Identifying needs and creating purposeful work

Observing your child and constantly reflecting on what you’re seeing is key to meeting their needs and building a synchronous relationship. Everything our children do is a communication of what they’re feeling and where their needs are. It’s hard to figure out what a need might be based on behaviour that seems to be disruptive, but these situations in particular need our attention.

Havvie has been using a jug and glass to pour herself a glass of water for about a year now. Recently though, she has been pouring herself a glass of water and either dumping it on the floor or transferring the water back to the jug and back to the glass and so forth. This always makes a mess and Havvie and I clean up the water together.

I’ve tried telling her multiple times, the glass of water goes on the table and we drink from it. I’ve tried giving her only a small amount of water to pour.  I’ve tried giving her the water already poured in the glass. She still always wants to pour the water out onto the floor. This to me signalled there’s a need that’s not being met in the appropriate way.

Washing dishes is the perfect activity to turn this need for water dumping into purposeful work. So this morning, I set up the sink with a cleaning brush, 2 bowls and some dishwashing liquid. I turned the tap on to a very low water flow and gave Havvie a simple lesson on how to wash dishes. She took it from there.


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She was at the sink for more than 30 mins, continuously pouring water out into the sink, transferring water between the two bowls, squeezing dishwashing liquid into the bowls and scrubbing with the brush. It was beautiful to see the look of concentration on her face. She did dump the water out onto the floor once but I told her the water goes in the sink and she didn’t do it again.

It can be easy for people to see water dumping as bad behavior but I firmly believe there’s no such thing as good or bad behaviour or even good kids or bad kids. There are simply needs that are met or unmet. I for one, don’t know what exact developmental need water dumping and transferring serves but the fierce determination on Havvie’s face tells me it’s important. Here’s a great read that beautifully explains this concept of identifying a need and turning it into purposeful work.

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