4 ways to help your child develop to their full potential

It seems that the world is brimming over with talk about how to help people reach their full potential. In fact, that's what coaching is all about - whatever the context - helping people to discover, plan, and take action towards reaching their full potential. We know that when people feel at their best, they're more satisfied, driven and are more likely to enjoy higher levels of well-being.


Of course you want that for your child. But engaging a coach to work with your toddler to help them articulate their values and life purpose isn't likely to help much! So what can you do?

The theory

Psychologist Mia Kellmer Pringle outlines four development needs that, based on her research, she felt must be met from birth in her book Needs of Children, originally published in 1975 and now widely applied by children's rights organisations the world over. Taking steps to meet these needs as fully as possible will support a child's ability to reach their full potential. Pringle states that you can do this by:

1. Providing love and security

The relationships that a child has and is exposed to as they develop form the basis for all their future relationships. Providing a stable, continuous and dependable environment for a child will increase their self-worth and help them to develop a clear identity. The security of a familiar place and/or routine will give them a sense of certainty when everything else around them feels new and unpredictable.

2. Allowing your child access to new experiences

New experiences are as important for the mind to grow as food is for the body. They help children understand the world around them. Giving them access to opportunities to role-play and experiment safely will help them learn to cope with new experiences later in life. For younger children, this might happen with you there through play and make-believe, whilst older children and teenagers are more likely to experiment with new roles with others, like a first boyfriend/girlfriend or job.


3. Giving praise and recognition

Do you remember how hard growing up was?! It takes a huge amount of emotional, social and intellectual learning. And it requires a bit of an incentive to keep that going through all the wobbles and challenges. Praise and recognition from adults who love a child, and who they want to please helps them to feel pleasure at their achievements and progress. Praise and recognition increases self-respect and confidence to deal with difficulties in the future.

4. Encouraging a sense of responsibility

Giving a child the opportunity to safely increase their responsibility enables them to take proactive responsibility in later life. You can support this by helping them to move from a sense of personal independence (e.g. brushing their own hair) to responsibility for their own decisions (e.g. when to brush their own hair), and ultimately to taking responsibility for others (e.g. taking full responsibility for the care of a pet).

Applying the theory in your context

Each of these needs is likely to be filled in a different way and to a different level in each family. What fully satisfies the needs of one child may not satisfy the needs of another. Words like 'love' and 'recognition' mean slightly different things, even to two people who have grown up together and had similar experiences.

Take a few minutes to think about what each of these needs mean to you, then ask yourself these questions:

  • What would meeting each of them for your child look like?
  • If you're the primary caregiver for more than one child, what would be different for each of them?
  • How would you know that you were meeting your child's needs - what would they do, say and feel?
  • How would you feel?
  • Which of your child's needs are you meeting?
  • What could you do to more fully meet your child's needs?

If in doubt, and you're able to, you could always ask your child what they think too. Try asking open questions (ones that can't be answered with yes or no) and make a commitment to really listen to their responses without interruption. It might help to keep asking 'What else?' until they tell you they have nothing else to say before you speak again.

Youth coaching can help young people to develop valuable life skills, learn how to manage stress, talk about difficult issues, build confidence, and even how to set, track, and achieve goals. To find out more about how coaching could help support and guide your child as they grow and develop, visit our Youth coaching page.  Or to find a coach online or near you, use our advanced search.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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