Maslow’s Pyramid — Support Your Child’s Climb to Self-Actualization.

A story about a boy named Abe

Abraham Maslow, known to his friends as Abe, was a Russian-Jewish boy born in 1908. During his childhood in New York City, he had a lofty dream to change the world. That idea began to take root when Abe attended the University of Wisconsin. He chose to study psychology, simply because it was socially practical and useful. His degree led him to a position as a professor of psychology at Brooklyn College.Abe felt that each of the major theories of psychology were valid in its points, but he believed they were still missing something. So he combined them all and developed Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. But his work still wasn’t complete. During World War II, he analyzed the traits of prosperous and emotionally healthy individuals, which he later coined as self-actualization. Abe genuinely believed that the highest functioning individuals were ordinary people that had all of their basic needs met, and therefore could focus on greater thoughts, ideas, joys, and fulfillments.

By 1954, Abe published the book that spiraled him into fame, Motivation and Personality. Up until this point, most of the psychological research was negative, and his work was all about positive perspectives.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy is a simple pyramid with five levels, which begins with physiological needs on the bottom level and progresses to more psychological needs with each superior level. He claims that you cannot move to the next level without being fulfilled at the current stage.

  1. Physiological Needs. Everyone requires basic food to remain healthy, enough water to stay hydrated, and adequate sleep to function well. If these needs are unmet, a person will devote all of their energy to satisfying these requirements.
  2. Safety. Assurance that you will have a roof over your head, a job that provides enough money, a healthy body, and a family are key components of the safety level. These are predictable, comfortable, and reassuring.
  3. Love and Belonging. After our physiological and safety needs are met, humans require intimate relationships. This includes love from family members and sexual intimacy with a spouse, but also authentic friendships. Without these essential components, a person feels worthless, lonely, and invaluable.
  4. Esteem. Self-esteem and self-confidence come from higher levels of achievement combined with respect from others. I experienced first hand in high school how the respect and support of my parents and the school staff gave me courage and confidence to reach higher and to achieve great things.
  5. Self-Actualization. The final stage and the one Abe encourages us all to strive towards is self-actualization. Once all other levels are met, we are able to better problem solve and be creative. We can better accept facts and act without prejudice towards others. We can accept our self for who we are and can appreciate life to the fullest. Self-actualizing people are independent, honest, aware of others, more objective, creative, and original. The Democratic environment and the Judicial Committee process at Makarios Community School promote and support self-actualization through every day activities that require problem solving and awareness of others.

Psychologists agree that self-actualizing people:

  • Have an accurate perception of reality.
  • Admit their mistakes and failures.
  • Find it easy to be spontaneous.
  • Are better able to “major on the majors” and “minor on the minors”.
  • Don’t mind being alone.
  • Aren’t easily swayed by cultural fads or unanimity of a crowd.
  • Tend to be more empathetic, kind, and caring toward others.
  • Value and respect all individuals.
  • Have few yet deeper friendships.
  • Better understand how things are interconnected, and therefore are more creative

Wrap that all up into one person and bam — that’s the kind of kid you want to raise!

Why you should push your kids up the pyramid?

We no longer live in a society where we are battling to survive plagues, maintain crops through a drought, barter my chickens for your grain, or keep our roof from caving in. People of the modern world generally have full bellies, a large roof over their head, and a decent social life.

Maslow stated, “I think of the self-actualizing man not as an ordinary man with something added, but rather as the ordinary man with nothing taken away.” We can provide our ordinary kids with all of their basic needs so that they can do extraordinary things in our world.

Obviously, you should feed, clothe, bathe, and house your children in such a way that they feel safe and secure. But also love them deeply for who they are. Support their blooming personalities and their instincts through the choices they make (even if it means they wear stripes and plaid together).

Affirm their character. Remind your children they are valuable, smart, worthy, unique, courageous, adventurous, etc. It can be as simple as “I’m proud of you for putting away your clothes before choosing to Minecraft” or as complex as “I admire how you are always brave. It’s not easy to stand up to the bully who is making fun of your friend.”

Challenge them mentally. Ask your children why they do what they do. “Why do you like to pack your own lunch?” “Why do you like to swing more than slide?” “Why do you like to collect Pokemon cards and what do you gain from playing the game?

Encourage their friendships. We know that some friends come and go while others last for a lifetime. And none of us would be the person we are today without friends to walk the road with us. Foster your kid’s friendships as if they were your own. That may include hosting a sleepover for teenage girls and GI Joe birthday parties for rowdy boys.

When you fulfill all of the basic needs, your child is free to rise. Cover levels one through four so you can push your child upwards to the top tier. Then they can dream about changing the world, and then actually do it.

Learn more about how a democratic free school like Makarios Community School provides a self-directed learning environment for your child(ren) to find their passions and the freedom to pursue their dreams.


Our Hierarchy Needs

The Life and Legacy of Abraham Maslow

What is Self-actualization?

educational freedom, Unschooling, Free School, Posts by Janni, Parent Support & Education, Behavior & Child Development, Parents, Interest Directed Learning, selfdirected learning

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