Abraham Maslow and the Self-Actualization Theory

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Abraham Maslow was a man who has a tremendous influence on early childhood education. Maslow’s theory was about achieving self-actualization with the satisfaction of human needs. According to Maslow’s theory basic needs have to be satisfied before any other higher level needs can be satisfied. “Abraham Maslow proposed what has become an almost definitive model of self-actualization with his theory of hierarchy of needs.” (Hanley, Abell, 2002). The hierarchy consists of five different levels. The five levels are life essentials, safety and security, belonging and love, achievement and prestige, and aesthetic needs. It is important for the first level to be fully satisfied before the next can begin. I will discuss three of these levels to help you understand why I feel Maslow’s theory best aligns with my personal views of early childhood educations.

“It is clear from various accounts of Maslow that his work was very complex and can be read in a number of ways. Certainly he was a complex thinker.” (Dye, Mills, Weatherbee, 2005). The first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs begins with our most basic needs. These needs are known to us as life’s essentials. Life’s essentials such as food, water, and the air we breathe. We were all taught at an early age how important it is to eat three balanced meals a day. When a child begins their day with a good breakfast they are able to function and begin their learning. If a child is sitting at their desk with their stomach growling, it is difficult for them to concentrate. The second level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is safety and security. Children should always feel safe and secure. Safety and security is one of the most important things we learn in life. If a child does not feel safe they will become closed off. By becoming closed off the child will not learn as much as they need to. It is important as a teacher to stress safety and security. This is not only in the meaning of physically but also emotionally. One way for a child to learn about safety is to read stories about it. Teaching a child safety from strangers is extremely important. Children should know that it is not right to allow someone to touch them in an improper way or to hit them. This applies to emotional abuse also. A child should be taught that it is not right for anyone to tell them they are stupid or ugly. I personally believe God put us all on Earth for a reason, regardless of what we look like or what knowledge we have learned. After helping the children understand the importance of safety and security it is important to create a safe environment in the classroom for the children to see and work in. One way to help the children begin to understand safety and security is to have a class assignment about safety. This assignment can be as simple as to having they students cut different items out of magazines that make them feel unsafe. Programs are also extremely beneficial for children when it comes to learning about safety. Children like watching other children act and many will learn more than if they we reading a story. Help the children understand that it is okay to come to the teacher and let them know if something is making them feel unsafe. One way to do this is to bring in the local law enforcement and have them sit in a group and discuss the meaning of safety and what should be done if they do not feel safe. Many times the local police officers will have handouts, stickers, and magnets for the children to help the children learn to call “911” for an emergency or if someone needs help. The earlier a child learns the better it is because many times the child is the only one that is able to call for help.

The third level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is belonging and love. Children should all feel the love and sense of belonging in order to help them achieve their learning to their full potential. Since children are all so very different, at times you have to pay special attention to the child that is...
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