(& 4 Misguided Ways Children Try to Get Those Needs Met) in 8 Parts

When I recently concluded a parenting course and asked participants what they’d take with them on the journey, most of them referred to the teaching on the two fundamental needs of children, so I thought you’d like to hear more about it.

There are nearly as many theories as there are theoreticians in psychology about what a child, or any human, needs most profoundly in order to develop in a healthy way on all levels. Alfred Adler, the Austrian psychiatrist whose work inspired Positive Discipline, came up with this distillation and, well, it works for me, and I hope you too will find it useful.

  1. A sense of belonging and significance
  2. Perceptions of capability
  3. Personal power and autonomy
  4. Social and life skills (Nelsen, Erwin, Duffy 9)

The whole of Positive Discipline addresses all 4 of these fundamental needs. For our purpose here, we focus on the first – the need for a sense of belonging and significance. I generally present it as a plant reaching towards sunlight and water. Whenever I see one of our many houseplants contorting itself to get to the light, particularly in winter when the sun sets rather early behind those Alps, I think of children’s need for belonging and significance.

But what is that? Don’t all parents give that sense to their children except in extreme circumstances? Ah, but there’s the rub. Yes, nearly all parents do express to their children that they are important, valued and treasured but the critical point is how children experience and take in what we adults believe we feel so absolutely and communicate so clearly.