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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

What do children need?

December 20, 2013

I’m mentoring a teen who suddenly had to step up and take care of a young sibling after their parents’ death. It’s gotten me thinking about what every child needs and deserves in order to grow into a healthy young adult.

To give them what they need, you have to know what they need

To give them what they need, you have to know what they need

Here’s what I know: Children need to feel safe, physically and emotionally. Children need at least one person who actively cares for and parents them in the best sense of the word. Children need to feel wanted and loved so they can learn about love.  They need to be treated with respect so they can learn to value themselves and the people around them. They need to feel cherished for their uniqueness so they can accept themselves and others whole-heartedly. All children need opportunities to expand their mind and their abilities through exposure to the natural world and the world of ideas. They need time for unstructured play. They need ethical guidance to understand how we are all connected and why our choices matter. Children need encouragement to use their power for good and adult models who walk the talk.

What else do you think children need?

Filed under: Parenting,Teaching Kids To Be Good People,Tips — Annie @ 10:55 am
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4 Comments »

  1. Great start! Let me add a couple of things:

    Kids need the room to make mistakes to learn what real life is about and to learn to recover and forge ahead!

    Kids need a strong moral compass developed by knowing, loving and serving others with adults who know, love, and serve them.

    Thanks Annie for all you do!

    Comment by Dr. Par Donahue — December 26, 2013 @ 11:02 am

  2. Thanks, Dr. Par, for your important two additions to this What Do Children Need? list. Love your comment about “….room to make mistakes to learn….” Too often adults come down too strongly on kids when they make a misstep. It teaches children that they need to be “perfect” all the time or they have “failed.” So unfair and unhelpful!. And your “strong moral compass” comment… that’s what I was going for with “They need ethical guidance to understand how we are all connected and why our choices matter.” You’ve said it beautifully. Thanks again for weighing in and for the work you do to benefit kids and families.

    Comment by Annie — December 26, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

  3. I think that one thing children really need is the true understanding that they DON’T know everything yet, and that’s totally okay. But it means that someone who does know more/better will be calling the shots. And in the cases where the parent(s) or older person in charge doesn’t know everything (which is generally the case), children need to know it’s okay for their guardians to say, “I don’t know, but I am going to find out all I can, and then I will be making a decision we all have to live with.”

    Too often, I see children calling the shots and making decisions they’re not capable of making. I don’t mean children living in poverty. Actually, I see this more with children of privilege. The grown-ups in a child’s life provide safety and stability by saying “no” or “not now” more than they say “yes” or worse yet when a “no” turns into an “ok, okay” after a child begs and pleads. Children need limits and guidance on how things work in the world. Life can be unfair. Things don’t always go our way. Shielding children from this reality by letting them have too much too soon (or at all) only hurts them in the long run.

    I sometimes catch myself answering “why not?” with a “because I said so,” but more often than not I use words like “because I am the adult, and I know things you don’t know.” I usually follow this up with, “There are some things you’re too young to understand. I will explain some of it now, in terms you can handle, and I will explain more as you get older and can handle more.”

    Comment by Diane Main — December 31, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

  4. Diane, You are obviously a very thoughtful parent. i especially appreciate your statement “Life can be unfair. Things don’t always go our way. Shielding children from this reality by letting them have too much too soon (or at all) only hurts them in the long run.” We best serve our children’s development by giving them a secure “home base” where they can trust us to be in charge with their best interests as our top priority. From that foundation, children can move from the “known” (home & family) to the “unknown” (the wider world. Thank you for posting here and Happy New Year from our family to yours.

    Comment by Annie — December 31, 2013 @ 8:03 pm

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