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Maslow’s pyramid to work on children’s motivation

Children tend to motivate themselves easily, but they also lose interest very quickly. That is why it is not strange that many parents wonder how to keep them motivated for longer and, above all, how to get them interested in achieving increasingly complex goals. In this sense, Maslow’s pyramid can become an excellent starting point not only to understand how children’s motivation works but also to work on the needs of the little ones at home.

Designed by psychiatrist and humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, Maslow’s pyramid is basically a theory of motivation that attempts to explain what drives behavior. In the pyramid, Maslow proposes a theory of human growth and development in which necessity becomes a key concept for motivation. On this basis, he describes a hierarchy of human needs organized according to their importance.

The pyramid includes five hierarchies, in which the need for survival occupies a fundamental place, followed by another series of levels that increase in complexity until reaching self-realization and personal happiness. According to this theory, all hierarchical levels influence behavior at all times, but in case the lower needs are not met, the individual will not be able to focus on the needs of a higher type.

This means that if children do not have their needs for food, rest or protection that are at the lower levels covered, they will not be able to fully focus on establishing healthy affective relationships or stimulating their creativity or self-esteem. That is, to motivate children to focus on their personal development, they must first have their most basic physiological needs met. The main needs that move the little ones

Maslow’s pyramid orders the hierarchy of human needs according to their strength and level of importance for survival. Hence, at the most basic levels are physiological needs, followed by the need for protection, love and esteem that give way to the top of the hierarchy, the need for recognition and personal self-realization.1. Physiological needs

At the base of Maslow’s pyramid are the biological needs that are vital to survival. This level includes basic needs such as eating, breathing and resting, as well as the need to maintain good hygiene or receive medical care. These are basic needs in the hierarchy, without which it is very difficult for children to focus on other types of activities.2. Protection needs

Protection needs are critical to survival, but they are at a different level than physiological needs. Basically, protection needs refer not only to physical safety but also to the love and support that family provides. At this level, it is important for children to feel safe in the environment in which they live so that they can focus on other goals.3. Membership Needs

According to Maslow, the need for affiliation, that is, to establish healthy social relationships, is not a basic need but is fundamental for proper child development. The urge to make friends and be part of a group helps children develop their social skills, learn to be more assertive, and discover points of view different from their own.4. Self-esteem and recognition needs

This level refers to the need for valuation, that is, both how children value themselves and the recognition they receive from those around them. Basically, it is from the recognition of others and their own valuation that children learn to feel confident in themselves and consider themselves valuable people. On the other hand, when this need is not satisfied, the little ones feel inferior and worthless.5. Self-realization needs

Finally, at the top level of the pyramid are the needs for self-realization. This category includes spiritual, moral and creative development, as well as the dreams and longings of the little ones at home. Being the upper level of the hierarchy, it implies that the rest of the needs must first be met before children can focus on fulfilling their higher personal goals.

How to put Maslow’s pyramid into practice?

Beyond a theory about needs and motivations, Maslow’s pyramid can become an excellent resource for parents to better understand their children and help them on their path to self-realization. Obviously, it is essential to cover their basic needs to stimulate their proper development, but this is not enough. It is also important to establish clear rules at home that help children grow up in a safe and stable environment, in which they feel comfortable and protected, as well as instill positive values in them.

Another guideline recommended by Maslow’s pyramid is to educate children so that they are able to establish stable and healthy relationships. A simple way to achieve this is to motivate them to participate in school and extracurricular activities, birthday parties and sports practices in which they interact with other children and make new friends. Undoubtedly, an excellent way for them to develop their social skills, lose the fear of relating and expand their circle of trust.

And, to meet their recognition needs it is important to celebrate all their achievements and highlight their main virtues, avoiding making unnecessary criticisms that can damage children’s self-esteem or make children demand too much. Another strategy that will also strengthen their self-esteem is to help them know and accept themselves as they are, the first step to becoming authentic and self-determined adults.

When children consolidate their self-esteem and feel confident enough, it will be time to motivate them to discover their dreams. Questions like “what do you want to be as an adult?” “Which person would you want to become?” or “If you had to represent a character in real life, what would it be?” can help children discover their deepest longings and set goals that will help them pursue their dreams.


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