Hierarchy of a Toddler’s Needs

Ghada Karam

Tell a child he can’t do something, and he’ll want to do it for the next half an hour. Give him your full consent and he’ll stop in 5 seconds.

Getting my two-year-old to agree to change her plans to meet mine is equal to climbing Mount Everest. When we reach an agreement, I feel that I’ve just planted my flag on the ground of the highest summit on earth.

This daily battle with my two-year-old got me thinking if there was a way to understand how her mind functions to reach out and get closer to her and understand her needs.

And then it hit me, yes there was a way: the hierarchy of needs!

In the academic world, it is known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

In the parental world, it is known as manipulation!

Subtle manipulation.

More precisely, a guilt- free manipulation that is backed up by this rationale: either the parent or the child has to hold the stick of power, and to avoid dreadful battles of opinions (can you really argue with a two-year-old?), I found it best to make her believe that she is in control of all situations.

In our house, she is the one and only ruling queen.

I’ve put together an adapted version of this pyramid to define how the hierarchy of needs functions in a toddler’s world. To understand it, you should read it from the bottom-up. It works in a very simple way: once you satisfy the basic lower needs, you can progress on to meet the higher needs.

The Never Ending Cycle Need

This is the need that goes back to the basic instincts. It has three major activities that involve eating/drinking, peeing/pooping (basically, anything that comes in and out of the body), and sleeping. Ignore this need and any kid around the globe will make you pay hard for it (very hard). On the other hand, satisfy this need and you’ll have a happy child.

The Let’s Keep Mom Busy Need

This need is a constant paradox: kids love to feel safe and secure, but ignore the rules that you put in place to make them feel this way. The results? You can skip those fancy sessions at the gym as you won’t need them anymore. Running around your toddler’s little feet will be sufficient to keep your muscles working all day long!

The Moms’ All Time Favorite Need

This is a pleasant need that moms would never complain about. As part of their development, kids need reminders that they are loved, so take advantage while it lasts. It feels like a little break from Need #2 as you actually get to sit in one place and enjoy waves of cuddles, hugs, and kisses. And we all love that, don’t we?

The We’re Not Done Yet Need

A Little warning here: don’t get too distracted with Need #3. As rewarding as it feels, kids get back to being kids and reality will eventually hit. Once the first three needs are covered and kids have had the food, sleep, security and hugs that they need, it’s time for them to develop their mind and learn how to become autonomous and independent. Hard truth: one day they will grow up and will leave your little nest, and for this, it is important for them to acquire two important tools: self-esteem and confidence. In other words: you (and I) need to stop doing things for them.

The I’m Finally There Need

This need is the most rewarding and is equal to reaching the top of Mount Everest for your little ones (and for you as well). After lots of repetition, hard work, and patience, kids finally learn how to do the tasks that you’ve given them and this moment is so rewarding that you can expect to shed a few tears too. For example: when a baby makes her first steps when she manages to eat, slide, jump on her own, when she calls your name for the first time and sees that you responded back (and the smile on her face is simply priceless!). These moments are little reminders that heaven does exist!

So the conclusion, I guess, is to be patient. Very patient.

Head to the Family Room

This post was syndicated with permission to BonBon Break Media, LLC.

Ghada Karam is an inexperienced first-time mom who lives in Bangkok with her husband and her two-year-old daughter. She enjoys gossiping about being a mom and about her daughter’s tantrums. She thinks tantrums are great. They spice up her day.