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(37) Parents & Kids

Toddler Tries to Argue Like an Adult



Topic: Life-Enriching Practices

Title: D-Stress1

Objective: To synchronize the rhythms of the breath, mind, and heart

Type of Activity: Inner awareness


1. Notice that you are feeling stressed.

2. Hit the pause button.

Immediately stop what you are doing. You are about to do something you are likely to regret later. If you do not push the pause button your upset is likely to increase.

3. Focus on your heart and breath.

Breathe into the area of the heart (4 counts)

Exhale through the abdomen (4 counts)

4. Create a feeling of gratitude or appreciation.

Remember a time when you were feeling these feelings and feel them again now.

5. Breathe another 6 or 8 breaths while holding that feeling.

6. Check in.

Ask yourself: Am I feeling any differently?

Are any new ideas for handling the problem coming to mind?


  • Adapted from a Heart Math Freeze-Frame Exercise in The Inside Story: Understanding the Power of Feelings, Heart Math L.L.C., 2002.


Topic: Life-Enriching Practices

Title: Re-Charge

Objective: To provide choices for deep rest and relaxation

Type of Activity: Inner awareness


When you run out of patience and energy, it is time to Re-Charge-to restore yourself to your healthiest, most balanced state. Without consciously taking time to do it, it won’t happen.

Ask yourself these questions:

When do I feel happiest?

What activities give me joy and well-being?

With what person or people do I feel most myself?

In what places do I feel most peaceful and calm?

Include these places, people, and activities in your life as often as possible.

Topic: Life-Enriching Practices

Title: Take Time In

Objective: To calm yourself when you are feeling stress, anger, or other heightened, negative emotions; to connect with your feelings and needs

Type of Activity: Inner awareness


1. Notice your symptoms.

You are feeling stressed or in a heightened emotional state.

Physical symptoms:

These can be different for different people. Some of these symptoms might include: increased heart rate; clammy or sweaty hands; feeling warmer than usual, especially around the neck and in the face; and tightness in the chest or throat.

Action symptoms:

Speaking in a louder than usual voice; name-calling; using put downs; threatening yourself or others; and/or pushing, slapping, shaking, hitting, or spanking another person.

2. Hit the pause button.

Immediately stop what you are doing. You are about to do something you are likely to regret later. If you do not push the pause button your upset is likely to increase.

3. Regain equilibrium.

Take several deep breaths.

Go for a walk or run.

Do some stretches.

Call a friend for empathy.

4. Connect with feelings and needs.

As soon as possible, connect with your feelings and needs.

If you are angry, identify the anger-producing thoughts that fuel the anger.

Feel the feelings and sit with the needs that are urgently calling for your attention.

Option: Empathy Solitaire

You can use the Feelings and Needs card deck at the end of the book to help you determine feelings and needs. Look through the Feelings Cards and lay out the cards that describe your feelings.

Look through the Needs Cards and lay out the cards that describe the unmet needs that you think might be behind your feelings.

5. Reconnect with your Purpose and your Intention for communication.

6. Make your next move from this place of connection with yourself, your purpose, and your intention.

Topic: Life-Enriching Practices

Title: Assess Your Needs (for Parents)

Objective: To stay current with life; to celebrate met needs and mourn unmet needs; to notice needs that want attention

Type of Activity: Self-assessment for parents


Make copies of this form so you can write on it and periodically review and assess your needs. Circle the number that represents your current level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction in meeting the following needs (5 indicating most satisfaction, 1 indicating most dissatisfaction).

My Relationship with Myself

1—2—3—4—5 nutrition

1—2—3—4—5 rest

1—2—3—4—5 exercise

1—2—3—4—5 fun

1—2—3—4—5 balance

1—2—3—4—5 self-expression

1—2—3—4—5 creative outlets

1—2—3—4—5 meaning, spiritual connection

1—2—3—4—5 learning, growth

1—2—3—4—5 contribution

1—2—3—4—5 companionship

My Relationship with My Children

 1—2—3—4—5 safety & trust

1—2—3—4—5 mutual respect

1—2—3—4—5 co-operation

1—2—3—4—5 expressing my feelings & needs clearly

1—2—3—4—5 hearing their feelings & needs

1—2—3—4—5 hearing the needs behind their No

1—2—3—4—5 asking for what I would like without making demands

1—2—3—4—5 having fun together

My Relationship with Other Adults at Home

1—2—3—4—5 safety & trust

1—2—3—4—5 co-operation

1—2—3—4—5 expressing my feelings & needs clearly

1—2—3—4—5 hearing their feelings & needs

1—2—3—4—5 hearing requests, not demands

1—2—3—4—5 asking for what I would like without making demands

1—2—3—4—5 having fun together

Use These 7 Keys to:

• Express yourself so you’re heard and respected

• Successfully handle disagreements or problem behaviors

• Motivate your kids to willingly contribute

• Set clear limits without using demands or coercion

• Empower your kids to open up, co-operate, and realize their full potential

• Create outstanding, lifelong relationships with your kids


(38) Parents & Kids

How Parents and Kids Respect Each Other 6 Parenting Tips

The Option of Natural Childbirth


Real change happens in steps too small to measure and at the corner of the eye.

Stan Hodson

 Stories from the No-Fault Zone

In each of these stories and dialogues, parents celebrate the small, everyday successes that help them build their confidence and skills and give them hope that they will be able to live the love they feel for their children.

These are actual stories from friends, workshop participants, and clients. We hope that they will inspire you and help you to calibrate your expectations and celebrate little steps along the way to making your home a No-Fault Zone.

 Saved by Self-Empathy

Our friend Sheri celebrated that she was able to quickly choose a productive and compassionate response to her child by first giving herself a moment of empathy.

Sheri was caught off-guard when she came into her living room, still panting and sweating after going for a run. As she was catching her breath, she walked to her six-year-old, Simon, to see what he was doing.

At that moment, her eight-year-old son, Darin, said, with an agitated edge to his voice, You stink! And why are you always helping Simon and never paying attention to what I’m doing?

She felt all the blood rush to her head and then heard herself yelling.

Before she could launch into either blaming him (How dare you . . .) or blaming herself (What a horrible mom to yell at him like that!), she caught herself at a choice point: Go into a downward spiral of anger or pause, take a breath, and check in with herself. Recognizing this choice point, she quickly took the breath and checked in: [Wow. When Darin said that, I felt really upset because I needed understanding. When I responded by yelling at him, I felt so sad, because I want to have respect and understanding between us.]

Notice how different her response is from self-judgment which can keep one spinning with self-denigrating thoughts like, I shouldn’t . . ., I should . . ., and I’m a bad mom. Also notice that this self-empathy didn’t take long because Sheri has been practicing her communication skills for several months. The self-empathy gave her enough clarity and relief to lead her to wonder about what was going on with her son: [When I hear and see him so upset, I’m curious what’s going on.]

She was then able to be empathetic with him and check in to see what he felt and needed at that moment: So, Darin, you seem very upset. I wonder if you need some understanding about what happened.

Darin’s anger dissolved into tears, and he was able to tell his mom about something that had happened at school that was the real cause of his upset.

The Power of Loving Acceptance

This mother’s pivotal choice to turn from judging her daughter to accepting her opened the door for new opportunities to connect and communicate with each other.

I found myself at a point in my relationship with my fourteen-year-old daughter that I never dreamed could be so painful. For the past year, I’ve noticed a steady increase in angry, reactive encounters between us. I saw behaviors that I judged as rude, selfish, lazy, and even cruel. Her response to my asking for help was negative, and as I began to insist, her reaction would be, You twit!

I found myself avoiding her and even recoiling from her touch.

Realizing that I didn’t even want my daughter to touch me was a shocking, sobering low point for me. The horrifying thought crossed my mind that maybe I didn’t even love her. This was too painful to consider; however, I knew that something had to change, and I knew that it was unlikely to be her.

I realized how much I do love her, and what I wanted most was to find some way to convey that to her. I began to notice my physical responses to her behavior-how my stomach tightened, my throat constricted, and my breathing became shallow. All of this happened even before I could tell myself how disrespectful she was.

I decided to consciously relax my body and allow the tightened muscles to loosen, to give space to all the tight places inside. As I was able to make this shift more and more easily, the knee-jerk reactions to her behavior lost their hold on me, and I was able to stay with feelings of openness, appreciation, and affection. I saw that I had been looking to my daughter to meet my needs for respect, support, and co-operation and that what she really needed from me was loving acceptance. I saw that expecting my daughter to be a certain way was actually a demand. As she began to experience more acceptances she began to soften. She still felt free to express herself but in a kinder, more considerate way. I’m so grateful that now, when my daughter comes into the room, even when she isn’t happy, I want, first, to reach out and hug her.

Connect with Empathy and Establish Intention

This mom explained to us that, while she had not been a “big yeller,” she had from time to time raised her voice while using words to “cut, shame, and blame” her kids. The experience was always upsetting for her and for her kids. She was excited to learn a way to express honestly without any blame or upset. I’m so grateful to have been introduced to NVC. Of course, I wish I’d learned it before my sons were born, before I got married, or when I was a teenager in my parents’ home. When I first discovered this new way of interacting with my sons I was learning the hard way that it was an illusion to think I could control them. It was painfully obvious to me that they were going to experiment and make choices I didn’t enjoy. I realized that my relationship with them was going to depend on my ability to connect with them where they were. I have learned to trust that even when we don’t agree or are very upset with each other, we can reconnect, learn from the situation, and move on, together. The connection between us has grown very strong, and it is the thing I value the most. NVC has given me the concrete skills for building and deepening it.

This story is about the night I came home from my first NVC course and was talking with my two sons, ages eleven and fifteen years old.

Son: Oh, brother, what course have you taken now, Mama? You’re talking weird.

I rejected my first reaction, which was to say, I’m trying to be a better parent.

Do you think you could be a little more supportive? I chose instead to focus on them rather than take the comment as a criticism.

Mom: Are you guys curious and wondering what I’m up to?

They both looked very interested, so I plunged in.

Mom: I’m learning a neat way to communicate that will help me say things without getting as angry as I usually do.

They looked even more interested.

Son: You mean you’re not going to yell anymore?

Mom: Yeah. I’m learning ways to say what I want so that I won’t get so frustrated. I can’t promise I won’t yell, but I think I won’t be feeling as confused and frustrated so much of the time and I won’t burst out yelling as much.

Their eyes were riveted on me.

Mom: I’m guessing you’re feeling pretty excited by that idea. You’d like to be spoken to with respect?

Both heads nodded vigorously.

Mom: I would really like your help with this. I would like to hear from you when you don’t like how I’m speaking to you.

They look at each other.

Sons (in unison): Really?

Mom: Oh, yes, because I don’t enjoy yelling either, probably just as much as you don’t enjoy being yelled at.

I got that one right, too. I’m on a roll. It seemed to me that we were on a team now, talking about how great it will be when I can use my words.

Mom: So how was this conversation for you two?

They hesitate. I sense they feel cautious, yet optimistic.

Son: This is great, Mama. Let’s see what happens.


(39) Parents & Kids

7 Reasons to Eat Family Dinner Together

How to Discipline Your Child's Imaginary Friend


Shift vs. Compromise

This mom was relieved and energized by the shift that occurred when she connected deeply with her son’s needs. One night I was tucking my ten-year-old son into bed. I was really exhausted. He asked me if I would stay and talk with him the way I often do. The first thing I said was No. I told him I was really tired and needed to get some rest. To my surprise he didn’t object. I went to my room to get ready for bed, but I was telling myself how selfish I was being, and I was beating myself up for not being a good mom. I was telling myself I should stay with my son when he asks me to and that I shouldn’t put my needs before his. I was thinking entirely in terms of obligation, should, right, wrong, and duty. I don’t know what happened, but suddenly my attention shifted to thinking about my son’s needs for warmth, closeness, and connection with me, and I didn’t feel tired anymore. All I wanted to do was go sit with him. I went back to his room; he was surprised and happy to see me. I was surprised that I felt fresh and was able to give him my full attention, something I’m usually unable to do because I’m preoccupied with one concern or another. That night I think we had the best and longest talk we’ve ever had.

Seeing Both Sides

This story demonstrates the power of honesty to create connection. One morning when my son Peter was four years old I was making breakfast, cooking pancakes on the griddle. He called out to me from another room, Mommy? and I said, WHAT! He responded to the tone of my voice by coming into the kitchen. He looked at me with his huge blue eyes and he said, why do you get so impatient? I’m just asking you a question. I said, In that moment when you called to me, I thought breakfast was more important than answering your question. So what’s more important: responding to you, or making sure that the pancakes are not too brown? He said, Well I do want the pancakes to be okay.

Finding Solutions Together

Surprising and creative solutions often come when parents strategize with their kids. When my son Douglas was four and a half, he liked to get out of bed at five in the morning to play and eat. He woke me up and wanted me to play with him and make breakfast for him. I felt irritable because I wanted the extra sleep.

One day when we were both feeling calm, we discussed the early morning situation, and we made a problem-solving book for which Douglas drew a picture and I wrote a list. In the picture that Douglas drew of me, I had flames coming out of my head. I wrote down the needs that we each had in the situation. My need was for peaceful sleeping. His needs were for playing, eating, and warmth.

Together we brainstormed strategies for meeting our needs:

(1) He plays with trains quietly in the next room while I continue sleeping.

(2) I put cereal and milk in a place where he can reach it and he eats when he wants to. I don’t know how he met his need for warmth, but perhaps the other two needs were more important to him and he found that he could meet his need for warmth later, when I get up feeling more rested and happier.

First Light-Hearted Moment in a Long Time

 This story shows how important it is to notice small yet significant moments of connection. My seventeen-year-old son is an only child. For years now both my wife and I looked to him to affirm our value as parents. Meanwhile, he has gone out of his way to resist what my wife and I want from him and for him.

The three of us went to an NVC counselor who asked us for a recent example of a situation where my wife and I thought our son had resisted and was not acting “responsively” or “responsibly.” I told about asking our son to spend some time fixing a space heater for our home, and how when I came home and found that the heater wasn’t repaired and asked about it, he had said that he couldn’t find any instruction manual and he didn’t know how to perform the task. I told the counselor that I was frustrated, irritated, and disappointed in him for not showing more resourcefulness and at least making an attempt at fixing the heater. My son said that my report sounded like the fault-finding he was so used to at home.

At that moment I had a breakthrough and I was able to make an observation of the situation, and then identify my feelings and needs. I cleared my mind as best I could, sat up straight, and delivered what I thought was a nonjudgmental observation along with my feelings and needs. Then I stalled and could not think of a request to make to my son. The counselor suggested that I could simply request my son’s feedback about my statement, so that’s what I did. What are you hearing me say? I asked. However, I was very disheartened when my son said that what he heard coming through my attempt at nonjudgmental communication was still blame and fault-finding. I threw up my hands. I said, Whoa this is really hard! Maybe I can’t do this. I gave it my absolute best shot at communicating without judgment or evaluation and my son still heard judgment and blame.

The counselor suggested that I ask my son whether he also heard my intention to use no-fault communication, so I did; and to my surprise he said that he did register my intention to change my old habits. Then he said that although he still heard blame in my communication, he also noted that the way I had just spoken to him was WAY different than usual, and he and I laughed at his observation. Well, that is one of the first light-hearted and simply good-hearted moments we have shared in a long time. So even though he and I did not achieve the kind of dramatic connection I was hoping for, we did connect for a moment and that connection was pretty dramatic in its own way.

The “Whining” Kids

This mom’s insight about why her kids whine could help other parents who are perplexed by and don’t enjoy this behavior. A huge issue around my house has always been “whining.” At the time that I experienced a shift in my perception, my children were ages four, seven, and ten years old. It seemed to me that they whined all the time. It drove me crazy. Whenever I heard that whiny sound in their voices I immediately wanted to stop whatever I was doing. Then I went to a parenting workshop away from my home where I learned that all people are ever doing is expressing their needs.

After I returned home, the first time that my daughter “whined” to me was when she was requesting something from me. I suddenly realized that she whined when she was expecting me to reject or deny her request. I also realized that she was used to having to ask for things, and she was used to me saying No to her requests. It became obvious to me that in our interactions my daughter was often powerless to get something that she wanted.

I immediately felt a huge wave of compassion for my daughter. I also saw how my parenting had not expressed respect for the autonomy needs of any of my children. What I earlier thought of as whining was their way of trying to be fully heard and to rebel against my lack of respect for their autonomy. When I fully realized all of this I felt regret and sadness that my relations with my children had so little trust and respect.

I talked with my children about my thoughts and realizations and let them know that I very much wanted to listen to them better and to work on growing more trust between us. When I finished, my kids looked at me as though I had come from an alien planet. My four-year-old began to cry. However, within just three weeks after my talk with them, the whining behavior had dramatically decreased, and my children and I are very much enjoying each other’s company.

Chaos to Calm

Here’s another example of how one person can make a shift that results in mutual satisfaction. We had friends staying with us. It was a very chaotic situation, and I was the hostess: cooking for the umpteenth time (breakfast for fifteen people), cleaning up after that, and then preparing lunch. There was plenty of help but a lot of ongoing kitchen stress standing and cooking for long periods of time. Kimmy was age two and still nursing. In the midst of all that was going on in the kitchen, he wanted to nurse. It was really bad timing for me. I said, Kimmy, not now. I’ve got things on the burner. Later. He stood there with big eyes looking at me, not saying anything. In that moment, looking into his eyes, I experienced a shift in my needs. Before that moment it was important to me to keep everything running in the kitchen. I sat down and nursed him, and we were both content.

Helping by Choice

This mother’s understanding of the difference between making demands and requests has made all the difference in how things go in her household.

I had been feeling frustrated and angry because my sixteen-year-old son was home a lot those days, but he didn’t help out around the house. We had gotten into a painful routine of my asking him if he’d help with something, like vacuuming or taking out the garbage. He would either respond by making a face and saying he was busy, or he would do it begrudgingly. Neither response was satisfying nor was I going around with resentment most of the time.

One day I realized that I was the one making me miserable, not him. I had an expectation that he should help out; that should word always gets me into trouble. Then, when he didn’t help I would feel angry, and it would eat away at me for days. I realized, also, that when he heard a demand for his help, his immediate reaction was to resist or to do it with obvious resentment, which was worse for me than when he resisted.

That same day I decided to let the expectation go and see what would happen. Immediately I felt a relief. I wasn’t expecting, I wasn’t demanding, and all the resentment started to drop away. My chest relaxed. I got in touch with sadness because I still wanted not only the help he could give me, but also his companionship that I enjoyed so much. I didn’t stop wanting the help, but I started feeling better immediately, just doing things myself. A few days later I had a really tight schedule and I asked if that afternoon he would be willing to pick up the dogs from the groomers. He said he had some plans and I said, Okay, I’ll do it. An hour later he called me to say, Mom, I can pick up the dogs. I just said Great that will be a big help. That was the first time, in I can’t remember how long, that he offered to help, and I know it’s because I had in various ways stopped demanding and punishing him to make him feel guilty. I see that he wants to help because he enjoys it, not because I demand it. I sense he’ll be helping around the house much more from now on, because he wants to.



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