There is a lot of pressure for kids to excel in school, at test taking, to join numerous extra-curricular activities, and even (from themes in the media) to be sexy. But what do our kids really need to grow up to be healthy and successful? In the past, I’ve touched on some of the things children need, including love, attention, affection, to be heard, and to be disciplined with respect. My focus now is on noticing what your kids are telling you they need. Here’s one way this occurred in our family that came as a surprise…
A while back, when my daughter was well past toddlerhood, she asked to drink from a baby bottle. I was taken aback since she hadn’t been using bottles for a long time at that point. However, I knew my reaction was coming from my own beliefs about what a six-year old should and shouldn’t be doing. I paused, didn’t react and thought about what she was telling me underneath her request. On a deeper level, drinking from a bottle may have been about her need to feel taken care of or to have no responsibilities. When I put myself in her shoes and imagined all the pressure she might be feeling as she grows up, I could understand her need. Since I also knew that what she was asking for was harmless, I bought her a bottle. I knew that when this need in her had been met, she would give the bottles up. For the time being, that was what she needed.
Notice what your child is asking you for. There’s a good chance it may not be as surprising as my experience. Perhaps your kids are asking you to play with them, read to them, or to eat together as a family or in a fun way like a livingroom picnic on a cold day. They would be asking for connection with you. Maybe your children are asking to return to an earlier stage of their development, as my daughter did. This could appear in the form of revisiting their need to suckle, to be taken care of, or revisiting elimination (bladder & bowel) issues by asking to wear diapers, for example. Most children return to that stage, get that need met, and, when they’re done, move on. If we don’t make a big deal about it, chances are this need will pass quickly.
Of course, it is your job to monitor that your child is safe and emotionally healthy. And if you are uncertain whether what your child wants is, indeed, emotionally healthy, talk it over with a professional, such as your therapist or pediatrician. Helping your child get his/her needs met now will go a long way toward helping him or her develop into a healthy and successful adult. They’ll have learned it’s okay to ask someone when they have a need and this skill they will use time and again in adulthood with adult needs.
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