Food and sleep. According to Maslow’s seven-stage Hierarchy of Needs, food and sleep rank as two of our biological and physiological needs. In the next level, safety needs, are shelter and stability, security, and order. After that come love and affection, then self-esteem and achievement. Only after all of those needs are satisfied, can cognitive needs be reached. Therefore, in order for a child to be fully present to learn, he must first fulfill the more basic needs of biology, safety, love, and esteem. The logic is very straight-forward, yet many children today may be missing out on vital learning opportunities. Food and sleep. Parents have been hearing about the importance of healthy meals and a good night’s sleep since before their children were born. Yet, daily life can often complicate this seemingly easy equation.
I often say that my daughter’s mood is highly dependent on whether she is hungry or tired. When full-bellied and well-rested, nobody is more charming, funny, light-hearted, adaptable, or loving than she. When hungry or tired, everybody watch out. Her mood pendulum swings so far in the other direction that if it wasn’t my life, it could almost be viewed as funny. Almost. Except it is my life…and nobody in my house is laughing.
Food and sleep. So basic and really quite simple. Yet somehow, even after 9 years of parenting this particular child, I still sometimes get it wrong. We all do. Oh, and just when I think I have it down? She goes and changes on me!
My message is two-fold: first, feed your children and make sure they get enough sleep, provide structure and expectations at home, and continue to love them so much it hurts… so that at school, we have students who are ready to learn, learn, and learn; and second, cut yourselves some slack. Parental guilt lurks everywhere…learn to ignore it and praise your child and yourself for all the wonderful growing and learning you are both doing!