Nonviolent Communication

Nonviolent Communication For Children & Youth

By Inbal Kashtan, © Copyright 2008.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Can Help In The Following Areas

Spirit: NVC is inspired in part by the work of the Indian leader, Gandhi, who encouraged people to have such open hearts that they could see every person’s humanity. When we can see people’s humanity, we have no enemies. By the term “Nonviolent” we mean, as Gandhi did, living with such open hearts that we can see the humanity of all people. Long-term practice of NVC supports the capacity to live in peace within oneself and with others, even when our needs are not met.

Body: NVC can sometimes support children with stress, which has an impact on our bodies.

Mind: NVC provides clarity and understanding about why people behave in the ways they do. It moves people from judging others or judging themselves toward acceptance and understanding.

Emotions: NVC helps everyone understand their own emotions, instead of reacting from habits that don’t work for them or others.

Social: NVC helps people get along with each other (children and adults). With practice, it can help people resolve conflicts effectively.

Brief Description Of Nonviolent Communication

  • Nonviolent Communication is a process that supports people to understand themselves and each other, and to develop skills to resolve conflicts peacefully.
  • It is used around the world by people in many situations - including places of work, schools, prisons and in personal relationships, among others.
  • NVC can help parents understand their children’s behavior and treat the children with compassion and care.
  • Using NVC, children can be helped to understand themselves, their friends, and the adults in their lives, and to come up with solutions to problems that are more likely to work for everyone.
  • NVC principally helps parents connect with their children. It supports parents who are struggling with anger or ongoing frustration in relation to their children.
  • NVC supports parents who don’t have a sense of mutual care and understanding with their children. It also supports parents who are generally satisfied with their parenting, but who want to have more connection with their children.

Success With Nonviolent Communication

This is a story shared with me by a mother of three sons who had been studying and implementing NVC with her family for a few years:

When David was about 13 ½ years old, he was really angry one day and about to hurt one of his 10-year-old twin brothers as they sat near each other on the couch. So, I did what I now do whenever physical violence is about to happen between them and got in the middle of the two.

David was breathing heavily and had his fists clenched as he sat in a chair next to me. His brother was on the other side of me on the couch. I went with habit and started to tell David about anger management and how he needed to go for a walk or go to his room until he cooled off.

He continued to breathe heavily and clench his fists.

Then his brother actually started using NVC! He said: “David, did you just want to be included?”

I realized then that what David needed was empathy and repeated his brother’s guess. I saw David’s fist relax just slightly. I guessed again, “are you needing to feel that you belong?” His fist relaxed even more and his breathing began to slow down some.

Then I guessed that his need for belonging had been unmet for a really long time with his twin brothers. David’s fist relaxed more along with his body.

Then I guessed that maybe if his need for belonging were met his need for love would be met, and tears began to roll down his cheeks.

I will be forever grateful for the tools of NVC for allowing me to get to this place of awareness and healing with my son.”

Nonviolent Communication Is Appropriate For Ages

  • Any age
  • However, for most parents it is easier to apply with school-age children. For younger children it is primarily a non-verbal practice.

Children & Youth’s Reactions To Nonviolent Communication

  • Most children are happy with the integration of Nonviolent Communication into their family’s life because they experience more understanding, compassion and support for meeting their needs.
  • Some children are very interested in NVC and want to learn to use it themselves.
  • Some children do not like the verbal component of NVC.

Extra Care Is Needed

  • Some NVC trainers are also trained in the Waldorf educational approach. From their perspective as Waldorf teachers, they tend to recommend not using the verbal form of NVC with children younger than 7 or 8.

Contraindications: When Nonviolent Communication Should Be Avoided

  • There are none.
  • However, the verbal element of NVC does not always contribute to connection.
  • As long as the focus is on the underlying assumptions and intentions of NVC, and not on the verbal communication, there are no situations in which is it contraindicated.


  • NVC was developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg starting in the 1960’s. It has since spread around the world into many different settings. Parenting is just one application of NVC.
  • In 1994 UNICEF selected NVC for introduction into schools in Yugoslavia and by 1998 over 1,500 teachers from 40 towns had received 6 full days of training.
  • Subsequently, the European Union funded NVC trainers to introduce it into four Israeli and four Palestinian schools and to schools in Northern Ireland.
  • Since then, the Israeli government has appointed an NVC trainer to a national education post with the mandate to introduce NVC into Israeli schools.
  • The European Union funding for NVC has now been extended to other countries.
  • NVC is taught by trainers around the United States, Canada and the rest of the world.

Basic Concepts And Components Of Nonviolent Communication

  • Adults learn to distinguish between the following sets of concepts:
  • Observations vs. judgments/interpretations
  • Feelings vs. thoughts/interpretations
  • Needs vs. strategies
  • Requests vs. demands or vague wishes
  • Empathy vs. advice or sympathy
  • Study of NVC is needed for effective practice.

Assumptions Underlying the Practice of Nonviolent Communication

  • Following are key assumptions upon which NVC practice is based. Many traditions share these assumptions. NVC gives us concrete, powerful tools for putting them into practice. (Note: There are a lot of details to each of these headings.)
  1. All human beings share the same needs.
  2. Our world offers sufficient resources for meeting everyone’s basic needs.
  3. All actions are attempts to meet needs.
  4. Feelings point to needs being met or unmet.
  5. All human beings have the capacity for compassion.
  6. Human beings enjoy giving.
  7. Human beings meet many needs through interdependent relationships.
  8. Choice is internal.
  9. The most direct path to peace is through self-connection.
  • When we live based on these assumptions, self-connection and connection with others become increasingly possible and easy.

Key Intentions when Using Nonviolent Communication

We hold the following intentions when using NVC because we believe that they help us contribute to a world where everyone’s needs are attended to peacefully. (Note: There are a lot of details to each of these headings.)

Open-Hearted Living

  • Self-compassion
  • Expressing from the heart
  • Receiving with compassion
  • Prioritizing connection
  • Beyond “right” and “wrong”

Choice, Responsibility, Peace

  • Taking responsibility for our feelings
  • Taking responsibility for our actions
  • Living in peace with unmet needs
  • Increasing capacity for meeting needs

Sharing Power (Partnership)

  • Caring equally for everyone’s needs
  • Protective use of force

Description Of A Typical Session

  • Each learning environment is different.
  • There are different groups for parents, children, and organizations.
  • Individual sessions focus on coaching and empathy.
  • All types of workshops include both teaching and practice opportunities.

Fees/Costs In 2007

  • About $200 for a 12-week course for parents
  • Courses are always offered on a sliding scale basis: no one is turned away for lack of funds.

Average Time Per Session

  • Individual or family sessions typically last 1-2 hours.
  • Foundation Course is a beginning.
  • There are also daylong workshops, short introduction workshops, and continuing learning opportunities for people who want to integrate NVC into their lives.

Estimated Length Of Time Before Improvements Can Be Expected

  • Some people experience a change after just 1 or 2 sessions.
  • However, this practice is intended as a life-long process, changing the dynamic between parents and children toward mutual understanding and connection.

Suggestions To Make Nonviolent Communication More Effective

  • The intention of NVC is to foster a quality of connection between people that supports them to meet everyone’s needs as well as possible.
  • To work effectively, NVC cannot be focused on changing behavior, but on deep mutual understanding and connection. When this happens, both parents’ and children’s behavior often changes.

Other Methods That Are Similar To Nonviolent Communication

  • Parent Effectiveness Training, by Tom Gordon shares some key elements with NVC

Other Methods That Complement Nonviolent Communication

  • Attachment parenting for infants

Nature And Length Of Training To Be A Trainer

Special Training Needed To Work With Children & Youth

Certification/Licenses Held By Trainers

  • Certification from the Center for Nonviolent Communication

Professional Associations To Contact For Names Of Local Trainers

  • Center For Nonviolent Communication; 5600 San Francisco Rd. NE, Suite A; Albuquerque, NM 87109; Ph: 800-255-7696; Fax 505-247-0414; Website: http://cnvc.org/index.htm

Number Of Certified Trainers In U.S., Canada, And Mexico

  • There are more than 200 worldwide.

What To Look For When Choosing The Best Trainers

  • Ask the person what training they have had, especially if they are not a certified trainer.
  • Ideally they have been actively studying NVC for more than 2 years, as it takes a while to integrate the principles of NVC into daily life.
  • Your own level of comfort with the person is most important.
  • If the trainer is working with your child, your child’s comfort with that person is most important.

Resources, Research Papers, Books, DVD’s, Websites

  • There are many other books and materials about NVC that are not specific to parents. They are available for purchase at: www.cnvc.org.


  • Kashtan, Inbal. Parenting From Your Heart: Sharing the Gifts of Compassion, Connection, and Choice (Nonviolent Communication Guides). Encinitas, CA: PuddleDancer Press, 2004.
  • Rosenberg, Marshall B., PhD Raising Children Compassionately: Parenting the Nonviolent Communication Way. Encinitas, CA: PuddleDancer Press, 2005.
  • Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson. Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids: 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflict Into Co-operation. Encinitas, CA: PuddleDancer Press, 2006.
  • Inbal Kashtan. “Connected Parenting: NVC in Family Life.” CD. Available through: www.baynvc.org.
  • Rosenberg, Marshall B., PhD Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Encinitas, CA: PuddleDancer Press, 2005. (This is a foundation book on Nonviolent Communication; not specific to parenting.)

Helpful Tips For Parents

  • Remember that every time your child acts in a way you don’t like, it means they have some need they are trying to communicate to you.
  • Get curious and try to understand their need. This will help them experience care and trust that they matter, and help both of you find ways to attend to both your needs.
  • Tell your child what you want, instead of what you don’t want.
  • Be as specific as possible.
  • If they say “No”, try to find out what they are needing instead of using consequences or rewards.
  • There is always a need that is in the way when a human being says “no”.
  • Look for a way to meet both your needs, instead of focusing on getting your child to do what you want.

Biography Of Inbal Kashtan, Author

  • Inbal is a certified Nonviolent Communication trainer. She directs Peaceful Families, Peaceful World, a joint project of the international Center for Nonviolent Communication and BayNVC, and is a co-founder of BayNVC.
  • Inbal facilitates public workshops and retreats, as well as trainings in organizations, co-leads an NVC leadership development program, and creates curricula for learning NVC.
  • She is the author of Parenting from the Heart: Sharing the Gifts of Compassion, Connection, and Choice, a booklet about parenting with NVC. Inbal’s greatest teacher has been her son, who is mentoring her on what it means to live nonviolently.

To Contact Inbal Kashtan, Who Contributed This Chapter

Bay Area Nonviolent Communication; 55 Santa Clara Ave, Ste 203; Oakland, CA 94610; Ph: 510-433-0700; Toll Free (outside Bay Area): 866-4-BayNVC; Fax 510-452-3900; Website: www.baynvc.org; Email: nvc@baynvc.org

Marie Mulligan’s Comment About Nonviolent Communication: I find Nonviolent Communication to be extremely effective. I am no expert and I use it daily. My children are beginning to use it. Make sure you learn from someone who has experience with children & youth.

Rick Geggie’s Comment About Nonviolent Communication: I am so very impressed with this process. I am sad that I was not aware of Nonviolent Communication when I was a parent, teacher and principal. I make use of it in my relationships.

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