NVC in Action: Tovar

I often practice my NVC skills during conflicts with Tovar (my favorite five-year old :-)). Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. One night last week, it worked amusingly well, so I thought I’d share.

Tovar got upset when I trapped him under a blanket for a few seconds while we were roughhousing. He did his usual “I’m sad” response, where he gets into child’s pose, cries a little, and announces that he is sad. My instincts in this sort of situation are to apologize and tell him I won’t do it again, even though by now that listening to what he’s saying usually works better. First, I was concentrating on identifying his feelings, “you’re sad”, “it seems you were scared when the blanket was on top of you”. (I think he responded to that by saying, “I wasn’t scared! I was a LITTLE scared!”)

I was starting to feel a bit hopeless, but I kept going, trying to identify his needs: “were you scared when I put the blanket over your head because you like to be able to see and move around?”, and it was like I’d flipped a switch. He said that yes, he was scared because he wanted to be able to see and move around, and then he was immediately on to the next thing, as though nothing had happened.

I know usually ease out of being upset a bit, maybe partially because I’m afraid it’ll make my original issue seem trivial if I move on so quickly, but Tovar had no such concern, at least in this case, so good for him!

He’s been leveling emotionally recently, which might be why my NVC attempts with him have been going better. Whatever the reason, I like it :-).