9 Basic Needs of Children Most Parents Miss

Kids are honest. They tell us the brutal truth in almost every situation. Like when you wake up with a lovely zit right on your forehead and your kid feels the need to point it out to you at their first waking moment, as if you didn’t already know.

They haven’t formed their filter yet and so children have a way of telling it like it is. Which isn’t a bad thing, you just gotta be ready for it when it comes.

But there are some things our kids don’t always tell us. Things they should but don’t have the capacity to find the words. Or they just have no idea how to tell you.

These are things they desperately need us to do for them, that often times go unmet. Tough, right?

These are the things that children wish their parents knew, so we could easily be equipped to meet their unsaid needs.

This is a sticky situation for both the kids who need them and the parents who unknowingly fail to deliver.

That’s why I created this list. To help parents like you and me shift our focus just a bit because parenting is hard and complicated and we all miss it from time to time.

Until we watch an inspirational video or read a post online that hits us between the eyes and helps us get where we always wanted to be.

This has happened to me a million times since becoming a mom over a decade ago.

Related: The Secret to Raising Happy and Confident Teens in an Image Focused World

9 Basic Needs of Children Most Parents Miss

We have the power to meet our children’s deepest felt needs with purpose and intention. When these needs go unmet for long periods in a growing child, it leaves a deep hole that they desperately look to fill with something or someone else.

If you read this list and feel that you’ve been missing one or a few needs, please don’t feel discouraged, judged, or condemned. Just take intentional action to reconnect with your kids in that area. The wonderful thing about children is their resiliency and their ability to forgive without question.

You may also read this list and think, these are no-brainers. Well, congratulations you’re probably a fantastic parent. But take a moment and look around at your kid’s school, at their soccer games, and dance recitals.

Talk to many of your children’s friends. You’ll quickly see these aren’t happening for every child as they should.

We need to get it out there and talk about it. Not so we can be finger-pointers and parent shamers, but to shine a light on what’s lacking in this world. And how we as moms can make such a huge difference in this world through the gift and privilege of motherhood.

When we raise happy, resilient, and kind kids… we’ve made a tremendous impact in this world! And that’s what this list is all about.

Think about this list as your simple guide to the basic needs of children.

Now let’s find out where we are…

1 – Love Them Intentionally

What does it mean to love someone intentionally? It means to give thought and purpose to how we actively show love to another person, in this case, our kids. It’s not enough to love them by providing a good home and sending them to a good school. Our kids need much more than that.

Money is the smallest thing our kids need from us… even though it doesn’t always feel that way. Parents, myself included, tend to work our fingers to the bone to give them a better life.

In the end, our kids aren’t looking for that alone. Sure, they want their basic needs met and, yes, kids love asking for and spending money. Whew! I know mine do!

But what they really need is for us to lovingly learn who they are and how they need to be loved. That’s where the power and beauty of love languages come in. If you know your child’s love language it can make all the difference.

Simply showing up and taking an interest in what your child loves can go so far… even when their interest is weird, boring to you, or just plain annoying. Because sometimes they just are!

2 – Be Present and Pay Attention

This is a huge need for children and doesn’t go away as we become adults. There are many adults in marriages where the spouse provides a good home, puts food on the table, but isn’t really there.

When your spouse doesn’t make any attempt to connect with you, it hurts deeply. I know because I’ve seen it happen.

It’s the very same with kids. They want you there physically but much more, they want you there emotionally. My daughter played soccer for a couple of years and she was really good and it was fun watching my little girl dominate the field with both girls and boys.

During this time, I saw a lot of different parents on the sidelines. One in particular stuck out to me. There was a little boy who obviously played soccer for many years and was very good.

He would ferociously kick the ball into the goal again and again like he was in the World Cup.

The crowd would cheer and you could see him immediately look where his parents were sitting to catch their approval and instead would repeatedly see his parents walking around talking on their cell phones… never looking at the field.

When I’d look back at that child, every time you could see the disappointment in his eyes. Though we could applaud his parents for both being there physically, we can see that week after week they weren’t really there.

In this amazing article, there was a study done of College athletes that asked them what their parents contributed to making them feel joy during and after their games. The answer will shock you.

It showed the power in 6 words a parent can say that can make ALL the difference, ” I love to watch you play.” Wow! That’s it! Parenting can feel complicated and overwhelming at times, but our kids are really as simple as needing us to just show up.

3 – Support Them No Matter Their Choices

I know my Type-A moms are wincing back at this one. Stay with me for a second… please. I didn’t say “approve of” all their choices, I said to support them no matter what their choices are.

Support your child, not the choices.

Life is hard and we all need a support system. We also all make mistakes and miss the mark from time to time. And it’s really hard to live life feeling like when we make a bad choice or totally screw up, that our support system is always in jeopardy.

Sure, it sucks to have a kid that can’t seem to get it together or a teenager or young adult that looks on the surface like a total disappointment despite how you raised them. I know this because I was that screw-up kid.

I was an angry, hurt, and messed up kid for a lot of reasons I can’t get into here. But the one thing my parents did was support me every step of the way. NEVER my awful choices… ME.

How did they do this? By always keeping their loving doors open, not shaming me even when it was justified, and praying incessantly for me. They never gave up on me.

And though my parents weren’t perfect, I always knew I was loved. And they taught me about Christ who loves unconditionally. And that was what I believe made all the difference in turning my life around.

Related: Why Your Teen’s Moodiness Might Not Be Hormones

4 – Say No And Give Them Borders

Yes, I said it. Our kids need us to say no and they need us to give them safe and healthy borders. Kids that have parents that say yes to almost anything, even the questionable things, are telling their kids they don’t care about them.

It’s true. Though your kid may be kicking and screaming because they can’t go to the slumber party at Amy’s house, they know way under the surface that you care. That might not be helpful right at the moment, but it’s the hardest decisions of love that linger the longest.

In this crazy, upside down world we live in, I say NO a lot. I don’t really have a choice because I love my children. And it’s my job to protect and lead them through the tough choices and teach them how to make better decisions. For example, at my daughter’s sixth-grade orientation last year, her teacher mentioned a tip about taking your child’s phone and keeping it in your bedroom at night.

At the time, I’d never thought of this because my daughter never gave me a reason. I’m so glad I heard this tip because it made me see the importance of simple ways I can remove the opportunity for her to be accessed at all hours of the night. It’s unnecessary and has the potential to be dangerous.

I treat social media accounts the same way. Our children don’t need unfettered access to unfiltered content on social media at very young ages. You can read more on why here.

Creating borders helps your child know how to place healthy borders for themselves later on.

5 – Let Them Live Their Purpose

I believe every person born on this planet has a God-given purpose. A purpose that was given to them by their creator. We may have grown them in our wombs, but God gave them life and purpose. We need to honor the gifts they’ve been given and help them grow in them.

Our kids need us to tell them they are special and unique and even when they’re scared and feel totally unqualified. That they need to discover and pursue their purpose with passion and intention.

Too often parents want their kids to pass on the family business, whatever that may be. Or to choose a more “sensible” profession instead of the one in their dreams. And I’m talking about when they’re older and not their dream of becoming a princess or Superman.

We often try to create a life plan for our kids without ever considering they already have one. Our job as parents is to help them find it and to embrace it.

There are millions of depressed, suicidal, and hopeless adults who were pressured to pursue a “sensible” career that was totally outside of their purpose. And though they may have attained success in the world’s eyes… they feel empty. Though we may not understand it, we owe it to our kids to lead them into their purpose instead of away from it.

6 – Discipline Them

Just like our kids need to be told no, they also need and want to be disciplined. The Bible teaches that we discipline those we love. There’s so much truth to that. Discipline isn’t necessarily punishment, it’s the intentional act of shaping and molding into the right behavior. And that takes work and compassion.

It doesn’t require love to want someone who’s done something terrible to face punishment. But it does require love to allow them to face that punishment while teaching and guiding them into the right behavior.

We don’t want to discipline our kids with the “rot in jail and throw away the key” mentality. Yes, punishment and consequences are all a part of the discipline process because that’s what prepares them for real life. But it’s also the compassionate and sometimes time-consuming teaching of the right behavior that makes all the difference and shows how much we love our child.

Related: How to Get Your Kids to Listen Without Yelling

7 – Give Them One on One Time

Tricia Goyer shared this concept from her book Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom. It was so simple, yet profound. But it does require endurance on your part. And it’s an investment of your time, depending on how many children you have! Yet, it’s time well spent.

If your spouse and your children each have your undivided “eyes only” attention each day, it sends a powerful message to them – YOU Matter. And there’s no revelation more powerful than that.

Try carving out small 10 minutes times for each person, each day. And then work your way up as you develop discipline in this habit.

Here are my kids and I playing at the park after a very long day. But our sacrifices go a really long way!

8 – Give Them Independence

Kids need space and independence to grow and learn how to make good choices. This may seem to be in opposition to “be present” but it isn’t. Giving your child independence simply means allowing them to work things out on their own… with your guidance.

This teaches them about how their actions have both positive and negative consequences. And as they get older they need to be able to safely make both good and bad choices. You’ll find that in doing this they learn to self-correct at a much faster rate than us always doing it for them.

Just remember to give large doses of grace as they will make mistakes!

9 – Embrace and Love Their Uniqueness

In this “fit in or get out” world we need to be intentional about embracing our children’s uniqueness. Our kids need us to affirm that though their uniqueness makes them stand out, it’s that uniqueness that makes them special.

As a child’s minister years ago, I taught my kids that it feels uncomfortable to stand out and be different. And we have this desire to blend in with what the world says is beautiful, talented, or cool.

But I asked them to think about the biggest stars and icons in the entertainment industry and describe what makes them more of a star than all the other entertainers. And the majority of the answers were… the biggest stars worked very hard to stand out and be different.

Think of Lady GaGa and Michael Jackson. Their biggest claim to fame is doing what no one else has done before… to produce a sound no one else has heard before. That takes guts, confidence, and the ability to fully embrace their uniqueness.

As parents, this is probably the hardest thing to do. But no matter how many times you tell your daughter her curls are beautiful or that your son’s bright red hair is amazing, and they brush it off… keep saying it. Until they believe it.


I hope this list gives you some inspirations on ways to be more connected with your kids. Let’s face it, we all fall short of hitting these perfectly – especially in busy seasons.

Perfection is the enemy of progress and it’s better to be aware and make changes than to try for perfection any day. What are your thoughts on this list? Did I miss anything? Please add in the comments below!

Parenting can be hard and sometimes we miss the important things. This list reveals the things your kid needs the most that they don't know how to tell you. #parenting #kidsandparenting #momadvice #momlife #kidsIt's very easy to get distracted on the wrong parenting priorities, this list helps to remind us of the most important and often surprising things our kids really need! #kidsandparenting #parenting #momlife #mom #kidsEvery child has real physical needs and emotional needs. Too often we are busy meeting the urgent needs and forgetting the most important needs of all. Find out what they are here! #kidsandparenting #parenting #kids #momadvice #familyThe most important things your children really needs isn't something they usually know how to even ask for. Get the list to see how you're doing! #kidsandparenting #parenting #momlife #kids

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Kaycee
9 months ago

I enjoyed reading this and got so many great ideas! I have two daughters, ages 2 and 4. They are wonderful! After reading reading the loving intentionally section I looked at the love languages article and it was very helpful and I had so many “aha!” moments! My two year old is a physical touch girl and my four year old is a words of affirmation girl. I am going to start being more intentional with each of them. Also my husband. 🙂

Nonhlanhla Wutete
1 year ago

Hi am a mom of two sweet little angels, I have noticed that my daughter likes to help me when I do house chores, she is 3yrs old and it slow me down, so I end up dismissing her but after reading your article I will find a way to make it work.

1 year ago

Hi a am Taylor and I am 13 years old, And I think moms and dads should give us freedom and NOT check our phones or presser us ,and they should let us go to the mall to hang out with friends and not make us do so many chores around the house. my bed time is at 8:00 and it sucks BC I am 13 and i should be able to stay up later and talk to friends and worst of all I cant have a boy friend because “i am to young” but my mom wont tell me… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by taylor
Tan
1 year ago
Reply to  taylor

Tyalor i am sure your parents love you…Being a parent myself i can see where this is coming from….your parents have more experience and they know how criel the world can sometimes be…trust me later in life you will realise your friends might not be there tomorrow but your parents will…sending you love….

Clem
2 years ago

I thank you greatly for this article, I’m learning to avail myself better as a mom!

Mulalo
2 years ago

Well written and very informative. My daughter is turning 2 next month and I just want to be the best thing she could ever have. I am a little impatient and it worries me sometimes.

2 years ago

I really love this article. Especially the part on saying “no” and maintaining boundaries/borders. It’s so important to allow our kids freedom and give them choices, but to keep them safe and know when “no” is the right answer, even if it’s hard to say it. Thank you for this article. ❤️

Annemarie
2 years ago

Thank you so much for this post. I am the yelling mom. The guilt is real when you hear how your child start talking to other kids when they do not do what my child want. She is my mirror. I hope by the grace of God it is not to late to change this behavior.

Rana
2 years ago

I do question my parenting skills and wonder if I’m doing all of this right. It’s reaffirming to know that we are doing some things right. I really appreciated the part about punishment because I’m told by family members sometimes that I don’t punish my daughter enough. But she communicated to me very early on in her life that she responds better to compassion, patience, and room for growth much more than punishment . But certainly there is room for growth. And I loved the family pic!!

Shirley
2 years ago

Deep, profound and spot on! Being a Christian psychologist, this is everything I try to give parents.

Bella m
2 years ago

Wow! Thank you for this beautiful piece of advice. Very informative parenting tips. The part of regulating emotions is so key. I just realise that if you are not in control of your emotions as a parent, it has a very big toll on your kids. Wow! We need to work on ourselves to impact positevely on our kids. I notice i yell alot at the kids. Now my kids yell too. So am learning to tone down. I jave learnt alot. And the part where you mentioned that your parents did not give up on you despite the fact… Read more »

Dad of Two
2 years ago

Wow! What an incredibly well written post. Very insightful, has given me plenty to think about – thank you! The ideas are non patronising, balanced and reasoned very well.
I will be re-reading regularly and taking on the learnings.

Jay
3 years ago

It would be helpful if you would have an article that is directed to Fathers being better parents, as all too often they are at work as providers and aren’t around for a lot of the good and bad times of child rearing, and so aren’t aware of the ups and downs and all that he’s missed by not being around all the time.

3 years ago
Reply to  Jay

That is a wonderful idea and I would love to see that as well! Thank you so much for this list Brandi! It helped inspire me to take action in something that I wasn’t sure how to handle.

Rana
2 years ago
Reply to  Jay

I felt like this article works for any parent regardless of their role or gender. I am a mom that works full time outside the home so I have similar feelings like Jay in term of not knowing exactly what’s going on with my kid on a daily basis. Frankly the kid isn’t very informative about her day and neither is the school. So we play a game of what was your favorite thing and least favorite thing that happened today. When I start to share she’s more prone to engaging. Sometimes we do it at dinner so Dad and… Read more »

Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay

You make it sound/seem like women don’t work outside of the home and ONLY men can have careers. There are more single mothers working in the US than married fathers. It’s your choice! Women make the choices to put children’s needs as a priority, maybe you should too since you chose to have children.

Jay
3 years ago

You didn’t say much on how to discipline without yelling or spanking.

Gigi
3 years ago

I love this tutorial. Will share with my daughter for her kids.
Thanks!

3 years ago

I almost love this! It’s well written and accurate. I hesitate to re-pin it, though, with the mentions of discipline AS punishment. Discipline is teaching and doesn’t have to be punishment. As a Jesus lover, I look at how He treated others as my model. (“Spare the rod” doesn’t come from the Bible.) Happy to discuss or potentially collaborate with you on this. – Sarah of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting

Cori
3 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Proverbs 13:24

Brendasensei
3 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Hi Sarah. It does, actually. Proverbs 13:24

Andrew
3 years ago

so i’m a 16 year old boy and not to be rude but the only thing on this list that is correct is give them independence, sure you may be worried but thats the joy of being my age, you can stay out a bit and catch late night public transport, it feels great, giving us independence is preparing us for the real world big time, if you’re always on our back that’s just being clingy and annoying ngl.

LittlemissTy
3 years ago

This was so refreshing to read! Very well said, thank you for this and I hope to read more from you. I don’t ever leave comments but felt led to let you know this really spoke to me. I’m a mom who has always felt I was a super mom. Parenting my babies up to 5th grade was a breeze but as my kids grew older I didn’t know how to exactly shape tweens and teens! And in this social media world .. Yicks! So I sort of began to feel inadequate to say the least because I wasn’t being… Read more »

Ton C
3 years ago

This was a GREAT READ!! Sometimes I want to tell my 9 year old daughter that she can’t wear a certain piece of clothing because it will look silly but then I quickly realize that she’s her own little person and I should let her make some of these decisions on her own. If she’s comfortable wearing it then why not?! It’s not hurting anyone ????

Angela
3 years ago

I’m so thankfull to hear this, I’m sharing it with my young family and my perfectly imperfect son who is going to be a daddy!

Shanell
3 years ago

Beautiful article! Very thought-provoking. Thank you!

Debbie
3 years ago

Great article for grandparents too. It’s always a good reminder in this tech savvy world what’s really important to our kids!

Joelle
3 years ago

Wonderful insight! Thank you for taking the time to put this list together. I also love how you give due glory to God and recognize his role in parenting. He is the ultimate role model of a parent after all, right? And honestly Im not capable of being a perfect parent though I try my best, so our kids need to know there is someone who perfectly knows and loves them. Thanks again for simplifying what we overcomplicate as parents so we can get back on track!

Allen
3 years ago

This is a great list and something to try to accomplish every day.

3 years ago

Great ideas and reminders! I really need this SO much, I’ve gotten more distracted than ever recently, but thank you for the great encouragement!

Kritty B
3 years ago

This is a really nice article! There are things that I do and some things that I felt I could work on. My husband works a crazy job and he’s not around as much as we’d all like, so I try to make up for it by being there for our kiddo. Thanks for some really nice insight, I enjoyed reading this a lot! ❤️

Jen
3 years ago

This was such an amazing list. Thank you!

3 years ago

Wonderfully articulated! I loved the last point you make on “Embracing the Uniqueness of your child and Loving them for that”. As parents, we tend to wish the best for our kids. Along with that thought, we also set expectations on how they need to be at each stage in their life. These expectations arise from what our dealings with society have taught us. At times, when reality does not match with expectations, we PANIC! We forget for a moment that each child is unique and need not fit into what the society and we parents define as ‘Normal’ Need… Read more »

3 years ago

Thanks for sharing! Kids love to feel independent and have ownership! Plus is frees you up for other things!

3 years ago

This was a good read! It is hard to let kids live and make their own choices , but they thrive with the respect!

Robin
3 years ago

Thank you so much for this list! I rarely leave a comment but after reading some of the comments you have received I felt the need to. I see some people here have a lot of judgement to pass and religion bashing. I would like to point out how graceful you are in your responses! I can truly see Gods work through you- keep up the great work and continue to do what’s right by him;-) thanks again;-)

Katie
3 years ago

I love the reminders in this article on how to refocus our energy as parents, great advice. What I do not like is all the religious references, which make it impossible for many to connect to and creates a sort of language barrier. Advice on parenting is one thing, but leave religion out of if.

Sarah
3 years ago

These are all great tips and very true. As a mother of 3 girls and an educator/school counselor who sees these things all too often; I can Totally relate! Thank you for sharing!

Randi
3 years ago

I sense some confusion regarding your bible beliefs. I am not able to even take the rest of your list serious. Born again believers, who have not grieved the Holy Spirit, are not listening to Lady Gaga every day. Have your heard the lyrics in Lady Gagas music? Do you think that those lyrics are from God? The body of Christ has become so accepting. Calling good, evil and evil good. Do you really wish for your children to grow up to be like Michael Jackson or Lady Gaga? I am sorry if this upsets you. There are so many… Read more »

Sophia
3 years ago
Reply to  Brandi Michel

Brandi… You go girl!! Pure inspiration to me esp in this reply! So graceful, yet right on the money! God is the only one who can pass judgement. You definitely found God’s plan for you and you are surely rocking it!! Keep shining God’s light!
Thank you!!!!

Ruth
3 years ago
Reply to  Brandi Michel

thanks Brand your such an inspiration, i love the way you replied to above comment ,keep moving forward, and thanks for sharing these wonderful tips,. be blessed.

Rosemary
3 years ago

Thanks so much for this it is an EYE-OPENER for me! I must admit that I’m guilty of some of the things listed above.????

3 years ago

These are some great tips every parent should read. We practice these things but this post was timely as I needed a reminder to step up my parenting game. Btw, love the IG pic

Kim
3 years ago

Awesome list! Having raised one & working on my second, I agree with most of what you said! ????

Sylvanna
3 years ago

I know I need to be a better parent. Its just so hard and I can get so discouraged and not know what to do. I’m very grateful for this post. I need to work on many of these and now I understand how, I just have to put it on my to do list. “To do: Buy bread. Spend 10 mins of alone time with son”. It sounds weird but putting it literally on my To do list is what will help me to be intentional. Thank you for helping me be a better parent. I’m so scared my… Read more »

Jean
4 years ago

Loved it. Thanks for writing. Will definitely be implementing these in the very near future!

4 years ago

THis post is beautifully put together. I am also a little emotional after reading this. Thank you for writing this and reminding us how to be really there for our kids

Gayatri Shenoy
4 years ago

This is an amazing article Brandi. It is really credible how much pains you have taken to be a good mom and shared that experience with others. I am sure you are the best mom in the world for your lucky kids. Keep up the good work, I think this is “your purpose’” in your life. You have “found” it indeed.
God Bless.

Jessica
4 years ago

I think this was a great article. Gave me a lot to think about. And a lot of encouragement. However, i am curious as to how my troubled and failed childhood is keeping me from my fullest potential with my kids. Mental illness is a strong influence and struggle for me. Are there any pieces on how to over come that? Or how to cope with it and still be the best possible for your kids?

Sheri
3 years ago
Reply to  Brandi Michel

Have you revealed any posts or info on encouraging women in total healing?

4 years ago

This is great! Just the other day my son asked me if he could eat his M&Ms while we were in the car, and I said yes because I was too tired to take them away to listen to him whine the whole way home. The next day he saw his M&Ms crushed up in his carseat. He told me, “Next time, tell me no I can’t have the M&Ms in the car.” See, they do want borders and for us to show our love, even when it isn’t easy.

Shannon
4 years ago

Thank you for posting this! Great reminders of just how important being present and actively loving our kids is – even more in our screen society!

I enjoyed this blog post something many parents should consider in reading great tips.

You hit the nail right on the head with this blog. Parents should really read and consider these tips.

4 years ago

I love this! As a new mom, it’s important to be reminded of these things. I find myself wanting to guide and protect her every move, but also know I need to let her explore and gain her independence. Thank you for sharing!

4 years ago

Yes to all of these, especially acceptance and support of their choices!

Love this!! Yes! All of these are things our children need. One that really irks me is seeing other parents trying to live vicariously through their children. I resolved a long time ago to let God lead my children to their own purpose. It’s not about what I want for their lives. Of course I believe in planning, and there is nothing wrong with family businesses, but we have to be able to let go if the Lord is leading them down a different path. And knowing their love language is so crucial to having a strong relationship, and to… Read more »

4 years ago
Reply to  Brandi Michel

The movie Coco is a great example of that, since we’ve probably all watched it 100 times. His family wanted him to join the family business, but he had another passion.

This was a well thought out and written blog that many parents should read.

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