Ask Maslow: Keeping your Child Healthy and Happy

Parents seek the best way to raise and nurture their child. Simply put, we all want to see our children healthy and happy. The not-so-simple part is figuring out how to precisely do this. A 72 year old theory might hold the answer. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a psychological theory based off observations in human development. Proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943, it has become a renowned theory in psychology. Here’s how this resource can apply to the wellbeing of your child.

The Pyramid Hierarchy

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is broken into five essential components that build upon themselves. That is, one component (need) must be met before another component (need) can be met. The components are: Physiological needs, Safety needs, Love and Belonging, Esteem, and ultimately Self-Actualization. They are typically shown in a pyramid, with the largest and most basic fundamental needs at the bottom, and self-actualization at the tip of the pyramid.

  1. Physiological Needs: Physiological needs are the basic components necessary for human survival. These include food, water, shelter and clothing. Without these, a child will not survive or thrive. Clearly a no-brainer, these are considered the most essential in the hierarchy of needs, and they are represented as the base of the pyramid. Only if these needs are met, it is possibly to move on the next stage of child development.
  2. Safety Needs: The next need that must be met to keep your child healthy and happy is the need for safety. Once your child’s most fundamental needs are met, then it is important to meet their need for safety. Safety refers to their sense of personal security, financial security, health and well-being, and having a sort of safety net or “buffer” against the world. They need to feel secure from issues of family violence, divorce, illness, and accidents. If all physiological and safety needs are met, the child is able to move on to the next stage of development.
  3. Love and Belonging: This is a crucial stage for any developing child. They need to feel a sense of “belongingness.” This is the need for a stable family unit in which they feel loved. Without this, a child can be negatively affected, and this can deter them from creating emotionally significant relationships in the future.
  4. Esteem: A child also has a need to feel esteemed and valued. This helps develop their sense of confidence and independence. There is an innate need to feel accepted by others, and if this area is lacking it can also stunt their future sense of personal esteem, and affect decisions and relationships as adults.
  5. Self-Actualization: This is the highest point in the hierarchy and it refers to the realization of the full potential of the person. It is about self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth, and achievement. As Maslow put it, “What a man can be, he must be.”

This theory has both its avid supporters, and of course, those who question certain aspects of its applicability as a whole. It is up to you to decide what works for you and your child. What is certain is that the essential needs for any child, are food, shelter, and love.

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