Four-year-old Alyssa stands at the top of a slide telling the
two other children in the playground to go away. The other
children are not happy about the situation. After gently trying to
coax her to come down, Dad states, in a seemingly calm tone:
"You have to let other children play or we're going
home." Hearing this, Alyssa yells back: "No! I don't
want to go home!", and she remains at the top of the slide.
The children and their parents are looking. Now Dad starts to get
really mad. "Come down this minute, Alyssa," he calls
back. "I will NOT," responds his daughter.
What will happen next? Dad may ask again or threaten further
consequences. Alyssa may or may not comply. If she does not
comply, Dad may or may not enforce the consequence. If Dad tries
to physically remove her, she may become rigid, or kick and
scream, making it nearly impossible to move her. Meanwhile
Alyssa's little brother, who had been playing happily, is also
crying because he didn't do anything wrong and he
doesn't want to leave the park! A fun outing ends in spoiled moods
Going for Connection
How might this situation have played out in NVC?
Having heard Alyssa tell other children to stay away, Dad may
try to gauge where her actions are coming from.
Dad: "Hey Alyssa, are you enjoying the slide? Are
you telling the children to stay away because you want some space
to play?" (Instead of judging Alyssa's statement as
inappropriate or telling her to stop, Dad guesses that it may come
out of Alyssa's need for space.)
Alyssa: "Yup! It's fun to be up here by
Dad: "So you're enjoying yourself. You like being
independent up there."
Alyssa: (swinging on the bar above the slide seat)
Dad has not said anything about what he would like, but he has
taken the first step to connecting with Alyssa. By empathizing
with her feelings and needs, he demonstrated to her that he
understands her actions without judgment or blame. From here, he
has more chance of being heard.
Dad: "I'm noticing the other children are not
having so much fun, so I'm worried. I'd like everyone to be able
to have fun at the park. Would you be willing to slide down now so
everyone can get a turn?"
Some children might agree, but Alyssa refuses.
Dad: "Are you pretty frustrated because you
want to choose how to play?" (Instead of hearing Alyssa's
"no" as a challenge to his authority Dad tries to
understand the feelings and needs that led her to say
Alyssa: "Yes! Yes! Yes! I'm not coming down!"
Dad: "Alyssa, I want you to be able to make your
own decisions. I'm also frustrated and want consideration for
everyone here. Do you have any ideas about how you can have fun
and make decisions and other children can enjoy themselves,
Alyssa: "They can go play on the other slide."