As we journey together through the rewarding, yet often challenging, landscape of parenthood, we parents are united by a common goal: to guide our children towards becoming the best versions of themselves. We recall the day our daughter was on the brink of tears, frustrated because she couldn't complete her Lego house due to missing bricks, seemingly misplaced by other children. And then there was the time she grappled with the myriad of hygiene measures introduced at school. In such moments we recognize that each child is a unique individual, requiring a tailored approach to nurture their growth and development. In our personal quest to become more understanding and perceptive parents, my husband and I have discovered four transformative philosophies that have reshaped our understanding of parenting: Non-Violent Communication (NVC) by Marshall Rosenberg, Body-Brain Parenting by Mona Delahooke, The Yes Brain by Daniel Siegel, and Emotional Intelligence by John Gottman. Each of these philosophies provides a unique perspective; a different lens through which parents can view and respond to their children's needs. By exploring and understanding these philosophies' nuances, similarities, and differences, we can weave together a rich tapestry of strategies that resonate with our children's individual characters and developmental stages. This harmonious blend of approaches empowers us to guide our children towards resilience, empathy, balance, and insightful problem-solving, fostering their growth into well-rounded individuals.
Non-Violent Communication (NVC)
By Marshall Rosenberg is a communication process that encourages compassionate connection with others. It emphasizes empathy, honesty, and listening without judgment. The focus is to create a type of connection among people in which everyone's needs are valued and met through making requests rather than demands.
by Mona Delahooke focuses on understanding a child's behavior from a neurobiological perspective. It emphasizes the importance of addressing underlying sensory and emotional needs. The main focus of this approach is to see a child's behavior as a form of communication about their internal needs rather than as an issue that needs discipline.
by Daniel Siegel encourages parents to cultivate a child's ability to say "yes" to the world, fostering balance, resilience, insight, and empathy. The focus is on helping children develop a positive and open mindset that enables them to approach life with curiosity and openness.
by John Gottman involves recognizing, understanding, and managing our own emotions and those of our children. The focus is on emotional awareness and regulation, empathy, and effective communication of emotions, which are key to successful interpersonal relationships.
These approaches share a common thread: they all emphasize empathy, understanding, and connection. However, they differ in their focus. NVC is primarily about communication, Body-Brain Parenting is about understanding the neurobiological basis of behavior, The Yes Brain is about fostering a positive, open mindset, and Emotional Intelligence is about managing emotions effectively. Understanding and differentiating these approaches is crucial. It's like having a toolbox: each tool has its purpose, and knowing when to use, which tool can make all the difference. Furthermore, it's essential to consider our child's age and level of development, comprehension, understanding, analysis, and verbal as well as non-verbal communication when applying these philosophies.
Here are eight examples of how we've applied each philosophy to help our daughter develop resilience, empathy, balance, and problem-solving skills:
- NVC: When she was a toddler and was upset about not being able to play with a toy, we used NVC to empathize with her feelings and needs, expressing our understanding and offering comfort.
- Body-Brain Parenting: When she was around four years old and had a tantrum, instead of focusing on the behavior, we tried to understand the underlying sensory or emotional needs that were not being met.
- The Yes Brain: When our daughter was six years old and hesitant to try a new activity, we encouraged her to say "yes" to the experience, emphasizing the potential for growth and learning.
- Emotional Intelligence: When she was anxious about a project not working out, we helped her recognize and manage her anxiety, encouraging her to express her feelings and brainstorm solutions.
- NVC: When she and her friends were arguing, we facilitated a conversation where each child could express their feelings and needs without blaming or criticizing the other.
- Body-Brain Parenting: When she was struggling with a project in stop motion, we recognized her frustration as a sign of being overwhelmed and took a break to engage in a calming activity.
- The Yes Brain: When she was hesitant to make mistakes in her “A Day in a Horse’s Life” presentation, we encouraged her to embrace the opportunity, emphasizing that mistakes are part of learning.
- Emotional Intelligence: When she was disappointed about having to leave her friends on the camping ground, we acknowledged her feelings, validated her disappointment, and discussed ways to cope with such feelings in the future.
Switching between these approaches depending on our child's needs has been invaluable. Here are eight examples of how we've done this:
- When our daughter was a toddler and was upset about a lost toy, we started with NVC to empathize with her feelings. Recognizing her heightened emotional state, we switched to Body-Brain Parenting strategies to help her calm down. Once calm, we used Emotional Intelligence techniques to help her manage her feelings and find a solution. Finally, we used The Yes Brain approach to encourage her to embrace the situation as a learning experience.
- When our daughter was around five years old and was nervous about an art presentation, we used Emotional Intelligence to help her understand her feelings. Seeing her physical discomfort, we switched to Body-Brain Parenting to address her physiological stress. We then used NVC to help her express her needs to her educator. Finally, we used The Yes Brain approach to encourage her to see the presentation as an opportunity for growth.
- When she and a girlfriend were fighting over a game, we initially used NVC to facilitate communication. However, noticing their escalated emotions, we switched to Emotional Intelligence to help them manage their feelings. We then used Body-Brain Parenting to help them calm down and reset. Finally, we used The Yes Brain approach to encourage them to see the disagreement as a chance to learn and grow.
- When she was struggling with a problematic math puzzle, we started with Emotional Intelligence to help her manage her frustration. Seeing her continued struggle, we switched to Body-Brain Parenting to address her physiological stress. We then used NVC to help her express her needs to us. Finally, we used The Yes Brain approach to encourage her to see the challenge as a learning opportunity.
Finally, we've learned that flexibility is key. Here are four examples of how we've adapted our approach:
- When she was having difficulties coping with moving regularly from one place to another, we initially used Emotional Intelligence techniques. However, when these weren't enough, we incorporated Body-Brain Parenting strategies to address her physiological stress, NVC to help her express her feelings and needs, and The Yes Brain approach to encourage her to embrace the new environment as a learning experience.
- When she was upset about a science experiment not working out, we started with NVC to empathize with her feelings. However, recognizing her heightened emotional state, we incorporated Emotional Intelligence techniques to help her manage her feelings, Body-Brain Parenting strategies to help her calm down, and The Yes Brain approach to encourage her to see the lack of accomplishment as a chance to learn and grow.
- When she was anxious about showing her stop-motion video, we initially used Emotional Intelligence to help her understand her feelings. However, when her stress escalated, we switched to Body-Brain Parenting to help her calm down, NVC to help her express her needs, and The Yes Brain approach to encourage her to see the project as a learning journey.
- When she and some other children were arguing, we initially used NVC to facilitate communication. However, when their emotions escalated, we switched to Emotional Intelligence to help them manage their feelings, Body-Brain Parenting to help them calm down, and the Yes-brain approach to encourage them to see the disagreement as a chance to learn and grow.
As my husband and I reflect on our parenting journey, we are struck by the profound growth and learning that has taken place, not just for our daughter, but for us as well. We've come to appreciate the power of flexibility, the strength in adaptability, and the wisdom in integrating various philosophies such as NVC, Body-Brain Parenting, Emotional Intelligence, and The Yes-Brain approach. We've learned that the beauty of parenting lies not in adhering rigidly to a single approach, but in the ability to fluidly transition between strategies while staying attuned to our child’s unique needs and emotions. This conscious, didactic, and emotionally intelligent approach has not only enriched our parenting journey but has also fostered resilience, empathy, balance, and problem-solving abilities in our daughter. As we continue to navigate the complexities and joys of parenthood, we remain committed to this path of continuous learning and growth.
As parents, we are not just teaching our children about life, but learning from them too, celebrating each step of this shared adventure. In the end, my partner and I have e realized that our goal isn't to mold our child into an ideal but to support her in her journey of becoming her own unique, authentic self. This reciprocal process of learning and growing together is the heart of our parenting journey, a journey marked by connection, understanding, and love.