The 3 CORE NEEDS Children have that Underpin Good Behaviour

Children have three core needs that I believe every parent needs to know about.

Because when these three core needs are met:

  • children are peaceful and behave well;
  • children become happy, thriving, secure future adults.

In this blog I will share, firstly, what these core needs are and, secondly, some ways of meeting them.

Children’s Three Core Needs:

1) A warm, authentic, compassionate relationship with their parents/caregivers. We know about this need: we often call it attachment or bonding.

2) The freedom to be themselves and express themselves authentically – this need is less well known.

3) A framework that contains them and keeps them safe: the structures of family life, the mealtimes, the rules, the weekly and daily rhythm and what we often call boundaries or limits.

When children’s needs are met, they feel good.

When they feel good, they behave well, naturally.

However, when children’s needs are not met and they feel bad, their behaviour will be bad, too.

So if your child isn’t behaving well, they’re actually telling you that a need is not being met.

That’s ok – it’s a opportunity to meet that need, so read on:

Step 1: Meeting your child’s need for relationship

How can we meet this need? 

By connecting with our children. 

And I’m sure you’re already doing this with your hugs, smiles, cuddles, quality 1-to-1 time and ‘I love you’s.

They key thing here is that, in addition to this, children need connection also when their behaviour is challenging…

Especially when they behaviour is challenging. 

One way you can connect at these times is by empathising.

Empathy is about understanding and sharing the feelings of another.

For example, if your child starts shouting on return from the park, you might say, “I wonder if you’re disappointed that I was distracted in the park and didn’t really watch you play, even though you asked me to?”

Step 2: Meeting your child’s need for the freedom to be themselves

Of course, we can’t allow children every kind of self-expression, because some of the things children do are dangerous.

So, here’s how you can triage behaviours:

  1. Some behaviours are a firm no – (e.g. running into the street)
  2. Other behaviours require guidance, but they are not an emergency. We can redirect children or engage them – if they interrupt or refuse to clear up the toys.
  3. There are also behaviours we don’t need to correct. These behaviours are an opportunity to allow children the freedom to be themselves. Behaviours like: asking to be helped (when they can do it themselves), being jealous or competitive, not greeting adults in the polite way we want them to, not joining in at parties, singing loudly, asking for things, picking their nose. 

Children don’t need to be perfect… They learn things over time and they are SO grateful when we allow them to be themselves.

And this gratitude translates into better behaviour

‘Picking your battles’ makes life easier.

You become more relaxed – and so will your children.

So…. why not choose one behaviour you are no longer going to correct?

Step 3: Meeting your child’s need for containment

This is a big topic. Here I am just going to focus on boundaries/limits.

Boundaries work best when they are just facts of life.

No need for lectures.

No need for a lot of emotion or insistence.

If your child throws a toy in a dangerous way, you put it away saying, “I’m keeping everyone safe.”

If they hurt another child at a party – you take them home. 


I hope this overview has been helpful.

If you are curious about the approach outlined above, I would like to offer you a Gift Session.

Let’s talk, no strings attached. 

Click here to book your session: https://www.oonaalexander.co.uk/lets-talk/

Much love

Solve the Struggle with Your Kids

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The 6 Wise Parenting Powers

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Solve the Struggle with Your Kids

parenting-3d-cover_500

The 6 Wise Parenting Powers

Download my no cost guide to raising a secure and happy family.

By signing up you're agreeing to receive the guide, a few emails to help you get started and my irregular newsletter, with useful articles and resources, news of free parenting trainings and special offers on my mentoring services. You can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy.