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Discussing Wants and Needs

Discussing Wants and Needs


When children enter the picture, parents must learn to understand and meet their child’s wants and needs. Wants and needs are two distinct yet often overlapping concepts, and learning the difference between the two helps parents create a healthy and balanced environment for their children. Knowing how and when to provide for their child’s wants and needs and assessing between the two is a critical parenting skill.

Discussing Wants and Needs

Distinguishing Between Wants and Needs

When children express their wants and needs, it is important for parents to differentiate between the two. Needs refer to basic necessities such as food, sleep and shelter, while wants are usually more discretionary and may include items such as toys, video games and other entertainment. Wants aren’t as essential to a child’s physical and emotional well-being as needs.

For instance, if a child wants an expensive toy, a parent may be able to ascertain whether it is a real need or simply a whim. If the child’s other needs are being adequately met and if the toy is not a necessary part of the child’s development, the desired item is likely a want rather than a need.

Prioritizing Needs

Meeting needs should take priority over wants. An everyday example of a need might be clothing; a child needs clothing to keep warm. A luxury item—such as a designer label sweat shirt—could be classified as a want.

Prioritizing needs is often simpler said than done. Many parents want to provide their children with everything they want and distinguish between wants and needs can help parents appropriately meet their children’s needs.

Understanding Emotional Needs

In addition to the basic necessary wants and needs, children also have varying emotional needs. Parents should strive to assess and fulfill these needs through communication, discipline, emotional support and attention.

For example, when a child is in emotional or physical danger, he needs quickly and effective reassurance from his parent. The child needs emotional safety, trust, reassurance and security from his parent.

Although emotional needs are neither tangible nor easily measurable, they are vital for a child’s development and growth. Successfully meeting such needs is an indication of successful parenting.

Learning to Balance Wants and Needs

Meeting children’s needs is one of the main objectives of parenting. With a constantly evolving list of needs and wants, it can be difficult to assess and meet these needs consistently. Parents need to learn to read their children’s cues and continuously engage in an honest and open dialogue.

One way to balance a child’s wants and needs is by letting the child take part in decision-making while still maintaining parental control. Involving children in decision-making gives them greater autonomy and independence and helps them learn the importance of making smart decisions.

Teaching the Value of Money

When children understand the difference between wants and needs, parents can introduce the concept of budgeting. Teaching children early on about the value of money, along with what items constitute needs and wants, can have profound implications on their future. Guiding children through budgeting decisions shows them that money should be saved for necessary expenditures or saved for future endeavors.

Parents may also consider involving children in some of the household expenses, such as groceries. Involving children in decision-making and the cost associated with it can help them understand the significance of money and the influence it has on their wants and needs.

Learning Self-Restraint

As children grow, they will naturally want more than they actually need. Through conversations and guidance, parents can help children learn self-restraint in their wants. This is also an excellent to way to teach them the importance of being disciplined in making choices.

Children need to learn that a balance of wants and needs is healthy; they cannot have unlimited wants and needs. The earlier parents start teaching children about prioritizing wants and needs, the easier the process is.

Understanding and properly assessing between the wants and needs of their children is an important step in successful parenting. By learning to prioritize wants and needs and teaching children the difference between the two, parents can help cultivate balanced decision-making with regards to financial responsibilities in the future.

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