It isn't just for kids, though. This practice is also beneficial for spouses, friends, co-workers, and so on.
I'm not sure where I first heard it, but I know that I've read it and lived it, broad praise comes without clarity and with pressure. If you are told "you're a good boy", you might wonder, "what did I do? can I do that again? what if I don't do what got me that praise, does that make me bad?"
Compassionate communication (nonviolent communication NVC) gives us a
language that allows us to celebrate precisely what brought us joy and appreciation for someone else's action. It makes the action/response tangible and repeatable.
You can start teaching your children NVC language while you celebrate how they are contributing to your needs. As a parent it seems like a one way street sometimes. It may seem like we spend the majority of our time focused on meeting others' needs. I challenge you to identify how many times your children's actions contribute to your needs. When you feel the urge to say "thank you", connect with what exactly you are thankful for. It may sound something like this:
I really value safety. When you held my hand when we crossed the street, that really helped me keep you safe.
When you played quietly in your room while I read my book, you helped me meet my need for rest and relaxation.
When you looked into my eyes when I was talking to you, it met my need to be heard.
I really value support, you held the door open for me, that contributed to my desire for support.
You contributed to my sense of competence when you asked me to help you with your algebra homework.
I love exploring. Your new dinosaur hide and seek game let me do a lot of that.
My need for love was filled when you put your head on my shoulder during movie night.
When I first talked in this way to our boys, they would respond with "um, ok mom", or even "huh?" But before I gave up because I was telling myself they thought it was too weird, they would parrot some of the language back to me. I even overheard one of them tell the other one, "mom really likes support." I believe that it is just not fair to have expectations without being clear about what is really important to us. We're pretty free with what we want when we aren't getting it. I think it is easier and a lot more fun for our kids to learn what is really important to us when we are being grateful. Someday, I think it would be a fine goal to use this language through gratitude at least as much as when we are using it to make requests. To me, teaching this language and our values to our kids through statements of gratitude is one of the best gifts we have to offer.
To learn about Compassionate Communication (NVC), visit cnvc.org