Are You A Needy Parent?

Everyone knows that children depend on their parents to get their needs met. Besides providing basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter, parents meet their children’s emotional needs by providing safety, affection, acceptance, respect, and support.


But what happens when the parent relies on the child to meet his/her own emotional needs?


You end up with an insecure parent and a child who shoulders an unreasonable burden of responsibility.


When parents are too needy, they lose their authority. And without loving and consistent authority figures in their lives, kids don’t feel safe.


Hal Runkel put it well in his ScreamFree Parenting book:


“Once parents begin looking to their children to fill any sort of emotional need, the children can no longer look to the parents for stability and guidance.”


Kids eventually feel smothered or too restricted. Such neediness brings about the very outcome these parents fear most – that their children will distance themselves or rebel.


How do you know if you are a needy parent?

Take a look at the questions below.


1. Is your life solely defined by your children? Or do you have other interests?

  • A needy parent communicates: “You are the center of my universe. Everything revolves around you.”
  • A secure parent communicates: “You make up a huge part of my life, but I am a separate person with my own interests, goals, and dreams.”


2. Do you try to control all of your child’s decisions and actions? Or do you welcome opportunities for him to practice independence and make mistakes?

  • A needy parent communicates: “You can’t do things without me. You must depend on me.”
  • A secure parent communicates: “You are capable. I want you to become independent, even if it means that you make mistakes or sometimes fail.”


3. Do you get angry and reactive when your child misbehaves? Or do you respond calmly with authority and respect?

  • A needy parent communicates: “I need you to behave a certain way so that I can feel calm and in control.”
  • A secure parent communicates: “Regardless of how you behave, I am calm and in control.”


4. Do you feel extremely anxious when you think about your child growing up and becoming more independent? Or do you feel a sense of pride and satisfaction when you think about launching your child into adulthood?

  • A needy parent communicates: “What will become of me when my child grows up?”
  • A secure parent communicates: “My child and I are ready for this next phase of our lives.”


5. Do you only look to your child for companionship or advice? Or do you also nurture your relationships with your spouse and friends?

  • A needy parent communicates: “Without you, I have no support.”
  • A secure parent communicates: “I have adults in my life that I can lean on when I need to. I don’t need to burden you with adult concerns.”


Meeting Your Emotional Needs

If you suspect that you’re needy, figure out what needs of yours aren’t getting met and then seek ways to satisfy them. Below are some examples:

Acceptance, Support, and Belonging – Establish and develop friendships and get support from other adults

Love and Affection – Nurture and strengthen your romantic relationship

Respect – Set clear boundaries with others, understanding where you end and others begin

Competence – Cultivate your existing strengths and interests outside the family


Do you know any emotionally needy parents?  What advice would you give them?  Please share your comments below.



Showing 4 comments
  • Evangeline Watts

    I am definitely that person. I am always looking for them to do things with me. I fear the day they grow up and leave home. I always say I have no life outside of my children. I have become independent of my children. Thanks for the comment

  • Margaret

    I am 1 and 5. And it makes me feel awful. Sigh. I don’t mean to be. But now reading this I Feel selfish.

    It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I really wanted to show them unconditional love and didn’t care if they showed it back. Which made me never think that I was never actually needy. Because I was asking for nothing in return.

    However recently, when I realized that I get too hurt when she’s not affectionate with me back I started to feel guilty. And that lead me here. Am I horrible? Is it bad to want your child to reciprocate the love you show them? Or is it selfish and unrealistic?

    I hate being torn like this.

    • Margaret

      It should say I am needy not I am 1 and 5…weird autocorrect thing.

    • Pam Howard

      Oh, Margaret! I’m just seeing your comment a month later! You are NOT a horrible parent. And it’s not bad to want your child to reciprocate love. Understand, though, that you don’t feel hurt because she doesn’t show affection. You feel hurt because of what you’re making it mean when she doesn’t show affection. When you can take responsibility for your own feelings, you won’t rely on anyone else to make you happy and you can love unconditionally whether or not she is affectionate.

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