Getting Our Needs Met Without Heaping Demands On Our Kids

low demand parenting foundations mental health Apr 17, 2023

Does it feel like your needs will swallow you up?

He won't leave the house, and I am dying.

She's not sleeping at night, requiring me by her side, and I just need sleep.

I'm touched and talked out. I’ve got nothing left.

Important needs -- for space, for autonomy, for quiet, for sleep, for passion, for focus, for calm -- these crucial adult needs are actually the seeds that germinate into demands.

Often below our conscious recognition, our needs press us into creating elaborate expectations for our children, which sprout up in the moment as demands. "You have to..." "Can't you just..." "I just need to pee alone for once!"

Needs can lead to demands

The core of the low demand life is the ability to get parental needs met, without adding demands on our children that are too difficult for them. (How do we know which demands are too difficult for them? They shut down, meltdown, worry endlessly, ignore, or control us...all behaviors that communicate: "This is too hard for me.") The core impulse behind making demands of our children is a valid adult need. We have a need, which grows into an expectation, and then gets wielded as a specific demand.

Here's how it plays out:

I'm exhausted. I desperately want a nap. My child melts down and hits his sister or destroys the house when I am not directly available, and falling asleep is making myself "unavailable." So I end up yelling "Go to your room and stay there for like 5 minutes! Is that too much to ask??"

Demands use control over children to meet an adult need.

If I can just get my child to do what I want, then my needs will be met.

The low demand life sets aside this version of control, and instead chooses mindful awareness of our deep need, practices gentle acceptance that this need is valid and real, and generates creative ideas to meet the need, without asking anything of our children.

Questions to ask if you frequently make demands of your children:

When is my child's behavior particularly difficult for me to handle in the day?

What else Is happening at that time?

What are my expectations for myself?

What need might be driving those expectations?

How can I state that need clearly: "I need..."?

Who can I tell about my need?

How else could I get this need met?

Questions to ask if you find yourself stuck, not making demands of your kids, but not getting your needs met either:

What is the deep need that is driving me?

When does this need show up most powerfully over the course of my day?

What does the need say?

What does it ask for?

Who can I call on, besides my child, to help meet my need?

What expectations can I drop for myself to free up my own resources so I can creatively meet my need?


I have a deep need for connection with other women, especially those with similar parenting paths. I am tempted to make a demand that my kids have playdates with my friends' kids (or tolerate them coming over to our house). But they've shown over and over that this is too hard. So I drop the demand but hold my need & communicate it to my spouse. I prioritize meeting up with friends in the evening and on weekends, without the kids.


I have a need for clean surfaces, but my PDAer has a high need to dump things out, throw things, and rip things into little pieces. I realized that our main room, table, and floors matter most, that mixed-up dumped items bother me most, and that I'm most likely to get frustrated in the late afternoon. I am fine to pick up, but I don't like to sort as I pick up. I placed often-dumped items on different floors of our house. I solved the Lego-dump issue specifically with a different storage solution. And when surfaces bother me in the afternoon, I step outside & breathe.

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