What Children Need

By Abby Bordner

Many parents ask me what are the most important things that children need to grow up healthy and whole. In developing Relationship Based Parenting, I have identified the following three factors in a child’s life have the most impact on their overall success, learning and behavior.

Positive Relationships:

Attachment and bonding in a healthy relationship is the groundwork for all other work parents do with their children. This is the positive interaction between parents and children that builds a sense of connection, trust and interdependency. In infancy this is done with eye contact, being held, cooing with your baby and showing empathy for your baby’s discomforts. As our kids grow older, healthy relationships will contribute to emotional resiliancy and positive behaviors.

  • Create a warm, loving, safe environment for your child.
  • Be affectionate.
  • Have reasonable expectations.
  • Use descriptive praise.
  • Spend time with your child and talk to him/her.
  • Keep your child safe and set limits.


A confident child can show respect, be considerate, be a problem solver and become independent. This is also referred to as healthy self-esteem; essentially the messages your child says to himself, about himself are positive; I can figure this out, I am good enough, I am loveable, I have something meaningful to contribute.

  • Encourage politeness and respectful (Be polite to model this behavior).
  • Avoid being critical of others.
  • Acknowledge kindness.
  • Encourage laughter and learning.
  • Let your child make decisions.
  • Be problem solvers together; consider options and solutions.
  • Set expectations for their best efforts.

Emotional Resiliency

Emotional resiliency is the ability to manage feelings and cope with day to day stresses as well as major life events. This also includes the ability to recognize and accept feelings and express them in appropriate ways that do not harm others.

  • Accept different emotions.
  • Talk about feelings (your own, too). Be honest.
  • Listen to your child without judging. Ask questions.
  • Avoid saying things like, “there is nothing to worry about” or “that’s a silly thing to be afraid of” or “you’re just tired”.
  • Allow your child to experience frustration. Don’t rush to rescue. Working through difficult tasks and completing them helps your child feel successful.
  • Talk about ways to calm down. Manage your own emotions in a healthy way so your child has a good example of emotional resiliency.
  • Encourage optimism.

There are different qualities of healthy behavior in each aspect of this list. Relationship based parenting is a balance of positive leadership and guidance as well as connecting in meaningful ways so your children see you as an ally in learning and growing.

What do you think children need most to grow up healthy and whole?

Leave A Reply (5 comments so far)

  1. carroll laneulie
    3 years ago

    I feel very passionate about this subject.
    Children need an adult in their life that is capable of nurture ,that are not afraid of being honest with themselves and others. Empathy is another human trait that children respond to but unless someone understands these important human energies children will continue to become confused abot who they are.

    • Abby
      3 years ago

      Thank you, Carroll. You’re right, empathy is a meaningful trait for children to learn. Parents are the primary model for so much emotional health. It’s a big responsibility!

  2. Leah Davies
    3 years ago

    This is a significant list that parents can easily use. For a tool that enhances the parent-child relationship, fosters open communication and bonding, helps children develop empathy, and teaches positive coping skills, see: http://www.kellybear.com/Kelly_Bear_Books/KBBooks-Feelings_Book2col.html   For the Spanish edition, see: http://www.kellybear.com/Kelly_Bear_Books/KBBooks-FeelingsB_Book2col.html

    • Abby Bordner
      3 years ago

      Thanks, Leah. I appreciate your comment and thanks for sharing your materials.

  3. Leah Davies
    3 years ago

    Abby, the pleasure is all mine. I totally agree with your views. There is also a video, “Thoughts on Parenting,” that discusses a child’s psychological needs, as well as reproducible parenting handouts and an activity. See: http://www.kellybear.com/ParentTips.html