All human beings live in a push and pull between meeting their needs and having their needs go unmet. When our needs are unmet, we often are overwhelmed with stress, self loathing, low self esteem, fear, anger and just about any other negative emotion you can think of. As parents and teachers, the needs of the children must be met in order for academic growth to occur. But this academic growth is not our only concern - but the rich human soul development of good and worthy human beings is also at stake.
This begins a series of posts regarding human needs and how to address them based on the works of Maslow, Erikson, Robbins and Steiner. Teachers, parents and bosses - well, really anyone can use this knowledge to improve their lives and the lives of others. Maslow puts at the foundations of his Hierarchy of Needs the base of Stability. Tony Robbins calls this certainty. Both words sound good to me, and as I am not reinventing the wheel, merely showing the wheel off - I will use both terms. Steiner speaks of the rhythmic life - and I think this points us to how to meet the base of these two pyramids of needs.
In order for all of us to have this security in the world, we need routines. Routines and rituals build strength in our selves to handle stressful situations which always occur. There are always times in life when our need for security will be challenged but by building strong inner sense of certainty regarding how the world works, we can fall back into a place of strength.
At school, teachers can help fulfill these needs by keeping a weekly rhythm, a daily rhythm and even an hourly/subject routine. Be predictable. Begin each class by setting the stage - let students know exactly what is about to happen today. This can even be done before recess. Ask the students what they are planning to do at recess. For shy kids, this can help them get ideas if they hear their friend's plans. For students experiencing trauma at home like the death of a parent, this is critical for their sense of safety and security in life.
Children need to know that home is home and their room will be just as it was when they went to school. They need to be secure in the knowledge that there will be food for each meal, and that their parents and other adults in their lives will act in ways that they can predict. This makes their world stable and secure. But there is more to it.
At home, a simple morning routine and night time routine allows children to feel safe. Activities such as a nightly story allow parent and child to develop a bond that lasts over time. Evening meals, which have become more difficult to do, allow the family to practice conversation skills, create a picture for children of a wider world, and allows parents to hear about their child's day. Some children who are quiet all day at school look forward to the evening meal to talk... they have been holding it in all day! Home is at the heart of security.
In loving relationships, little things compound to create certainty that can make either partner feel loved; especially if this is that person's number one need. The bills getting paid, the dishes being washed, laundry and floors cleaned, etc. all set the stage for a stable atmosphere at home. In addition to the physical space of the home being well cared for, the emotional life of the home must also be predictable. Can your partner predict how you will come home? Or is your spouse (or children) walking on egg shells around you not knowing what mood you are going to be in?
You can do something as simple as waking up in the morning, realize you are cranky, and say to your love, your child, your class - "I am cranky today... it is not you - it is me. I don't know why...but there it is. I am sorry I am going to be cranky for a little bit." You will find that your partner will appreciate this - and if you are a teacher - so will your class! But it will also help you get out of your rotten mood. You can begin to laugh at this ridiculous rotten mood - and everyone around you can trust you when you say you are in a bad mood that it will not last forever.
One the way home, let your spouse know you had a great day or a rotten day. Tell them up front what you need. They might start doing the same. Imagine how much easier life would be if we let each other know where we are emotionally? How much easier your day is when you know what is going to happen next?
This week, your homework is to be predictable. Become an announcer in your life. How can you make sure everyone knows where you are emotionally? How can you meet other's needs for certainty and safety? Post your experiences both good and bad - let us learn from each other.
Have a wonderful week filled with certainty.