Parents, who maintain a compassionate heart, lead their children to do the same. And it is compassionate people—indeed a compassionate generation—who will make this world a better place. – Kelly Matzen
My daughter will turn four years old in April. Her language and ability for self-expression are exploding: shifting and changing on an almost daily basis. With this step in her development begins new chapter in our relationship. She is better able to communicate; and we have moved away from the one-way dialogue that I had grown accustomed to when she was younger.
Communicating with a preschooler is essentially a raw version of an adult interaction, pared down to its basic components. When we hit a wall in our interaction, it is for similar reasons to when it occurs in my marriage, my personal relationships, or with my work colleagues. We both want our own way; and, we end up frustrated or angry at one another for not complying with our wishes.
As with many other times along this parenting journey, my current experience with my daughter has led me to take a closer look at the bigger picture, ask myself some hard questions and reevaluate some deeply ingrained patterns. What is the root of conflict? Can I learn a better way to navigate my way through and past it?
Over the years, a number of people that I deeply respect have mentioned a resource that they find useful: Non-Violent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD. I bought a copy of this book over five years ago, with the good intention to read it, and it has sat on my shelf collecting dust ever since. I recently cracked it open and dove in.
Rosenberg is a psychologist, who specializes in conflict resolution. His fundamental belief is that all conflict – big or small – stems from the same place. First, many of us lack the ability to communicate or identify how we feel about a situation; we cannot articulate the underlying need that is not being met. Second, we do not listen or receive the message being given to us by the other person with openness and empathy, as we are too busy trying to get them to listen to us.
I have really enjoyed this book and Rosenberg’s perspective. It has given me a lot of food for thought. The challenge is now to use this technique in my daily life. I have been actively working on it for a few weeks now. The experience reminds me a lot of learning a foreign language: awkward and frustrating at times, but with many rich rewards. My deepest hope is that it leads to compassionate and open relationships with not only my daughter, as she develops and grows, but my friends, family and wider community.