Dr. Jan Johnston
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The Parent's Journey
Gather Family Stories
Both children and adults have basic needs.

“The oak tree is in the acorn.”

All people face basic or birthright needs for survival everyday-- energy, discipline, creativity, belonging, and ability needs.

To facilitate remembering the birthright needs in our development, I’ve created the following “need machine” image. It presents an ascending and descending escalator of needs to illustrate how closely needs feed into one another.

When a child's needs are met versus unmetAbility (reaching one's potential)When an adults needs are met versus unmet
DisciplineDisciplinefEnergy Needs

Move your cursor over the chart to see some ways unmet needs
can undermine our ability to parent our children effectively.

Our energy and discipline needs clamor for our attention as soon as we awaken. As parents, we may not have the luxury of meeting some of our own energy needs, if our crying baby’s energy needs reach our ears before a clock arouses us. For the parent-in-training who wants to exercise first thing in the morning, a baby’s exercising lungs demand a detour from the first-I-run-on-my-treadmill scenario. “Feed me” is the alarm clock in many families and calls for a caretaker’s discipline to know (and to have in the house) what to feed a child at a particular age. Meeting energy and discipline needs helps caretakers organize plans for the morning’s first tasks of helping family members eat a nutritious breakfast and move on to school, work, home, and community commitments. Backing up, basic energy and discipline needs call for a good night’s sleep the night before, giving the next morning’s needs a reasonable chance of being met.

Do family need machines ever stop? Actually, we barely covered the beginning/end basic needs of the day. Families juggle needs all day long.

Parents-in-training can learn to employ creative problem solving to find ever new ways to travel the raising road of meeting family basic needs. Belonging needs weave their way into family members’ need machines at every turn. Acknowledging ability needs takes thoughtful and creative planning to enable each family member to fulfill their birthright potential. While adults and children have the same basic needs, they have different ways of coping with them. Young children frequently require adult help in meeting these needs. Our ongoing task as parents-in-training requires us to model how children can learn to meet their own needs successfully as they grow up. However, this modeling role challenges even the best caretakers. In order to model how to meet needs well, we have to address our own basic needs and come close to answering them as well.

Some people ignore their own needs. As anthropologist Daniel Miller points out, many parents tend to overly focus on the development of children; when do parents pay attention to their own development?

Realistically, most adults desire some amount of modeling and companionship in meeting their own basic needs. In healthy families the members keep learning positive ways to meet basic needs every day of their life. Children help parents and grandparents meet basic needs by reminding them that everyone requires exercise. Youngsters often pitch in to help their parents meet basic needs when illness and/or disability issues exist. There are complex interactions among family members along the trail of needs.

While birthright needs are listed in a linear fashion to help you remember them easily, energy, discipline, creativity, belonging, and ability needs intertwine in varying ways. All needs relate to our most basic of needs, our instinctual need for survival.

In this model, each survival need interconnects with other needs, both within a person and among family members. For example, obtaining enough sleep energy affects how well parents and children use their ability each day. A child’s energy needs intertwine with a caretaker’s energy needs.

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Continue the Journey

Become a Savvy Traveler:
Learn four keys to successful parenting.

Be Here Now:
Deal with one interaction at a time.

Map Your Personality:
We each have a peaceful core.


Dr. Janis Clark Johnston
Email DrJan@JanisJohnston.com • Telephone 708-334-9126

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The Parents' Journeys
Family Stories: 5 Needs
Savvy Traveler: 4 Keys
Be Here Now: 1 at a Time
Personality Map: Calm Core
About Dr. Johnston




copyright Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., designed by Hannah Jennings Design