Needs to Know: Childhood

Needs to Know: Childhood

Between the ages of about 5 and 12 years, we refer to the growing person as a child. Childhood may be the most dynamic phase of human development. Unparalleled growth occurs in a short period of time. Body size and weight, lanquage acquisition, peer relations and social interaction, intellectual capacity, logic, reason…there is just so much happening within this period that it can become confusing and overwhelming for parents, especially with more than one child in the home.

The needs of the child, in addition to the basic physical/biological requirements, are becoming increasingly psychological/emotional. At this state of development, industriousness and competency become primary concerns. The child is now attending school and being confronted with many tasks. The child is forming relationships with schoolmates and neighborhood friends. The child is learning to use various tools and collaborate with others in joint projects. Parents are becoming a less dominant presence as the child spends more time away from home at school and in after-school activities. Teachers and peers become the dominant role models. Industriousness and competency are a challenge in just about every sphere. Even play, which, in the toddler phase was more for the pure satisfaction of play itself, becomes a means of developing competency. The care-free toddler is on the path towards becoming a youth concerned about method, achievement and accomplishment. One area of the need for competency is in some areas of knowledge. Children ask all kinds of questions; why this or why that – it can drive a parent nuts! Children will ask questions about sex as well: how are babies made? How come I have a penis (or vagina) and mommy (or daddy) doesn’t? Children will “play house” and act out parental roles. Despite these questions, the child is not interested in sex, per se; they are just curious about what makes the world the way it is. This is also a time when a child is most apt to become interested in and learn about the father’s and/or mother’s hobbies or favored activities such as any kind of arts and crafts, gardening, sewing, painting, singing, dancing, auto mechanics, computers….the list can go on and on. Outings into the community to parks, public pools, museums, libraries, malls….Children are like a sponge and soak up experience. Children benefit tremendously from exposure to a wide range of experience.

Some of the things a parent can do to help a child master the challenges of this stage include:

  • Support, encouragement and patience. It takes a lot to learn a method. There are lots of mistakes and failures in learning anything new. A child needs to learn, and to feel, that mistakes and failures can be corrected; that they are steps towards mastery. This is accomplished through positive coaching, realistic encouragement and supportive guidance. Children, when learning something new that they really want to learn, don’t accept failure easily. If a child wants to learn to ride a bike, they will take many falls and not be discouraged getting up again and again until they are riding down the street yelling “look mom, no hands.”
  • Allow a child to pursue what is of interest to them. If a child takes a keen interest in the electric guitar, don’t require them to play the piano. Of course, parents can introduce their children to all kinds of activities: singing, dancing, swimming, sports, cooking, sewing…However, keep in mind that every one of these, and all other activities, will be colored by the child’s need for competency in that area. If the child wants to partake of an activity, the chances of mastery are much higher. The child may loose interest after a while and want to move on to something else. This is not uncommon as the child explores the field of possibilities. Allow this exploration. Do not force a child into an activity he or she does not want. Find an alternative. Keep in mind that children at this stage NEED to be industrious and develop competency. They will choose an activity, or activities, by which this can be accomplished. Children don’t, by nature, want to sit around idling. However, it is a very good idea to limit TV time and make sure plenty of alternatives are available.
  • Provide exposure to varied experiences at home, in the neighborhood and in the community.
  • Reward successes. This is such a basic tenet that it hardly goes without saying. Nevertheless, it is important and must be incorporated into the life of a growing child. Even little accomplishments like completing a household chore on time — and correctly, can be acknowledged.
  • Do not punish for mistakes or failures. Punishment must be for violation of rules and that punishment is best in the form of natural consequences which have been laid out beforehand. For example, if a household rule is that all toys are to be taken out of the living room and put into the bedroom before going to bed or else that toy will be taken away for a week, and a toy is left in the living room overnight, then that toy is taken away for a week. There should be no surprise. Household rules and consequences should be known by everyone in the family. Children, even as young as 5, and certainly by age 8 and up, understand rules and consequences.
  • Answer questions honestly. The answers can be simple. When a child asks “how are babies made” the parent can answer simply “babies are made when mommy and daddy have intercourse.” The child does not need to know the meaning at this stage, just that he/she received a credible answer.
  • Be available to listen to your child. Spend quality time with your child. Communicate, collaborate and negotiate with your child. Children at this age are becoming increasingly social, and reasonable, creatures.
  • Play with your child. Children at this age are still very much interested in play, even though it may be more geared towards an end than a means in itself, it is still fun.

If a child fails to satisfy the need for being industrious and competent, a sense of inferiority and inertia can develop. Or, they may become accomplished in a very narrow area, perhaps even a virtuoso, but very limited.

All too soon Childhood comes to an end. Whether or not the tasks and needs of this stage have been fully satisfied, we enter the domain of adolescence. A difficult time, to say the least.

Needs to Know: Adolescence


Needs to Know: The Toddler

Needs to Know: The Toddler

The toddler is a human being between the ages of about 2 and 5 years. This is a very dynamic phase. By 2 years, the toddler is walking and starting to talk. Exploration is of high interest as is saying “no.” The early part of this phase is often referred to as “the terrible two’s” because the toddler is not only getting into everything around the house but is practicing the very, very important skill of refusal. The toddler is beginning to experiment with his or her individual will power and control of situations. The toddler is working, even at this early stage, in developing a sense of autonomy and initiative, purpose and direction. The toddler’s ability to walk allows a departure from mother’s constant presence (and control). The toddler is expanding, growing and maturing. These are fundamental needs of the toddler beyond the biological basics of food shelter and clothing. Certainly, safety continues to be of considerable importance. However, the growing mind of the toddler requires moving into new territory, new sensations, new experience, and their will naturally be risks involved.

Some of the things parents can do to encourage and support this stage of development include:

  • “baby proof” the house so as to allow safe explorations without the need of constant supervision and having to stop the toddler from exploring.
  • Allow the toddler to struggle and sometimes fail. You’d be surprised at the resilience and determination of a toddler. For example, if a toddler is trying to climb up on the couch, do not go and pick up the toddler and put him/her on the couch. Let the toddler do it on their own. The parent can observe and be present just in case, but the toddler must be allowed to try, struggle, fail, retry and achieve. This is very important for the development of autonomy and initiative. If a toddler’s sense of autonomy is thwarted, shame and doubt can develop. Impulsivity and compulsion can be symptoms of a weakened sense of autonomy. If initiative is thwarted, ruthlessness or inhibition can develop as compensation.
  • Allow the toddler to refuse. Certainly not all the time. But, it is important for the toddler to have the experience of having some control and this is often gained by refusing.
  • Set up choices and honor a toddler’s choice when not harmful or totally inappropriate. For example, you can present two different cereals for breakfast and the toddler can choose amongst those two. Do not provide a set of choices and then disallow what the toddler chooses.
  • Play. The toddler’s world is highly imaginative; pure basic fun play is very important at this stage. Although parents can play with the toddler, solitary play time is also important. Colorful building blocks and the other age appropriate items are useful but not necessary as a toddler will be happy with pots and pans, blocks of wood and various household items as well.
  • Toilet training should be accomplished during this period. There are many good publications about healthy toilet training which do not undermine the toddler’s autonomy and sense of control but actually enhance it.
  • Parents should pay particular attention to their own speech and behavior as toddlers are excellent mimic and will imitate much of what their parents say and do. This is not to say that parents need to be perfect. In fact, it is much healthier for a toddler to observe and internalize parents that are genuine and authentic than fake. However parents need to be “on the same page” when it comes to rules, regulations, discipline, chores, etc…so there is uniformity.

At this stage, he toddler is still very much in need of a stable structure and routine. Much of the toddler’s autonomy and initiative is built on the premise of an established structure. If there is no base structure, all the initiative that would go into developing autonomy goes into finding the structure. You can view the toddler as a blind person reaching out with their arms and hands trying to find the walls of the room. Once they know where the walls are, they can move freely within the room. The toddler will test the limits, try to push them. The toddler is seeking those walls within the room which are solid, not moveable. Once those unshakeable walls and rules are known, the toddler, now moving into childhood, will feel safe and secure, able to experiment with their own initiative and autonomy.

The primary model for the toddler has shifted from the mother as the exclusive parent to both mother and father, in a traditional nuclear family. In single parent homes, the toddler will model the single dominant adult. There is no doubt that a single parent household provides less modeling and interactive observations. However, in our modern day, that’s just the way it is. The nuclear family too is somewhat limited in that the toddler only internalizes one set of adult interaction. In more traditional and indigenous cultures, toddlers observe, model and internalize the behaviors from a much larger group of adults

Regardless of what has occurred during the toddler phase, the next developmental stage arrives with its own set of needs, challenges and crisis.

Needs to Know: Childhood


Needs to Know: Infancy

Needs to Know: Infancy

The infant is that cute, adorable, pure and innocent human being between the ages of birth and 2 years. This is a very critical time and the most important need at this stage is not just air, water, food, clothing and shelter, which of course are absolutely important. Also of tremendous importance is the sense of trust and security the infant develops. This sense of trust comes about by the parent(s) being responsive to the child’s basic needs of hunger and comfort. The infant is just about totally helpless not able to move on its own, not able to communicate its needs. The only real means of expressing a need or a want is crying. Mothers often become quite attunded to their infants learning subtle expressions of the infant which might mean “I’m hungry” or “I’m tired” and can then act accordingly helping to cement that sense of security and trust.

There are several things parents can do to help build a sense of security and trust within the child:

  • Feed the infant whenever he or she is hungry. Generally infants will cry when hungry and feeding would be one of the first responses to a crying infant.
  • Change diapers as soon as possible after soiled. You certainly would not like to stay in the clothes you soiled, neither does your infant. Be happy, smiling, talk to the infant in a sing song voice ormaybe even sing, during changing
  • When possible, establish a consistent schedule of some activity. For example, if the infant is most often awake and alert at 9am, that might be a good time to be with him or her and sing, read big colorful picture books out loud, google and gaggle at the infant. Basically, provide some visual and vocal sensory input for the infant on a regular schedule, day after day. Of course, such activities can also occur at other times of the day and spontaneity should certainly not be forsaken.
  • Hold the infant often; move while holding the infant, sing or hum while holding the infant. Hold the infant close to your chest and let him or her feel your heartbeat. You can also give your infant massage. There are several websites about infant massage.

Although it is not possible to spoil an infant, it is possible to create an unhealthy aura if the parents are too attentive and too overbearing. The infant can withstand, and actually benefits, from some frustration. The sense of trust and security is strengthened when the infant learns that the frustration is reduced or removed in short order. However, it is also possible to engender a sense of insecurity and mistrust which can pervade the infant’s whole life. These negative feelings would come about through erratic, little or no feeding, prolonged frustration or discomforts, lack of gentle, loving touching or holding. Insecurity and mistrust are certainly not uncommon and many adults must deal with such issues. If you interact with people who are, or are yourself, terribly insecure and don’t much trust others, are withdrawn and solitary, part of the reason may be your experiences during infanthood. There’s nothing you can do about it now other than recognize that it’s your infanthood, not your adulthood, and take steps to become more secure and trusting of yourself and others now.

Generally, the most important person in the infant’s life is the mother. The main activity of the infant is sleeping, eating and perceiving. Much of an infant’s perceiving is with the mouth. The infant is nursing, sucking his or her thumb, putting objects in his or her mouth. This is all quite normal and is part of the infants drive to interact with the world, understand the word, and trust the world.

Needs to Know: The Toddler


Needs to Know – An Introduction

needs to know introduction

Have you ever heard a young woman say “I want to have a boyfriend” or “I want to be loved” or a young man express his desire for a good job? Perhaps you have said them yourself. These are not necessarily just wants and desires but are based in actual developmental needs. We often think of our needs as basic survival requirements such as food, shelter and clothing. But, our needs are much more complex than that. When our basic needs for food, shelter and clothing are satisfied, then what? Well, then we have “higher needs” that move us; our higher needs also strive towards satisfaction and are just as important as our more basic needs. Of course, our basic needs never really leave us. We continually need food, shelter and clothing. But, as we grow, we learn, in most cases, that these needs can be easily met and they take on a secondary nature to higher more pressing needs such as the need to belong, the need for esteem, the need for knowledge, the need for competency as well as several others to be discussed in the forthcoming articles.

Higher needs are more psychological and spiritual than physical. Yet, if they are not satisfied, there can be serious negative consequences to our mental, and physical, health. Our needs can be classified into three broad categories:

  • biological/physical,
  • psychological/emotional
  • sociological/spiritual.

We are not at all aware of or the least bit interested in the psychological/emotional needs, let alone the social/spiritual, when we are not getting our biological/physical needs met. That is, no one strives for meaning in their life when they are hungry. People generally don’t volunteer their time in a community service activity when they are deeply involved in a romantic relationship. New, higher needs arise from within us when lower needs have been satisfied.

During the series of articles entitled Needs To Know, basic and higher needs, along with corresponding developmental stages we all pass through, will be outlined and some tips on how best to meet our emerging needs suggested. This information can be very useful to not only us as individuals, but to parents, managers, teachers and anyone who works with others in a supervisory role. Our behavior is often motivated by our needs and, more often than not, by unmet needs. That is, just about all behavior can be viewed as a means to satisfy needs or wants. Sometimes, adults strive to satisfy childhood or adolescent needs because those needs were never fully satisfied. Understanding the level and stages of our needs can help clarify behavior and may provide insight into how best to manage behavior.

The information in the forthcoming articles is a synthesis of information gathered from the writings of several notable figures including Abraham Maslow, Erik Erikson, Carl Jung, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Sigmund Freud and other less well known personages whose contribution, though less well recognized, are equally valued. The information presented is not something made up or novel. However, the synthesis and presentation of the material is unique and may help make academic and technical information more reader friendly and readily usable.

Needs to Know: The Infant

Needs to Know: The Toddler

Needs to Know: Childhood

Needs toKnow: Adolescence

Needs to Know: The Young Adult

Needs to Know: Middle Adulthood

Needs to Know: Elder Adulthood

Needs to Know: Seniority


About Emetophobia


I was recently alerted to the fact that emetophobia, the fear of vomiting, is the fifth most common phobia in America. Phobia, as a general category, is the most common disorder in America. There are lots and lots of phobias, hundreds and hundreds of them. Whatever conceivable behavior, emotion, situation, circumstance or event you can imagine, there is a fear about it. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the list of phobias.

Phobia is the old word for “fear.” But then, what is fear? A one-syllable word that represents a complex host of intense feelings and emotions…mental images and internal dialogues. Shakespeare’s Hamlet said it best when he uttered “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Fear is beyond bad, it’s the worst. And yet, that which we fear is made so by our thinking. At its extreme, fear is terror, a well-known concept in the political world today. At its best, fear is a moderate anxiety. Hundreds of millions of people experience anxieties and fears, and terrors. Some people are terrified of driving, others are deathly afraid of spiders. Social anxiety is a very common disorder as is the anxiety that comes from simply going to the dentist. We can be afraid of strangers, or of germs. There is even a fear of fear, which is actually called “phobophobia.”

Emetophobia is not just the fear of vomiting, which, though unpleasant, is not, in and of itself, anything to be afraid of – rationally. It’s actually a signal that the body is working correctly by ridding itself of toxin, poison or foreign material. Emetophobia, more generally, and symbolically, is the fear of throwing up, and out, stuff from the inside. Although we tend to think in terms of stomach contents, it could also refer to emotional content. Emetophobia, the fear of vomiting, can also be related to the fear of intensely emoting, of fully discharging, vomiting if you will, anger, rage, pain or sorrow; emetophobia, in addition to the fear of vomiting, can also be a fear of the cathartic wailing that can accompany intense emotional discharge, which is called ’emotophobia’ – as distinct from emetophobia.

Vomiting is generally preceded by feelings of nausea and just that alone can trigger a phobic response which then spirals out of control creating a debilitating terror of a physiological process that is though terribly uncomfortable, not in itself debilitating, or harmful, if done “properly.” The proper way to vomit is to let go and let it happen. The body knows what it needs to do and our thoughts about it often just get in the way. Attempts to not vomit only make the anxiety and discomfort more extreme and add to the fear. The intense, severe wrenching, heaving, spasms that accompany vomiting, is a purely cathartic, bodily response. If a person can adopt an attitude of trusting their body to do what it needs to do, the vomiting is completed without undue anxiety or fear.

In addition to the phobic response to nausea, and vomiting itself, there are additional thought patterns that are often attached. It’s not uncommon for people to view vomiting as meaning something is wrong with them, and the corresponding thoughts about that, when in fact, it may mean that something is right. As stated, vomiting is the body’s natural process to ridding itself of poisons, toxins or foreign material. There are times when it is actually advised to induce vomiting to help expel what has been ingested. Despite that intellectual understanding, fear of nausea and vomiting may persist for other reasons.

There are also issues of “control” about vomiting. With the exception of self-induced vomiting, it is something that is out of our control; it happens to us. Granted, we may have eaten bad food…. but, still, the nausea and vomiting come upon us unbid, even if it is to expel rotten food. We feel out of control, and that in itself can often cause high anxiety and panic attack, which can then lead to a phobic response. We may be less frightened of the actual vomiting than we are of being out of control.

The irony is that by letting go and letting it happen, one gains control. By choosing to stop fighting it and, so to speak, go with the flow, one takes command of the situation. By trying to control the situation, one is out of control because it cannot be controlled and the anxiety and panic only increases to phobic and debilitating levels.

Emetophobia may be an irrational fear, but it is nonetheless a palpable one and can, like any phobia, overrun one’s life. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt so astutely pointed out, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It’s not just the vomiting itself that we fear; we fear the fear of vomiting for it is that fear which translates a natural organic, albeit a very strenuous, process into a hideous monster to be frightened about.

Some of the common interventions for emetophobia are Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Systematic Desensitization, Exposure, Hypnotherapy and Neurolinguistic Programming. You can obtain more information, and support, at the International Emetophobia Society.