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How to assess for the needs of a child to improve behavior.

Our children are not bad, brats or spoiled. At least that is not why they act out. Some of what your child does is developmental and some has to do with their basic emotional needs not being met. When children act out, demand, tantrum, whine, hit, bite, etc.…this behavior should be a warning that signals to us parents/caregivers that this child needs something.

No…it is not a slap or spanking. I say that because this is some of the advice I have heard given to myself and others.

I don’t believe spanking is the answer. Kids learn EVERYTHING they see us do or hear us say. They watch our every move. If we hit, doesn’t this give them the idea that they can hit too?

Depending on the age, young children developmentally are unable to comprehend the difference between what Mommy and Daddy say versus what they do. They see or hear you, in their minds it is part of what people do. They are people too.

Which brings me to my next point…children are people. We must treat them as such.

So, I believe the answer to dealing with these challenging behaviors is to treat them with same kindness you would one of your friends. Would you yell at your friend for not sitting at the dinner table? Absolutely not! You would say in your kindest of voices, “In our home we all sit in our chairs at the table, I would love for you to join all of us in doing so.”

Of course your child is not your friend and they will most likely not respond in kind as a friend would, but you can still state your boundaries in a calm and firm voice. “I hear you that you do not want to sit and you may stand once dinner is finished. Right now we are eating dinner and we will be sitting together.” You can calmly hold that boundary by guiding a young child to the table or to sit, or staying close to an older child until they are able to follow the house rules.

Another way to handle these situations is to walk yourself through a needs assessment of your child.

Does your child need more…

  1. Certainty, a sense of safety or security?

  2. Variety, excitement or surprise?

  3. Significance or that she matters?

  4. Love and connection?

  5. Opportunities to grow on her own or with you?

  6. Opportunities to contribute around the home, in the family or even with others?

During my training, I have come to learn that these six basic emotional needs exists for all humans and you can use these as a way of improving any relationship. For the sake of staying focused on parenting, take a moment and think about what your child needs. Remember, her behavior is a signal that something is missing. What is that based on these 6 needs?

Small children are not always able to communicate what they need, so as a parent you have to observe often and make decisions for her life.

Maybe you have been going out every day or have been busy with errands and activities. This may be too much variety and excitement and your child may need more certainty. Staying close to home and keeping things low key can help. More hugs and cuddles or light wrestling may be needed to help your child feel fully loved and connected. Or maybe it is doing an art project or baking together as a way to grow and contribute.

There are unlimited possibilities for meeting these needs when you begin to sit and think about them. Start by making a list of ways in which you might meet that need for your child. Is that what you think he needs or what he would really want based on how you have come to understand your child? Keep adding/editing the list so that when you are making the assessment you easily can access these ideas in your mind.

Children are not bad, their behavior may be bad at times but that should not define your child. Honor your child’s right to be treated with love and respect by regularly doing a needs assessment and helping them to feel fulfilled. Your child’s behavior will start to shift but more importantly your meaning to the behavior, which will ultimately shift the way your respond—with kindness and love. Imagine the kind of person you will be creating to contribute to our world. It makes me smile. Best wishes!

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