How are you doing today? I predict that if you’re struggling in any way, it is due to one or more of your five core needs being unmet. The same thing is true for your children.

God created us to have our core needs met primarily in Him. When they’re unmet, we can be restless, discouraged, lonely, confused, hopeless, unfulfilled, angry,… I can go on and on but it would get a bit depressing.

Over the past few weeks, I have explained that each of us and our children have a need for healthy security, identity , belonging, and purpose. Today I want to help you understand your need for competence – the fifth need.


Like the others, competence is a legitimate need. To be healthy and long lasting, it is dependent upon the first four being met in healthy ways. Children who do not have anyone they can trust, who don’t know good things about themselves, who are not engaged in healthy relationships, and who doubt they were created on purpose with purpose, will struggle to develop competencies. They’ll see no reason for them, effort doesn’t appeal to them, and they can’t imagine why they need all the information and all the skills we keep talking to them about.

When we give children a vision for their tomorrows and an understanding that they were created on purpose with purpose to change the world for good, they are much more likely to engage and invest in themselves and others and want to be competent.

The reverse does sometimes work. It’s possible for young people to know their competence – skills, talents, abilities, and character – without having a healthy purpose. Perhaps you’ve spoken life over them. Good for you! Maybe they just worked hard and thought their purpose was to please you or to earn straight A’s. Eventually these purposes won’t work. When they believe in healthier purposes, they’ll work even more diligently to develop competence.

There are some essential understandings that need to be in place for children to discover and believe in healthy competence.

  • Competence is not the same as perfection. Children trying to be perfect will be disappointed often. They may believe they have no competence when in reality they have a lot. Are your expectations for your children fair and realistic? Do you help them handle mistakes well? (I have posted often here about perfectionism and the book I wrote with Jill Savage, No More Perfect Kids is very relevant.)
  • Competence can’t be based on how we compare with others. Self-comparison can be motivational – am I better at this than a month ago? Have I met some character goals this year? But, comparing to others to decide if we’re competent isn’t healthy. There will always be people who know more, are quicker at this, and the like, so we can be defeated a lot. If we only feel competent when with people who have less than we do, we’ll need to be the best, we won’t engage with people who know more and can teach us more, and we’ll always be unsure and in need of proving ourselves.
  • Character is a major source of our competence. Help your children be good and not just do well.
  • Study strategies and thinking skills are significant sources of competence, as well. We must make sure to teach our children how to think and study and not just tell them to!
  • If you think about your own life, you may agree that major sources of competence are our ability to make decisions well and solve problems well. Are we efficient? Do our decisions turn out to be wise? Do our solutions work? Teaching children how to make decisions and solve problems will be time well spent. Understanding cause-effect relationships is a key. Help them with this. (I teach a decision-making process in Chapter 8 of my book about the core needs, Finding Authentic Hope and Wholeness.)

How competent are your children? What have you read here that can help you understand the issues that may be in the way? Or, what can you rejoice over? Have the conversation.

Next week, I have something to add to the extremely important value of competence. It’s huge so it needs its own post. I hope you’re curious and that you’ll come back.