Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: What Parents Need to Know?

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who defined human needs through a hierarchy. The hierarchy pyramid includes five needs. Starting at the bottom of the pyramid are physiological needs such as food, water, warmth, and rest. We then move into safety needs such as security and feeling safe. Right above that are the love and belonging needs. This includes intimate relationships, families, and friends. The fourth need includes self-esteem. This describes the need to feel a sense of accomplishment and be content with yourself. If all the needs are prioritized, they result in something called self-actualization. Self-actualization is at the top of the pyramid which is explained as self-fulfillment meaning achieving one’s full potential.

How does this affect our children? It is important as a parent to understand the premises of human needs. All of these needs are essential to implement in early developmental stages and will help set up children for success. Children need to feel safe, secure, loved, confident, and taken care of to create the best versions of themselves.

Physiological Needs- Starting at the bottom of the pyramid with physiological needs, these are crucial to a child’s general well-being. While some state that these are the “basics” that are required for a human, it is important to emphasize that sometimes they can be difficult to provide. Many parents work overtime to just put food on the table and make sure their children have nice clothes to wear. Ultimately, the food that we eat and the water that we drink are vital for healthy development and a step closer to self-actualization. This level of need is key for survival.

Safety needs- A child must feel safe to create a sense of security. This will help further boost confidence. If a child does not feel comfortable in their own home, they will most likely withdraw and not partake in any activities that can help improve development. We see sometimes if a child does not feel completely safe, they are not able to apply themselves which creates a negative or saddened attitude. This is a fundamental step for children to be able to be their true selves and know that where they are will only help them positively. Helping a child feel safe can be done by having a predictable routine in place each day. Reminding them that they have parents and family that are here to help as they need is another way to provide a sense of safety. Instilling in them that they are strong and capable also help to build a sense of safety.

Love and Belonging Needs- Although this stage can involve romantic relationships for adults as well as friendship and family, as a child the love from family and friends is one of the most crucial influences in their life. During early developmental stages if children do not feel loved or wanted by their family and friends they will have low self-esteem, most likely engage in non-appropriate behaviors, seek attention elsewhere, etc. This can also cause anxiety and depression. Parents need to make sure that a child’s emotional needs are not only met but that they are strong and maintained. Simple things like playing games with your child and asking about their feelings make a huge difference.

Self-Esteem Needs- Teaching your child respect, boundaries, and healthy behaviors all play a role in higher self-esteem. Having the right amount of confidence can make or break their childhood. Understanding that they are great being who they are and having humility is the key to positive attitudes. High self-esteem is what motivates children to not only do better but pursue new activities and challenges. Self-esteem also allows children to ask for help when needed instead of backing down.

Self-Actualization- This final stage takes time and years to reach. The best way to reach this stage is by implementing all the prior needs into childhood. Acquiring the “basic” needs at an early age will help reach self-actualization. This stage can be fulfilled with whatever fits your child best. Every person’s version of self-actualization is different. One might reach this stage when they are fully successful in their career and for some when they become parents themselves. As parents, the most helpful thing is to guide children to find their path and be the best support system possible. Reflect on these needs for yourself as well as your children. 

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