What children say they need

For this blog I thought it was time to climb off the perch of assuming to know what children need. There seem to be so many “parenting experts” around at the moment, and I prefer to remember that, in a way, each parent is the expert when it comes to their child. After all, who else knows that child as well as the parent?

To this end, I decided to ask the children themselves the simple question, “What do children need?” Each child I asked took the question most seriously, sat back in the chair, and really pondered before answering.

My first customer was Meg, 7 years old. “Children need food, water, nice warm clothes, people to look after them, brothers and a sister, otherwise its lonely, and when it’s their birthday to have nice treats, and a nice big garden to play in with a jungle gym.” I realised that she was simply describing her own life. Clearly she has what she needs.

Sometimes the answer was more simple. One girl just spoke of the need for friends, probably because at that time she was struggling to make friends. Olivia,7, was more philosophical. “Children need to work hard, take pride in their work, be kind and be helpful. They also need food, water, exercise and to learn and read.” I asked her what would be the one most important thing she could think of that summed up what children need. For this she thought long and hard, then said, “It’s never hate.”

It became interesting when I probed a bit. Hayley also spoke of the need for warm houses and food and water, and to have nice parents. “Nice?” I asked. “They don’t shout at you and are fair”, was what she meant. She also mentioned friends, meaning friends “who don’t call you names.” She then said you need a family that lets you sometimes just run around and have fun and at the same time make sure that you are safe. They must also make sure that you go to school.” “Freedom, love and somebody to go to, and to be kept safe”, was Kelly’s response.

I asked some older children just entering their teens what children need. These answers revealed the life stage they were entering. The challenge of the teenage years is to take more responsibility, to become more independent. I discussed the question with a group, and the answers were: “We need love and support, to be reprimanded, firmness, someone to listen to us, someone to help us to do things so we can learn to do things for ourselves, to give us attention and encourage us. We need to know what is right and what is wrong. We need time to be creative.(When I asked why this was so important the answer was that being creative helps you to learn about yourself.) They also said how it helps to write down what you feel to deal with difficult feelings and experiences. And all of them stressed the need for friends. Friends you can count on and learn from.

Not one child mentioned anything about needing cell phones, or trips to Disneyland. They seemed to understand quite clearly NEED as opposed to WANT. They were grateful for what they have and enjoyed being asked the question. Perhaps we don’t do that enough. Children love to be consulted and asked their opinions on important issues, and it seems to bring out the best in them.

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Published in: on May 21, 2010 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment