Partnership Parenting

Power relationships between parents and children

Parents tend to relate to our children from either a ‘power over’ or a ‘power under’ perspective, or a mixture of the two. In power over, we make our children do things they don’t want to by using an external motivating tool of carrot or stick. We manipulate, demand, shout, bribe, threaten, plead, reward, give timeouts, punish, use consequences, and withdraw attention from our children. When they do something we don’t like, we make them suffer, and when they do something we do like, we offer positive reinforcement to try to make them do the same thing next time. In power under, we submit to our children’s demands in our efforts to meet their needs, even though doing so means that our own needs go unmet. Over time, we become exhausted and resentful as we give up more and more of ourselves.

Whenever we operate from a place of either power over or power under, the cost to ourselves and our children is high. Whether we get what we want in the moment or not, our deeper needs for close and loving connection with each other go unmet. Partnership Parenting supports a third position, which involves sharing power with our children. As we develop the skills to understand our own needs, listen empathically to our children and express ourselves compassionately, we develop our relationship with our children, find creative strategies which work for us all, and model powerful ways of being in the world.

Compassionate Communication or NVC

Partnership Parenting applies the principles and practice of Compassionate Communication, or Nonviolent Communication (NVC), to parenting. Compassionate Communication was originally developed by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s and 70s in the US, and is now used in contexts ranging from domestic relationships to international peace-keeping efforts.

Compassionate Communication involves communicating with others without judging, blaming or criticising them or ourselves in the process. Rosenberg described it as ‘a language of life’, and its foundation is creating a quality of understanding and connection with ourselves and others which most of us, locked in our habitual patterns of communication, experience only fleetingly. Most people who use Compassionate Communication refer to it as NonViolent Communication, the term by which Rosenberg refers to it. Compassionate Communication is an alternative term, used because it is often easier for people who have never heard of it before to relate to.