The 7 Emotional Needs of Children
All children are born with emotional needs. These needs must be met by the adults in their life if they’re to grow into confident and independent adults. The acronym PARENTS summarises children’s needs (Protection, Acceptance, Recognition, Enforced limits, Nearness, Time and Support).
Protection: It’s crucial that all children feel safe and secure. This is essential for their very survival – and all children fear rejection and abandonment. They need a sense of order and predictability, routine, peace and stability – so they can learn to trust others, and build relationships. However, if trust is absent, and they feel insecure, they’ll start to put up walls to keep other people out, and they’ll find it hard to trust and get close to anyone.
Acceptance: All children need to feel that they are loved and accepted - for who and what they are – without any strings attached. They so desperately want to be worthy of acceptance, and cherished and loved despite their limits and their failings. This is crucial information - for their parent is a mirror who reflects back to them the world’s perception of the child. It should tell them they are valuable and worthy of love – so the child learns to value and believe in themselves. However, if a parent is demanding, harsh or critical then the child will develop chronic low self-esteem.
Recognition: Children have an innate need to make their parents happy, and are desperate for praise, and to hear their parents say: “I’m so proud of you. You did a fabulous job.” But if approval is withheld, so the child feels they are worthless, they’ll likely give up hope, and they will lose the will to try. This may show itself in angry, acting out behaviour … or the child may withdraw, and expect little in life.
Enforced Limits: Children need a sense of predictability. They need to see that rules are followed, so life is NOT chaotic. For the world feels scary and doesn’t make much sense if boundaries are fluid and “just anything goes”.
Nearness: Expressing love is crucial for communicating love - so children need to be held and be hugged by their parents. In a very concrete way, this sends the powerful message that the child’s needs matter, and their parents care for them.
Time: Children don’t distinguish between quality time and just hanging out, and spending lots of time with parents. They need to be in their presence, and to have their full attention, as that sends the message “I like being with you.” They then believe that others will like and want them, too.
Support: The outside world is a scary place for children. It’s full of unknown dangers and unmet challenges. Thus, to launch out and discover they can cope and survive, children need to be certain that their parents’ will be there. That is, they need their encouragement, their affirmation, their constant support and their belief in the child. That helps the child to venture into and explore the outside world, so they develop independence and increased autonomy.
“The thirst for vengeance does not come from nowhere. It has a clearly identifiable cause. The thirst for vengeance has its origins in infancy, when children are forced to suffer in silence and put up with the cruelty inflicted on them in the name of upbringing. They learn how to torment others from their parents, and later from their teachers and superiors. It is nothing other than systematic instruction by example on how to destroy others. Yet many people believe that it has no evil consequences. As if a child were a container that can be emptied from time to time. But the human brain is not a container. The things we learn at an early stage stay with us in later life.”—Alice Miller, The Origins of Torture In Endured Child Abuse
“[The] conditions in which children develop have been so corrupted and troubled over the last several decades that the template for normal brain development is no longer present for many, many kids. And Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, who’s a professor of psychiatry at Boston — University of Boston, he actually says that the neglect or abuse of children is the number one public health concern in the United States. A recent study coming out of Notre Dame by a psychologist there has shown that the conditions for child development that hunter-gatherer societies provided for their children, which are the optimal conditions for development, are no longer present for our kids. And she says, actually, that the way we raise our children today in this country is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well-being in a moral sense. So what’s really going on here now is that the developmental conditions for healthy childhood psychological and brain development are less and less available, so that the issue of ADD is only a small part of the general issue that children are no longer having the support for the way they need to develop. ... [A]ccording to a recent study published in the States, nearly half of American adolescents now meet some criteria or criteria for mental health disorders. So we’re talking about a massive impact on our children of something in our culture that’s just not being recognized.”—Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection, Addiction and the Destruction of American Childhood
“The reason a child will act unkindly or cause damage is always innocent. Sometimes she is playful and free spirited, and other times, when aggressive or angry she is unhappy or confused. The more disturbing the behaviour, the more the child is in pain and in need of your love and understanding. In other words, there is no such thing as bad behaviour in children. Instead there is a child who is doing the best she can and we don’t understand her.”—Naomi Aldort
Child PsychologyBlack Box Recorder
Look, just listen. It is a crying shame this song is so impossible to find.
“By the time he turned 5, Michael had developed an uncanny ability to switch from full-blown anger to moments of pure rationality or calculated charm — a facility that Anne describes as deeply unsettling. “You never know when you’re going to see a proper emotion,” she said. She recalled one argument, over a homework assignment, when Michael shrieked and wept as she tried to reason with him. “I said: ‘Michael, remember the brainstorming we did yesterday? All you have to do is take your thoughts from that and turn them into sentences, and you’re done!’ He’s still screaming bloody murder, so I say, ‘Michael, I thought we brainstormed so we could avoid all this drama today.’ He stopped dead, in the middle of the screaming, turned to me and said in this flat, adult voice, ‘Well, you didn’t think that through very clearly then, did you?’ ”—Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath?
Tiger Eyes Shaped Mysterious Sleepwalking Maniac
(It’s been a while since I felt like writing one of my regular links blogs, but here I am - I realised just then that I’d read a bunch of articles in the last few days, and that I felt like sharing them. The busiest part of semester for me is over for a bit, so I have more time and energy for stuff like this! So hi!)
The Maniac In Me by Daniel Smith (New York Times): Thoughtful piece on the nature of anxiety; Daniel and his brother both have anxiety, but of different qualities, and Smith elegantly portrays his adulthood as a quest to figure out how to best harness that anxiety rather than let it harness him.
The Mysterious Case Of The Vanishing Genius by Mike Martin (Psychology Today): Margie Profet was fascinated by human evolutionary biology, and clearly had an original mind. Perhaps one of her most interesting hypotheses (and one with some evidence behind it) is that allergies are the body defending itself against likely carcinogens - at least, people prone to allergies have lower rates of cancer. But Profet was an eccentric kind of person, too, and eventually decided to remove herself from the world between 2002-2005; nobody knows where she is now, whether she’s alive or dead. [via]
On Tiger Moms by Julie Park (The Point): As an Asian-American, Julie Park has seen the ‘Tiger Mom’ parenting technique of Amy Chua (e.g., relentless focus on achievement, no namby pamby ‘find your calling’ stuff) up close and personal, in her childhood and in her friends’ experiences. And here she discusses the complications of the technique, and what it can and can’t do for a child; and her piece makes you think about the unexamined assumptions we have about childhood and Western society, and that Amy Chua has about childhood and Western society. [via]
Do The Eyes Have It? by Pat Shipman (American Scientist): One funny thing about us humans is that our eyes have white sclerae. This is not the case for the other apes (apart from some rare mutations) - their sclerae (i.e., the bits that surround the iris) are darker. And Shipman argues that it may well be that the reason we’ve evolved white eyes is to communicate with dogs. After all, dogs are very unusual in that they seem to watch our eyes in a way almost no other animal does, and having white sclerae makes watching our eyes easier. And hunting animals is more successful with dogs. (Still, Australian aborigines went without dogs for tens of thousands of years, until traders bought dingoes a couple of thousand years ago. And their sclerae are white.) [via]
A Duplicated Gene Shaped Human Brain Evolution, And Why The Human Gene Project Missed It by Ed Yong (Not Exactly Rocket Science): The Human Gene Project had some limitations in terms of how it collated the human genome; one of which was that the techniques used had trouble identifying genes that are duplicated within the genome only in humans and not in other animals. It turns out that one of those duplicated genes, SRGAP2C, is responsible for human neurons having more synapses with longer stalks and bigger ‘heads’ than the neurons of other mammals; after all, more synapses almost certainly increases the overall amount of information a human brain can hold!
The Case Of The Sleepwalking Killer by Karen Abbott (Past Imperfect): In 1846 in Boston, a man named Albert J. Tirrell was tried for murdering Mary Ann Bickford, his romantic partner. Tirrell’s lawyer, Rufus Choate, knew that there was a fair bit of circumstantial evidence against Tirrell. And so he went for a novel defense - Tirrell had murdered Bickford in his sleep!
“I have never witnessed anything like the tidal wave of unwarranted enthusiasm for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children that now engulfs the public and the profession. Before 1995, bipolar disorder, once known as manic-depressive illness, was rarely diagnosed in children; today nearly one third of all children and adolescents discharged from child psychiatric hospitals are diagnosed with the disorder and medicated accordingly. The rise of outpatient office visits for children and adolescents with bipolar disorder increased 40-fold from 20,000 in 1994–95 to 800,000 in 2002–03.”—
I have students who wear “mental illness” and “learning disability” like a badge. I’m not trying to belittle real mental illness here; yet, I have hold myself in check every time a kid says, “Miss S, I just can’t do this. I’m not on my medication. I have depression.”
They sit there in class and cross references with each other: I have ADD, I have ADHD, I have insomnia, I have depression….
It’s not cool, kids. Really.