Five Things Every Child Needs
From Their Mom
New Life Ministries
Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend say there are five essential
things every child needs from their mom.
1. Safety - As little people, we experience
the world as dangerous. We feel alone. We don't have love inside
-- we have overwhelming needs and feelings. This is painful. You
can see this pain on the face of any infant who needs to be picked
up or of the child who is terrified of something in her imagination.
The child does not have safety inside but danger. Safety can only
be found in the mother -- or in whoever is providing the mothering.
Safety comes in the form of a person who is predictable, stable,
and danger-free. This kind of mother creates a foundation for
all the other tasks of mothering. Without this person, the child
remains in a state of panic or anxiety, unable to love or learn.
The mother's consistent, caring, and soft and understanding attention
gives the child a safe place to turn; she transforms the dangerous
world into a place of safety.
2. Nurture - Webster says that to nurture is
to "feed or nourish." A mother's nurture is fuel for
the soul. Good mothers pour care into the souls of their children
much like sunlight and water pour nutrients into a plant. Our
souls flourish when we are being nurtured and cared for. We grow,
develop, and change according to the way we were designed.
Without nurture we wither. The "failure to thrive"
syndrome and many other childhood problems are directly related
to a lack of nurture. In some cases, institutionalized babies
have even died from maternal deprivation and a lack of nurture.
We were created with needs that go deeper even than our physical
need for food. We need the immaterial and spiritual requirements
of relationship in order to live.
3. Basic Trust - Basic trust is the ability
to invest oneself in a relationship. We must first experience
many instances of trustworthiness before we can truly trust others.
We aren't born trusting; trust is learned. Trust enables us to
reach out, to depend, to need, and to see others as the source
of good things. We can depend on our caretaker - when we reach
out, she will be there and she will respond to our needs.
When we trust someone, we invest something of ourselves and hope
for a good return. If we invest our money, we want safety and
dividends. With a good mother, we invest our hearts and our being
and find a good return, which leads us to invest again and again
in relationships. Trust nurtures our ability to need and to depend,
which allows us to grow and develop relationally. We need to need,
and we need to feel comfortable with dependency. A trustworthy
mother develops those abilities in us. Healthy people let themselves
need and depend on others without fear.
4. Belonging and Invitation - We all have a
need to belong to someone and to something bigger than ourselves.
Belonging and love are at the root of our humanness. The foundation
of our existence is relationship, and we cannot provide that for
ourselves. The Bible tells us to be "rooted and established
in love." If we are rooted and grounded with God and others,
we belong; we feel nurtured, secure, and free from the universal
experience of isolation. And it is our mother's responsibility
to rescue us from alienation and isolation and to usher us into
the world of relationship.
Mothers, through their love and care, make us feel wanted, which
transfers into later feelings of worth and confidence in relationships.
We have worked with countless people who feel "unlovable"
or "unwanted," when in reality lots of people love and
adore them. It's obvious that they have failed to receive good
The sense of feeling wanted and loved is not an intellectual
exercise that we can do for ourselves. It comes through the experience
of being invited into relationship with another person. You may
know intellectually that you are loved, but if you never felt
loved by your Phantom Mom, your feelings won't match up with what
you know intellectually. When we experience being consistently
wanted early in life, we move easily into other relational settings
later, never wondering if we belong or not.
5. Someone to Love - Emotional development
comes not only from the mother's investment in the child but also
from the child's investment in the mother. A mother provides someone
for the child to love - she is a good "object of love."
In order to develop emotionally, physically, intellectually, and
socially, we need not only be loved but to love. Love fills us
up, and colors our outlook on others and the world in which we
live, so that we view life with hope and optimism. We have a basic
need to love people, and that requires someone to love. If mother
is safe, we love her. If she is not, we either are overwhelmed
by isolation or we are filled with hatred.
These needs are universal and documented by research, clinical
experience, people's experiences, and the Bible. If mother or
the surrogate mother provides safety, nurture, trustworthiness,
belonging, and lovability, then the child is on his way to healthy
Excerpted from the book The Mom Factor by Drs. Henry Cloud
and John Townsend. Used by permission of New Life Ministries. New
Life Ministries has a variety of resources on men, women and relationships.
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