We all know that we have basic physical needs such as having sufficient food, being sheltered and kept warm. But we all have important emotional needs as well which, when not met, can lead to anxiety and stress and even mental or physical illness. These essential needs are:*

  • security
  • autonomy and control
  • the opportunity to both give and receive attention
  • emotional connection to others
  • connection to a wider community
  • privacy
  • status
  • sense of achievement and competence
  • sense of meaning or purpose in our lives


This is fairly straightforward. But where it gets bit more tricky is in understanding that we all have our own ways of meeting those common needs. And the methods of our children, may not resonant easily with us. For example, whereas we may instinctively work to get our need for attention met by pleasing other people, our child may decide it is more fun to be outrageous or shocking. This may rub us up the wrong, and our first reaction may be to get angry with her. However, if we take time to pause, to remind ourselves that the behaviour, albeit perhaps inappropriately, is attempting to get a need met, it is easier for us to respond to and re-direct her with understanding. That way she feels heard, and is more able to take the re-direction on board.


As well as responding uniquely to the world around us, we also perceive it in our own individual way. This can be another area where there is a mismatch between us and our children. We have to be aware of this so that we can prevent misunderstandings. For example, we may be proud of our child who is achieving B grades across the board. We perhaps feel sure that her need for achievement must be adequately met. After all, we only ever got C grades. How good is that, that our child is doing that much better? And so why is it that we can see her sense of academic self-esteem is still low? Her perception is different from ours because her experiences are different and the conclusions that she’s drawn from those experiences is also different. So, what she has decided about herself, and what she has decided about the world and her place within it is also different from the things that we tell ourselves. Being open to these differences allows our thinking in response to our children to perhaps be more lateral, and our behaviour to be more compassionate and to resonate with them better.


The good news is that being aware of these things can make parenting even more interesting as we don’t merely react to our children off the cuff, but take time to consider how their patterns of feeling and behaviour, and their beliefs about themselves, may not match ours and, given that, we can work towards helping them get their needs met in a way that both works for them and is socially and culturally appropriate. Even better news is that, in turn, this makes our relationship with our children even better, and everybody’s life easier and happier.

* This list of needs was compiled by the Human Givens Institute

To find out how understanding children’s emotional needs better could benefit you and your family, please contact Sarah.

By | 2014-08-04T15:34:52+00:00 June 5th, 2013|Parenting|0 Comments

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