What Do You Need?
By: Colleen Derksen
I took the kids camping all by myself this summer. Actually, a friend was there with her kids, and we were at a campsite in a town, but still… Anytime I tackle something like that without Brian, I’m going to consider it a major accomplishment!
Anyway, the first night was a little rough. One of the boys was taking a long time to settle down, and I was starting to panic. I still had a bit of unpacking to do and I was already dreading the early wake-up I knew I’d have to face the next morning. In an effort to practice trust-based parenting, I kept asking my son, “What do you need?” Every time I asked, he would reply, “Exercise!” and start bouncing around. At this point, my trust-based parenting skills fell apart, because I would then say, “No, you don’t. You need sleep. Now settle down and close your eyes.” We must have had this exchange half a dozen times, and both of us were getting frustrated.
Meanwhile, I was also texting Brian, hoping he would have some wisdom and perspective for me. When I mentioned that our son was claiming to need exercise, he texted back with, “So why don’t you let him go outside for 5 minutes?” Exasperated, but willing to try anything, I asked if he wanted to help me unload the cooler contents into the fridge. He jumped at the chance (literally) and within 10 minutes the work was done. Within another 10 minutes, he was asleep. Why did I argue with him for so long?
We teach the importance of meeting our kids’ needs as part of the ETC parent training. We discuss how crucial it is to faithfully meet their needs if we want to build trust, and we encourage parents to give joyful yeses whenever they can. We highlight the fact that “What do you need?” is a much more helpful and productive question than “What do you want?” or “What’s wrong with you?”