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When Your Needs Don’t Get Met, and when you’re not meeting your kids’ needs…

February 11, 2020
Image result for frustration

That’s a long title for a blog. It probably violates all the rules about good blog titles. Sorry. I couldn’t figure out how to shorten it. Bad title or not, this is one of the most significant issues any parent and/or spouse can deal with.

Here’s the deal. If you don’t feel your needs are being met, the result, the behavioral-emotional outcome, will be FRUSTRATION. If your kids don’t feel their needs are being met, the same thing happens. Except it will be uglier, because until kids are on the far side of puberty, they won’t be able to articulate their frustration in words. They’ll use behaviors instead of words. And, by the way, these behaviors won’t be happy ones. Virtually all developmental psychologist agree that your kids will try to get your attention to let you know that they’re not getting their needs met, using behavior as their primary language. But here’s the hard part. Kids don’t always know what need(s) aren’t getting meet. They just feel the FRUSTRATION of not having their needs met. And then, sometimes (actually, lots of times), a FRUSTRATION FLYWHEEL gets kicked off and you and your kids frustrate each other into infinity. It’s not fun.

No small bucket can hold all the needs that humans have. But Maslow comes about as close as anybody. If you took Intro to Psychology, you’ll be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Here’s a graphic representation of it:

Image result for Maslow

I think he was right. There is a hierarchy. It starts with Physiological needs and runs upward to Self-actualization. Thanks, Abe. This is helpful stuff.

I wrote about 5 needs that have to be met for anybody have a balanced and fulfilling life in my last blog installment:

If these 5 needs aren’t getting met, you’re toast. And if your kids aren’t getting these needs met, they’re toast, which means you’re really toast, if you’re the parent. Or teacher. Or coach. Or Youth Pastor. Etc…

So how do you help your kids feel these needs are being met? That’s the Million Dollar Question.

Let’s start with what I think these 5 primary needs look like in their own hierarchy:
Identity – who am I?
Belonging – who wants me?
Security – who can I trust?
Competence – what do I do well?
Purpose – why am I alive?

First, identity. How do you help your kid(s) feel their need for identity is being met? In some ways, you give your kids their identity. If they’re yours biologically, they got your genes. That’s the nature side of it. If they live with you, they’re getting their basic ways and means for relating to life from you. That’s the nurture side. In some ways, though, you can’t give them their identity. You can only help them discover it and then reinforce it.

I think there are 2 ways this identity thing needs to be addressed: 1) who you are because you’re a part of our family; 2) who you are because you’re a part of God’s family.

I think the finest way to address the “our family” side is through a Family Mission Statement. I’ll never forget the sacred moment I observed my friend, David, have a teachable moment with one of his sons, many years ago. I don’t remember the particular incident that caused the moment to surface, but I hope I never forget what David said. “We’re Sheltons,” he said. “We don’t steal. We don’t cheat. We don’t hurt each other.” It was one of the best family mission statements I’ve ever heard. Of course, there was more to being a Shelton than theses three simple things. But these three were easy to communicate and easy to understand. They explained in simple language three essential things being a Shelton meant – three behavioral targets.

If you want, you can write a Family Mission Statement, or a Family Constitution, for your family. I highly recommend it. It will take time and effort, but it will pay off big time over time. If you’re not in the habit of writing mission statements, this could be an overwhelming assignment. Don’t lock up. Here’s an article that will give you lots to work with on it:

Whether you write a Family Constitution or not, you’ve got to have a set of character qualities and personal attributes that you want to be reflected in your family. Ask your kids what they would like to be known for. “When people think of us, what do we want them to think?” Little kids may have to be coached quite a lot on this, but the coaching can be fun. Let them name qualities they want your family to be known for.

Then remind your whole family who they are, every chance you get. Bedtime and meal time are two of the best times for this, I think. Do this often. Eventually your kids will be able to fill in your sentences before you do.

That’s the front end of them having a sense of family identity. Then it’s a matter of intentionally modeling it as the parent(s), and calling it out when you see it in your kids. Train yourself to recognize it in them. At some seasons of family life, you’ll have to work pretty hard to see it in them, but train yourself to look for it. And then say something encouraging about it to them. Out loud. The other side of the coin is that when you don’t see it when you should, call that out, too. But don’t beat them up about it. That won’t motivate them to live up to their family identity. It’ll push them to push back, and will probably result in some form of rebellion or passive-aggressive behavior that will get you the opposite outcomes you want.

Who they are in God’s Family is essential here, too. For little ones, the most important message they need to hear over and over again is that they are loved by Jesus, and that Jesus’ Daddy, God, loves them to the moon and back. It’s a simple message that contains the key to all of life.

As they grow older (like 2nd or 3rd grade, usually), they can start understanding that God believes some very big things about them. Things they may not even believe about themselves. What God believes about them (and you, too!) is the most important things they (and you) need. They fall into three broad categories: you are ACCEPTED, you are SECURE in His love, and you are SIGNIFICANT.

I believe this is pivotal for every person who says “Yes” to Jesus. In my counseling, I very often ask, “If you believed about yourself what God says He believes, how different would your life be?” Nearly everybody says they’re sure sure it would be different, but almost nobody knows exactly how different, and nearly no one actually knows what God says He believes about them.

My good friend, Joe Hardenbrook, put together a great tool for discovering what God says He believes about you, and I’ve “harvested” it (with his permission) half-a-dozen times. It’s one of my favorite teaching and counseling tools. It fits on one side of an 8.5 x 11 page. If you would like to have a copy of it, I’d be glad to email you a PDF of it. Just comment that you would like it, and leave me an email address. I promise I won’t use your email address for anything but sending you the Identity Card I’m talking about here. If you’re already conversant with what God says He believes about you, you’re in a great place to help your kids discover this for themselves. But if you’re not quite there, let me know. I’d love to give you this ID Tool.

Another friend, John Lynch, says, “God’s nuts about you. When He thinks about you, He smiles. He’s crazy about you.”

This was a hard thing for me to believe about myself when I first heard it. I know me. I know all the stuff that couldn’t possibly make God smile when He thinks about me. There are days when I don’t even like me. It was really hard to believe God’s nuts about me.

But He is. He’s not waiting for me to get good enough that He can give me some kind of a nod of approval. Everything that needs to be done for this to happen has already happened. He took care of it 2000 years ago on a cross on hill in the Middle East. When Jesus said, “It is finished!” the debt for my sins and bad behavior was absolutely and completely paid. All of it.

All my garbage and sin was all in the future at that point. But it was all paid for. Completely. Totally.

This is the deepest and most profound theology of all. If we don’t get this, nothing else about life will work. Your identity in Christ is THE most important thing you’ll ever settle. And it’s THE most important thing you can ever help your kids settle.

Meeting the essential needs of your kids starts with helping them settle the question, “Who am I?” You’re on holy ground as you partner with God to help them own the answer to this profound question.

I chose the word “partner” intentionally. Because you’re in a partnership with the Creator of all there is. You’re not on your own for this. God is your partner. No one wants you and your kids to get this more than He does. So put your hand in His and start this fabulous and transformational journey.

And oh yeah. Make sure you let me know you want the Identity Card…

From → Marriage, Parenting

  1. Dureen permalink

    Yes, please to the identity card. And thank you in advance, Steve.

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  1. Who Can I Trust? | HomeworK with Steve Thomas

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