Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Life Spiraling Up

It's been a while since I looked at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. I love the model above because it shows traveling up the hierarchy in a spiral. So many things throughout our lives move in spirals. We know this at some unconscious level because so often we speak of some poor soul on a downward spiral. When we are introduced to an overnight success he or she was usually on an upward spiral. Rarely do people shoot straight up to the top. It's a succession of steps. One after another, after another. More on spirals in another post, but now back to the Hierarchy.

Every new parent should post this image on their refrigerator once they have a child. On the bottom we find what are often referred to as basic needs. Until these needs are met we cannot move on to the next step. Infants and children are completely dependent on their parents to fulfill the first levels, these basic needs.

I cannot emphasis enough how important it is for parents to meet these basic needs. Children cry because they need something. It may be food or they may need a diaper change. They may need to be held for comfort and security. Whatever the reason may be, you must meet the child where they are and give them what is needed for them to continue to develop. When a child cries and we pick them up gently and coo or whisper to them, they learn that the world is a safe place, that they live in a world that will provide them the resources they need to thrive. They learn that they have a voice, that they have some control over their very basic physical needs. They learn to feel secure in this new huge and overwhelming world that they have been born into, this goes on to develop a strong self-esteem. This will not spoil the child. Many of us come from a background where we withhold things in order to raise strong, self-sufficient children, but nothing could be further from the truth when speaking of about infants or young children. Meeting the child's needs develops a healthy attachment which is imperative to continued healthy development.

What happens to a child who needs are not met? In a nutshell children will have insecure attachment issues and disorders. Insecure attachments can begin as early as in-utero. When a mother neglects her well-being, she is also neglects the well-being of her unborn child. In the primal stages of development the fetus is already preparing itself for a life of deprivation and scarcity. Because the fetus is using the scares resources it's getting for it's mere survival, development is hampered. The child may be born with underdeveloped physical traits, but also and just as important, the child is lacking in his emotional development. Once the child is born, if neglect continues or begins, all areas of development will continue to be hampered. A child who is not fed when hungry will eventually stop crying out for food because it instinctively understands that it's hostile environment will not provide for his needs. A child who is not held will go from extreme bouts of self-hate to clinging with almost complete strangers. Neither of these two extremes is emotionally healthy. It's almost as if the child goes down the hierarchy spiral instead of progressing up the spiral.

Hold your child, feed him, comfort him without fear of spoiling him. A well nurtured child is an adult full of confidence, zest and with a tremendous love of life.