Third Way Parenting with Daily and Weekly practice guides

I want to discuss Compassionate Communication (NVC) as a family spiritual practice, not a practice only in language.  I perceive this as a way to clean the lens through which we view our lives and our shared experience with our children, parenting partners, friends, coworkers and everyone else we get to meet along the way.  I believe that there are a few aspects of this practice that can be paired with other concepts to bring clarity, authenticity, understanding, and mutuality to our busy lives as parents.
NVC based daily, nightly, and weekly practice (page 2)
Non- attachment- Accepting that how, when, and if our needs and how, when, and if our children’s needs get met are not acts we orchestrate, but a symphony we dance with.
Personality type and values- understanding our own and our children’s enneagram type can point to which needs are strongly valued because of what motivates us.
Scaffolding and limits- Parenting partners can mutually understand where each child may need limits to help protect their needs until they are able to be responsible for the full spectrum of their needs.  Parents will check in with the progression of development of each child to be sure that limits are modified to respond to each child’s individual growth and success.  The goal is that the check-ins will provide clarity about the limits so that a child is able to know when they have choice, and the parents can respect those choices without attachment to the outcome.

Marshal Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication is a model for honoring everyone’s needs equally.  It proposes that we all have the same variety of needs and that each of us has the same and equal right to have them all met.  When we get in conflict with each other (or with ourselves) it is because we do not appreciate the strategies we use to get these needs met.  While living in a family unit and caring or young children, it can be quite difficult to identify the needs each one is trying to meet and how we can honor these, even if they cannot all be addressed at the same time or with a strategy that everyone appreciates.  This concept and practical application provides excellent overall progression to becoming responsible for meeting our own needs.  It also gives us many clues about where a child is along the continuum of becoming more responsible and how the family can support the child’s steady growth while honoring the whole person, the full spectrum of needs, for each member of the family.  As parents, it is our job to model and teach our children about needs, value of everyone's needs equally and strategies to meet needs while being compassionate and aware of how these strategies effect other's needs.  For instance, we are born with one strategy, crying.  We use that to get every need met until we learn new ways.  At every developmental stage, we as parents, have the opportunity to expand the options and begin to engage our children to finding new strategies.  When we have open, honest, communication with our kids, we can learn together how to hold everyone's values/needs with respect and compassion.  It is important to me that each family charts the
specific elements that work for them and for each child’s personality and realistic place along the process.  In working with a variety of kids learning styles, personality types, and adolescents’ mental illness diagnoses, the movement along the chart is valuable especially when parents are realistic about where each child is in the process.  I don’t think skipping ahead to reach self reliance before a child is ready or holding one back from making more choices when they are ready is beneficial in the process.  Comparing our children to each other and to norms will not make them more ready.  It may just take our focus off connecting with who they are and where they are in their process.
List of needs:  from Jim and Jori Manske’s research and inspiration of Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. and Manfred Max-Neef, Ph. D.
Transcendence (Presence, Inspiration, Evolution, Beauty, Harmony, Flow, Space)
Regeneration (Celebration, Gratitude, Mourning, Leisure, Play)
Empathy (Understanding, Connection, Love, Acceptance, Affection, Compassion)
Interdependence (Cooperation, Community, Inclusion, Mutuality, Support)
Protection (Security, Safety, Justice, Respect, Consideration)
Survival (Sustenance, Nurturance, Procreation, Sensory Stimulation)
Meaning (Purpose, Contribution, Competence, Integrity)
Autonomy (Freedom, Choice, Creativity, Empowerment, Power With)
Honesty (Authenticity, Self-Connection, Self-Expression, Clarity, Learning)
Well-Being (Healing, Peace of Mind, Balance, Ease, Trust)
For more information on this work, please visit

From Respectful Parents/ Respectful Kids Needs that kids relate to
Community, Friends, Belonging
Play, Fun, Rest, Relaxation
To be Heard, To be Understood
Understanding others, Empathy, Understanding me, self-empathy
Capability, Competence, Skills
Learning, Exploration, Discovery
Choice, Autonomy, Freedom
Safety, Trust, Respect, To Matter, To be Considered
Giving, Sharing, Help, Support
Morning Intentions Today, I intend to;
1.       View people’s strategies as separate from who they are. 
2.       Differentiate my jackals (judgements) from who I am.  I am not my thoughts. 
3.       Notice my body sensations before I react.  P A U S E and check in to see what my feelings are pointing to.
4.       Identify situations that trigger a strong response.  Jot down the instance for reflection later.
5.       Use reflective listening when someone appears to value deeply being heard.
6.       Give gratitude based on needs.
7.       Use emergency self empathy when it feels as though one/some of my needs are not met.
Evening Reflections
1.       Check with body sensations and determine, how am I feeling right now?
2.       Review the wheel of needs, which ones feel full, which ones feel unfulfilled?
3.       Are there requests that could be made (clarity, feedback or action) that would support these needs?
4.       Pick one need and remember a time it was filled.  Sit with the beauty of that need and think about the body sensations that are connected with that need being met.
5.       Were there times in the day that I was triggered?  Spend some time in that moment and see if there is an old wound that could be transformed by holding the beauty of the need associated with it.
6.       Were there any moments of clarity or insight into any other children’s beautiful needs?  If so, spend some time connecting with and honoring how strongly they value that need.
7.       Pick one need and imagine your child being able to get that need met by their own choicemaking.

If the list seems like too much for each day and night, these intentions and reflections can start as one per morning and one per night, cycling through them as you go through the week.  As the habit starts to form, slowly add an additional activity.

Weekly Check-In
Review the past week with time to focus on each family member’s experience of the prior week.
Review the list of needs with each family member.  Ask each family member to choose one need on the list and either describe how much they value that need and hope to have that need met, or describe a time when it has been met, including the body sensations that came along with that moment.
Which choices did each child make that seemed to fill their own needs?  Were there any that held other’s needs in dilemma?  Were there any choices that they perceived did not meet their needs or served others at the cost of denying their own needs?
Were there scheduling issues that worked for some family members and not for others?
Parents will determine if the limits/scaffolding need to adjust based on each child’s progress this week.
Plan for the next week
Are there areas that are on a tight schedule?
Can you see where one family member may be challenged by the speed, flexibility, or other aspects of the schedule?
Are there any adjustments that can be made that will allow more consideration for each family member’s needs?
Based on each kid’s choices last week, are there new ways for them to support their needs this week?
Given the needs that were brought up by each family member in the review, set intentions to honor those needs in the upcoming week.   For instance, “Johnny really loves being heard.  This week, I intend to listen carefully and repeat back to him what he said so that he knows I heard him.”

We shouldn’t “should” on ourselves and our kids
In working with children with developmental delays and those with mental illness diagnoses, it became clear to me how much our attachment can block progress for those we care about.  We have expectations about how our children will develop.  I think it is natural for us to compare our child’s development to other children.  I think we want the world to be gentle and supportive of our kids and we want their needs to be met easily, consistently, and predictably.  I think one of the hardest parts of being a parent is realizing that none of this is a given, and none of it is really under our control.  I think it is healthy to recognize where our kid is and what the next single step might or could be.
I am proposing that we have a healthy, conscious awareness that we do not control how our children will develop, how they will compare to other children, or how their needs will be met.  I am suggesting that when we practice daily to accept this, we may find ourselves open to seeing the flow of how they individually are equipped to engage in their own ways of progressing.  If we have clean lenses about who they are and what they are actively needing and developing, then we can give them the best chance of seizing the opportunities and receiving the gifts that are present from moment to moment.
This is where we take a healthy look at how we “should” on our kids and ourselves.  How many mindful moments have we missed by “shoulding” on ourselves and our loved ones, especially our kids? “I should have known better, he should know this by now, I shouldn’t have to explain this again, you should have asked me for help before bedtime, she should be reading by now, he should know how to share, she should have graduated by now”, and so on and so on.  As advocates for our kids, we also need to be sure that we don’t empower others to “should” on them either.  I think these are indicators of a false reality that we are attached to.  The sooner we let go of what we think “ought” to be, the sooner we can check in to what is and be present and engaged with what we value and what is valued by whoever and whatever we’re sharing current space and time with.
The more conscious we are of this, the more I think we can support an environment where we wholeheartedly engage in what each of our children are needing, loving, and growing into moment by moment.

Description of the Enneagram:
The enneagram is a personality system that describes the different ways people think, act, and feel.  Helen Palmer says, “It describes how we separate from ourselves, others and God.”  It identifies the motivations that describe our core way of being in the world.  Utilizing the information and the wisdom of the enneagram assist in our transformation so that we can connect more deeply with ourselves, others and God.  While children may not consistently rest in one enneagram type, they do behave in ways that may be characterized by a type.  This can be a bridge to our understanding of how they value needs differently and how we can support them more effectively.  As parents, knowing our type can help us understand how and why certain situations are strong emotional triggers for us.  We can use this knowledge for healing and transformation.
Children’s Nine Styles of Behavior
The One- wants to get things right.
The Two-Helper wants to be liked.
The Three-Achiever is driven to perform well (perceived as performing well).
The Four-Romantic is focused on feelings, concerned with suffering and beauty.
The Five-Observer is curious and wants to understand everything.
The Six-Questioner looks for security.
The Seven-Adventurer seeks newness and fun.
The Eight-Asserter is strong and energetic.
The Nine-Peacemaker wants to be content and to avoid conflict.
You may be able to see how these types relate to various needs.

Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney
Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

I have spent several years trying to find a way to parent that creates stable structure as well as enough space to allow the children to connect with their spirit and live into who they are intended to become separate from us.  I am passionate about finding a third way to parent because I fear that authoritative and permissive parenting in their pure forms, or in a reactive blended form, can lead to bigger issues. I’ve always honored the need for consistency but struggled with becoming too strict or too permissive.  I believe that children become more capable of self regulating and developing emotional intelligence earlier than some might think.  I think there is a need for parents to protect the needs of their children by making some aspects stable and structured until they are capable of protecting all their needs themselves.  

When we overlay three aspects of parenting that we think create a framework for healthy, responsible, self actualized individuals, we see that there is a continuum of structure, a framework we can reference to maintain balance and track our children’s progress.   We see that there is movement and constant development that can happen from birth to age of ‘independence’.  The three aspects that I think are necessary are #1 (red) The disintegrating scaffolding which is a structure that protects the kids’ needs that they are not capable of protecting, commonly thought of as rules or limits.  #2 (green)  The steady construction of the brick wall made up of appropriate choice-making and self regulation and responsibility. #3 (blue) A firm foundation of space and opportunity the family provides for the child to discover their interests, gifts, passions that will lead them in the direction of living into who they are separate from their parent’s identities, hopes, and dreams.

The blue zone
I think we need to maintain an explorative and expressive environment for our children to find meaning, purpose, and connection with who they are, separate from us.  It is my personal experience, that when we over schedule our children and focus on giving them a wide variety of tools for career success, we may miss the opportunity to expose them to enough variety of expression and worldly exploration that will help them find who they were born to be and become. 
When I was mentoring teens, and now that I have my own, I find it very important to help kids find what flips their switch, what connects with their spirit.  While they are actively trying to find themselves, to connect with their passion and place in our world, we have the opportunity to help them explore their interests, how they connect with and see the world. I think this could be very effective if the family starts this from an early age, not just starting in the teen years.
In the news discussions – Family discussions on what is going on in the world – these can be NVC based discussions – What are the facts? (filter out for ourselves the judgment language in the reporting) What needs are attempting to be met with the strategies we can see?  Have each family member bring a current event with some brief explanation to the discussion.
Creative expression activities- Brainstorm about different ways kids and parents can have creative expression time.  Making sure that physical, artistic, dramatic, and other forms of expression are honored in the family schedule as individual and group activities.  Make sure that you are offering activities that are not just what the parents are comfortable with.  Our kids spirit may be strongly sparked by something we’ve never tried, it is our job to give them the opportunity to discover that even if we have no idea what to do with it!
Volunteering opportunities- Family discussions based on what causes each family member cares about and what activities can be done to support these causes. Schedule activities and hold an intention to a regular schedule of volunteering (once/year or quarter, etc).  You may be able to support your kids in finding how their specific interests, passions and gifts can support a cause.  Discuss how your involvement as a family and individually impacts the cause specifically.  I think it is important for kids to see the direct benefit.

I would like to teach this model in workshops, weekly sessions and one on one consultations.
Brooke Summers-Perry