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What is a demand?

low demand parenting foundations practical tips Feb 09, 2024

Originally publish Apr. 16th, 2023. Written by Amanda Diekman.

A demand is any concrete ask that is too hard in the present moment.

It exceeds our native capacity and crosses our healthy boundaries. It is beyond our zone of competency. It threatens our nervous system stability. It brings up feelings of inadequacy and shame.

Demands are a layered experience. The concrete ask is just the tip of the iceberg.

DEMAND

EXPECTATION

NEED

Beneath the demand is a positive expectation of what you (or your child) should be able to do.

It is this positive belief that motivates the concrete, in-the-moment demand.

For example: The demand is "Put your shoes on." The expectation could be "You will listen and respond to what I ask you to do." OR "You will try to accomplish this independently before I help you." OR "You have done this in the past, so I know you can do it now."

Under the expectation is a need.

It is this need that creates the belief, that then crystallizes into a demand.

For example: The demand is "Put your shoes on." The expectation is "You will try to accomplish this independently before I help you." The need is "I do so many things for you, and I need to see progress toward independence because my spouse is always worrying that you will never be independent, and I need proof that this method is working."

 

A few more examples:

The dishes are staring at you. They've piled up again. You know you need to do it, but the energy and motivation just isn't there. Doing the dishes is a demand.

The expectation could be: "I am only working part time, so it's my job to get the dishes done while I'm home."

The need is: "All the other homeschool moms seem to have tidy homes, curriculum planned, and their dishes probably don't sit piling up. I feel like I am failing at everything, and I need to prove to myself that I am not a pile of crap."

 

It's time to brush teeth in the bedtime routine, but your child is clamping their mouth shut and going limp. Brushing teeth is a demand.

The expectation could be: "You will brush teeth every night by yourself when I ask because I have shared that this is important for your health."

The need is: "We've already spent thousands of dollars on a hospital bill to put you under general anesthesia to correct the existing cavities and finally get your teeth cleaned. We simply can't afford to do that again. You need to brush your teeth so that we don't ever have to do that again."

 

It's 8:05am, and if your child doesn't stop playing their Switch now, you'll never make it to school on time. They are really close to getting a new advancement in their game and need 10 more minutes. If you push, they may not go to school at all. Stopping right now for school is a demand.

The expectation could be: "School is more important that advancements in video games."

The need is: "If you are late again, I will probably get a call from the office, and I have a busy day at work. I don't have the bandwidth to deal emotionally with that call and the fall-out."

 

Identifying the layers unlocks creativity and honesty, both essential for exploring what it looks like to drop a demand durably and proactively, while still getting your need met.

If you don't know the positive expectation or the pressing need, you will not be able to drop the demand in a way that actually works. You will feel resentful and stuck.

Why is everything so hard?

 

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