Successfully meeting children's needs

Understanding and meeting children’s needs sometimes seems impossible but it is always worth the time and energy.

Children make many demands on their parents and caregivers. The way parents and caregivers respond to their children’s demands teaches children about the kind of world they live in. Children learn to trust or mistrust, feel safe or afraid, feel loved or unloved based on the way people, especially parents, respond to them.

When a baby cries because of a dirty diaper, and you gently change the diaper while talking to the baby; the child learns that world is safe and caring. If a baby cries because of a dirty diaper and you ignore or yell at the child, the child may feel that the world is frightening and unsafe. A school-age child learns the feeling of safety when people listen to what they say and take an interest in what they do. Teenagers feel loved when parents and adults discuss decisions with them and listen to their opinions.

When adults show caring and love in meeting children’s needs, we help them grow up to be strong and caring people.

Understanding children’s needs and taking care of those needs can be very challenging at times. One reason is that as parents and caregivers, we are more aware of our own needs than that of the children’s. For instance, we may get upset when our child gets sick just as we are going to work or to a meeting. It is natural to feel upset at the untimely demand.  We may ask, “Why does this child always do this to me?” Children do not plan their sickness to bother us. Sometimes their needs simply come into conflict with ours.

However, if we learn to expect some difficulties and make an effort to better understand and plan for our children’s needs, it can make this challenge easier and improve our relationship with our children.

Children have different needs at different ages. For example, a child who is learning independence needs many opportunities to make decisions. When we allow children to try new things, they develop skills and confidence.

Children often face challenges that they do not know how to handle. We can aid them by being patient and, when they are developmentally ready, by teaching them skills. No two children are the same. Remember to treat each child as an individual, observe and respect their differences, and help them grow.

One of the best things parents can do is to continue to learn about the ages and stages of children. Staying on top of what is typical of children at different ages will assist you in successfully meeting their needs. For more information on parenting, visit Michigan State University Extension.

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