Parenting became easier when I stopped pandering to my children's wants and started identifying their needs

by Beverley Paine

I find my life goes more smoothly if I concentrate on identifying my needs rather than on my wants: in this way I can be sure I'm looking after myself the way I deserve to be looked after!

For too long I confused wants with needs and vice versa. I think this started early in life with my parents asking me (a hundred times a day!) "What do you want?".

As a parent myself I'm sure I did the same thing with my children. I desperately wanted my children to be happy, healthy, safe... I saw it as my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my children didn't want for anything.

I'm not sure when the light went on in my head, probably around about the same time I started learning about permaculture. Permaculture gave me a framework for assembling my thoughts about learning and helped me understand how we learn naturally.

Parenting stubborn and independent young children was exhausting and I needed all the tools I could find to help me get through each day. I found giving my children what they wanted escalated problems and issues rather than solving them. And it taught them that instant gratification is the best/only game in town! We found ourselves doing anything and everything to keep our children 'happy'. And they weren't happy: they were irritable with each other, demanding and uncooperative. They were pushing our buttons and boundaries, stretching the limits in an uncomfortable way for all of us.

It's not easy identifying need. You have to really get to know the person and see past their cravings, addictions, idealistic and romantic notions (the things we, society and the media teach them are what will make them happy) and oftentimes their confusion. You have to work with who they are, their strengths and limits and be accepting of both. You need to respect them as people. You need to hone your empathy. You need to be attentive and listen and observe carefully. The more we tune into who they are and what they are doing and how they are doing it and what they think and value the easier it gets to identify their needs.

And meeting those needs in a timely manner is a lot easier than we think. Mainly because our children needs are a lot simpler than we think they are. I discovered that my children need what I need. I discovered that the things I desire most in life are the things I need most in life: love, health, to feel a valued member of a social group, to be able to give and to help others, a comfortable place, nutritious food, clean and safe environment and great company!


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