Parenting with non-violent communication from the womb

July 9, 2009

I just discovered this article which I wrote a while back–similar to the one after this–but with a few more details.

I have been told that there are not very many people who have shared about their experiences with raising children from the time they were in their womb with NVC.  Perhaps this experience that I have shared could be valuable for some. I hope so.

I never wanted to be a parent. I did not want the responsibility, and I saw no alternatives to the authoritarian manner that my parents and every other parent I observed. I did not want to be a boss to my children.

Through a kind of miraculous sequence of events, at the age of 35 I was pregnant with my first child, Christopher. I was blessed to have learned about NVC from my dear friend Corrinne Schreiner. At the time I lived in Encinitas, California.  I took a class from a teacher who learned directly from Marshall. I don’t even remember the person who I first learned from.

When I learned this new language and consciousness, I was in ecstasy. It was kind of like when a Christian commits him or herself to Christ. I knew this was my path. It answered so many questions that I had. All I wanted to do was learn and practice.

I was also blessed to be able to take 2 intensive weekend workshops with Marshall, and have a personal meeting with him, because he liked my music that I shared with him on a tape called HAPPY TO BE ME.  I still have a picture of him holding my son, Christopher when he was a little baby.

I still remember how when Christopher would cry, I was able to communicate with him in a way that nurtured both he and I. I would say, “are you feeling hungry and do you want some milk? (I did breast feed, later it would be are you feeling hungry, and do you want some num num, his name for breast milk)  I had a difficult time being a mom who was used to being completely independent, and now was very much attached to this little guy who couldn’t be gone for long since I was breast feeding on demand.

I always tried to find win-win solutions to our problems, trying to get both of our needs met. Sometimes I gave up my needs because I could see that if I didn’t, I would have a child who had some major problems.  Like the time when I was working in a pre-school and the teacher said I had to pay attention to all the children equally, and not favor my child. My two year old didn’t understand and I chose to quit rather than put him through suffering. Actually, I did satisfy a deep need I had–to be in an environment that supported how I chose to parent.

I used the book HOW TO TALK SO KIDS WILL LISTEN AND LISTEN SO KIDS WILL TALK to kind of supplement my NVC skills. The bottom line was, though, that I would not boss him around, make demands, act like I was more in power.  He had a lot of needs. He hated the car seat. He didn’t want to stay with any one else but Cliff,  one other caregiver who lived with us, and I. He wouldn’t go to pre-school by himself. I was blessed to be able to teach in some pre-schools where he was able to have fun playing with the other children.  But I honored his needs, wanting to joyfully contribute to his well being. I felt better when I did that, and I have no regrets.

I remember so many times that he would get really upset about something.  Probably a big part of it was because I wasn’t totally present with him because I still didn’t really want to be a parent mostly because buttons were being pushed that I did not know how to deal with.  But I listened to his needs empathically 99.99 percent of the time, and I saw that every time he had distress, he would move out of it into a space of peace. I felt so happy to see this, and I saw that he was caring towards me and often cooperative.

I remember one of the simplest ways I had to resolve conflicts when he was with other children was to simply say, “Uh oh, there is one toy, and two children—what are we going to do?” Simply stating the observation and making a request—encouraged them to try to find a solution. It was so beautiful.

As Christopher grew older, I saw how he was developing in a way that I was so happy with. I never forced him to share—but he shared. I didn’t force him to be “polite” but he was. I didn’t force him to be honest, but he always told the truth.

I continued to listen to him empathically when he was a teenager. There was a time about 3 years ago when he was so skinny that a friend of mine wondered if he was anorexic. I had some long talks with him—and he was able to share and cry and open up.  By sharing my concerns using NVC and listening with empathy, he was able to have some emotional release which lead to a point where we could find some solutions including healthier eating habits. At age 25,  we are as close as ever and I feel grateful for that bond.

When he started listening to music that had lyrics I perceived might contribute to negative self-perceptions, I simply printed out the lyrics, told him that music was really powerful because of the effect of rhythm, words, and melody going into his subconscious.  I asked him, “Do you want these words to go into your subconscious?”  I listened empathically to him, and his decision was, “No, I don’t want this.”  He started listening to KLRC, a station with Christian, positive alternative music that influenced him to be a song writer of beautiful, powerful, inspiring and relevant lyrics.

Cliff, who is Chris’s father, and I divorced when Chris was 1 year old. But we have been able to live close to each other all these years, and plan on building an eco-village, along with Robert, my now former  husband, and Mahriyanna, our daughter. Using NVC, Cliff and I were able to and continue to be able to stay connected. I actually have more experiences using NVC with my daughter than Chris since he has lived with Cliff more in his later years.

But my son, whom I love so dearly, is a shining example of how using NVC results in a person who is the following”

  1. Is around a variety of people, and does not give into peer pressure.
  2. Has great critical creative thinking skills.
  3. Can easily converse with adults
  4. Is kind and cooperative
  5. Stands up for his rights
  6. Is a wonderful big brother—protective and loving of his little sister of ten years old (now 18).
  7. People just love him for the way he is so loving, funny, and easy to be with. People are often telling me how much they appreciate him and his positive influence on their lives.
  8. He has a natural state of empathy and sensitiveness, especially being a boy.

9. He is very accepting of people’s differences.

10.  He has emotional intelligence AND intelligence that helped him so he can enter the masters program in Communication at U of A Fayetteville, Arkansas.

11. He is a leader in our Jesus following fellowship both in worship as well as in example to his peers and the adults.

Look, I could go on and on–but I won’t:)  Some day I hope we will write a book together and you can get to know him better.  I love my dear Chris, and I feel so grateful that even though I didn’t want children, I have been blessed to be a parent to him–as well as my daughter, Mahriyanna.

How I miraculously learned non-violent communication just in time

July 9, 2009

I never wanted to be a parent. Too much responsibility, I thought. I wanted to be able to do my own thing. Besides, when I was about twelve, I made a decision never to be a parent because I did not want to treat my kids like my parents treated me. Even though in so many ways they were wonderful parents, I definitely resented them when I was growing up.

So when I found out I was pregnant 3 days after I had told Cliff, who is the father of Chris, our twenty year old son, that I wanted a divorce. Abortion was not an option since I believed that this was a human being in my womb from the time of conception. Adoption was a possiblity, but Cliff really wanted to keep the child. We ended up renewing our vows and having a happy home birth and first year of Chris’s life when all I wanted was the stability and peace that Cliff offered.

When I was about four months pregnant, my friend Corrinne told me about a class in non-violent communication that was being offered in Leucadia, California, which was the town right next door to Encinitas, where I lived. When she described the model of the communication which inspired cooperation, win-win solutions, and compassionate listening, I was immediately enrolled in attending the class.

I was thrilled to find that all my expectations where met when I learned the simple model of communication which continues to be a guide for me in my life. I was so grateful that I learned this before I had my child, because before my child was even born I got to practice non-authoritarian ways of raising children. I also was introduced to the book HOW TO TALK SO KIDS WILL LISTEN AND LISTEN SO KIDS WILL TALK  which offered practical tools which went right along with the principles of non-violent communication.

And so when Chris was born, I knew without a doubt that I was going to honor his feelings.  I dreaded having a baby that I could not talk to, but this model encouraged me to talk to my son even though he could not talk back with words. If he cried, I would say things like, “I’m guessing you are hungry and you want to nurse,” or “Are you feeling frustrated because you want mommy to get off the phone?” or “Do you feel angry because you want freedom from having to go in the car seat?”

Tuning into his feelings gave me a way to relate to Chris that immensely enriched our relationship. Eventually, when he could talk, I was ready to reflect back to him what I understood him to be saying. Taking classes from local teachers and Marshall Rosenberg, who gave many workshops in our area helped me hone my skills so I could be a better parent and wife.

When I think about how Chris, twenty,and Mahriyanna, thirteen, are so compassionate, loving, creative, sensitive, I want to turn cartwheels in joy and celebration because I an so happy. In spite of a many challenges Chris and Mahriyanna continue to amaze and delight me with how they are unfolding.

I feel so close to my children, even though right now I don’t spend a lot of time with them because of various reasons. But when we are together, the love and intimacy are so beautiful–I feel my heart just bursting with joy and gratitude–to Corrinne, who introduced me to Non-violent communication, Marshall Rosenberg who created the model, Holley Humphreys, my favorite NVC teacher, and Cliff (former husband) and Robert (father of Mahriyanna and present husband) who have also used non-violent communication as a way to nurture our children. I thanks Jesus and God for all the blessing that NVC has provided in my life.

Review of my son’s new CD

July 9, 2009

I want to write lots of stories about how I have utilized non-violent communication in order to nurture myself and my children. But for now I will limit myself to publishing this review of my twenty year old son’s new CD. I feel hopeful that non-violent communication greatly contributed to his creativity and initiative in helping him produce this recording. Now, here’s the review by locally famous Kelly Mulholland, member of the duo Still on the Hill:
The Flight Brigade, ‘Help Is On The Way

Chris Mikkelson has put together a remarkable debut CD with the release of ‘Help Is On The Way’.  The CD reflects a first rate sensibility for what makes a pop song tick combined with a keen sense of creative production techniques.  Chris is primarily a bass player but the studio seems to be his instrument as well.  He combines his own excellent musicianship with all sorts of synthetic instruments to create a sound scape that never seem even a bit machine like.  At times it rocks really hard but in a moment is breaks down to more sublime texture.  This is one exciting recording from start to finish.  There is a ragged raw energy with a wide range of texture changes from song to song and within each song as well.  I say ragged to mean that this CD has a good ‘human’ hand made feel that never sounds ‘slick’.

The ever positive opening cut, Help Is On The Way, comes out full tilt with an riveting anthemic chorus.  The pace is relentless.  The second cut, Two Edge Knife, is the polar opposite in attitude, a relentless condemnation of worldly temptations. Here, the production is absolutely mesmerizing-a very creative arrangements of guitars and keyboards and drum grooves.  The CD roars on, cut after cut.  It’s a rocking CD for sure, but with many islands of texture change that make every cut a journey.  Every instrument and even many vocal parts are fair game for all sorts of clever electronic processing painting an almost psychedelic tone at times but classic rock grooves keep it all very grounded.

Right on to the end this CD keeps up the pace.  The power rocker, Take Back the Light, keeps the guitars blazing over the top with rich, liquid razor tones. The closing cut, Somewhere, is a cool down from the rest of the CD. Simply beautiful.  Nice long melody that just rises up a lifts you up.  You would do well to check this CD out.  It is rich with honest lyrics, great melodies, rich arrangements, and great tunes.

note from Patricia…you can hear some of the tunes here