I want it but do I need it? What happens when desires become needs?

Family time
How to tell needs from desires. (Gustavo Fring/pexels.com)
How to tell needs from desires. (Gustavo Fring/pexels.com)

I want it! A need or a whim? 

When parents-to-be prepare for the birth of their child, they face a whole list of dilemmas regarding the best way to take care of them. They reach for guides, ask family and more experienced friends or rely on instinct. Either way, when the baby arrives, they ask themselves, do I  carry them in my arms or not? When something upsetting happens, do I hug them or let them calm down by themselves? Even if they had a plan, the child’s behaviour can often change it. We differ in our approach to upbringing, including how we set boundaries for a child. So, when one parent buys their child the toy of their choice without reservations, another, despite the toddler’s crying and fuming, won’t agree to the purchase, because they value consistency. We’re afraid to give way, we worry that the child will walk over us and, in the future, will expect to have everything handed to them on a plate. So, do we give way or should we be consistent at all costs? 

Sometimes it’s worth saying “no” 

Children who have never heard “no” from their parents are left without ever feeling hopelessness or disappointment. When they find themselves in such a situation, they can react with aggression or self-aggression. On the other hand, those who had lived under very strict rules, may have a problem learning to give way. 

Failure to meet the child’s basic needs, such as, hunger, thirst, intimacy, safety or sleep, has a negative impact on their development. However, children need to learn that some things are beyond their control and need adaptation, for them to develop properly. 

We encourage you to talk to your children about what they need and what is important to them. You may find their answers surprising. 


Let’s set borders 

Our needs guide our actions. There are needs that we must satisfy to survive, but there are also those for which we pay a high price. So, how do you set boundaries when making your plans? How do you sense other people’s boundaries? What are the costs of crossing them?   

Emotional boundaries 

Boundaries are physical and emotional. When someone crosses them, we feel intimidated, afraid or ignored. Everyone has different boundaries, but it’s important to teach young people not only to ensure their own, but also to respect the boundaries of other people. We suggest talking to children about the importance of assertively defining their boundaries and about what can help them in this. Ask them if there have been situations where someone has crossed their boundaries. If you need an excuse to talk, we encourage you to watch parts of the episode: “Domino Effect. Light in Kalighat” showing the fate of the untouchables, i.e. people belonging to the lowest castes in India. 


All source materials are prepared by the team of Kulczyk Foundation’s Education Department in cooperation with teachers and experts – pedagogists, psychologists and cultural experts – and verified by an experienced family therapist Kamila Becker. Kinga Kuszak, PhD, Professor of Adam Mickiewicz University, Faculty of Educational Studies, provides content-related supervision over Kulczyk Foundation’s educational materials. All materials are covered by the content patronage of the Faculty of Educational Studies of Adam Mickiewicz University.

The article was published on 20.05.2020 on the website of Instytut Dobrego Życia (Good Life Institute)

Authors: Dorota Szkodzińska (Kulczyk Foundation) and Anna Woźniak (Instytut Dobrego Życia)