Red Green Repeat Adventures of a Spec Driven Junkie

Nonviolent Communication - Chapter 12

Protective Use of Force

This chapter focuses on understanding the different types of force: punitive & protective, two models of correction, application to children, long term consequences, two questions to ask before punishing, and moral development.

Different Types of Force

The author describes two different forces: protective and punitive. The actions may appear the same but the intention behind them are drastically different.


A scenario for the following sections: an adult pulling a child away as they run into the street as they try to cross.

Punitive Use

For the above scenario, after pulling a child away, they would yell at the child for being careless and spank them. This is the typical scene of an adult protecting the child. It is so typical, it is almost socially acceptable.

In reality, the force applied by the adult is punitive.

Protective Use

In the same scenario above, the adult would explain to the child the way they were crossing the street was dangerous, how they felt when seeing the child carelessly crossing the street, and show a safer way to cross the street..

This is a use of force by an adult, but the intention is to protect the child. There is no judgment on the child for their misdeed, but they express empathy, needs, and education.

Other Forms of Punishment

Punitive force does not appear as physical force, but other types of punitive force is also possible: withdrawing privileges (i.e. no screen time), blaming (i.e. “it is your fault for the situation”), or labeling (i.e. “you are the wrong one.”)

In essence, any withdraw of caring or respect for the individual is a punitive use of force.

Two Models of Correction

I learned in this chapter there are two basic models how humans correct for their errors: education and repentance.


Correcting action through education assumes the individual is ignorant of their action and commit their offense unintentionally. Correcting ignorance requires education.


The other model assumes individuals are conscientious of their actions and commit offenses out of evil. To correct their evil action, they are to suffer to see their error, repent, then correct themselves.

I personally do not operate from a source of repentance but of education. I get energy from teaching others, even small things.

Application to Children

Punitive force between parent and children is or was socially acceptable. This may appear as a form of corporal punishment, which is a formal method.

Definition of corporal punishment

  1. :  punishment that involves hitting someone :  physical punishment

The goal of corporal punishment is to teach through physical force (i.e. “I’m doing this for your own good.”) This method has good intentions from the parents (i.e. “I don’t want to do this, but you will appreciate it later.”)

The real question is: will children see the amount of compassion parents have given to teach using corporal punishment?

I know I have a hard time seeing my parents’ compassion through this act, especially if one stands by watching the execution of punishment.

Long Term Consequences

In the short term, using punitive force to get what you want may be effective. As indicated in chapter 6, threatening or punishing someone to do something may work, it’s a short term gain, but ultimately a long term loss.

Goodwill between individuals will suffer, so in the future, there is less chance of the individual meeting needs.

Empathy & Needs

With most of this article so far focused on the negative aspects of punitive force, how can one teach another without punitive force?

As with any part of nonviolent communication: with empathy and finding needs! Nonviolent communication focus has been on ones needs more than any other topic.

Show Empathy

When the next time you want to teach someone, demonstrate empathy for the other person. “I felt scared when you crossed the road without looking because there was a car coming.”

Find Needs

After expressing empathy, discover what unfulfilled needs are: “When you crossed the road, were you focused on getting on the other side as quickly as possible?” “Were you excited to get the ball before it went too far?”

Once a person can express and understand their needs, solutions appear:

“Crossing quickly is important, crossing safely is more important as the damage from crossing carelessly may be fatal. Let me show you how to cross safely.”

“Getting the ball is important, but around cars, it is OK to let it go because you are more important than a ball.”

Two Questions Before Punishing

The author challenges us to ask the following questions before delivering any punishment:

  1. What do I want this person to do?
  2. What do I want this person’s reasons for doing it?

The first one is easy to answer, the second one is the challenging one.

When using punitive force, even if the reason is good, the reason formed in the punished person’s mind is: “to avoid hurting others.”

There may have been a misconception about using force as a teaching tool. These questions highlight why using punitive force is ineffective as a teaching tool.

Moral Development

Going deeper in understanding nonviolent communication, the author explains the nonviolent communication helps develop these characteristics in individuals:

  • autonomy & interdependence
  • acknowledge responsibility of own actions
  • the well-being of self & others are the same

I want to have these characteristics as well for my children. In the last months of working with and through nonviolent communication, I wholeheartedly believe these nonviolent communication helps develop characteristics.

It is surprising to learn that only by understanding a person’s needs, it is easy to develop these additional benefits.

Nonviolent Mourning Exercise

The workbook revisited the topic of mourning from chapter 9 that focused on connecting compassionately with ourselves.

In general, I feel I know myself well, but this chapter’s exercise showed a different side of myself in a situation I regretted.

Before the exercise I thought I knew why I felt regret the action I took, as well as the reason I took the action.

After the exercise, I learned the real reason why I took the action as well as the deeper reason why I felt regret.


When I first read this thin chapter, I thought there was not much to learn. As I am gaining mastery of the main concepts of nonviolent communication: empathy and searching for needs.

Working through the chapter, I understand the use of forces: protective and punitive in the short term (i.e. intention) and the long term (i.e. character building) much better. I am happy to see the characteristics nonviolent communication builds aligns with my own needs.