The world has changed but children's needs are the same

2011-06-29 00:00

IN generations past the roles of parents and the role of parenting were much more clearly defined. One knew exactly what was expected. Being a parent and fulfilling the role placed upon you was an honour. However, now, with all the conflicting research, philosophies, beliefs, self-help books and websites, recent generations are often left floundering.

One thing that has, however, not changed is the children. No matter how society changes, children are still born with the same emotional, physical, spiritual and mental needs that they were born with 4 000 years ago.

Much of our modern parenting is ravaged by guilt. Parents feel guilty that they are working or guilty that they can’t give their children everything they want or guilty that their child has a single parent. We may not realise it but instead of drawing us closer to our children, this guilt drives a wedge between us. The reason for this is that the guilt results in parents working harder to give their children what they want. Children are carted to every possible extramural activity and

parents even tolerate the disrespect thrown at them by their offspring. In effect parents begin to lose their children within the business of what society perceives as provision, love and care.

Children tend to become just as caught up in this business. They play on the situation and will milk it to its full. They are, however, often not truly happy. They continue to misbehave,

they never show their gratitude and often treat their parents with a contempt that leaves Mom or Dad standing aghast.

The truth behind the matter is that although we have altered our society to try to meet every child’s every need, children have not changed. Ironically, what we often perceive as their needs are in fact only wants. What a child fundamentally, and with all his or her heart, needs is you. It’s as simple as that. All children truly want in life is their parents’ attention, love and affection, and they will do anything to get it. As the years move on and children are bustled from one busy activity or carer to another, they grow disheartened and often angry with their parents. This results in behavioural issues and family conflict.

How, you ask, can this be rectified? Many believe that it requires parents to become a stay- at-home mom or for Dad to give up all his interests and spend every minute serving his children’s wants. This is, however, not true, as just because you are around your child a lot does not make your child feel loved and nurtured. Instead, it’s how you spend that time, no matter how much or little of it you have at your disposal. As mentioned earlier, your child’s deepest desire is to have you and your full attention. So instead of rushing your children from activity to activity, take time to look them in their eyes, to listen to them, to read a book together or kick a ball around the garden. You may need to be watching your time, but don’t let your child know this. For those few minutes allow yourself to become absorbed and wrapped up in your child.

This quality time meets one of your child’s deepest needs and desires, which in turn will allow you to shed the parental guilt that is driving you apart. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the change in your children’s behaviour and attitude that simply spending time with them reaps.

• Joanne Madgwick is a parenting and educational consultant. Find out more about her at

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