Children's Three Basic Needs & How a School Can Help
Updated: May 26
What every child needs is security, acceptance, and power. How do we, as educators, administrators, PTA leaders or PTO leaders, and boosters, help kids meet these needs? Kristina Campos, the parent educator from the Impactful Parent, joined The Multipurpose Room podcast to discuss each of these needs and how we can help.
Children Need Security in School
What do we mean by security?
There are two parts to security. The first is physical security, and the second is your support network's security. The first is easy to understand – kids want to know they won’t be physically hurt on the playground, the field, or their walk to school. The second is more about being loved no matter what they do, including if they advance an unfavorable opinion.
How can we help kids feel secure?
Physical security is a little easier to understand a school’s role. Schools can keep their children physically secure by doing things like keeping the campus secure, having bullying policies and enforcing them, and ensuring any physical altercations are avoided or dealt with appropriately. Concerning security in the support network, this is more about creating an environment where teachers start from a place of support. Showcasing that failure is encouraged and accepted as a learning tool goes a long way to this. Coaches, PTAs, PTOs, or support educators also ensure they aren’t shining a light on any potential “failure” during after-school or extracurricular activities.
Children Need Acceptance
What do we mean by acceptance?
Acceptance and security are close. Security is about knowing someone will not turn their back on you if you are different. Acceptance is about feeling like you fit in and having a place to feel at home in the school community. It is about feeling like the school wants you in its community.
How can we help kids feel accepted?
This one is a bit harder because the school has less power over a child’s peer group. However, educators can help by creating policies of inclusiveness, ensuring they are identifying and addressing any equity issues, and listening to the students. Here, PTAs, PTOs, and administrators can help a lot by creating after-school programs or supporting clubs that match the interests of the children. In older grades, supporting any kids’ ideas about clubs they may want will address this need.
Children Need Power
What do we mean by power?
This is an often misunderstood need because the word “power” can have so many different meanings. This need specifically refers to having a sense of power over your environment and not feeling powerless. Children need to feel like they matter, that their actions matter, and have consequences. You must give children choices in their education and what is presented to them. If they don't have any choices at all, and they're just powerless and going through the system, they feel powerless. And the scary part about this is powerless turns to hopelessness, hopelessness turns into depression, depression turns into self-harm, and self-harm can lead to suicide.
How can we help kids feel empowered?
School administrators can help by providing choices in courses and extracurricular activities, creating clear behavior policies, and enforcing consequences. Schools should also publicize any emotional health resources they offer so that the children know where to go if they feel powerless or hopeless. Finally, teachers can look for children pulling away, engaging less, or giving up. If they notice these behaviors, they should talk to the child and/or pull in additional support resources from the school.
As PTO parents, coaches, teachers, administrators, etc., we play an instrumental role in our children’s development. Ensuring we are helping them meet their three basic needs allows our children to learn more, engage more, and ultimately be happier. For more details on these needs and your role in supporting our children check out the full podcast episode.