Children’s Needs

children's needsIn the olden days, children didn’t have emotional needs, they just had physical ones. They were fed, watered and sheltered, and that was generally thought to be enough. Job done! Apart from the basic physical needs, children’s needs were seen to be largely for external control: the need to be disciplined in order to fit in with society. Children’s emotional needs weren’t invented till later, I’m not sure exactly when, but my children certainly had them.

It’s a good thing of course that we now know much more about the developmental, social and emotional needs of children, but it makes the job of parents much more complicated. These days we’re expected to be psychologists and counselors as well as providing food and shelter. We can be blamed for so much more. The more we know, the more we worry about not getting it right.

Meeting children’s needs can become the focus of parenting at the expense of everything else, like making sure they’re polite, and remembering that parents have needs too. When children’s needs are centred all the time, the parent-child relationship becomes one-way, which is not healthy for any relationship. And if we don’t balance children’s needs with our own, how is our child ever to learn that other people have needs too?

One thing that tends to be forgotten is the importance of sometimes having needs frustrated. I’m not suggesting that we withhold food and shelter obviously… just that the need to experience frustration seems to be way down the list of Children’s Needs which We Parents Have to Fulfill. But frustration produces resilience and the development of inner resources, and makes children more robust and realistic about life. The need to have your needs frustrated sometimes is not considered as part of the healthy development of a human being. The fact is we can’t always get our needs met, and we learn to manage that undesirable fact as we experience frustrations throughout childhood.

Human babies are dependent on the parent to fulfill all their needs for a much longer time than any other mammal, but as a child gets older we don’t want to keep them at that level of dependency. In the past, parents had neither the knowledge nor the time to focus on children’s needs to the extent that we do today. And although we don’t want to go back to the days when children’s emotional needs weren’t considered at all, it never works to go to the complete opposite extreme either, does it?

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