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Children's needs as a priority

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  • Children's needs as a priority

    Hello Laurie,

    You stress in Chapter 3 the need for the children's needs to be a priority their entire lives. Do you believe there is a balance between their needs and the family unit's needs or do you believe the family unit should revolve around the child's needs?

  • #2
    In Chapter Three of my book, I discuss how our children's needs must be a priority for their entire childhoods in order for the parent-child attachment relationship to remain secure. Of course in a family unit, with more than one child, there are multiple people and needs to juggle. Everyone's needs are important and no person's needs are more important than another person's needs. However, we must consider many factors in balancing children's needs, such as the children's ages, developmental levels as well as the urgency and intensity of the needs involved. In the case of an infant, the infant must be held at all times and nursed on demand, and that this can be done while tending to the needs of other children. It is important to understand that no matter what the ages are of the children, the goal must be to meet all of the children's needs, as well as the parents' needs.

    For example, consider a family with three children, ages toddler, nine and 16. All three of the children need Mom or Dad's attention at once. The toddler is fussy and she needs a diaper changed, the nine year old is energetic and he has a need to have Mom play and the 16 year old feels cuddly and he needs some 1:1 alone time with a parent. If both parents are home, they could split the needs. However, if only one parent is at home (or is a single parent), she must consider the urgency and intensity of the needs in terms of prioritizing, while reassuring each child that their needs will be met. While tending to the toddler, the parent can talk with the older two and let the 16 year old know that in a half hour, he will have the parent's undivided attention. The nine year old can be told that after the toddler is tended to, they can play together for a half hour with the toddler present. The parent can give a hug to the 16 year old to reassure the teen that his need is important.

    In mainstream society, the needs of older children, especially the adolescents in the family, are often ignored while the youngest is prioritized. The older children may be guilted, shamed or admonished for expecting parents to tend to their needs, with parents expecting the older children to "be independent", "grow up" or "stop being a baby". This is damaging to the parent-child attachment relationship and is likely to cause older children to resent siblings and simmer with anger towards the parents. Older children who are pushed away in this manner are likely to turn to peers and pop culture for support and acknowledgment.

    Attachment parented children become amazingly patient with the needs of their siblings. When each child in the family knows that his/her needs matter, that their needs are important to the parents and will be tended to as soon as possible, the older child will be able to accept a delay in the face of a sibling's more urgent need. Attachment parented younger children, as well, are more likely to understand and accept that the needs of the older children may sometimes be more urgent. For example, if the family of three were out walking in public and the toddler wants a snack and the nine year old needs to use the restroom, the priority would be for the family to immediately find a restroom for the nine year old. The toddler would be reassured that a snack would be provided to her once her brother's need was met. Likewise, if the nine year old has a need to show his parent an amazing book he just illustrated, but his 16 year old brother is feeling emotional pain and needs to talk alone with the parent, the nine year old and the 16 year old could be tended to by different parents. If there is only one parent present, the nine year old could be reassured with a hug that his need is important and will be tended to soon, after his brother had some time first. The parent would then prioritize the need of the 16 year old and spend 1:1 time connecting (while the toddler possibly spends time with the nine year old).

    Also in mainstream society, it is common for the children's needs to be delayed, ignored or pushed aside in favor of the adult's convenience or their wants. This is very damaging to the parent-child attachment relationship. Attachment parented children are more willing to appreciate their parent's needs. If Mom and Dad need time alone, attachment parented children who are developmentally ready may be happy to help parents get some alone time. Children who are forced to attend school daily and whose needs are delayed and unmet will be resentful when parents need alone time and may sabotage their parents' attempts to meet their own needs.

    The needs of everyone in a family need to be considered important. Remember the human attachment cycle- All children in the family must have their needs responded to and met in order to the parent-child attachment relationship to stay strong and secure. However, everyone's needs can be balanced according to developmental level, urgency and intensity. Attachment parented children of any age can be amazingly empathic and understanding when a sibling or parent's need must be the priority for the moment.