The Fourth Main Intimacy Need of Childhood

This week’s #Thursday Thoughts blog post brings us to the end of the first part of our small mini-series on the main intimacy needs of childhood. We looked at how they impact on the self-esteem of our children and affect us as adults too. If you are only joining us now on this journey, then you might want to start with reading the first of these interlinked posts here. Next week we start on the second part of the mini-series as we look at how our own childhood needs have influenced us and how we can grow even if we did not have all four these needs adequately met.

What is the Fourth Main Intimacy Need of Childhood?

children as giftsThe fourth intimacy need is respect, and respect is a great word because it means “valued.” The word has been used as a control device – children have easily interpreted “Respect your mother and father” as “Fear your mother and father” and that has done damage. But helping children understand that respect means “to value and see as precious” is the right way to go. They need to know that, to you and your partner, they are individually very special and a gift. That said, while it’s very important for the child to see themselves as a gift, we must not make them little emperors. In China, that’s a problem because of the one-child policy. Little boys feel like little emperors because they are so valuable and that’s turned traditional Asian respect – based on age – on its head. We’re not a million miles away from that here, so we must teach our children that respect is a two-way road. You respect the child and the child respects you. Teaching them that they’re valuable makes them see that others are valuable, too. If you don’t do it, they’ll go around feeling or fearing worthlessness. When people are feeling worthless, they envy everyone else and would prefer to be someone else rather than themselves and that leaves them vulnerable to exploitation, etc. If they know that the person they are is valuable, it prepares them better for the future.

Your children will learn respect from seeing how you respect and value yourself, and how they see you respect others. Respect is one of those needs that helps you consider others and empathise with their situation, however difficult that might be. It helps you to admire and be admired, which in turn allows you to see yourself as worthy.

None of these four areas of investment is going to cost you money. Whether you live in a council house or a palace, when you invest these in your child, nothing should stop them from moving ahead in the world. They’ll be a healthy individual with a healthy view of the world and other people. Because of this investment, you’ve shown them how to survive and thrive as they move into the future.

Table Summary of the Four Main Intimacy Needs of Childhood
FUNDAMENTAL NEED HOW TO REINFORCE IT IMPLICATIONS IF NOT MET
ACCEPTANCE / FORGIVENESS 1) Emphasise your love is not related to their behaviour
  1. Having to please or do for fear of rejection
  2. Becoming a slave to the needs of others and believing one has no choice
  3. Diminution of self-worth
ATTENTION
  1. Listening
  2. Tactile Affection
  3. Caring concern
  4. Acknowledgement of them and what they’re going through
  1. Feeling “Nobody cares”
  2. Feeling “What I have to say is not important”
  3. Inappropriate understanding of touch
ENCOURAGEMENT
  1. Assisting them
  2. Comforting failures or losses
  3. Promoting and applauding them
  4. Speaking well of them in their hearing
  1. Perfectionism
  2. Procrastination
  3. Low Self-esteem
  4. A “Can’t-Do” Attitude
RESPECT
  1. Valuing them as unique and understanding their individual needs
  2. Allowing them responsibility appropriate to their age
  1. Worthlessness or Depression
  2. Narcissism / Inflated belief in themselves / Self-obsession
  3. Seeing others as more valuable or special than themselves
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