We are luckily enough to live in one of the most wonderful neighborhoods imaginable. Most of our basic needs are satisfied. Yet many parents experience an immense amount of frustration when our children demand more. The demands can be looked at as an annoying behavior or as a call for help.
When our basic needs are met, I believe we have two fundamental desires:
1. To have a sense of belonging.
2. To have a purpose.
Infants are happiest when their basic needs are met. They are fed, safe, warm, healthy and clean. Soon they recognize they are part of a family as they are loved, encouraged, and included. Being part of a family helps achieve the innate desire to belong.
It becomes trickier as they grow and become more independent. The need for a purpose becomes more prominent. The earlier you can capitalize on the enthusiasm of participating, the easier it is to instill the sense of purpose. If they are older, it may take more effort to achieve the same results – but it can be done!
My philosophy is that if you can move, you can help. If you are helping, you are satisfying a purpose and/or feeling like you belong. Even early crawlers delight in accomplishing jobs. The simple act of putting toys away gives toddlers an immense sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
My two-year eagerly helps to set the table, put away his dishes, wipe away spills, etc. It took much more effort and negotiation with my older children because I didn’t realize how capable they were at the earlier ages. As long as I set them up for success by asking for specific tasks that they can achieve, their confidence builds.
I love the phrase “you are in charge of…” It gives children a sense of ownership and responsibility. If they older then three, take it a step further – tell them how their contribution helps to achieve the overall goal (like the task of setting the table helps to get dinner served). They have a sense of how their tasks link to an outcome. Applaud the efforts and accomplishments.
Linking specific actions to how it contributes to an overall goal is the key to fostering purpose through simple tasks at home. I recognize this takes a lot of energy. Dig deep and find it – it’s worth the investment! My hope is that achieving a simple sense of purpose as a child carries through to adulthood. Grown-ups that feel like they belong and have a purpose are more inclined to be the change-agents to advance our world toward unity because they are secure in themselves, and maybe it all started with having a purpose of putting their toys away!