Behavioural Escalation in NVR

As a therapist, I often guide parents through the challenging journey of managing conflicts with their children. Drawing from the principles of Haim Omer and Uri Weinblatt’s Nonviolent Resistance (NVR), I find that understanding patterns of escalation and de-escalation is crucial in family dynamics.

This dynamic typically unfolds when both parent and child, caught in a cycle of reactive behaviour, inadvertently escalate a conflict. For parents, it can be incredibly challenging to maintain composure and respond constructively when faced with a child’s opposition or challenging behaviour. The instinctive reaction is often to assert authority more forcefully, which can lead to increased resistance from the child. On the other hand, children, in their pursuit of autonomy or driven by emotional turmoil, may respond with equal or greater intensity. This symmetrical escalation not only strains the parent-child relationship but also hinders effective communication and problem-solving. The key challenge here is for parents to break this cycle by adopting a stance of nonviolent resistance and understanding, fostering a dialogue rooted in respect rather than power struggle.

Understanding Escalation:

Joint Escalation: This occurs when both parent and child intensify their responses, leading to a cycle of conflict. For example, a parent’s strict reprimand might provoke a child’s defiant behaviour, which in turn prompts an even stricter reaction from the parent.

Symmetrical Escalation: Symmetrical escalation refers to a situation where both parties adopt similar strategies of conflict, often leading to a power struggle. If a child responds to a parent’s yelling with yelling of their own, it’s a typical case of symmetrical escalation.

Practical Strategies for De-Escalation:

Calm and Controlled Response: Start by maintaining your calm. Responding with anger or frustration often fuels the conflict.

Active Listening: Show your child that you are willing to listen and understand their perspective. This can defuse the situation and lead to more open communication.

Use of I-Statements: Instead of accusatory language, use I-statements to express how you feel about a specific behaviour. For instance, say “I feel worried when you come home late” instead of “You are always irresponsible”.

Set Clear Boundaries: Clearly communicate your non-negotiables. This doesn’t mean being authoritarian, but rather being clear about the consequences of certain behaviours.

Seek to Understand, Not to Win: Approach conflicts with the goal of understanding your child’s viewpoint, not just enforcing your own. This shift in perspective can significantly reduce the intensity of the conflict.

Offer Choices: Empower your child by offering them choices within acceptable limits. This can reduce resistance and increase cooperation.

Remember, the goal of NVR is not to suppress or defeat the child, but to establish a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding. By implementing these strategies, parents can navigate through difficult situations more effectively, fostering a healthier family dynamic.