Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Posts tagged “NVC

13 Reasons Controversy

It’s been a while since I’ve come across something in the homeschool world that makes me sit up and take notice, but this is one of those things that compelled me to write about it. There’s a new series on Netflix that you may have seen. It’s called 13 Reasons Why, and it’s based on a YA novel of the same name by Jay Asher. It’s about a high school girl who commits suicide, but leaves behind a series of audiotapes intended to be passed around to the people she holds responsible for her death.

**general spoiler warning** If you haven’t read the book or watched the series and don’t want details, you should probably stop reading this post until after you’re read/watched it. 

Also, to clarify, I am not advocating either watching or avoiding the series for its own sake. If your child is talking about it; if their friends are watching it, then I absolutely advocate watching it, because chances are your child will see it one way or another.

Apparently, there are a lot of feelings about this series; A LOT of feelings. From the outset, I’ll say unequivocally that material that sparks discussion about mental health, depression, bullying and other issues that teens (and young adults) face has a place in the public eye, period. Even more-so if it engages teens, who tend to be most at-risk for suicide. Whether you agree, disagree, like it, hate it – whatever: discussion about topics that we, as a culture, tend to file under ‘taboo conversational topics: Do Not Engage!’ is a good thing. It’s a necessary thing. And it’s about damn time.

Full disclosure, I’ve watched the series; I have not read the book. My children (13.5 and 15 at the time of this writing) have neither read the book or watched the series*, but both said that they ‘might’. I’ve told them that it’s fine if they do; to let me know if/when they do so we can talk about it. I also gave them a synopsis of what it’s about, gave a warning about graphic rape scenes and drug/alcohol use, and mentioned that there are things that Hannah (the main character) says, thinks and does as a result of disenfranchisement/bullying/potentially undiagnosed and untreated depression that aren’t ‘reality’; and that we need to talk about it during and after they watch it. We don’t generally censor what our kids watch; I’d rather know what they’re watching so we can decide if we need to intervene or talk about it than have them sneak around watching things behind our back. We’ve set standards for them that have gotten more permissive as they’ve gotten older; I don’t think we let them consume anything that isn’t age-appropriate. You may disagree, which is why if my kids come to your house, they’d have to follow your rules (or the lead set by your kids, which may be very different from your ‘rules’… but I digress). And before you lose your mind over that, we a) have developed trust with our kids based on communication and experience and will continue to base our decisions and permissions on that trust; and b) can still monitor when we feel the need to, because parental controls and history/system checks on media are a thing that exists and we reserve the right to record and check as needed. Also, to clarify, I am not advocating either watching or avoiding the series for its own sake. If your child is talking about it; if their friends are watching it, then I absolutely advocate watching it, because chances are your child will see it one way or another.

In any case, my point is that we talk about mental health issues fairly often in our house. I was diagnosed with clinical depression (major depressive disorder) in 2006, and with severe generalized anxiety disorder in 2011. I take medications, supplements, use tools like apps, meditation practice, journaling and a focus on self-care as part of my management plan. They’ve seen me manage my own mental health issues and heard me talking about it with others a lot. Along with some of the other moms in our homeschool group, I went to a teen mental health first aid course and got certified as a ‘teen mental heath first aid practitioner’, and our teens are participating in a semester-long mental health course through our homeschool co-op, using curricula and resources from TeenMentalHealth.org and other similar sources. I say all of that to tell you this very scary fact: seeing and knowing and doing all that doesn’t make my kids suicide-proof. That’s hard to read; it’s hard to admit. But it’s the truth. I’ll come back to this in a bit.

The reason I started writing this post is because, like many homeschooling parents, I’m in quite a few internet support groups that focus on homeschooling. It’s generally helpful, and sometimes I learn new things there, or find tidbits of new information that I want to use in our school career. other times, I come across things like this:

 

Okay, fine. You don’t want to watch it, then fine. But let me tell you this: if your kids want to watch it, and their peers are watching it, then even if you think it’s ‘poison’, then you should damn well be watching it, too. If for no other reason than because you should be informed of what’s going on in and around your child’s world. Changes are, if your kids’ peers are recommending it, then your child is going to figure out how to watch it, with or without your approval.

And hear this: if your opinion is so strongly negatively stated, do you think that your kid is going to come to you to talk about what they saw if they watched it without your permission (or in spite of being explicitly told not to watch it)? Nope. So your precious snowflake is going to be left alone to figure it out, or have only the influence of his or her peers to guide how they process the show. Not only that, but as a parent, you’ll miss out on being able to clarify the points that need to be made throughout the series about how Hannah could have made different choices, or how her friends could have, or what your child’s options are in different scenarios.

And then there’s this, which makes my eyes want to roll right out of my head.

ARE YOU FRIKKIN’ KIDDING ME?? Also, it’s extremely bad form to tell a parent who literally has experience with this situation that it’s not reality when it is very much their reality. I can’t even imagine how awful it would be to have your child survive a suicide attempt. I can imagine it would be harrowing, and that you’d be on red-alert all the time. To have your child attempt it again? I can’t even imagine that kind of pain and stress and anger and hopelessness.

To their credit, the moderators of that group very quickly deleted that comment thread. The post itself is still up, with decent discussion both for and against allowing/encouraging/discouraging (and some outright forbidding) students to watch, and decent discussion about whether the series addresses teen suicide and bullying appropriately or not. The discussion was relatively civil and productive, with good points on all sides.

From the message thread, the article lists these reasons why ‘not’ to watch (edited for clarity):

  1. This show was overly graphic. …  These rapes are gritty, horrifying and not something your children need to actually witness just in case they need to deal with something like this. They did a good job of showing Hannah (the girl who committed suicide) and how she felt during the rape, but watching her body writhe with each “thrust” was completely unnecessary and not something we needed to watch in order to understand the gravity of the situation.

  2. The suicide toward the end of the series might as well have been a handy dandy how-to graphic for how to kill yourself.

  3. The other big problem I had with the suicide was the build up, the entire series lead up to Hannah killing herself. Which isn’t different than in the books, but for some reason, they made it feel like a big reveal, an event that you were waiting on. Something exciting. Suicide should never EVER be exciting. And I was disappointed that they depicted it as such.

  4. They glamorized Hannah, the girl who killed herself. They made her out to be this big amazing person that everyone remembered and was heartbroken about after she left. ….  the series made this about her, like she left some sort of legacy only a dead girl could leave behind. Why would you want kids to think their lives will only have meaning after they die?

So, obvious warnings are obvious; Netflix rates the show as TV-MA, and included content warnings on the episodes that have the most graphic content. The author of that post’s child is in 6th grade… so, not 17… but she may be mature enough to handle watching the series with her mother nearby; that’s a decision that each parent needs to make. I don’t necessarily disagree with the author’s assertions in the context of her particular child. But to give all parents a ruler by which to measure their own children is ridiculous.

But to take this one point at a time… first, I don’t think it was overly graphic for the audience intended. As mentioned previously, the rating is TV-MA. It’s more subject matter than content that garners the warning. There’s no nudity; they do a damn fine job of conveying the horror of one girl (Jessica) being raped while under the influence of alcohol, and of (Hannah) witnessing it but being unable to say or do anything to prevent it due to her own trauma without being, in my opinion, overly graphic. They didn’t rush through it; they didn’t gloss over it; they didn’t give you an out as a witness to what was happening, either visually or audibly. You, as the viewer, endured it with them. Not only that, but you were flashed back to it at different points – just moments or glimpses – but the trauma is revisited over and over again, unpredictably…. just like in real life. That, to me, is one of the biggest arguments FOR watching it – exactly because of how well-done this particular aspect of it was. Not only that, but in the production commentary (the last episode of the series), they specifically talk about how Hannah never said the words ‘no’, or ‘stop’ or anything, really, when she was raped. It was clear that she did not want to have sex, but she never said no. That makes a conversation about ‘victim blaming’ necessary. Talking about it is one thing. Seeing how it happens is another. Was it rape if she didn’t say no? After seeing it, it’s painfully obvious that she was, in fact, raped. In some religions, because she didn’t scream, or say no, she is considered guilty of fornication. That scene puts an entirely different face on that circumstance, and is fucking *necessary* if you’re a young woman growing up in a religion that teaches that.

Secondly, you don’t need to give kids a ‘how to’ guide to commit suicide. If it’s on their minds, then they’ve already thought of it or imagined it or planned how they’d do it. I was about 12 the first time I ever thought about killing myself, and by 14 I had a concrete plan. I was raised in a pretty strict household as far as what we were allowed to watch – nothing rated R, no horror movies, nothing overly sexual or violent. I never needed anyone else to tell me what to do. I never got as far as an actual attempt, but  I didn’t need to be ‘influenced’ by outside sources. All those thoughts and ideas came from right inside my own head. Showing it isn’t going to ‘give them ideas’ or convince them to ‘give it a try’. That’s a huge myth, and yet it persists because people – parents – don’t ever want to face the reality that kids have very real pressures in their life and may lack the tools to deal effectively with them. A further truth is that some teens have mental health issues that are undiagnosed.

Today’s kids, younger and younger every year, are under an enormous amount of pressure. Their brains do not work the same way that adult brains do; they process information and experiences differently than we do, and they lack both life experience and time to understand that what they feel today isn’t going to last forever. As an adult with depression, I can tell you that in the depths of a depressive episode, even with life experience and the clear understanding that those dark feelings don’t last forever, sometimes forget it. That’s why depression is an illness – because it messes with your brain. Not talking about suicide because you ‘don’t want to put ideas in their head’ is stupid and reckless. By the time I was 18, one classmate and 1 friend had committed suicide, with several others hospitalized after suicide attempts…. and this was back in the 90’s.  Now, there are things like cutting and other forms of self-harm. It’s a real thing. Real kids do it. Your kids might do it. My kid might do it. We might not necessarily know about it. Again – there’s that scary place to think about – that our child might be in pain and in harm’s way. But avoiding it doesn’t make it go away; it makes it more dangerous.

Here’s something it’s important to understand about suicide: people don’t do it because they’re healthy and thinking clearly. People who commit suicide see death as the only way out. Out of suffering, of being a disappointment or a burden on others (friends and family), out of the confinement of struggling every day just to live. I also think it’s important to understand that unless you also struggle with depression or anxiety or another mental illness, you can’t know what it’s like to reach that point; to get to the point that thinking or feeling like ending your life is the only way to be free. This is probably one of the best images I’ve ever seen that illustrates that feeling – everything is so awful that death looks peaceful in comparison. But, because of the stigma that depression and mental illness carries, it’s incredibly hard to talk about. That’s okay; talk about that, too. Tell your kids that you’re scared for them. They need to know that.

The third point is an idiotic one, imo. You begin the series knowing that the girl killed herself; but one can hardly tell the story without flashbacks. As the viewer, you get multiple insights to the story – Hannah’s perception as she tells it on the tapes; the recollections of her friends and classmates; and a ‘narrator’ view, which features Hannah in a somewhat less than ‘perfect’ view. I disagree that Hanna’s suicide was built up to in order to sensationalize it; I think the flashbacks gave a fairly well-laid out progression of the deterioration of Hannah’s mental state and circumstances that led to her making the decision to kill herself. Starting off with the suicide scene, or downplaying it wouldn’t make sense. I think showing it the way that they did was appropriate; it was graphic and horrific and terrifying and lonely and sad – everything that suicide is. This feeds into the next point – they didn’t glamorize her; quite the opposite. I saw a bunch of people who gave lip service to mourning a girl they barely paid attention to when she was alive. That’s not glamorization; that’s tragedy. Her life didn’t have meaning after she died; her life ended. That’s what death means – you’re dead. No more life to live; no more chapters to your story.

Here’s what I saw, first and foremost: I saw a lot of kids with a LOT of problems, and mostly absent or distracted parents. I saw a lack of communication; a lack of courage (courage to speak up when you see something that you know is wrong, to defend someone else, to start a conversation, to say the thing you want to say, to have a voice at all); a lack of trust and confidence in the adults in the kids’ lives. I saw obvious warning signs (drinking, drug use, heavily tattooed under-aged teens – you don’t get those from hanging out with fine upstanding citizens… because it’s illegal) that no adult acted on. There are SO MANY things to talk with your kids about… for me to talk with my kids about.

I think Hannah is responsible for her own death. She kept things to herself when she could have talked – at any point – to the people around her. If not peers, then adults. She felt like she didn’t have options, and that’s where the adults in her life failed her. But it wasn’t a one-time thing; it was systematic. It was something that went on and on for a long period of time. Her parents were distracted by real problems, but they were distracted nonetheless. Her friends also had real problems, but each person in Hannah’s life that she sent the tapes to also had options. Not necessarily a responsibility towards Hannah, but options for how they handled their own situations that led them to whatever thing they said or did that Hannah ended up blaming them for. Hannah did a terrible thing… several, actually. Playing the ‘blame game’ helps no one; absolves no one; is fair to no one. Suicide is a tragedy, but ultimately, the person who ended their own life is the one responsible for that decision. There’s a discussion on ‘suicide revenge’ that should probably happen as well. This isn’t a new concept; Marilyn Manson’s Coma Black has the line ‘I kill myself to make everybody pay‘. Hannah left tapes to explain/punish those she held responsible, and ultimately let herself off the hook for her decision in both deed and via the tapes. That was a shitty thing to do.

As a parent: TALK TO YOUR KIDS. Tell them that you have issues; that you don’t understand them or their culture, but that you are trying. Let them teach you. Don’t play the disinterested parent-role; don’t let them think that you have all your shit worked out. If you haven’t learned shit-management techniques in your 30+ years on the planet, then you probably didn’t pass any down to your kids, so they’re likely in need of those tools anyway. Let them know that life doesn’t just magically work itself out when you turn 20 or 30 or 40. It’s still a struggle, BUT you learn coping mechanisms on the way that can make it easier. Be an example – take charge of your own issues. If your issues are affecting you kids, then for fuck’s sake, get help, and include them in the process. The other half of this is LISTEN TO YOUR KIDS. Trust them when they tell you that their life is horrible (instead of giving in to the righteous anger that we love to fall back on and list all their privileges and blessings so they’ll see how entitled they’re acting and shape up). Getting angry at them for being ‘ungrateful’ instead of listening to what they’re telling you can lead to a teenager who doesn’t feel like you’re a source of support. Trust that they’re using the best vocabulary that they can, and help them find better words to express what they’re feeling. Ask questions and LISTEN to the answers without giving in to the temptation to be all judgmental or looking for ways to punish them to opening up to you. You can’t have open, honest communication with a teenager and then censor how they talk, or try to shape their expression into your worldview. Listen to see where they are at and meet them there. Then cover new ground together. It’s okay to be lost, or not know what to say. Tell them that; they need to know that we don’t have everything all figured out either, and that it’s okay to learn new things (like how to handle intrusive or overwhelming negative thoughts). It’s also okay to seek outside, professional help. In fact, that’s something your kids should already have – access to suicide hotlines and a network of adults that they can trust to talk to.

In closing, I think people tend to forget that TV and book characters aren’t ‘real’ people; they’re amalgams of multiple people, or archetypes that real people don’t fit into exactly. Real people are so multi-faceted and multi-layered that no book or TV character could ever get it just right. No real person is as one-dimensional as a character; and no situations are quite as simply laid out as real life scenarios are. This book and series, and others like it, create discussion opportunities for parents to guide their teens., and I believe that’s what the series is intended to do. Whether you allow your child to watch it or not, there are some real-world things that today’s kids face. There are real-world situations brought up in that series that I believe it is entirely worthwhile to talk about with your kids. Whether you choose to use the series as a conversation starter, or some other method is up to you – but have the conversations with your kids. Please.

Warmly,
~h

* When I started this post, they had not. After I asked, I guess that brought it to their attention, and LBB (15) decided to watch it. At the time of this post being published, he’s about halfway through the series, and we’ve had multiple discussions about it – big ones, little ones, talks at the dinner table, talks in the car… sometimes just a comment here or there, sometimes more drawn out.

 


Requesting that Which Enriches Life – NVC Week 6

Six chapters in – hooray!

If you’re following along or just joining us, we’re working through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and  Lucy Leu’s companion Workbook . We’re doing this as part of our homeschool curriculum and we welcome your thoughts and companionship on our journey.

We’ve been taking it slow; well technically, I’ve just been lax about posting out updates. We’re doing week 7 and have been for a couple of weeks – I’m just now getting around to posting about week 6. In any case, I haven’t forgotten about this project and am quite pleased with myself for following through with it (even if it is taking longer than originally planned).

In any case, week 6 is all about asking for what you need. In NVC, that means identifying what it is that you feel first and then being able to ask for it. As we’re going along, I am noticing a tendency among certain members fo our family to sound rather condescending when making requests. It’s very hard to have a sarcastic personality *and* sound sincere a lot of the time. This has always been a problem between Loverly Husband and myself; compliments that are utterly sincere sometimes have to have a ‘note of sincerity’ attached to them in order to be taken seriously. Adding NVC to this mix has been… interesting.

I’m also a pretty demanding person in general – as a friend, as a wife, as a mother – I expect certain things from my friends and family and I expect that those expectations will be met. I’m working on it and again, trying to work on not being a demanding shrew AND factoring in NVC without feeling like I am lowering my standards is difficult.

I will say that being in the same place with my kids as far as being new to and learning this method of communication; being able to say to them, “I am trying to use NVC and am having a hard time with expressing myself’ is a tremendous help. It’s almost like being able to call a time-out in the middle of a conversation. It helps them realize that I’m not perfect, that I am struggling just as much as they sometimes are. Saying something like that automatically puts us on the same, inexperienced  team and reminds us all, in that moment, that we’re working towards the same goal. If we take nothing else away from this experiment, that one thing is worth its weight in gold.

That said, this week’s lesson and focus on asking for what you need has been interesting and somewhat easier than the previous couple of weeks. Asking for something first requires that you know what it is that you need to begin with. These concepts are building on one another and being more familiar with one concept makes the next one easier. Being able to identify what you’re feeling (week 4) and then taking responsibility for them (week 5) and now asking for something to meet the need all works hand-in-hand.

If you’re following along, some of the discussion questions from Chapter 6 are:

What constitutes ‘request’ in NVC? How can we test whether it is a request or a demand?

How do expressing requests via vague/abstract language vs. expressing feelings gain different results?

Why do we sometimes hear a demand when someone makes a request?

What is reflecting? How does reflecting help?

Practice:
How can we strengthen our consciousness of what we want back when we talk to others?

If you’re reading along with us, I’d love to hear from you!

Have a great weekend!

Warmly,

~h

(Disclaimer: This is not a certified or ‘official’ NVC anything. This is my personal journey through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and Lucy Leu’s NVC Companion Workbook. I am NOT an expert, nor am I particularly skilled in this process. Please use/follow/apply with those things in mind. When in doubt, please disregard my commentary and refer to the book or workbook. I make no money off of this exercise, nor is any copyright infringement meant by posting a sampling of the questions from the workbook. For best results, I  strongly recommend that you purchase the book and workbook for yourself and go through them in their entirety at your leisure.)


Taking Responsibility for Our Feelings – NVC Week 5

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve updated this section, but we’re still plugging along. I have said it before, and it still holds true; learning this stuff (though totally worth it) is hard if it hasn’t been your normal pattern of communication. I do have one slight mama-brag for today though; today wasn’t one of our greatest, but we made it through and are enjoying a relatively peaceful evening.

At one point, PeaGreen was struggling to find the right way to phrase something and finally said that he was trying to say it in NVC and couldn’t – so I at least know that they’re thinking about it even when we’re not sitting there with the book open! That makes me happy, and it’s this kind of slow, but steady progress that keeps me thinking that this is working; that studying and practicing NVC is worth spending our time on.

If you’re following along or just joining us, we’re working through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and  Lucy Leu’s companion Workbook . We’re doing this as part of our homeschool curriculum and we welcome your thoughts and companionship on our journey.

I’ll be honest; I am not happy with this weeks’ lesson. I say ‘week’; I mean ‘few weeks’ – a month, nearly. We’ve taken a while to go through this chapter. That’s a lot of self-awareness to handle at one time – a lot of thinking and really connecting with the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of your emotions and responses. When that’s not your normal thought-process, it’s really difficult and time-consuming. One can assume that this gets easier with time and practice, but WOW to the first few months of really understanding and attempting to put into practice this type of self-aware communication.

To their credit, the kids seem to catch on faster than I do. Our phrase of the week is, “I feel…. because I need….” That sounds simple, right? But it’s not. Being able to out your own needs into works – even identifying them sometimes is challenging. We’re moving on to the next chapter, but I can confidently and unabashedly say that we have not mastered this concept. I do think that this is part of the process, and that with practice will come mastery (or at least competency). We’ve been stuck on a concept before, so I am sure this will work into the framework of the whole as we go along (and of course, we’re a long way from speaking Giraffe fluently).

Like I said above, I am seeing progress, but it is slow going. Right when I start thinking that this is not working, a situation will arise or a child will say something where I can clearly see the wheels of NVC turning. Oh, they still bicker, and I still get irritated and frustrated with them; that’s normal, I think. But overall, I think that communication is improving. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

I did appreciate the section on page 54 of the book where the lists the needs we all share; autonomy, integrity, celebration, interdependence,  spiritual communion, physical nurturance & play. Having the list is helpful when I don’t know exactly which need of mine is not being met; having an example of the language to use is immensely helpful to me.

The summary states:

What others say and do may be the stimulus, but never the cause of, our feelings. When someone communicates negatively, we have four options as to how we receive the message: (1) blame ourselves, (2) blame others, (2) sense our own feelings and needs, (4) sense the feelings and needs hidden in the other person’s negative message.

I’m still not exactly clear on what, or if there even is, a ‘right’ option would be. It seems that differing responses would be appropriate in different situations, and/or a combination of responses. In any case, we’re working on it.

If you’re following along, some of the discussion questions from Chapter 5 in the workbook are:

What ’causes’ a particular feeling in us?

What are four options for hearing a difficult message?

How might we speak in ways that acknowledge responsibility for our feelings?

Guilt-tripping – discuss.

How do we often communicate instead of asking for what want? Response?

Explain the difference between ‘taking responsibility’ for someone else’s feelings and ‘caring compassionately’ about them.

We’ve already begun chapter 6, so keep an eye out for that in the next week or so. Hope your week is off to a good start!

Warmly,

~h

(Disclaimer: This is not a certified or ‘official’ NVC anything. This is my personal journey through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and Lucy Leu’s NVC Companion Workbook. I am NOT an expert, nor am I particularly skilled in this process. Please use/follow/apply with those things in mind. When in doubt, please disregard my commentary and refer to the book or workbook. I make no money off of this exercise, nor is any copyright infringement meant by posting a sampling of the questions from the workbook. For best results, I  strongly recommend that you purchase the book and workbook for yourself and go through them in their entirety at your leisure.)


Identifying and Expressing Feelings – NVC Week 4

If you’re following along or just joining us, we’re working through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and  Lucy Leu’s companion Workbook . We’re doing this as part of our homeschool curriculum and we welcome your thoughts and companionship on our journey.

It surprises me sometimes how the things that pop on Facebook are relevant to what’s going on in my life. I mean, not really, because it used to happen all the time when I was religious-y, and I would attribute it to a ‘blessing’ or divine direction or whatever. These days, I’m more inclined to believe that this happens because our brains are hard-wired to find patterns in our lives, and when we have something on our minds unconsciously (and especially when it’s consciously part of our thinking), we’re more apt to notice these little ‘coincidences’, but that doesn’t lessen my amazement and delighted surprise when they occur.

In any case, this week’s NVC chapter is on identifying and expressing emotions, and on my wall this morning was an article posted by Spin-Doctor Parenting, You Don’t Really Feel That Way, Part I. It was talking about how we parents often, without realizing it, teach our children to distrust their feelings or relegate them to the backseat. And then we wonder why we have such a hard time communicating how we feel about something…

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I like communication help sites that offer a script. I generally get the concept, but lack the vocabulary, or recall to make up my own words in tense situations. Having a script helps get the words I want to use at the ready – at least until I’ve internalized it enough to have the language I want to use at the ready. Books like ‘How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk‘ by Faber & Mazlish is great – there’s even a school version. With tools like these on hand, it’s easy to keep your cool all the time and remember to ‘use your words’, right? RIGHT?!? 

No, of course not. But it does help. Immensely, especially when your own connection to your feelings is masked by years of being told that the only appropriate outward display of emotion is calm – or at least a reasonable facsimile of calm (which has the unintended side effect of molding a really good actor).

It’s not just being in touch with negative emotions that is important. Masking or limiting emotional intelligence also has a negative effect on being able to process positive emotions as well. I find it both interesting and odd that I am less embarrassed by allowing negative emotions to show, and more embarrassed by allowing positive emotions to show. Last night I had dinner and discussion with some very good friends and some new people in my life. I was in a very, very good mood and a little dizzy with it. I chattered quite a bit and may have laughed too loud once or twice. I am unused to letting my emotions have any kind of starring role in my actions, and so anytime I get carried away, I end up extremely embarrassed by something I said or did. Keep in mind that intellectually, I know that I didn’t say or do anything untoward or inappropriate in any way. I was just happy and excited and a little nervous. But I lack the emotional management tools to properly assess those feelings and assign them to their proper place. I felt ‘out of control’ and that’s unpleasant for me. Nonetheless, this is progress for me – even being able to identify and express what’s ‘really’ going on in my own head.

A sampling of Chapter 4’s  review/discussion questions:

According to Rosenberg, why do people in certain professions have more trouble than the rest of us in identifying  and expressing feelings?

What problems might a woman encounter in ‘expressing her feelings’ by saying to her husband, “I feel like I’m living with a wall’?

What are the advantages of expressing our feelings?

What is the advantage over identifying specific emotions rather than general ones (I feel good/bad.)

And a few of the workbook’s exercises:

How do you know what you are feeling at any given moment? Where do you go to look?

Under the subheading ‘Feelings vs. Non-Feelings”, there are examples of words that tend to describe:

  • what we think we are (I feel inadequate)
  • how we think others are evaluating us (I feel unimportant)
  • how we think others are behaving towards or around us (I feel misunderstood/I feel ignored)
What other words would fall into this category?
How do you feel in the presence of someone who does not express their feelings?
Start your own personal inventory of feelings (exercise).

Now that we’ve been working on this for a month, I am really starting to see small changes in all of us that I think will accumulate as we continue. It’s definitely easier for my kids to grasp some of these concepts than it is for me; we read over and discuss the review questions at the end of each chapter the day we read over the chapter, and then again at the end of the week and try to think of specific instances where we each put the chapter’s topic into practice – in this case, where we expressed an evaluation with ‘I feel’ rather than a true emotion, and where we have used words to describe actual emotions. They’re usually in agreement with the author more often than I am, and/or are faster to respond – I still have to think about it much of the time. The changes are getting easier, more visible in daily interactions – small and just hints of them much of the time but they’re there.

Warmly,

~h

(Disclaimer: This is not a certified or ‘official’ NVC anything. This is my personal journey through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and Lucy Leu’s NVC Companion Workbook. I am NOT an expert, nor am I particularly skilled in this process. Please use/follow/apply with those things in mind. When in doubt, please disregard my commentary and refer to the book or workbook. I make no money off of this exercise, nor is any copyright infringement meant by posting a sampling of the questions from the workbook. For best results, I  strongly recommend that you purchase the book and workbook for yourself and go through them in their entirety at your leisure.)


Observing Without Evaluating – NVC Week 3

So, if you’re just tuning in, my kids and I are working through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and  Lucy Leu’s companion Workbook . We’re doing this as part of our homeschool curriculum and we welcome your thoughts and companionship on our journey.

We’re taking it week by week, and doing one chapter/workbook assignment per week. This is actually week 4 of our journey, because chapter three has been particularly challenging, so I decided to work through this chapter for another week. After nearly 2 weeks on it, I think I have a better understanding of the concepts and how to put them into practice.

If you’re not familiar with the book, chapter three deals with separating ‘observation’ from ‘evaluation. There are a couple of poems in this chapter that have helped me, and especially the kids grasp the difference between the two. Working with kids, obviously, the text of this book is going to fly right over their heads (evaluation). I’ve had to read and then figure out how to ‘translate’ what I am reading into kid-speak. That’s been challenging, but good in a way because in order to explain it to them, I have to understand it. We’ve worked over the last couple of weeks to put this into practice, but also to have practice sessions where we’re role-playing and trying to illustrate and identify the difference between the two ideas (observation).

One of the parts in this chapter that I appreciated was in the NVC in Action dialogue on pages 32 & 33. Rosenberg says,

“… what keeps me in the struggle are the close connections to other people that happen when I do stay in touch with the process.”

It’s comforting to know that even the man with the vision struggles and sometimes even ‘loses touch’ with the ideals he promotes; I think that we all do that at times and it’s hard to admit. Gold star for honesty. I did the exercises on page 34 and was in agreement with the author 80% of the time. As I said, this chapter has been challenging for me for some reason, but I think I am seeing enough progress for myself to move on.

In the workbook, the exercises for Chapter Three begin on page 73. Some of the questions include:

Explain the difference between ‘static language’ and ‘process language’.

MBR prefers to avoid even positive or neutral labels of people (for example, ‘a responsible child’, ‘a cook’, ‘a pretty blonde’). Why?

What is the first component of NVC?

Practice exercises include:

Write down 3 observations about yourself. Write down 3 evaluations about yourself.

Next time you’re waiting in line or among people in a crowd, take five minutes to look at the people around you. What thoughts do you discover on your mind? Are they observations or evaluations? What’s the proportion of observations to evaluations?

I thought that these were interesting assignments. It really brought to the fore how much of my inner dialogue is judgemental – both positively and negatively. The quote on our chalkboard in the school room right now is from  Gautama Buddha, “Mind is everything. We become what we think.” I am thinking that I need to work on my mind.

Overall, I am glad that we spent another week on this chapter. It was worth it to spend the extra time on it. We are, as always, a work in progress, but I think that we’re moving forward and that makes me happy.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Warmly,

~h

(Disclaimer: This is not a certified or ‘official’ NVC anything. This is my personal journey through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and Lucy Leu’s NVC Companion Workbook. I am NOT an expert, nor am I particularly skilled in this process. Please use/follow/apply with those things in mind. When in doubt, please disregard my commentary and refer to the book or workbook. I make no money off of this exercise, nor is any copyright infringement meant by posting a sampling of the questions from the workbook. For best results, I  strongly recommend that you purchase the book and workbook for yourself and go through them in their entirety at your leisure.)


Workboxes, Week 1

Well, we’re almost through our first week with workboxes. We’ve actually completed all of the boxes every day so far (though I did change ‘health’ to ‘chores’ yesterday – kinda cheating, I know, but I was ready for school to be done).

I haven’t decided exactly how I feel about them yet. I’m thinking that we’ll give it another week and see how it goes. I am almost sure that the actual ‘box’ part is just adding an extra/unnecessary step; I’ve seen several versions of workboxing mods that use a single box or bin with manilla mailing envelopes to hold the work, and others that use hanging files, covered cereal boxes, and lots of other methods. Since we’re so limited on space, I am wondering if something like that might be better.

I am also going to have to figure out something else to do with the ‘done’ cards or tags… the process we have now feels like a bunch of extra steps that might be eliminated. I saw several people using velcro dots on the fronts of boxes (or on a sheet of paper inside the front of the box) to hold all the tags; I’m thinking that I might want to try that instead. I do like the chore cards though, so I may play around with that and see if I can come up with a better way to manage them. We have a chore chart in the hallway that I made months ago; we may go back to that style for a while.

Overall, I’m not sold on the system for us, but there are some things I like about it, so I’m not ready to scrap it just yet. I thought I’d do a pros and cons list this week and then re-evaluate next week. In the interests of disclosure, I will say that I have not read Sue Patrick’s book (creator of the workbox system), or attended any kind of lecture or class on them. I’ve just been reading about them since last year and checking out all the different mods and tweaks that I’ve seen in blogs and put my system together from what I’ve read. That may very well do Ms. Patrick a huge disservice, so please take my two cents on the matter with a spoonful of salt. {wink}  I like the idea of the workboxes system. Ideally, it seems like allowing the kids to be completely responsible for their work makes me happy. I just don’t know how that will work out practically speaking with my kids.

Pros:

  • I like that having a weeks worth of plans laid out in advance helps me see where things are missing; I’m planning better and even though it’s still taking a while, the day is well-rounded.
  • I like that I can also see where I am harping on ‘work’ and not adding in enough ‘fun’ stuff; workboxing it helps me make sure to include fun stuff at even intervals during the day.
  • I like that everything is done the night before; I can just say “okay, time for school” and they’re set.
  • We’re getting a CRAPLOAD of stuff done! I am impressed with the number of completed assignments that they’re turning in every day.
But of course, all this can be done without workboxing it.
Cons:
  • it takes up a lot of space – the whole time; from storing packed boxes, to while they’re working on an open box, to boxes they’re saving for homework and boxes that they’ve completed. I’ve got boxes everywhere.
  • the packing process takes a long time – not so long that it’s prohibitive, but long enough that I can see myself getting bored with it in the near future. I’ll want to pack them, but slack, then feel stressed about it in the morning.
  • it’s not saving us ANY time. My kids still dawdle. The only benefit here is that I can say, “Okay, time’s up. Pack your things back into the box and set it on the side of your desk. That’s homework.” But then I still have to oversee homework. Le sigh.
  • Even though we have the shoe-box sized bins, they’re still not big enough to hold workbooks or larger materials. Even their journals and notebooks get curved into the bottoms of the boxes.
  • I’m also concerned about long-term wear and tear on the boxes, themselves. They’re dollar-store boxes, but that was still $24 on box. If I upgraded to heavier boxes or wider ones, that will be an even bigger expense.
So that’s where we’re at now. Again, SO IMPRESSED with the sheer number of completed assignments that they’re turning in. With better time-management, I think that this might be a good system – time will tell, though. If you’re a workboxer, I’d love a link to your blog or other sites you’ve found helpful in modifying workboxes, thinking of fun stuff to put in them… anything workbox related, really. I made a Pinterest board for my workbox bookmarks and it’s sadly lacking.
If you’ve been reading here and wondering about our progress this week, we have had a much go of it than we started off with. Tuesday was great – we met our homeschool group for our 2nd Annual ‘Not Back to School Brunch’ at the park, and managed to get all of the boxes for the day completed before dinner time. Wednesday, we were home and had a heavier workload, but still… it was a good and productive day. Today, we had errands planned, so they got their morning boxes finished, took some work with us to do on-the-go and have finished in time to hit the pool before dinner.
Hope your week is winding down into a relaxing weekend!
Warmly,
~h
P.S. If you’re looking for an NVC update post this week, I think we’re going to work on chapter 3 again next week. The chapter is on separating ‘observation’ and ‘evaluation’ and I am having a hard time with it.

Communication that Blocks Compassion – NVC Week 2

If you’re following along or just joining us, we’re working through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and  Lucy Leu’s companion Workbook . We’re doing this as part of our homeschool curriculum and we welcome your thoughts and companionship on our journey.

Chapter two deals with what’s termed ‘life-alienating’ communication’ – those types of communication which alienate us from our own feelings and needs, and from others. There are four types that are identified: diagnosis/judgement and comparisons, denial of responsibility, demands, and ‘deserve’-oriented language (entitlement).

One of the things I took from this chapter is the admonition to take responsibility for the things that I do. I don’t tend to think of myself as one who shirks responsibility; if pressed, I’d probably gripe about being ‘too responsible’.

I was raised with the idea that your responsibilities are of paramount importance, and if they’re only met halfway, then they may as well not be met at all. My father in particular is very demanding and has little tolerance for ‘half-assing’ anything. I can’t tell you how often I heard that as a young adult and it’s something I don’t tolerate well from my own kids, either.

I see the problem with that, of course – one of my main complaints as a child was that what I DID do was never seen or recognized or acknowledged, only what remained un-done. That’s not true in every instance, and that’s not to say that praise earned wasn’t given wholeheartedly, but we had a lot of responsibilities as children – much more than my own do now, and much less supervision since my mom worked – and it was overwhelming at times.

But this chapter isn’t really about taking responsibility in those terms. It’s more about taking responsibility for your own actions as a result of and connecting them to your own needs or denial of your feelings or needs. One of the examples mentioned is of a mom talking about cooking; how she hates it, but it must be done and it’s her job to do it and so she does;  not realizing the effect that fulfilling a job out of responsibility and with resentment is having a negative effect on her family. Better, perhaps, that she not do it at all if it’s going to be done ‘like that’. How directly in conflict with how I was raised!

I said that I was going to take this book a chapter a week, and I am going to continue trying to do that… but just from really putting into conscious practice the first two chapters, I can see that I am going to need to go through this book again to really flesh it out in my own life. Still, it’s got me thinking, so I’m counting that as progress.

If you’re working on your own, here are some of the questions from Chapter Two in the workbook:

Describe the meaning of ‘life alienating communication’.

Why is the word ‘tragic’ used to describe this way of expression?

What happens when people (children) do what we want them to do out of fear, guilt or shame and how does that affect them in the future?

What is the difference between VALUE judgements and MORALISTIC judgments?

Quote:

The horrors which we have seen, and the still greater horrors we shall presently see, are not signs that rebels, insubordinate, untamable men are increasing in number throughout the world, but rather that there is a constant increase in the number of obedient, docile men.” ~ George Beranos

Agree or Disagree?

The workbook goes into the different areas of our lives, the social communities that we operate in, and asks us to identify life-alienating language in them, and how we can re-phase them with giraffe-speak. It’s difficult, I won’t lie. Extremely so – and it feels ‘wrong’ to me. Again, I recognize that this is a process and that my feelings are a product of how I was raised (which is precisely why I am going through this book with my kids), but that doesn’t change the feeling that, especially in parenting matters, by not demanding appropriate behavior or that a task be completed within this time-frame or in this manner – by giving the kids an option… basically to choose not to comply – I don’t see how that will work. And then again, there’s a little niggling voice that pipes up and reminds me how much better they behave when I set reminders instead of demands, and help with chores instead of harangue. I know it works in my heart. It’s getting my head on board that is the challenge.

Warmly,

~h

(Disclaimer: This is not a certified or ‘official’ NVC anything. This is my personal journey through Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, and Lucy Leu’s NVC Companion Workbook. I am NOT an expert, nor am I particularly skilled in this process. Please use/follow/apply with those things in mind. When in doubt, please disregard my commentary and refer to the book or workbook. I make no money off of this exercise, nor is any copyright infringement meant by posting a sampling of the questions from the workbook. For best results, I  strongly recommend that you purchase the book and workbook for yourself and go through them in their entirety at your leisure.)