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Ensure Your Child is Getting These Four Basic Needs

July 31, 2017 | by Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP

When your child misbehaves, first check that these four essential needs are being met.

There are four basic needs that every child needs, and if they’re not getting it that will negatively impact their behavior. We need to make sure they’re getting these needs met before we can do anything else.

1. Sleep:

The first thing I ask a parent when they tell me that their child is misbehaving is, “Are they getting enough sleep? And do they have a set bedtime?” I often get quizzical looks, as if it can’t be as simple as that, but it often is just that simple!

So many kids today are seriously sleep deprived and research has shown that sleepy kids results in bad behavior. It seems like a no-brainer but somehow we overlook this. Additionally, children who have set bedtimes are not only less whiny and cranky, they have a reduced risk of obesity and score better on cognitive tests in reading, math and spatial relations.

When parents make sleep a priority, the home can become instantly calmer and more peaceful. Everyone, parents included, are better behaved when they get the sleep that they need.

2. Food:

It seems too simple to even mention but we often overlook this. Anytime your child is misbehaving, check if they’re hungry. And if you are experiencing more serious issues with your child’s behavior ask yourself if your child tends to misbehave right before, lunch or dinner time? Can you change those times to better meet the nutritional needs of your child?

So much of our lives are on the run that children (and adults) are not getting their basic nutrition needs met. It is much better for children to have set times for meals and snacks than randomly handing them food.

I also cannot stress enough the importance of family dinners. According to, the benefits of family dinners are significant:

  • Better academic performance
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Greater sense of resilience
  • Lower risk of substance abuse
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy
  • Lower risk of depression
  • Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
  • Lower rates of obesity

It is often very difficult with our schedules to have family dinners, but even a couple of times a week can make a difference.

3. Routines:

Children thrive on routines and set schedules. Young children have so little control over their lives; they cling to their little rituals. When children know what is expected of them, what is coming next, they have a much easier time listening and are much more likely to be cooperative.

Having a set scheduled for the mornings and evening is critical. Younger kids feel more secure when they know the routine: First we have dinner, bath, brush our teeth, and story time. Parents can make picture charts to help children understand and stick to their routines.

Older kids find it helpful when they have a set time to wake up in the morning, get dressed and get their backpacks ready to go. They need routines in the evening as well: time to do homework, play on the computer, eat dinner and get into bed.

You can involve your child and include his input. “When do you think the best time is for you to do your homework?”

“If the bus leaves at 7:30, how much time do you think you need to get ready in the morning? What time should you wake up?”

4. Attention:

Children need their parents’ attention; it is critical to their growth and development. They will try to get it any way they can. So if a parent is not paying attention to them, they’ll resort to getting negative attention by misbehaving, poking the new baby, writing on the walls, or not eating their meal.

Older children and teens may resort to more drastic measures when they don't get the attention they need from their parents.

Spending time with our kids is key; even 10 minutes a day of your undivided attention will make a huge difference in their lives. Greeting our kids when they come home from school, sending them off in the morning, and tucking them in at night is ideal.

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