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Needy Children

Needy Children


Some kids are needier than others. A needy child demands the parent's attention in various ways – through talking a lot, asking for lots of things (food, toys, material items, privileges, treats), responding to minor stresses with intense drama, and otherwise seeking lots of attention and connection. Such children can exhaust their parents. In most cases, there are other kids in the family who also need attention – perhaps there is a toddler and/or infant. It's hard to deal with really little ones and a bigger child who "should" be past the needy stage but somehow isn't. What can parents do?

Helping Your Needy Child

Needy children are that way because of inborn temperamental traits (unless they are only temporarily needy due to illness or a particular stress or upset). In most cases, they will tend to remain more demanding throughout childhood. For this reason, parents need to help themselves as well as their child. Here are some strategies for both:

  • Try to take parenting breaks – a night out for a class, regular contact with friends, a personal hobby or exercise routine. Don't lock yourself up in the house all the time with a needy child – it won't be good for either of you!
  • Read parenting books and take parenting courses – you need more information and options than parents of non-needy children. Keep picking up new tips and strategies because every little bit helps.
  • Don't feel obliged to constantly listen to or attend to your needy child. You can set limits on the demands that are put upon you. You can say things like: "Please don't ask me anything else for the next hour – I need some quiet time."
  • Even when your needy child doesn't like it, you can say "no." "No, I can't watch right now." "No, you can't buy another sweater." "No, you can't have anything more to eat." Of course, try to say "yes" whenever possible, but don't sweat over saying "no." Teach your needy child not to whine or tantrum when he or she doesn't get the answer that was desired.
  • Don't blame your child for being needy and demanding – it wasn't his or her choice. Try to be compassionate; the child is born with a bottomless pit and it actually hurts.
  • Use rules and structure to set limits on what the child can have and/or ask. For instance, "You can ask me for only one new item every two weeks, so think carefully about what you want to ask for."
  • Use "Emotional Coaching" (naming your child's feelings) to help your child cope with the disappointment of not getting what he or she wanted. For instance, "I know that it's frustrating not to be able to have that toy when everyone else in the class seems to have it. That's really annoying. I know you're not happy about it."
  • Stay calm when dealing with this child. Manage your own stress as well as possible (try to get some sleep!) and call a professional counselor when you're having trouble staying "nice."

The Torah tells us to "educate a child according to his way" which means that we will have to individualize our parenting strategies to some extent for each one of our children. When we have a needy child, we have to recognize the child's challenge and our own, and do our best to lovingly address both.

Sarah Chana Radcliffe is the author of The Fear Fix, Make Yourself at Home and Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice. Sign up for her Daily Parenting Posts.
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Sarah Chana Radcliffe Toronto, Ontario September 19, 2012

books Although I am not aware of any books that are devoted to the topic of "needy children," the subject is addressed to some extent in books about children with special needs. For instance, in Ross Greene's excellent book "The Explosive Child" there is plenty of information that is pertinent to needy kids. Similarly, some of the literature on kids with ADD/ADHD addresses the needy trait, because a lot of kids with that diagnosis suffer from the needy syndrome as well. I'd say check out books that address any of the childhood disorders - anxiety, Asperger's Syndrome, bi-polar disorder and others. While most "needy kids" do not have an official disorder of any kind, some of the children with official disorders do have needy characteristics and therefore these kinds of books may have some valuable tips. Reply

Anonymous Richmond Hill, Ontario September 19, 2012

Needy Child Hello,

It is very interesting article, I would very appreciate if author can share some books with us, that helps parents to deal with such kids. .

Thank you Reply

Anonymous croydon, UK March 30, 2012

totally agree ... unless you experience it yourself you won't know what is it. I'm an educated social worker with years of experience and feel well equipped for my role as a mum... nevertheless, even if i give 100% of myself and sometimes more there rarely seems to be enough... I love my little one and do everything i can possibly do to always comfort her and i do care about her being securely attached so I do my best to make myslef always available but there are days when i feel tottaly exhausted because of that, whreas I do observe some other parents who don't need to go lenghts in meeting their children's needs, simply because there children demand less. I feel reassured reading the article but terribly dissapointed to see comments like the first one posted!!!!! Awful blameful attitude and very unhlepful Reply

Anonymous Toronto, Canada October 7, 2011

above comment in relation to the above comment, just another person looking to blame the parent instead of looking at the child's temperment and how it impacts the family Reply

Anonymous September 20, 2010

One more possibility... I'm afraid there is one other possibility that isn't mentioned. That is, the possibility of a needy child being a red flag for a needy parent. In short, it's due to a parent's needs being presented in a manner in which they become a significant priority to a child (consequently, the child may have difficulty identifying their needs since they had to identify more closely with some of the needs of the parent).

What I can't emphasize enough is that this pattern can be unintentional on the part of the parent, and can be hard to identify (since it may not occur in extremes but still be as potent).

In terms of parenting books, I'm not certain if I can legally recommend a book in the comment box. If I can, I would be happy to recommend the one that informed me that needy children could be a possible sign of a needy parent.

In the meantime, it would be recommended to look into Parental Enmeshment, and Enmeshed Mother or Father (there's a technical term called Mother Enmeshed Man). Reply

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Sarah Chana RadcliffeSarah Chana Radcliffe is the author of The Fear Fix, Make Yourself at Home and Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice. Sign up for her Daily Parenting Posts.
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