The 7 Irreducible Needs of Childhood

7 Needs of Children

The 7 Irreducible Needs of Childhood (Greenspan, 264)






“Every child needs a safe, secure environment that includes at least one stable, predictable, comforting and protective relationship with an adult, not necessarily a biological parent, who has made a long-term, personal commitment to the child’s daily welfare and who has the means, time and personal qualities needed to carry it out. Wealth and a high level of education are not among these qualities. What is essential are maturity, responsibility, responsiveness, understanding and dedication.” If the child has more than one such relationship, the better.


“Consistent, nurturing relationships with the same caregivers, including the primary ones, early in life and throughout childhood are the cornerstones of both emotional and intellectual competence, allowing a child to form the deep connectedness that grows into a sense of shared humanity and ultimately, empathy and compassion. Relationships with both parents and day-care staff must have this stability and consistency.” If these ties are cut off at arbitrary points, such as often happens during divorce, it causes tremendous loss and hurt for the child.


“The need for rich, ongoing interaction. Love and nurturing, though essential, don’t suffice. During the first five years of life, children learn about the world through their own actions and their caregivers’ reactions. They cannot develop a sense of their own intentionality or of the boundaries between their inner and outer worlds, except through extended exchanges with people they know well and trust deeply.”


“Each child and family needs an environment that allows them to progress through the developmental stages in their own style and their own good time.” Individuality needs to be nurtured.


“Children must have opportunities to experiment, to find solutions, to take risks and even to fail at attempted tasks.”


“Children need structure and clear boundaries. They derive security from knowing both what to expect and what other expect of them. They learn to build bridges among their thoughts and feelings when their world is predictable and responsive. Firm yet reasonable limits, set within an atmosphere of warmth and empathy, constitute a crucial element of any relationship that truly nurtures a youngster’s growth and allows him to learn self-discipline and responsibility.”


“To achieve these goals, families need stable neighborhoods and communities. The appropriate, consistent and deeply committed care that a child needs to master the developmental levels, requires adults who are themselves mature, empathic and emotionally accessible.”


This article is courtesy of Ilze Alberts, Psychologist & Human Behaviour Specialist (Johannesburg RSA)

Posted by Sinta Ebersohn (Creator of – Stellenbosch RSA)