Needs and Wants…
…always best for our children or a mental construct?
We often talk about needing and wanting. In business, we often grouped products as “need to have or nice to have”, while “want to have” often was ultimately the goal. In life, time and again we say “I want this!”. Toddlers and young children often make their demands with regular “give me, want this”.
Today, I was having a chat over coffee with a friend, a first civilised sit down since lockdown has been lifted in London. She mentioned something about what she ‘wanted’ for her children. It got me thinking: is us wanting something for our children truly what they need? Our children have fundamental needs: love, safety, nourishment, care, secure attachments, constructive stimulation amongst many other things that we parents need to provide.
After listening to her intently, I questioned her over he statement of wanting outcomes for her children. Humbly, I asked: “Is this what your children want or need?”. In other words, do our wants meet our children’s needs? Are we ever honest with our children by asking them, if they think that we know what we want for them? We live in a high-pressure area of London, where schools are the ultimate trophy of achievements for our children. Are we burdening our children with our wants of excellence in order to make us, parents, look good? Is that what our children need? In a nutshell, are our children our ultimate trophies? As you see, I have many questions and there are no right or wrong answers.
I asked the question to Flower Angel, who these days, is full of opinions and completely embracing her Tweenhood. She calmly explained, that if I wanted a certain outcome because I believed that it was best for her, that particular outcome may not necessarily make her happy in the long run. We increasingly hear of young people, girls, in particular, turning to self-harm to numb the pain of academic pressure, and the consequential effects of depression or anxiety. Our wanting the best grades for our children is detrimental to their well-being. Their well-being is more critical now than ever, with the lasting effects of lockdowns. Our children need schools, social interaction, and healthy interactions. Not just academic excellence. They need a healthy environment to fully be themselves.
Regardless of the knock-on effects of this everlasting pandemic, I hope that our kids look back at their childhood, in a positive light. The last thing we want is to leave a legacy of stress, anxiety triggered by an over-drive of having to be the best. We love our children and we have different ways of showing it, although being too harshly critical of them or adopting an avoidant stance may not be the right way… We want our children to be happy and feel empowered by living happy independent lives. Flourishing not languishing! Perhaps we parents should be journeying inwards to evaluate what we often think is good for our children, may not always be the case.
Conceptually, our parenting style is not made of exhaustive or prescriptive lists, neither are our children's social science projects. Of course, we cannot be too clinical in our approaches as no one is a manufactured robot and neither should we be quick to judge other parents for doing things differently. “Want” stems from the desire for something we do not already have, wanting outcomes stems from expectations and hope. On the other hand, “needs” are something far more fundamental and deep. Ultimately, children are just like us adults: we need love to flourish and to nourish our deep souls. Sending you all much light.