The Child's Need to Belong

We all want to belong. We want our children to belong and form long lasting friendships. And they will! On this road to belonging, there are important considerations to take into account from the vantage of the child and their needs. The way in which children navigate and meet their need for belonging looks entirely different than an adult’s. As you observe your child(ren), we invite you to suspend your adult judgements on what belonging should look like and instead contextualize your child’s behavior based on Maren Schmidt’s outline on the four basic goals of belonging.  

Maren Schmidt offers valuable insights into the unconscious motivations that direct our children’s behavior as they aspire to belong. The unconscious goals she describes are:

  • Contact
  • Power
  • Protection
  • Withdrawal

When we do harbor adverse reactions to our children’s behavior, when we feel angry, irritated, or hurt by the actions of our children, these feelings are an invitation to better understand what unconscious goal of belonging in our child is being unmet. For the reality is, our children want to cooperate, they want to opportunities to be responsible, they want to forgive and share. At times, children’s behavior will be the antithesis of behavior that we think might encourage belonging. This unruly or off-putting behavior is our window into understanding. Is our child seeking more power, protection, withdrawal, or contact?

Listen to and read up on Maren Schmidt’s insights into how we can engage our children in these four important components to a child’s sense of belonging.

Nia House

A Montessori Toddler & Preschool Program serving Berkeley since 1974