Every child has wants and every child has needs. Sometimes what we think our child wants is actually what our child needs. It is sometimes difficult for us to distinguish the difference between a want and a need as we too are like children in the way we react to our own wants and needs. It is not impossible however to determine whether our child needs something or simply just wants it.
Here are some examples of wants rather than needs. Our infant is crying because our toddler has a toy that the baby wants. Of course the toddler did in fact have this toy first and the baby just likes it and has too little patience to wait his/her turn. This is a want. Taking the toy from the toddler and giving it to the baby may calm down the baby, but now we have an upset toddler with a need; not a need for the toy, the need for affection and understanding as to why the toy was taken from him/her. In return, this only teaches both children that crying is an effective tool to getting what they want. Another example is when our teenage daughter comes home from school to tell us that the ‘Spring Dance” is approaching and she insists that she “needs” the newest, hottest earrings to complete her dress attire. Now, though this may seem like a need as the earrings may go perfect with what she is wearing, it is actually a want. She does not “need” new earrings, she simply wants them.
There are many examples as to when your child wants something and they are very smart at working at you to make you believe that it is a need. You have to be careful when making decisions regarding needs and wants. Our ten year old son falls from his bike and begins to cry. He has a need. He has the need for love and affection. He may not even be hurt at all but he still “needs” an understanding parent to comfort him. Our six year old comes into the room and says that he/she is scared and wants to sleep with us. This is a need. It is hard to believe that because we all know that nothing is going to happen to the child if he/she goes back to their own room; however, the child doesn’t know that. This is a need. If we do not feel that we want the child sleeping in our room, we can always go to there room with them and either talk to them, read to them, watch television with them, or just lie there with them for a little while until they feel more secure and comforted. When our children come up to us and ask us if they can watch television or play a video game, we should stop and ask them if they minded if we join them. No ordinary child is just going to come up to us and say “mom, dad, stop what your doing and tend to my need”. Although some children will ask you to do things with them, most children merely give off hints. Sadly, many of us parents are so caught up in our own lives and trying to keep our own schedules that we are blinded from all hints given and eventually our child ceases to persist trying to get our attention and we often miss out on the opportunity to spend time with our child. The child goes off to play alone and often feels rejected and ignored.
Many of us think that our lives are too complicated and our schedules are too full that we are afraid to slow down from time to time to make room for more important things. Some of us may have so much on our minds that we tent to forget those around us, including our children. No matter what the situation is, there should always be enough time set aside for our child. We are afraid to slow down because we feel that we may fall behind. We often think that our jobs are too important but our children are even more important and we need to realize that our children are only with us for a short time and everything else Can wait. We put off our children thinking that what we are doing is the best thing for our children because we are providing a stable home for them. What our children need more than clothes, a house, and even food is our attention and our support. Many of us are guilty of certain well know phrases such as, “Grow up!’, “Get up, your OK”, or “I am busy right now, maybe later!”. We all wish that our children would get out of the many different phases the child faces, but when we slow down, we realize that our children are growing up way too fast and we are missing so much. The child knows he/she is OK, but they want the attention and love from us to make them feel OK. We may be busy, but the child grows up, gets older and eventually we feel that our children do not need us as much. We have been going so fast in our own lives that we have missed a lot in our child’s life. “Maybe later” is not always promised to us that we will get a chance later.
We need to take the opportunity when it approaches. We should never stop listening to and showing our child attention, no matter what age they become. This does not mean that we should hold our teenagers hand as we walk through the store, or rock our ten year old to sleep because he/she has been crying to get their way. This also does not mean that we should give in to every situation. A child should be taught right from wrong and a child she be taught needs from wants. They should not be taught that we are going to run at every situation but they should know that we are always going to be there through the good and the bad. Identifying the needs and wants of our children helps us to become better parents and teaches the child to grow up to be a good person. Children are merely a mirror image of ourselves. The way we want our children to act, the person we want our children to grow up to be begins with us. We must act the way we intend for our children to act. The old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do!” is a bad example of good parenting. You should not expect anything more from your child than what you have taught them yourself. You should not frown down upon your child if they are merely acting out what they have seen you as an adult do. We as parents are not always to blame for our child’s actions but there is one saying that i believe to be very truthful and that is “The apple does not fall far from the tree!”. Love your children and they will love you.