Today is my oldest daughter’s birthday. Birthdays remind me of new beginnings, celebrations, life, and my Creator. As I reflect on the joy she brings to my life, I am also reminded of a few simple things all children need and want. My daughter brings joy to our family and those around us, because she is well taken care of. But many children are not as fortunate. Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” tells us we all have certain things we need to live and thrive. As we thrive, we are better equipped to achieve our goals and ultimately, succeed in life. Children have five “basic” needs. As parents, we are required to provide those needs so our children can thrive.
“Mommy, I’m hungry!” Daddy, I’m cold.” We are all familiar with these statements. Children have physical needs like food, water, shelter, clothes, etc. Of course, I won’t insult your intelligence by expounding too much on this area, but many children even lack these basic needs. They go to school without eating, live under a bridge, and have dirty clothes or no running water. I understand life can deal us circumstances which throw us for a loop, but our job as a parent requires us to do whatever is necessary to provide these physical needs for our children.
Children also have safety needs like a stable home environment, support from parents, protection from bad things, etc. This sounds relatively easy and a “no brainer”, but many kids simply do not have a stable home environment. They see momma with a different boyfriend every weekend. They see daddy hitting mommy in the face. They hear their parents fighting in the bedroom. They move from house to house so mommy can avoid paying the rent. These are not “stable” environments in which children can thrive. It causes them to have difficulty focusing in school which makes it difficult to learn and make good grades. Furthermore, many kids do not receive support at home to be what they want to be or to try something new. Encouraging words are few and far between. They hear, you are so bad; you’ll never become anything; you are just like your “no-good” dad; you are fat; etc. What they hear is ‘you are not good enough’. How can they hope to become something when they are not encouraged to achieve better? It’s our responsibility to provide a stable, positive environment and if we cannot, to find a stable environment for our children.
Kids also need to belong. They need a family structure. They need to feel wanted, desired and loved first from home. If they don’t find love at home, they WILL find it somewhere else. Most likely it will be in a gang, group of immature friends, the streets, an older man, a woman seeking love herself or who knows where. Parents have to make time to say “I love you” to their children and demonstrate it daily by spending quality time together and communicating. Children just want to be loved and feel accepted. Parents have to be careful not to always rehearse the negative things we see in our children without praising the positive. Most times, children know when they have done something wrong and yes, they should be corrected but there’s a correct way to do it. How many times do we tell them they’re doing well in school (there’s probably at least one subject they are doing great in)? How often do we take them out for a treat “just because”? It’s easy to do nice things on their birthdays, holidays or special days, but doing something “just because” means so much more.
Kids need esteem. They crave complements and praise. They need encouragement on a regular basis. They need to feel special and important. They need to see positive role models. They need to see true beauty comes from within. They need to see mommy and daddy achieving goals. They need friends—good friends who are a positive influence on them. They need to be respected. They shouldn’t be treated like an animal or called names. They will rise to the level of our expectation. If we treat them with no respect, they will give no respect. If we treat them with respect, they will give respect.
Finally, kids need self-actualization. They need good values and morals. They need to build character and develop leadership abilities. They need to set goals for themselves and learn how to achieve them. They need parents to help them achieve goals. They need to see mommy and daddy at their football games and dance recitals. They need mommy and daddy to go to church with them. They need to see mommy and daddy praying for them. They need to be a part of family meetings and have a say in family matters. They need to be able to think creatively and come up with solutions to problems. They need to learn how to give back to their community even at a young age. This is the highest level of needs which really pushes children to be and do their best! This is where we can really make a difference as parents. If we give our children the tools they need to succeed, they will have an even better life than we do and our communities will become stronger and better!
~ Coletta Jones Patterson