In last week’s post, I wrote about the significant role the parent-child relationship plays in preventing at-risk behavior in our children. This week I want to focus on the simple, most basic, foundational needs of any healthy parent-child relationship.
Abraham Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs
We all have needs. Our needs range from very basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter and extend to ‘higher’ level needs, such as actualizing our potential and living a life of purpose and fulfillment. Noted psychologist, Abraham Maslow theorized that human beings fulfill their needs in this order (from bottom to top):
This pyramid can serve as a fantastic tool! (Hang it up next to that lovely food pyramid I know you all have hanging in your homes.) It breaks down so simply how we can identify not only what our needs are, but how to fulfill our children’s needs so that they can become the confident, independent, productive, and healthy adults we (and they!) want them to be.
A good friend of mine, Andrea Brownstein, summed this concept up so simply to me one day when she stated in her fine British accent that “our children need to be serviced first.” I always think of her statement and it serves as a reminder to me to think first about what it is my children require when they are feeling cranky or angry, or when they are not listening to what I am saying. Perhaps some of their basic needs have not been met. Perhaps they are hungry or tired, or perhaps they do not feel safe either at home, with their peers, or at school. Perhaps they are not feeling a sense of belonging, again, either at home or at school, or perhaps they are not feeling respected or heard in their lives.
We can also use this pyramid as a tool for ourselves. When we notice that we are ‘losing it’ more often than we would like to, getting angry, or feeling hurt or sad more easily, we can use this diagram to help ourselves figure out which of our needs requires fulfilling. Perhaps we are not getting enough sleep, or we are not eating regularly or consuming the foods that are good for us. Perhaps we are not feeling safe, or not feeling heard or loved. Or perhaps we are feeling that we are not actualizing our own full potential and fulfilling our own dreams.
What do we really need?
“All I really need is a song in my heart;
Food in my belly;
Love in my family.”
This is the chorus to the song by Raffi, the well-known and well-loved Canadian children’s singer of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. What strikes me about the lyrics to this song is the deep message its simplicity carries.
A song in my heart.
Perhaps ‘a song’ can mean that feeling of goodness, or of lightheartedness. I like to think that the song in my heart is that special uniqueness that sets us apart from the next person – our own message, our own unique purpose. We are born with this song. It is always within us, lying dormant; waiting for us to discover it and cultivate it (with the help, love and encouragement of the people in our lives) so that we can share it with the world.
Food in my belly.
Well, that’s the obvious one, isn’t it? But let’s not take for granted how important it really is. On a cold wintery day like today, it is the comfort foods that we crave for and remember growing up with. (I am a grown woman, and to this day I still crave my mother’s chicken soup when I am sick in bed.) It gives us the feeling that we are loved and being cared for. Having food readily available, clean clothes to wear, and a warm bed to sleep in are the basic needs we all deserve and require.
Love in my family.
Unconditional love and acceptance and the feeling and knowing that we are loved simply for who we are, is another basic, human need not to be taken for granted. Creating an atmosphere of love in our homes, where everyone is accepted, respected, encouraged, and heard allows for our unique gifts, qualities, and strengths (i.e. that lovely song found in each of our hearts) to shine forth.
It is the fulfilling of all of these basic needs that allow for each of us and our children to thrive in our lives and in our relationships.
You can find more information on what our real needs are, how to discover and fulfill them for ourselves, and how to teach our children to do the same, here.
Click on this link to watch and listen to Raffi perform his song “All I Really Need.”