All of us have basic needs. When our needs aren't being met, we instinctively set out to meet them. Because this is an instinctive act, we may not always be aware that our actions are designed to meet our needs but the result is the same. It is important to understand what our basic needs are, learn how to meet them in healthy ways and to know when your children's needs are not being met.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Dr. Herbert Maslow, put together a pyramid that shows us the different basic human needs that we all have. Each level of the pyramid is a foundation for the next, beginning with the bottom and working it's way towards the top. In order to successfully fill the needs of one level, the level before it has to be fully satisfied or you won't have the resources needed to fill the needs of the higher level. A person.s growth stops when they are not able to completely fill the needs of a particular level and are therefore unable to reach a higher level of human development. Maslow intimated that few people are able to master the highest level of human needs.
Physical needs are those that are necessary for sustaining life. These have to be met before the individual is able to expend energy working on other needs. If you don't have food to eat, then your energy is focused in the pursuit of food, not in developing a safe environment or in seeking social acceptance. Likewise, a family whose ability to find proper shelter or clothing will not be able to properly provide for their security, social or spiritual needs.
Security needs are very important, especially in early development. Security needs include safety from tension, anxiety, and harm, both physical and emotional. When a small child is in a home where these needs are not being met, the results can be severe. Physically they can fail to thrive and become thin, sickly and even die. Emotionally, a child in an insecure environment can adopt serious defense mechanisms that will temporarily protect them from the insecure environment, but can result in serious mental illness later in life. If a child is being neglected physically or emotionally, if he is being ridiculed, teased profusely or abused in any form, or is in the midst of constant tension (as with an alcoholic or abusive parent) his security needs are in jeopardy. Filling a child's security needs should be fully in progress by the time they are six months old.
If we have a child who claims not to need friends and shows signs of reclusiveness, it may be that he is not comfortable functioning on that level because his security needs have been damaged or unmet. In either case it is important that the parent be aware of this and focus energy on helping the child rebuild his security needs.
Social Needs are those needs that cause us to seek acceptance from others. We all need to have a sense of belonging, to be loved, to have friends and to experience a confidential relationship with someone close to us. Teenagers are especially in need of having their social needs met and it is vital to their emotional development that they are allowed to do this. They need to seek out and form strong relationships with peers outside their home environment.
Parents are sometimes threatened by their child.s sudden need for autonomy and attempt to restrict the teens peer activities. This, in most cases is a mistake and is generally an attempt on the part of the parent to prevent the child from needing someone other than the parent. Parents are often concerned that their child will learn new things from peers or engage in unhealthy activities if they are allowed to spend time with them. If a parent has done their job, the child will be able to handle peer situations well. If the parent is insecure about the child's ability to handle outside influences, they need to work through their feelings (fears and insecurities) instead of hampering the child's development. Fear based parenting rarely bares the positive results we desire.
When our need for security, feeling loved and accepted are not met we still have the desire to feel accomplished but we become ill equipped to do so. The consequences are that we create maladaptive ways be convince ourselves and others that we are confident and secure when in fact we are not. Narcissism is a common example of a maladaptive way to compensate for insecurity.
Achievement needs is our way of creating situations in which we can feel important and of worth to ourselves and others. Setting and accomplishing goals is a great way to fill this need. Doing service for others, and achieving small successes are another way to fill this need. Often when we have not fully met our basic-level needs such as social needs, we attempt to fill this need in unproductive and unhealthy ways. This is often manifested in lying about one.s accomplishments, attempting to be seen as powerful or intimidating, or by controlling others as a way to convince ourselves that we are powerful and important. True achievement requires self confidence.
Self Actualization is the top of the pyramid. This can only be achieved when all the preceding needs have fully been met and maintained. Once they are met we are able to focus our energy outside of ourselves and find our own niche in life. We are able to gain deep satisfaction and joy from following the road we have chosen for ourselves. We experience inner peace and calmness and are seldom, if ever, troubled by external influences. We receive satisfaction from perfecting our skills and we are inclined to give back to the world and attempt to help others find and learn how to fill their needs.
Being in a helping profession does not mean that you have reached this stage of development. People in helping professions range from those who are self actualized to those who are stuck in a lower stage of development and have a neurotic need to feel revered, needed or superior to others. A truly self actualized mind manifests itself in every aspect of life through a consistently peaceful demeanor, an overall sense of well being and love for life and self. A self actualized person cares not about the negative opinions of others, and instead feels self confident, void of jealousy, insecurity and rage. They have the ability to give of themselves altruistically without the desire to receive something in return.
Spiritual Needs are also an important human need. Throughout history it can be seen that spirituality has been a strong motivating aspect of human nature. Although not everyone has an established religion to which they affiliate, everyone has an inner sense of spirituality which plays a large role in how they choose to live their life. This inner spirituality is what helps us to create our value system, our sense of ethics and the morals by which we live. The need is filled when we give it it's proper placement in our life and allow it to be a motivating factor in how we choose to live.
You Cannot Give what You Don't Have
Remember Monty Hall in the game show Let's Make A Deal? Every show he would go out into the audience and ask people if they had certain objects. From one he might ask for a hard boiled egg, from another, yellow paper clips. If the people had what he requested, they would be rewarded and if not they missed out. In life we have a storehouse of emotional objects that we have acquired over the years. When we become parents, we give these object to our children. If we have acquired patience, we are able to model patience, if we have acquired poor communication skills, we in turn pass them on to our children.
We are unable to offer others the things we have not yet acquired for ourselves. Like the game show contestant we are unable to give what is needed. If we want our children to be respectful to others but we have not acquired or consistently utilized that skill we are not able to give that life lesson to them. "Do as I say, not as I do" has never been an effective parenting tool.
Consequently, we must have a full reservoir of things that fill our basic needs in order to help fill our child.s basic needs. We need to have a full reservoir of love, before we can give love to our children, We need to have a full reservoir of acceptance before we are able to fill our child's need for acceptance. It is our duty as parents to give to our children and to keep our reservoir well stocked so that we have something to offer them.
Parents often demand more from their children than they require of themselves. A parent my hit the child for hitting a sibling, yell at the child for yelling or punish the child for lying when the parent doesn.t model complete honesty. If you want your child to behave differently then you must first learn to do so yourself. Hypocrital words fall on deaf ears.
Filling our ReservoirLooking at our life situation and recognizing areas of need is the first step. If we are homeless or unable to provide food clothing or shelter, then that is where we need to begin. If it is a struggle to provide these things, but they are available, then you are more able to go onto the next level. The same is true for the higher needs.
We can keep our reservoirs full by allowing ourselves to feel good about ourselves. Many of us have ample opportunity to fill our reservoir, but we don't allow ourselves to take in compliments from others, or we don't take time to give to ourselves. When someone points out something about us that they admire or appreciate, we need to allow ourselves to take it in. Say thank you and then internalize the compliment by acknowledging the truth of it.
Sometimes we are too quick to minimize the efforts we put into things in an attempt to appear humble, but humility is not the act of minimizing one.s self-worth. When someone says "wow you did a great job on the decorations," thank them, then allow yourself to look around at what you did and pat yourself on the back. Fill your bucket with the honest feeling of accomplishment.
Just as we need to learn to take responsibility for the good things we do we also need to take responsibility for those things we've done that have contributed to a less than optimal outcome. We not only carry with us a reservoir of positive feelings, but we also have one that we fill with negative feelings. The goal is to continually empty our negative reservoir and to fill our positive one. When we take responsibility for the negative contributions we have made, we no longer need to put them into our reservoir. Instead, we deal with it by choosing to forgive ourselves, make restitution and move past it.
The Side Effects of Not Having Our Needs MetOur children let us know when their basic human needs are not being met. Because they are young and unsophisticated in their attempts to fill their needs, they find extreme ways of going about filling them. This is often referred to as acting out, or misbehaving. Every time a child acts out, it is an attempt to fill a basic human needs.
Kids bully their siblings because they are trying to fill the need to feel important either to themselves or to another. When the parent yells at them it is in a way supporting the child.s feeling of being important. They might be subconsciously thinking, "Mom recognizes me, she is paying attention to me, therefore I must be important." Granted, this is an ineffective way of filling the need, and in the long run, the negative feelings they feel towards themselves defeats the purpose, but it may be the only way they have learned to fill that need.
We need to recognize that an acting out child is a child in pain, one who is desperate to feel important, loved, accepted, or successful. If we can attend to the need instead of the behavior, we will not only extinguish the unacceptable behavior, but we will enable them to meet their own needs and to fill their own reservoir. You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on higher ground than they are.