Anyone who has ever taken a psychology course has most likely learned about Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of human needs. At the top of the Maslow pyramid is the ultimate life goal of becoming “self actualized,” described as follows:
“What a man can be, he must be.” This quotation forms the basis of the perceived need for self-actualization. This level of need refers to what a person’s full potential is and the realization of that potential. Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be.
Maslow’s original model serves as a great discussion starter even today — what does it take in 2019 for us to feel our best, live a good life, and accomplish most of our goals? Can we teach these things to kids? If so, how?
The pillars supporting a utopic life experience
Kids enter the world as a tabula rasa, or blank slate. Imprinting takes place with every life experience, and the framework for each kid’s individual personality begins to form. Many unique differences are observed, of course, as every kid has his or her own genetic blueprint, as well as individual life experiences. At the same time, there are a few common core areas that, if developed, can lead a kid into a future that affords maximum human development — or, as Malsow might say, the opportunity to become self-actualized.
Delving deeper, I have proposed a succinct, effective way of distilling down all the variables I could think of that contribute to life maximization into the following three core areas:
- Happy. When talking with kids it’s important to listen to what they say, especially as this applies to the things that make them happy. Oftentimes I find that parents aren’t always the best listeners when it comes to their kids, and they instead try and provide things they think will make them happy (rather than simply asking). You might be surprised at how seemingly simple requests by kids can bring great happiness, and often these things aren’t a big cost on time or money.
- Healthy. When I refer to health, I am talking about both physical and emotional health. Physical health includes taking care of your body — exercise, diet, and even rest. On the emotional side it’s important for kids to understand the basics relating to stress, as well as develop important life skills like communication so that they can effectively manage relationships and resolve conflicts.
- Productive. Everyone wants to feel a sense of worth, and to develop their personal identity around their unique talents and abilities. How can you create ways to empower your kids so that they gain a better sense of how their contributions are meaningful? When kids feel productive, their confidence grows, and this often leads to better focus, motivation, and resiliency.
It’s a new year, and a good time to exam the efforts you are making to help your kids fully develop. Assuming Maslow was right about self-actualization, we as parents need to employ an active process that helps kids become happy, healthy, and productive with their lives. Ask questions, listen closely, and outline paths for your kids to follow so they can reach their full human potential.