The Need for Approval in Children

If children learn that they must please their parents in order to be loved, they'll repeat that pattern in the rest of their relationships. Today, we want to talk about the need for approval in children.
The Need for Approval in Children

Last update: 31 December, 2020

Childhood is an extremely important stage of development, not only physically, but also emotionally. These early experiences and the relationships that children establish with the most important figures in their lives will mark their future personality. For this reason, it’s important to know how some of the most problematic and painful character traits develop, in order to prevent them from developing. Today, we’ll talk about one of the most common: The need for approval.

Surely, at some point in your life, you’ve known someone who always goes out of their way to please others. These are extremely kind and helpful individuals who are able to forget their own needs in order to tend to those of others.

In their eagerness to receive the approval of those around them, they feel unable to set limits. And, as a result, they may end up experiencing a great deal of frustration. If you want to prevent your children from falling into this category, you need to take certain measures.

The need for parental approval

For children, their parents are their maximum role models and their main attachment figures. Taking this into account, it’s normal for kids to prioritize pleasing their parents. After all, they depend on their parents for support, affection and protection. It’s the attitude of adults that will shape this natural need, molding it into a solid self-esteem.

The Need for Approval in Children

The goal is for parents to use the credibility and confidence their children give them to teach them to approve of themselves. To consider themselves valuable, worthy of respect, and entitled to their own judgments and opinions. In this way, a healthy transition will occur in which children will stop depending on parental opinions and begin to trust themselves.

However, on many occasions, this process doesn’t occur. Some parents exercise overly demanding or overprotective parenting, which prevents children from developing independence. These adults maintain the idea that a “good” child is an obedient and submissive child. Therefore, they don’t hesitate to condemn any transgression by the child.

Instead of listening to your child’s posture, understanding it and guiding them to channel it in an appropriate way, they penalize it. In this way, they convey to the child that their opinions aren’t important and that expressing them can lead to a withdrawal of affection. Therefore, the child learns that, in order to be loved, they must please and fulfill expectations.

There’s a big difference between penalizing a behavior or children themselves. If children behave improperly, we must explain why the behavior isn’t acceptable. But always making it clear that it’s that particular act that’s inappropriate and not the children themselves. Saying that a child is bad is very different from explaining that a behavior isn’t right.

The Need for Approval in Children

The influence of schools

When children start school and leave home for the first time, they begin to interact with many new people. In this environment, it’s the teacher who holds authority, and it’s normal for children to want to earn their approval. The same is true for their peers; the child will want to be accepted and welcomed into the group.

However, if solid self-esteem hasn’t been built, these relationships can become problematic. It’s beneficial for children to allow themselves to question the position of their teachers and peers and trust their own judgment. A child in need of approval is an insecure child who doesn’t feel worthy of affection and will allow others to violate their bounders in order to avoid rejection.

Therefore, they may allow abusive behavior from peers and adults and feel unable to speak out against injustice. And, as they grow up, they may fall into behaviors like modifying their personality, tastes and values according to the people around them. Their principles will no longer matter, since their priority will be to earn acceptance.

Obviously, this is an unrealistic and unhealthy expectation. We can’ please everyone, nor should we. Therefore, it’s important to help children develop self-confidence from an early age.

We have to make sure that they feel our approval and unconditional love. Certain behaviors will have to be corrected, but always under the certainty that they’re loved and approved without conditions.


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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.