"Needy," "high-needs" and "spirited" are just a few of the terms used to describe these, energetic, sensitive, persistent and demanding children. According to Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, author of "Raising Your Spirited Child," needy children are often mislabeled as hyperactive or defiant when the issue stems more from temperament and personality than a disorder or a behavioral problem. While parenting a needy child can be challenging, recognizing the key traits of such children can help you develop a parenting strategy that's effective for both of you.
As an infant, a high-needs baby wasn't content unless he had your full attention. Now that he's older, his demand for attention hasn't faded, just shifted directions. Dramatic meltdowns over minor injuries, dramatic performances of his favorite storybook or even the incessant, "Watch me! Watch me! Watch me" are all part of the needy child's behavioral repertoire. Regardless of how much of your attention he gets, or whatever else you're doing at the moment, a needy child always wants more attention, whether it's comfort, attention or praise.
Whether you call it selective, picky or particular, a needy child is likely to have a long set of specific requirements for everything from how his toast is prepared to how his shoes are tied. Some of these issues, such as the tightness of his shoes and an intolerance for certain clothing textures, are related to the highly sensitive sensory systems of needy or spirited children, according to Kurcinka's book. Other times, his discernment can come in the form of bossiness as he tries to achieve or build the highly detailed image he has in his head of the perfect cake or block tower.
Needy children often react poorly when their demands aren't met because to them, everything from the latest toy to the purple cup -- not the orange one! -- feels like a desperate and overwhelming need. This can cause a needy child to display temper tantrums and explosive, sobbing outbursts when he gets frustrated. According to psychology counselor Sarah Chana Radcliffe, empathizing with your child's frustration while maintaining clear boundaries for behavioral expectations can help defuse the meltdowns.
A needy child craves stimulus, attention, food and entertainment, and will often resort to persistent or stubborn behavior to get his way. Asking incessantly to stop for treats, new toys and another game, is common among needy children. A needy child will persist in asking, arguing and negotiating even after being firmly refused by a parent or adult. Needy children aren't satisfied to compromise and might adopt an all-or-nothing approach, refusing to cooperate or acquiesce unless his demands are met.