In my work as a school psychologist, I have found Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication principles to be incredibly supportive in the school environment. When compassion and non-judgement are the foundations of communication, we do not engage the limbic brain in confrontational defense mechanisms and we are able to communicate while staying cool, calm and collected. In that way true communication happens and feelings of being heard and understood are reinforced. Also, we are more likely to remain cool, calm and collected…..i.e., RELAXED.
One of my favorite ways to help kids understand the principles of nonviolent communication is using giraffe language. In the book, The Compassionate Classroom by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson, the authors have a fun, engaging way to help teach kids how to communicate with compassion for self and others. They call it giraffe language. Kids love it! I love it!
The benefits of giraffe language:
- promotes self-empathy and compassion
- helps a child begin to practice checking inside herself to see how she is feeling
- begin to help your child draw a connection between how she is feeling, knowing what she needs, and making a request to get her needs met
- helps her to understand when she is not connected to her feelings and needs, that she isn’t able to connect well with others
- gets her to start practicing listening to her inner self-talk and thoughts
Here are a few key principles and examples of “giraffe language” that can promote staying relaxed, cool, calm and collected:
1. Acknowledges choice: “I choose too, I can, I want to…, I don’t want to….”
2. Asks for what I would like: “Here’s what I would like…., If you are willing, I would like….”
3. Takes responsibility for my own feelings and needs: ” I feel…, I see it as this….., The way I see it is…., I need….”
Ideas for practicing giraffe language in you relaxation practice:
- Role play using giraffe language to problem-solve a situation with a friend.
- Use puppets (especially if you have a giraffe puppet) to have your child fill in sentence starters using giraffe language.
- After you have practice a relaxation technique, practice giraffe language so that it becomes more automatic when your child is upset. Be sure to practice when he is calm when you are first introducing new information or a new technique
My daughter Maddie, age 12, drew this giraffe for the post.
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