Updated: Sep 9
After our first baby-girl Nathalie got born we realized she didn’t come with a “user manual” and we didn’t really know what to expect. For first few months it was kind of intuitive – as soon as she’s fed, kept clean and sleeps enough there is no scream – no panic and you’ve got a lot of time to chill. However this period for us was short and sooner than we wished; got to discover that humans (including babies) have more than just basic needs (those well described by the classic Maslow’s theory of needs).
In particular, thanks to Laura, we were lucky to find out on time that there are 3 psychological needs which need fulfilling – otherwise you get tantrums, screaming, uncooperative kids, unhappy family etc. I met parents not aware of those needs. We were lucky to stumble upon a great parenting guru and bought access to her rather expensive online parenting platform (worth every penny – we even think we saved money by taking her online course – you will see later why). In her course i got fully convinced that if you are careful about those needs – in my opinion you are 80% on the way to be a happy parent with happy kids (applies to any age even to grown ups). You will start to realize things like why for example your kid screams when you try to help her tie her shoelaces or spoon-feed her. Being aware of those needs you will be able to change your behavior in a way that will allow you grow strong, confident, empowered, empathetic and emotionally balanced kids. So what are those needs that come on top of basic ones mentioned earlier? Easy to remember 3C’s – Connection, Competence, Control (in the sense of autonomy). For better accuracy I strongly advise Urania Cremene’s online course (unfortunately for now only in Romanian), or you can read the book that Urania takes reference from – Self Determination Theory by Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci. A positive psychology book and is the theory that most deeply explains the motivation factors that drive the “Self” of humans (incl. babies:).
I am not a parenting expert by any stretch of imagination so below i will just share my experience with those needs:
1. The need for CONNECTION. Find as much as possible time to fully connect with your kid (not just by being present). Play with her dolls, invent theater plays together, watch that favorite princess cartoons together and discuss about it. Keep eye contact and share the enthusiasm. Some may define this as quality time together. Tell her you love her the way she is. Make her feel she’s loved unconditionally – explain her those emotions. Hug, giggle, connect emotionally and physically. And do this often! I have experienced my baby-girl manifesting this need a lot; and being aware of this need, I could quickly fulfill it. For ex: when she was a baby she often cried even if she was dry, fed and well rested but she was left in her crib while we were doing our housekeeping – simply taking her into my arms made her feel connected and content immediately. Another example was when she was a toddler and we were driving long hours in the car she was trying to tell me something – i was not able to turn my head backwards and she kept saying please listen to me, i had to stop the car, make eye contact while listening until the conversation about her favorite princess was finished and continue driving. Whilst counter intuitive to many, this makes a lot of sense to keep the eye contact in order to fully connect – otherwise toddlers actually think you are not there physically. I’ve read about an experiment somewhere called “pica-boo” i think – which was demonstrating that if you close your eyes in front of your toddler she simply perceives you as absent. Another typical example is when she wants you to carry her on your arms – even when you think she is perfectly able to walk – just do it – you may miss those moments when they grow.
2. The need for COMPETENCE. Even from baby age she needs to feel competent. Fortunately we are all born with 2 important capabilities to support us become competent – learn and build on top of what we learn. This is why we often hear “daddy why this and why that”, “read me more”, “why you kissed mum?”, “let me do this and that myself”… Unfirtunately you may hear too often from parents around “she can’t carry the plates she’s too little and will smash those”, or “let me dress you – you can’t do it yet, you are too small” or “it’s the third story I’ve read you tonight and it’s 10 p.m. you need to go to sleep”. I have observed parents doing literally everything instead and for their kids and then complaining their kids are lazy helpless or don’t listen to them. Well, indeed helplessness is something that is demonstrated to be learned and often parents teach this too well. So, the tip here is to let her do it, praise the effort not the result) and be patient, accept that the result may not be perfect yet. Read and read and read until you fall asleep yourself, answer all those questions and curiosities she asks about. I often don’t even know myself answers to questions Nathalie asks me. For example: “Daddy why i shiver when i play too much in the pool?” – we had to google it up and read the “story” on Wikipedia. Once I have experienced the moment when i wanted to spoon feed her when she was a baby because otherwise she would shoot with her food the people at the table behind at a fancy restaurant. The “don’t make me feel incompetent” warning was simple and immediate – she obviously started to shout. Being aware of this need the solution becomes clear quickly – let her feed her need for competence and you better serve to be the shield for the people at the table behind.
3. The need for CONTROL (autonomy). This is about feeding her need for being the source of her decisions – act out of her own choice. When you get a big eventually screaming NO! into your face this is one way how she manifests that need, eventually you more often want a big YES in response and that in my experience comes back harder and with a lot more patience. For example getting Nathalie to brush her teeth took us quite some convincing to do first, showing a picture of rotten teeth, explaining why teeth decay got her decide that she wanted to brush her teeth. Wearing the seat-belt is another example where initially it was a big NO and after the necessary explanations it got to the point where she asks herself to wear the belt when i forget to secure her in the rush to get going.
If you are still reading I owe you the answer to why we actually saved a lot of money after buying Urania’s parenting content. One example is when we visited Disneyland and Nathalie was in her “princess era”. She desperately wanted one of those Elsa princess dress. I was tempted to buy even if the price was something that no mentally healthy person under normal circumstances would give away for that quality. (guyz from Disneyland – if you read this – your marketing trick “parents can’t say no in front of a screaming child” doesn’t work – for some at least). I stopped in front of the dress and started to discuss with Nathalie acknowledging the fact that it is a beautiful dress and understand that she wants it, we then touched the material, smelled it and discussed either this is a good quality material that she would put on her skin. Then she asked the price and we calculated how many chocolate ice creams would that mean (about 60) which meant probably about a year worth of eating chocolate ice cream – basically she got the whole background that helped her decide that we shall not buy this dress now and try to find a better quality dress at the right price – which we did after a month… and there were a lot of examples like that.
I hope this article inspired you to want to discover more about parenting – something that i believe should be taught to anyone who plans to grow great people.