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I want it; I got it- wants, needs, tantrums and how to go about them

My last trip to the supermarket with Mumma was a provoking one and not just because it was our first day of practicing our decided micro-moment, it was rather the conversation we had on our way back home. As we flipped through ailes we spotted a tween throwing tantrums in front of their parents. There was this new pencil case that was apparently in trend, and this kid goes on and on about it. Similar to many parents, this lot too was determined to dismiss the kid in every way possible, “Aarav! Don’t be a bad boy! We'll leave you here only.” As Mumma and I walked past them, we passed an empathetic smile to the parents and went on to checkout from the store. While bagging our groceries, Mumma casually inserted “One of the foremost lessons for me as a parent has been to differentiate between your & kk’s needs and wants”

This took me back to what I know about needs. Abraham Maslow, an American humanistic psychologist came up with a hierarchy of needs back in 1943 which remains pretty relevant even more so for the kids. The hierarchy is laid out in the form of a pyramid at the base of which lies the physical needs; having proper sleep, nutrition, clean water, air, physical health, and well-being. The next step in the pyramid is safety needs; feeling secure, safe, and stable- emotionally, and physically, to feel safe at school and home. The third level in the pyramid consists of the need to be loved and belong; the social connections, friends, peers, playtime, to feel that they belong, that they are loved and included. The fourth level consists of the esteem needs; the need to feel a sense of achievement, to be recognized for work well done, and to have a sense of autonomy. The final need is that of self-actualization; the need to be creative, to find their uniqueness and their voice, and be the most they can be.

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The difference between needs and wants has often been hard to make out. But with the above, we can conclude that needs are the things you can not function optimally without; wants just make the quality of your life better. Now this may make a parent wonder; if needs are enough to function optimally why entertain all these wants of a child then? Valid enough, as a parent fulfilling every want of your child is not only impractical but also irrational. But this doesn’t equate to not entertaining the wants at all. It is interesting to note that sometimes, these wants might be indicative of a need.

Lets circle back to our little incident that mumma and I witnessed; the kid had been going on and on about a pencil case “but everyone in the class has a new pencil case, everyone in the new school has it! Why can’t you get me this?” and despite their parent’s repeated refutes, the kid simply didn’t want to let go. In this case there might be a deeper meaning to it. There are times when kids throw tantrums to get the parents’ attention but there are also times when these wants and tantrums around it may suggest a need of the kid being unmet. In the above scenario, it is possible that the demand of the pencil case might be an extension to the need to be socially included, to feel belonged to and loved by peers of his new school.

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That day after we checked out, mumma and I got to talking again. As an attempt to seek reassurance I asked her, “but I wasn’t a difficult kid, was I?” Mumma responded “ well, not as much. But you have thrown your fair share of fits.”

“And how did you tackle that?” I followed up curiously. “It was easy, the moment I sensed a hint of fixedness to get something, I simply put that to a later day by saying ‘let’s get you home and we will see to it’ I never gratified your need immediately, especially if there was a tantrum involved. I didn't want you to associate throwing tantrums as a way to get what you want.” This was a regular mother’s way of dealing with a child’s wants and tantrums around it. Let's also look at what a child psychologist has to say about this.

In a riveting conversation with Dr. Meghna, a Bangalore based child psychologist and internationally certified positive parenting coach, I came across two key elements to handle situations when your child is throwing tantrums. The very first being acknowledging and validating the emotions your child is going through. According to her, trivializing the kid while they are expressing their wants (with or without tantrums) can be counterproductive. Drifting your responses away as a parent from “this is too much” or “why do you keep wanting this” to “I see that you really want this” or “I see that it is frustrating for you” can work very well.

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The second is to create a wishlist. Whenever your child is expressing a want you maintain a wishlist and ask them to write their wants down and revisit it when they are buying stuff for them. Or you can revisit the list when you want to reward your child. This would not only help them learn to delay gratification but would also teach them that they have to earn their rewards - in turn giving them a sense of achievement. When they revisit the list they would also learn to prioritize while they pick which item they want

These anecdotes and talks make me believe that parenting does not solely mean that you contribute to the growth of your child. You see, it is not a one way street, while grooming your kid you unconsciously groom yourself as well. As you walk along the path of parenting, you would see yourself marinating in patience and creativity; you would actualise the layers, resilience and ways of growth you are capable of. Similar to a lot of other instances of learning, this too may be hard. But is it rewarding? Definitely.

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