The bane of every parent’s life… kids fighting.
Read how Jessica White, Communication for Life team member and NVC mum restores peace between her 4 year old and nearly 2 year old daughters through the power of empathy and self-connection…
One of my biggest parenting challenges is when my oldest daughter (Inca 4.5) hits or hurts her little sister (Pearl almost 2). I think this is because it riles up my inner roaring and protective Lioness.
Because of this, it’s been one of the most challenging scenarios to apply my NVC skills. It’s SO hard to empathise when I’m angry!
However, with practice and Jocelyn’s words “connection before education” becoming a mantra in my head, I’m feeling way more happy with how I’m facing these situations. In fact, they even seem to be happening less and less, perhaps because I’m more onto it with keeping everyone’s (including my own) needs in check. All day long I’m guessing at the unmet, or met, needs behind my children’s’ actions, that now it’s starting to become second nature. I love it.
So, back to Inca hitting Pearl. This is how it typically might go:
I hear Pearl cry. I instantly know it’s cause was Inca’s doing by the tone of the cry and the look on both girls’ faces.
I check in with myself. Anger explodes from my belly to my throat (I SWEAR I never knew anger until I had my second child!) I think to myself “geez girl, you’re so angry, all you want is for the girls to be nice to each other and some friggin’ peace!” Breeeeeeeaaatttthe.
“Come here sweetheart,” I say, as I pick up Pearl, cuddle her, wait until she quietens a little and then offer her su-su (breastmilk). “You’re so upset aren’t you darling, you just really want to have a nice time with your big sister”.
Then I turn to Inca.
There could be one of an array of expressions on her face and remarks leaving her mouth, however its usually something along the lines of “I hit her. She was annoying me”. Lips pouting.
Connection. Before. Education. (Mantra runs through my head). Breeeeaathe.
“So you’re feeling really annoyed because you were having fun playing on your own and you didn’t want Pearl to disrupt your game?”
“Yeah, she was trying to take my cards.” (Still pretty angry-looking at this stage)
“You’re feeling angry about the cards being moved and taken away because you were enjoying making the pretty patterns and having some Inca-time?” (Connect again)
“Yes, and she ruined it!”
Yeah I can imagine that would feel annoying.
“When I hear Pearl cry because you hit her I feel angry at first because I want my children to be safe. Now I feel sad because I would love for us to be kind to each other, all of the time. Do you think you might be able to give Pearl a kiss and a cuddle to let her know you care about her?”
She might do this. Then I hug Inca. Then everyone’s happy and we move on.
Or, she might say “no”. At the beginning of my NVC journey, if I heard this answer, my jackal would have a field day!! “What a mean little girl she is, where did she get this meanness from?!!” “The little madam, especially after I’ve been so nice to her after she hit Pearl!!!!” Or “where did I go wrong?!?!”
Now, I’m calm. I know the drill. She needs more empathy.
“Is that because you’re still feeling annoyed with her?”
“Want a cuddle with me instead to help you feel better?”
I’ve never had a no from this request! After I hug her with my other arm, whilst still feeding Pearl, Inca has then by herself, every time, given Pearl a kiss and a hug.
Now we are connected. We trust each other. I might choose to educate now. Or later.
Something along the lines of, “Next time you’re feeling annoyed with Pearl, what could you do instead, that would keep everyone happy and safe?” We explore strategies together and come up with a plan: Inca will try to talk to Pearl and tell her how she feels, or she will offer her something else to play with. And if neither work, Inca will call me, or Dad, for help.
I come away from these scenarios feeling peaceful (remember that’s what I realised I was longing for when I did that first self check-in!) happy, excited for growth, grateful for NVC and full of love. If I enter these scenarios unconsciously and reactively, I feel shit and so do the girls. It takes energy and focus to dig deep to enter into those situations with an NVC consciousness, but it definitely gets easier with practice.
And all this doesn’t mean Inca won’t hit Pearl again! I’m sure she will. Inca is still learning what to do with her feelings. As are we all. The power lies in us connecting. Opening the doors with empathy. That’s where we’ll find our humanness.
NVC to me is about building stronger, more loving relationships, one interaction at a time.