One of the many things our children are looking for in this world is connection. They want to feel part of something. They want to be with people who listen to them, want to spend time with them, and who gets them, well hopefully at least a little bit. A bit like us adults really!
Connections are formed in lots of ways. Showing interest, treating others with respect, and having shared experiences.
Kids today are having a different childhood to the one we had, and to the one their children will have. They will want things we could only dream of, and have things we used to see on science fiction programmes.
Underneath all their out of this world wants, are some pretty standard everyday needs.
The ‘wants’ are often very distracting, or the request for them often are. If your child is constantly going on and on about something, I don’t know about you, but I have been known to switch off. This is because I could write off those wants as them being greedy, copying their friends, or just trying it on. However, behind every want there is a need.
Your child may not realise this, you may not realise this, but there is a driver, a ‘need’, something encouraging them to vocalise their want.
If you say no to their ‘want’ they can act in ways you would rather they didn’t. But before you say no, I encourage you to dig a little deeper, see if you can try and identify the ‘need’ that the ‘want’ is trying to meet.
You can do this through using questions.
HOW COME - you are asking for a … right now?
you feel you need a ... right now?
WHAT IS IT ABOUT - a … that makes having one so important to you?
a ... do you think will make your life so much better?
WHAT - positive difference to your life will having a ... make?
are you willing to do to help you get a ...?
DO YOU WANT A … BECAUSE YOUR FRIENDS HAVE ONE?
AM I RIGHT IN THINKING THAT YOU WANT A … BECAUSE…?
Children can have a fairly limited range of experience and awareness of what is available. For some having a logo on the item of clothing really is the be all and end all, whereas for others looking at other brands may be an option.
Once you have asked some questions you are in a much better place to make your decision. The ‘want’ may be something which will be met in a few more months, or years, or may be something which they understand is not going to happen just yet. If you can identify the underlying ‘need’, then you can start to look at all the alternative ways to meet it.
"Mum I really ‘want’ a job"
"How come you are looking for a job right now?"
"I just want one"
"What positive difference would having a job right now make?"
"I’d have money, so I could buy what I want, when I want it."
"Ok, so is there something you are wanting to buy right now?"
"Yeah, I need money to buy my friend a birthday present."
"Ok, tell my more about your friend, is there a possibility of making them a present of some kind?"
Even if your child feels that they have a strong ‘need’ to back up their ‘want’ you may see things differently! You may still chose to turn down their ‘want’, and that’s ok as learning to deal with disappointment is one of the many things we all need to do, so don’t feel too bad about it.
My youngest came home one day and wanted us to buy her some gloves, the surgical type ones. This threw me as I had no idea why she should need these. On questioning it came out that the school ball was coming up and they were having to hold 'boys' hands during practice and she really didn't want to!
How to guides and quick fixes to manage children’s online gaming is one of the many ‘wants’ parents currently have.
Until you find out what ‘need’ the games are filling in your children’s life, it is going to be a challenge to replace them. As parents the starting point to identify any underlying ‘need’ to the ‘want’ is our own experience and understanding, and the problem a lot of us have is that we don’t understand the why behind online gaming, as it was not a thing in our day.
A good starting point is to get involved in the online game yourself. Learn how it works, how long a game usually takes, whether or not there are special events which take place throughout the week which may affect your child’s game play or usage. Once you understand it you can start to see what else, in your experience, could possible replace it in your child’s life, even if only for a short time.
Looking into wants and needs can also be helpful when trying to reduce the level of conflict taking place in your house. It is very rare for an argument to be resolved when we focus on the want.
Our biggest challenge in the argument world is the connected emotions! We want to solve the argument as quickly as possible to help reduce the current tensions and so we can move on to a quieter life. Our other challenge is that as adults we are quite good at it, as we often understand the ‘need’ due to our own experience!
The thing is our kids know how to get out of conflict, just as well as they know how to get into it. They have probably had years of you coming along giving them some choices, telling one, or both of them off, and possibly putting in place sanctions. So they have seen what they should do, what they need from us is to understand why, and time to calm down and bring these solutions to the fore.
Show, tell, do, are the basic ways of delivering an educational programme. Showing someone something will help them learn but not as well as telling them what you are doing while you show them. Once a demonstration has been given, giving them the chance to do it themselves really embeds the learning, especially if they fail! Failing means that they have just proved that they don’t actually know what they thought they did, about themselves or the task at hand. This is a much more powerful learning method than telling and showing alone.
They don’t have to fail completely, as you can coach them through each step, help keep them on track, by asking clarifying questions. Helping them to understand the root ‘need’ of the argument and encourage them to put in place their own solution. This will give them much more confidence in themselves. There is a whole lot more I could teach you about conflict management, but that will be covered another day.
So ask some questions, connect with your actual child, rather than your inner one. Find out why their ‘wants’ are important to them, try and discover the actual ‘need’ being met by what they are requesting. Just the act of asking shows interest and will help you to get to know your child that little bit more.
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All the very best
Ruth Taylor www.ruthtaylor.net