Where are you getting your excitement from?

We have lots of needs, which, whether consciously or subconsciously we will meet every day. We have a need to eat food and whether we eat healthily or not we will eat. Our need for food is being met.

We need warmth and so we dress appropriately to ensure we stay warm.

We need to feel safe and secure so we will ensure our doors are locked and we give our children mobile phones so we can contact them. Whether they want us to is questionable.

However, what about excitement? This is a need that gets forgotten about. For those of you who know Maslow (the social scientist) then where does excitement fit in?

Maslow talks about basic needs, safety needs, love, affection and a sense of belonging, self-esteem and then finally, as long as all those needs are being met appropriately, you will be able to reach your full potential. All extremely important and a good way of working out whether your needs are working for you or against you.

But let’s come back to excitement …

  • What makes a seemingly perfectly happily married person go off and have an affair?
  • What makes 3 talented young girls fly off to Syria to become Jihadi brides?
  • What makes young people join gangs?
  • What makes people shoplift?
  • What makes children become violent within the home?

For many people their needs according to Maslow are being met and if you look into it, they may appear appropriate. So what is going on?

This week the media is full of ‘why?’ It’s looking not just to blame but to find an answer to a very complicated question.

The one thing that stands out in all this is that one style of parenting doesn’t fit.

You can’t say it’s all down to wishy-washy parents who can’t say ‘no’ to their child, as some of the broadsheets would have us believe.

Neither can you say it’s down to parents being too strict and not giving their child love.

Children being violent can happen in both cases. But the one thing that stands out to me in all cases is the lack of positive excitement, a feeling that is important to all of us and is absent in many families.

We need the adrenaline rush of feeling we are achieving something. That thing that makes us feels good. Maslow’s theory looks at our need to belong, to know that we are doing something well, so we feel good about ourselves. So how do we get that?

For many parents they will get that need met through work. ‘Well done, you did well’, your bonus (if you’re lucky to still get one) reflects your good work. You may feel also proud of your home life.

After a while, there is a danger of it all becoming much of the same. There is a lack of excitement, the same thing day after day. Oh dear, this is possible danger territory.

So, we come back to the original question. Where are you getting your excitement from? For some it maybe in creating a new piece of crochet; for others growing their food to eat or climbing a rock, swimming in caves, diving to great depths.

We all have this need to feel excited and to enjoy what we are doing. It comes in different levels in all of us. I like to have risky adventures, but for others they would find that too scary. Our excitement comes in many forms.

We need to discover this side of us and find appropriate ways of getting this need met. The danger is that if you don’t, it will then spill out into dangerous and, or unhealthy ways. Driving while knowing you have had too much to drink, rioting, anything that in more sober moments you know is not appropriate. Alcohol lowers your normal inhibitions and will enable you to say and do things that you wouldn’t normally do. We saw this recently in Paris on the underground when a group of fans from Chelsea FC racially abused a black man.

However, recognising these behaviours in ourselves and also in our children, will enable you to think about what you are getting from behaving in a negative way. It’s important to know, as this need will still be there even if you stop drinking alcohol. The effect alcohol gives you will still be a driving force in your life and unless that is replaced by something positive your subconscious will just find an equally unhealthy way of getting that need met. Understanding yourself is the key.

Our children are the same. If your child is being violent, ask yourself how much of their need to feel excitement is the prompt for their behaviour? What would happen if you gave them opportunities to feel excitement in a controlled, positive way with you?

Our society has changed. Computer games play a large part in the majority of children’s lives. Some of the games make children aggressive as the level of excitement grows. Children need excitement but not aggression. The aggression has no outlet. Think about giving your children excitement with an outlet, and you need to be part of it. Yes, children need to do exciting things on their own and that’s where clubs can be invaluable. However, it shouldn’t be at the expense of family time. Build in the excitement for all of you. Your children will be much less likely to go and find it elsewhere and neither will you.

A core theme running through our book Parenting a Violent Child is to get to know yourself. Get to understand what makes you tick. You are unique and so what makes you tick will be different from your partner and your children. So not only do you need to know you, you need to get to know your children. Chapter 4 (‘The necessities of life’) explores what our needs are and how we maybe getting them met in either safe or unsafe ways. It will help you to learn more about yourself and your children. It will give you suggestions and prompts in helping you to change things if that is what is needed. Give it a try, after all what have you to lose?

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