream types, though it is a basic personality).

But it doesn’t have a specific personality, a particular flavour, or a particular texture.

It has an entry-level nothingness.

(Clearly vanilla is not my favourite. Bring on the peppermint chocolate chip).

But we each aren’t vanilla personalities: we have our own flair, our own flavour, and our own textures.

We are unique and are meant to be here for a special purpose.

When we put our efforts toward being good or right, enabling ourselves to go undercover, we aren’t really us.

When we put our efforts toward fully accepting all of our parts, and each of our needs, and acknowledging our real selves, we flourish.

photo of people near wooden table: nonviolent communication and harmony

The very most important thing I gain from Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, is this fill-in-the-blank statement.

It is a useful tool: a fill-in-the-blank conversation “instruction manual” to address my needs and request someone to engage my needs (which, not coincidentally when you practice doing this for you, makes it awfully easy to engage for others too).

When I see that______________ I feel ______________ because my need for ________________ is/is not met. Would you be willing to __________________?

So my goal in my relationships with my kids and my relationship with my partner are to make observations, clarify and express my feelings, declare my underlying needs, and ask for my needs to be met.

That simple.

And not easy at all.

Homeschool Mama Book Club: Nurturing the Nurturer: join the Book Club discussing Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Frequently Asked Questions

You’ll see the Zoom link in your email the morning of your Book Club. Make sure your email provider hasn’t thrown it into Junk Mail.

Where can I purchase the book?

You can find all the books from our Book Club in the Capturing the Charmed Life Amazon Book Shop. When you purchase here, you support me!

Does this Book Club cost?

The nominal $5 purchase enables the Zoom group platform. Oh, and time, it costs you time. You’ll have to find a quiet hour and a half away from the kids and responsibilities to spend time on YOU!

How long is the Book Club?

Usually about an hour and a half.

Can I ask questions about the book and its applications to my homeschool?

Absolutely! I’ll share my insights from the book and how they apply to our homeschools, but the best part of this book club? You sharing your thoughts and how it applies to your homeschool. If you have thoughts, insights, or questions, we want to hear them.

Join the Book Club!

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Teresa Wiedrick

I help overwhelmed homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.