See the Needs Behind Every Action

“When we understand the needs that motivate our own and others’ behaviour, we have no enemies.”
Marshall B. Rosenberg, American Psychologist, Creator of “Non-violent Communications” (1934- )

Your child’s annoying, sometimes seemingly illogical, actions are his attempt to satisfy a need whether it is for attention, consideration, a chance to choose, or autonomy. You will always be much better off if you try to determine what need is driving the unwanted behaviour. You will be able to better connect and then start to work on correcting the behaviour.

Often what we refer to as a need is not; instead it is a strategy for meeting a need. For example a video game is not a need. Instead, it is a strategy for relaxing. Going to bed is not a need, but a strategy for being fresh in the morning.

This distinction between needs and strategies is important since practically all conflicts, arguments, fights, and power struggles are over strategies, and can be prevented by focussing respectfully on the needs behind the strategies.

The litmus test for needs is “Is it a need that everyone has?”; if not, then it is likely to be a strategy for meeting a need.

If we use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a starting point, we should recognize that everyone has similar needs, but the priorities or urgency may vary. Needs change over a lifetime and many adult needs have yet to appear in a child. Among the common needs of children and adults are:

1. Physiological:
physical nurturing (air, water, shelter, healthy food, touch), rest, exercise

2 Safety:
physical, emotional

3. Love, Affection and Belongingness:
appreciation, belonging, closeness, companionship, community, consideration, empathy, honesty, interdependence, kindness, love, power, reassurance, respect, sharing (gifts, talents, joys and sorrows), support, to matter to someone, trust, understanding, warmth

4. Self-Esteem:
fun, play, achievement, acknowledgement, authenticity, challenges, clarity, competence, creativity, integrity, knowing our gifts and talents, meaning, purpose, privacy, self-development, self-expression, self-worth

5. Self Actualization:
creativity, contribution, relationship with the world (beauty, contact with nature, harmony, inspiration, order, peace)

We’ve just complicated the role of parents … you need forensic science and psychiatry skills to be able to match unwanted behaviour to this extensive range of needs. Parents also need to be teachers in order to properly guide their children’s learning … and quick learners since most parents have to learn “on the fly”. Concentrate on listening to your children, allow them to share their opinions, and then discuss ways to satisfy their needs.

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