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.
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:
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.
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:
Staff can provide safety needs by providing a secure and stable environment.
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:
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:
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.
This content is adapted from the handout for the Toolbox Training workshop Behavior Management: The Child. Read more about that workshop here.