Are You Meeting ALL Your Child's Basic Needs?
By Frank McGinty
This may come as a surprise, but many parents are unaware of the
full extent of their child's basic needs.
Do you remember the old song by Lennon and McCartney about the
girl leaving home after 'living alone for so many years'? The
parents were desolate. They'd given her everything money could buy -
so how could she possibly have been lonely and unhappy?
Clearly, there were some needs that just weren't being met at
home, so the girl upped and left.
What are these basic needs we must be aware of if we're to be
There are four categories: physical, emotional, intellectual and
So often people overestimate the first category, physical needs -
but let's not underestimate them either! We all need food and drink,
warmth, clothing and shelter to protect us from the elements. These will sustain life, but by themselves they won't promote
positive relationships. Some parents, however, shower their kids
with material things in order to over- compensate for the other
areas. And we all know that, despite their wealth, many of these same
kids are miserable. Their other needs are just not being met.
Probably the most obvious of these other needs is emotional in
nature. Love and affection are vital, but there's more to it. Children need constant reassurance! When our personalities are
forming we are on the lookout for feedback, so that we know what to
accept and what to reject.
We also form our picture of ourselves from the feedback we get
from others, especially those who have 'significant' roles in our
lives: parents first, then siblings, relatives, teachers, friends
and so on.
The bottom line is that a child doesn't really know what to make
of himself until that feedback comes in. And they make value judgments so quickly! 'Hey, I'm pretty
good at this, everybody tells me so!' Or how about, 'Yeah, I guess I'm a pretty stupid, useless
person. They always laugh at me. That's if they take any notice at
As a parent it's easy for you to praise the child who's doing
well, but the child who's struggling needs as much - no, needs more
- praise and encouragement. And so often we overlook this.
If you take the time to listen to your kids, to take their
interests and ideas seriously - even if they seem petty, trivial or
irrelevant - then you are investing heavily in your children's
Although many parents are becoming aware of the emotional needs
of children, some are a bit hazy when it comes to their intellectual
needs. There's still a perception that those kids who do well at school
just happen to be the 'brainy' ones. Yet a wide body of research suggests that school or 'academic'
success will be determined by a child's positive self-image AND by
the stimulation and interaction the child receives at home.
These affect the thought-processes of the child, and the
thought-processes (HOW the child thinks) are the tools used in
learning. Kids who perform well at school consistently come from homes
where there's a lot of mental stimulation through play, a variety of
experiences, and interaction through discussion and conversation.
Finally, if intellectual needs are hazy, there appears to be
downright confusion over spiritual needs.
That children have spiritual needs comes as a shock to some
parents, and others hotly dispute this need. This seems to be
because most people associate spiritual needs with religion, but
they are not necessarily related to religious beliefs. It's generally accepted in modern educational and clinical
psychology that we all have spiritual needs.
It's helpful to make your kids aware that there are greater
forces and powers at work in nature and in the universe, and that
their lives work best when they are in harmony with these. You can meet your kids' spiritual needs by participating in your
religion, but also by fostering a sense of awe and wonder about the
grandeur of the world.
Teach your children to respect nature and the life force that
On to this can be built an appreciation of the diversity and
variety of human lives and customs. As a result your kids will grow up with a value system, which
when followed will lead to contentment and happiness.
A well-rounded individual, then, is one who's needs are met in
all the above categories: physical, emotional, intellectual and
Take action now to meet ALL your kid's basic needs. It's never
too late, but obviously the earlier you start, the better. Your kids
will be well-balanced and happy.
And you? Well, you'll be taking pride and pleasure in a job well
Frank McGinty is an internationally published author, teacher,
and owner of FamilyTimeOut.com where he and his wife,
Grace, a family & child care social worker, help parents
develop their personal and family skills. Click here www.familytimeout.com/family.html
to sign up for their free e-zine, Family Features, and
free six-part e-course.