Needs vs Strategies- NVC

Originally published on The Consciously Parenting Blog February 6, 2009

I signed up for one of the courses I offer through my website this week: Parenting From Your Heart (NVC) with Stephanie Bachmann-Mattei. I knew the class would be good and that I would learn some helpful things. However, I was unprepared for the depth at which the material would touch me.

I’m not new to the world of parenting information or to being introspective. I enjoy sitting down with my journal to work things out when I’m struggling with something, and I enjoy helping others to do the same. It’s interesting that it was this simple idea that has caused me to turn inward and really look at the way I’m communicating with the world.


I have spent a lot of time looking at needs. Needs of children and needs of parents both occupy a large portion of my waking hours in thoughts and actions. But I hadn’t thought about the difference between a need and a strategy to meet a need. It isn’t a need to have a child pick up their socks or take their dishes to the sink. The need is for order in the home. Strategies include, but are not limited to, a child picking up her socks or taking the dishes to the sink. This may be one way to restore order, but it isn’t the only strategy.

When we tell our children and others what they need to do specifically, we take away the ability for the other person to see alternative solutions to problems. We also miss the opportunity of connecting through understanding the needs of another person, taking everyone’s needs into account when children are developmentally ready to do so. (Those with trauma histories may take longer before they are ready to do so, for example.)

When we can connect with our own needs and create a space for others to understand what our needs are, as well as to understand the needs of others, we can come up with new solutions.


For example, I started looking at interactions with my children today where they were fighting. I looked to see the underlying need. My older son created “Eraser Man” at school- a very creative use of time and energy. (He is made completely of eraser tops from pencils and staples- oh, and a little piece of paper for a cape. Can’t forget the cape!)

My younger son saw Eraser Man and wanted one, too. They were starting to fight over it, so I stated to my younger child, “Sounds like you want Eraser Man because you need to fit in and have what your brother has that is special.” He nodded. I thought that was a good sign!

And to my older son, I said, “Sounds like Eraser Man is special to you and you have a need to keep him safe from harm.” He nodded.

I said, “So what do you think we could do to help your brother fit in, and your need to keep Eraser Man safe? Would you be willing to make him his own Eraser Man?”

“Yes, just get me some more erasers.”


We’d just completely avoided the “normal” fighting over something by simply stating needs and asking what they’d be willing to do.

Parenting From Your Heart: Sharing the Gifts of Compassion, Connection, and Choice (Nonviolent Communication Guides) by [Kashtan, Inbal]

I also managed to get my house cleaned up with the total cooperation of my children. I stated needs (my need for order) and worked to understand my children’s needs at that time.

Everyone’s needs are equally important. I’m really looking forward to learning more about putting NVC into practice with my family and with my clients! Thanks, Stephanie!!

In our Learning Center, there’s a free interview with Inbal Kashtan, author of the book upon which the class is based. Just register for the free membership and have a listen. Let me know what you think of it!


Rebecca Thompson Hitt

Rebecca is the founder of The Consciously Parenting Project, LLC, and author of 3 books (Consciously Parenting: What it really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families, Creating Connection: Essential Tools for Growing Families through Conception, Birth and Beyond, and Nurturing Connection: What Parents Need to Know about Emotional Expression and Bonding), numerous classes and recordings, and the former co-host of a radio show, True North Parents.

Rebecca Thompson Hitt has 166 posts and counting. See all posts by Rebecca Thompson Hitt

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