Parenting

What your child needs and what he wants

Parentune Support
1 to 3 years

Created by Parentune Support
Updated on Dec 03, 2014

What your child needs and what he wants

Is your child crying and demanding something again—your attention, something to eat, or just asking you to take him outdoors? But, then children are like this. They always want something! But, stop and think. Is it something he wants, or is it something he needs. Because, the nature of the demand will determine how urgently and importantly, you should attend to him. The challenge to understand the difference between needs and wants of a child has always been tight-knotted in parenting. We try and decode here, how to identify a need from a want, and how to then treat each.

NEEDS OF A CHILD
Let’s start with the need. One of the ways to identify a need could be a natural or basic demand of a child that, when fulfilled, leaves him satisfied, physically and emotionally. The needs of a child can be physical needs such as the demand for food and clothes. The other aspect is the
EMOTIONAL NEEDS:
This is the tricky one: emotional needs are more subjective like unconditional love, undivided attention and support. For eg: A chance to be allowed to explain when a mistake occurs, comes from a need to be respected; to be appreciated in a crowd is based on the need for motivation; to be allowed to share your bed, when he wakes up in the middle of the night is based on the need for love and security; to be excused for bed wetting comes from the need to be trusted.

Why pay attention to emotional needs?
While physical needs can be provided by anybody, emotional needs can be fulfilled only by parents. And when these feelings of need go unattended, they can get retained in the emotional memory of the child. They lump up into feelings that children carry along for a long time till they heal from the hurt. It is very important to answer the emotional needs of the child because it strengthens the child's emotional foundation. Also, because the emotional needs of a child are mostly related to 'feelings' and are long lasting, when such feelings get collected, children tend to let it out through their tantrums.
I remember my friend telling me about how her 5 year- old daughter wanted to style her hair in a particular way for a birthday party. After my friend spent more than an hour on the girl's hair and felt fully convinced of a neat work, the girl looked at herself in the mirror, smiled and in a moment, pulled out the band that tied up all her hair. The child's reaction was so instant that it shocked my friend. When asked for a reason, the child replied, “I just wanted to see if u would do it for me the way I want”. The daughter's need was to confirm her mom's love for her and for that she had created a situation.

dealing with needs
1) Give Attention: Reach out to the child before he reaches out to you. Simple direct questions sometimes help the child understand his own feelings and yours.
For example, if your child comes back from school with an angry face, walks into his room and shuts the door, you need to calm your anxiety first. Here, his need is to be alone. Allow your child some privacy. He is just trying to handle his feelings by himself. After sometime, you can gently knock and say “hey, you seem so upset. Whatever happened, I am here for you.” That’s it. Silently walk away without forcing him to open the door. Even after he comes out if he is not willing to talk about it, respect that. Do not force him to share.
2) Regular dedicated time with peppy talks: This can help the child talk out a lot of hidden fears and anxieties. Also, instil a feeling of security by habitual hugs and kisses. Physical closeness is mandatory for a child who is going through a hard-time. It also satisfies the need for love.
3) Sharing your own feelings: Sometimes, children are more mature than we think they are, so treat them in a mature way. Share your own anxieties and fears in turn helping them feel less lonely with their fears and make them feel easy to open up. And remember, never de-value their feelings. They stop sharing.
4) By understanding the emotional needs of your child: Watch your child's response and behaviour at different situations, and understand what his needs are, his likes and dislikes, if he is shy and quiet or happy and out spoken; treat him as an individual with his own character. It satisfies his emotional need for respect and identity; appreciate his actions. It fulfils his need for confidence; reassure him with encouraging words. It satisfies his need for support.

WANTS OF A CHILD
The wants, on the contrary, are mostly demands of a child that give them temporary satisfaction. Such wants are more materialistic or physical. For example, strong tantrums for silly toys, refusing to take bath, demand for more TV time etc. A parent plays a crucial role here in helping the child deal with their desires for instant gratification.

Dealing with wants

When the child demands or throws tantrums for something that is untimely or unnecessary, first ask him the reason for it. Have a questioning conversation rather than just forcing him to blindly accept what you say. For eg: ask him "Do you really think more TV time is needed?" or "Don't you think we can use this money on something better for you?” And remember, do not tell him to listen to you just because you are his parent. Children too need reasons.
But there is a catch here: sometimes children satisfy their emotional needs through physical wants. When a child is denied a favourite toy, we often hear him say “You do not love me at all". We have to watch out for such episodes where the child will relate his need of love with the want of the toy and feel rejected. Explain to him why you are unable to fulfil his wish at that moment. He is sure to understand. Many of our denials are not accepted by them because we refuse them instantly and very harshly with angry tone. It is important to be subtle in our denials.
Also, you can promise him the object of his want for future and fulfil it later. This will teach a child to be patient and also learn to let go and value things better. For eg: when a child throws tantrums to get the first chance in a game, it is a want that can be delayed with calm assertive tone by saying "sorry dear. You have to wait for your turn, and I will help you wait".
Such kind handling of situations help the child sober down and become more accepting.

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