Six things all children need

When I was in school, I had many professors teach about Abraham Maslow. He had a huge impact on psychology and many of his theories and studies have become the foundation for much of the work that we do with clients. One of his theories on motivation stated that we, as humans, are motivated not just by rewards or unconscious desires. He stated that we are motivated to achieve certain needs. What came of this idea was dubbed the hierarchy of needs. It’s basically a food group triangle but instead of grains, vegetables, and fruits, we have biological/physiological needs, safety needs, and love/belongingness needs among others. This makes a lot of sense to me seeing as how it would be difficult for a person to achieve intimacy with a friend or loved one if that same person is hungry (actually hungry- not skipped lunch hungry) or hadn’t slept in 2 weeks. Children operate much in the same way I think. The only difference is, children require care; they don’t come out of the womb ready to survive and take on the world all by themselves. After the bottom tier of the needs hierarchy is “achieved” (being fed, clothed, and kept warm), the 6 things that all children need sort of get all mashed together into one, large tier until they grow up.

The first thing all children need is acceptance. Acceptance by parents is the basis for forming a positive relationship from which they are able to learn to like and accept themselves. You can show acceptance through simple gestures that may seem mundane but often have a significant impact on children. For example, separate the deed from the doer. Looks like this: instead of “you are a bad kid”, go for “you made a bad decision”. See the difference?

Next may seem a bit obvious- Attention and love. Attention, along with acceptance, is what a child needs to feel loved, and is what is important for developing rapport with your children and positive feelings about self. As most of you parents may know, children WILL get attention- whether good or bad, they’ll get it. Their style of seeking attention and learning what gets them that attention will become a part of their self-image. Spend time with your child. It’s about quality, not quantity. Try this: ignore the unwanted behavior and praise, praise, praise the wanted behavior. I know, I know- you can’t ignore a kid taking a Sharpie to the wall. But take time to notice the little things your child does. Think about it. Nobody really pays a whole lot of attention to the child who’s sitting quietly, playing nicely, or uses good manners. It’s the kid who’s rowdy, out of control, or talks back who gets the attention. Tell your kid how awesome it is when they say “thank you” or “yes ma’am/yes sir”!

Next is security and safety. Yes, this is on Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs, but it looks a bit different with children. Assuming that the child already has “safety”- as in a roof over their head, no tigers chasing them, and not living in the streets of a post-apocalyptic city- boundaries and clear expectations are what we’re talking about here. Children need to know where you draw the line. Now, it is completely developmentally appropriate for children to push those boundaries- it’s what they are supposed to do! But parents, it is SO important for you to stand firm. The second that you allow a behavior that was once against the rules, your child now knows that you can be pushed past that old boundary. And trust me, it’ll only get worse from there. If your child doesn’t know where a boundary is, then there’s really no point of it being set. Make your expectations clear and consistent!

The forth thing all children need is understanding. Communicate. Listen. Get on their level and demonstrate interest and mutual respect- this encourages each of you to express your feelings and opinions openly and without fear of rejection. This includes problem-solving with your child. If your child comes home from school sad and looking dejected, your first instinct might be to call the mother of whomever did this and chew her out. But sometimes all kids need is your presence. Sit down next to your child and let them know simply that you care- “Oh man Sarah that must’ve really hurt your feelings. I’m so sorry honey.” You may sit in silence for the next 30 minutes but YOU ARE PRESENT. And that’s what is important.

Next is discipline. Create structure in your home by determining appropriate expectations. Much of what goes into discipline aligns with providing safety and security. Make sure the punishment fits the crime and stay consistent; not only with the punishments, but also between parents. Easiest and most common way to manipulate parents? Figure out which one will let you get away with the most and only ever ask that parent for permission. Your children can put a wedge between you and your spouse very quickly- unwittingly, of course.

Finally, children need values. Values are one of those subjects that are not easily taught in a lecture type setting. Can you imagine sitting your child down with a Power Point behind you and saying “Today I am going to teach you about kindness.” No! Values are best taught through what we call experiential learning. Your children watch what you do. So next time you’ve dragged little Billy to the dry cleaners with you and they have lost all of your clothes, try your hardest not to snap completely. Instead, opt for calm, cool communication to resolve the matter- your little Billy will learn that biting the dry cleaner’s head off in a fit of rage doesn’t get your clothes back. But being polite and respectful might get you a refund and payment for the amount of what your clothing costs. When it comes to teaching our children values, actions often speak louder than words.

Types of Bullying

In March we discussed the definition of bullying. Now, let’s look at the various types and what each involves.

Physical bullying is the most obvious form of intimidation and involves intentionally or deliberately hurting a person’s body or taking/destroying one’s possessions. Physical bullying includes:

+ Hitting/kicking/biting/pinching/hair pulling

+ Spitting

+ Tripping/pushing

+ Taking or breaking someone’s things

+ Making mean or rude hand gestures

Additionally, this form of bullying can involve making threats to do physical harm if the bully’s demands (ex: giving up your money, other valuables, etc.) are not met. 

Verbal bullying, which often accompanies physical behavior, is someone saying or writing inappropriate things about another person. Verbal bullying includes:

+ Persistent teasing, taunting, name-calling

+ Inappropriate sexual comments

+ Spreading rumors

+ Threatening to cause harm

Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves emotional intimidation where the bully intentionally aims to hurt someone’s reputation or relationships by:

+ Deliberately excluding someone from a group activity such as a party or school outing

+ Telling others not to be friends with someone

+ Spreading rumors about someone

+ Embarrassing someone in public

Racist Bullying involves making racial slurs, spray painting graffiti, mocking the victim’s cultural customs, and making offensive gestures. 

Sexual Bullying is unwanted sexual advances in the form of physical contact, abusive comments, gestures, actions, or attention that is intended to hurt, offend, or intimidate another person. Sexual bullying focuses on things like a person’s appearance, body parts, sexual orientation, or sexual activity.

Cyberbullying – with the proliferation of electronic devices cyberbullying allows a person to target, torment, threaten, harass, humiliate, or embarrass another through the of posting personal information, pictures or videos. What differentiates this form of bullying from other types is the far-reaching and instantaneous impact it can have due to the various electronic platforms that are shared by all people: social media sites, email, chat rooms, instant messaging and texting. To a great extent cyberbullying is also persistent (24/7) because the information is live and remains continually accessible to all. Additionally, the offender is readily able to continue this form of bullying since it takes seconds to post offensive information online.

CONSIDER

If any of the information above is resonating with you because it seems a friend or family member is experiencing some of the same behaviors, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. Sometimes we don’t have it in our ability to fix the situation for one reason or another or, perhaps, we may be unsure that bullying is actually taking place. Either way, by opening up to someone we know, we can avoid the isolation that comes from being unsure. Moreover, creating a dialogue also creates awareness and provides the opportunity to receive guidance from individuals who can ultimately help.

Sources:

Types of Bullying: http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/index.html

Forms of Bullying: http://www.stompoutbullying.org/index.php/information-and-resources/about-bullying-and-cyberbullying/forms-bullying/

Cyberbullying: http://kidshealth.org/teen/school_jobs/bullying/cyberbullying.html?tracking=T_RelatedArticle

Stay tuned for… When bullying escalates and becomes a criminal offense

Life Lessons from my Lab (George) #5: Healing

George 5

“George stop it! No! No George!” I yelled across the room at my dog.

George lifted his head and then cocked it to one side as if to say, “Who me?”

“Yes you!” I exclaimed as I walked over and crouched down beside him.   I talk to my yellow lab frequently as if he understands me. Don’t’ worry about it… I’m aware it’s weird. I examined the lower area of his leg to find that his wound had not healed. In fact it looked worse.

“Why will he not leave his leg alone?” my husband wondered in a frustrated tone. “If he would stop licking it, it would heal!”

“I don’t know, but are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Yep.” He chuckled and turned to look at our dog. “Sorry buddy. It’s time for the cone of shame.”

Now the “cone of shame,” is really just an e-collar, and e-collars prevent animals from pulling off bandages etc. after a procedure has been done. At our house we lovingly call it the cone of shame because of the look George gives us when he has to wear one. I have to say, it’s pretty pathetic and equally hilarious to watch our hundred pound lab walk around wearing a huge Elizabethan style collar. He runs into EVERYTHING and cannot walk through a door without getting one of the sides of the collar stuck on the wall. He constantly knocks over furniture and in the midst of the chaos, my husband and I cannot help but laugh.

George hates the cone, but the cone is necessary. The cone keeps George from aggravating his wound. Though annoying and burdensome, without it, George’s wound would never heal. He would just keep licking his leg, without even realizing that he was making it worse!

I started thinking about the different ways that we aggravate our own wounds; the ways we prevent past hurts from healing. We try to make it better. We try to make the pain go away. But no matter what we do, we can’t figure out how to make it heal. We focus so much on the pain that we become hyper-focused and stuck in a pattern or cycle that only makes the wound more raw and exposed. We are unable to see any other way to heal. If only someone else would step in to show us a different way. If only we could see the bigger picture. If only someone would help guide us in another direction, any other direction that might actually assist in the healing process. This is where I come in.

As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I am trained to walk with people through their pain, and begin the process of restoration. If you feel stuck, as if there is no end to your suffering, there is hope! Give us a call here at Heritage and let’s start the process of your restoration.