5 Needs Your Child Must Have Met at Home

Learn how to increase a child's mental, physical and emotional well-being

Children, like all humans, have needs. However, children have more needs than adults, and often adults must meet children’s needs because the child cannot do it himself. The number of basic needs varies according to different professionals or organizations.

Pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and child psychiatrist Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan, in their book, The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow, Learn, and Flourish, list seven basic needs of children: nurture, physical safety and security, opportunities based on individual personality, opportunities based on what is developmentally appropriate, rules and expectations, a supportive community and cultural environment and future protection. The World Bank Group, in its list of early childhood development needs assessment and indicators, echoes Brazelton and Greenspans’s list of needs, but also offers the following as child development needs: nutrition, health, motor skills, social skills, values, self-esteem and cognitive and language development.

Adult response relates to child development

According to “Meeting Children’s Needs” in Principles of Parenting by H. Wallace Goddard, a child development specialist, the way parents respond to their child’s needs or demands teaches the child about the world he lives in and how to react to it. Children learn to feel safe, loved and emotionally supported (or the opposite) from their parents. Goddard adds that when parents show concern and compassion in meeting their children’s needs, they help them grow up to be stable, caring, healthy and independent adults. The lists of children's needs vary, but these five show up in each: physical needs, a sense of safety and security, affection, self-esteem and education and information.

  • Basic Physical Needs: Psychologist Abraham Maslow indicates that a person’s biological needs for food, water, air and sleep must be met before any others. As a parent or guardian, you can meet your child’s physical and biological needs by providing nutritious and healthy food, a regular wake and sleep routine, cleanliness with baths or showers, health with regular medical checkups and making sure the child gets enough exercise to remain physically fit.

  • Feeling Safe and Secure: According to Maslow, children often display insecurity and a need for safety. To meet their need for safety, children need to feel safe from physical harm and free from fear. A safe and comfortable home environment can help meet this need. Offer emotional support and consolation when your child needs it. Be a good role model of practicing self-control no matter how angry you are. Never get physical or threaten your child.

  • Affection: Another emotional need of children is the need for affection. Maslow theorizes that people try to overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation by giving and receiving affection, as well as seeking a sense of belonging. Children need to know that they are loved and that they belong. Children learn about affection from adult examples: We show them how to get along with other human beings and show affection, as well as appropriately receive affection. To meet your child’s needs for affection, you can provide unconditional love: showing physical affection with hugs, kisses or pats on the back. You can also meet children’s needs for affection by being a role model of respectful and caring behavior. Talk with your child about his or her feelings and needs, and accept that they may be different from your own. Reward your child's need for affection with affectionate attention.

  • Need for Self-Esteem: According to Maslow, all humans, children included, have a need for a high level of self-respect and respect from others. When this need is met, the child feels self-confident and like a valuable member of society. When the need is not met, the child can feel worthless. You can meet your child’s needs by providing unconditional love and support at home. Maslow recommends providing praise for good behavioral traits, such as acceptance, honesty, independence and talent, as a great way to meet a child’s need to establish self-esteem. You can also do this by rewarding positive behavior, supporting your child’s decision-making, and helping your child learn to be proud of her body and take pride in her morals and values. Additionally, try to meet this common need of children by using mistakes as chances to provide constructive learning experiences. This way, your child will feel supported in trying new things, even if she fails, rather than ashamed or like a disappointment.

  • The Need for Self-Actualization: In order for your child to grow into an independent, successful adult, you must meet your child’s need for knowledge and self-actualization. Maslow describes self-actualization as whatever it is that person was destined to do. For example, an artist must create art, and a poet must write poetry. The child can feel restless or on edge when this need is not being met. You can help your child gain knowledge and self-actualization by rewarding your child when he or she asks questions and by supporting his or her interests. Help your child with homework, play educational games with and read to him or her. You can also share your own interests with your child, whether they be art, music, film, theater, reading, sports or outdoor activities.

Meeting these common needs of children will help them develop into independent adults and achieve their goals and independence. As parents, it is our job to fulfill our children’s emotional needs and help them on their way to independence.

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