You can't expect children to understand what adults understand, but that's no reason not to treat them respectfully.
The Big Book of Unschooling has sections on Abram Maslow and Jean Piaget (pages 76-78). Another theorist to consider is Erik Erikson (here's a chart of his stages), but for me those are depressing and school-bound. I think the others might be better for unschooling, though none of them need to be "the one and only one." They're ideas among ideas
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