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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Childen's Behavior

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a concept which Abraham Maslow inotroduced in 1943 in Psychological Review in a paper called "A Theory of Human Motivation." The theory suggests that humans have needs which build on each other. His model is typically represented with a pyramid. Read more here.

Children choose their actions based on attempts to satisfy unmet needs. These needs align with the five areas of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Self-Actualization: a chance to establish identity, develop skills, be creative

Esteem: positive feedback, supported

Social: feel loved and accepted by family, teachers, and peers

Safety: emotional security, free from abuse and neglect, not bullied, routines

Basic Needs: food, shelter, clothing, sleep

Basic Needs

Children have basic physiological needs for food, water, rest, shelter, and clothing. When these needs are not met, children may act out. A child might be grumpy from lack of sleep or get caught stealing someone’s money to be able to buy lunch. Consider how the following circumstances could affect a child’s behavior choices:

  • Mom was late to work and didn’t have time to feed the child breakfast.
  • The child didn’t bring any money to buy lunch.
  • It’s cold outside, but the child doesn’t own a jacket.
  • The child is allowed to stay up until all hours playing video games.
  • The child couldn’t sleep because the parents were yelling at each other.
  • The family couldn’t pay their bills and got their electricity shut off.
  • The child has had a nagging cough for a week, but the parents have no insurance so they won’t take the child to the doctor.
  • The teacher assumes the child is going to play in the bathroom so won’t let him/her go when he/she needs to.
  • The family fell behind on rent and got kicked out of their apartment.
  • The child is left alone at home at night because Dad has to work late.
  • Grandma moved in and the child gave up his/her room and is now sleeping on the living room couch.

The youth program may be able to help the child and the family by putting them in touch with services to meet some needs. In circumstances where that isn’t possible, staff can still be sympathetic to the struggles youth are experiencing.

Safety Needs

Children also need to feel emotionally and physically safe. That means they aren’t being neglected, abused, or bullied. Consider how these scenarios would affect a child’s behavior:

  • Child is being bullied by an older child at school.
  • A family member is physically abusing the child.
  • A neighbor molested the child.
  • Dad tells the child he/she is good for nothing.
  • The child has been told to punch anyone who messes with him/her.
  • The child’s parents just split up.

Staff can provide safety needs by providing a secure and stable environment.

Social Needs

Children need to feel accepted and loved by peers and adults. When they feel alienated or are struggling to get noticed for positive behavior, they may act out. Consider how the following scenarios might affect a child’s behavior:

  • A girl and her best friend got in an argument and they say they’ll never speak to each other again
  • A new child at school is shy and hasn’t made any new friends.
  • A child is teased because of unfashionable clothes.
  • A child is taunted because someone claims to have seen that child pick his/her nose and eat it.
  • A child tags around after a specific adult wanting that adult’s undivided attention.
  • Because of his/her violent temper, none of the other children will play with a particular child.

Esteem Needs

Children need to feel positively supported and encouraged. Children may act out when they feel inadequate. They may be taking measures to cover up things they aren’t able to do. Consider:

  • A child who is illiterate is asked to read in front of a group.
  • A child who isn’t athletic is picked last for a sports team.
  • A child with a speech impediment is uncomfortable talking in front of others.
  • A child is uncomfortable about being physically different (height, weight, race) from his/her peers.
  • A child is embarrassed in front of the group.

Self-Actualization Needs

Children may need to establish their identities. That may mean breaking rules as a way to defy authority and set oneself apart from adults. They may bully others as a means to gain power over other children.

  • A child is defiant and refuses to do what an adult asks.
  • A child breaks rules as a means to defy authority and establish autonomy.
  • A child is struggling with gender identity.
  • A child is overly boastful about accomplishments to be noticed for his/her achievements.
  • A child is sexually active at a young age.
  • A child bullies others as a way to seek power over them.
  • A child has a crush on a teacher.

This content is adapted from the handout for the Toolbox Training workshop Behavior Management: The Child. Read more about that workshop here.

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