Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me
In my ongoing series on motivation, I have been examining the eight spiritual needs of the child as laid out by Carole Adams in, The Christian Idea of the Child. The third idea she lays out is that of acceptance:

Children must acquire an adequate self-value, based upon their acceptance of their own individuality as a gift from God. Adult treatment of the child communicates unmistakably of his worth and potential.

In our culture, we tend to worship the self. Concerns over self esteem issues in children have lead to movements against games with a loser in public education settings, including musical chairs. Grading systems have changed so that children cannot as easily decipher whether they have 'passed' or 'failed' so as not to damage their sense of self worth. This goes back to a theory proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943 which has been adapted and is still widely discussed, especially in education and psychology coursework at American Universities.

In his 1943 paper, A Theory of Human Motivation, Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs that is often depicted as a triangle. Physical needs lie at the bottom, and the pinnacle of human achievement is the concept of "self actualization." Some of its ideas are very good, and it certainly made needed advancements in previous notions of motivation, but there are definite problems with the concept, particularly for the Christian, several of which are outlined in Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self Worship, by Paul Vitz. It is important to note that self actualization is held as a valid theory and a noteworthy goal by most educators and psychologists. If you read through the linked articles, you will see a close relationship between the ideals laid out for the 'self actualized' individual and those of the New Age movement.

Carole Adams, however, makes it clear that a child's sense of worth must come from "[his] acceptance of [his] own individuality as a gift from God." His worth is not in his own doing, but in being created in the image of God. We each have unique personalities, talents and interests, each of which may bring glory to God. The Foundation of American Christian Education further discusses the Principle of Individuality:

Everything in God's universe reveals His infinity and diversity. Each person is a unique creation of God, designed to express the nature of Christ individually in society. Parents and teachers should cultivate the full potential of Christ in every child.

As we learn to submit to the headship of Christ and teach our children to do the same, we move away from self-centered models of motivation to one which is spirit controlled. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3:5)

One of the most interesting ways I have seen this illustrated to the child is through the timeline, or Chain of Christianity, recommended in the Principle Approach materials. The timeline has ten key links, beginning with Creation, ending with the Restoration (present) and Christ is presented as the focal point of history. The child places his picture under the Restoration to remind himself daily of his role in Christ. No matter what path he ultimately takes in life, so long as it is in Christ, he is an important part of God's plan. Here's a picture of this timeline in action (while Honeybee might not have had her kids put their pictures up on the timeline, at least she has one. We STILL haven't done ours.)

Some time ago, I did some study on the verse, "Train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it." With recent controversy, I am reluctant to bring this up, but I found some interesting thoughts. The original Hebrew reads more like this:

Initiate (or dedicate) a [person of stature/squire] in the mouth of his way and he will not turn from it.

In a very informative article, Proverbs 226a: Train Up a Child? Ted Hildebrandt raises some interesting discussion about the words in this verse and how they are used elsewhere in scripture. Anyone who has read this blog very long knows I can go on and on about words, definitions and etymology and will readily see why I find this article so fascinating. Get out your bible and your Strong's, or better yet, download a free copy of esword and follow along through this study.

His application at the end, whether you accept his thoughts are not, bear direct relevance to the thoughts on acceptance outlined by Carole Adams in her article:

This idea of initiating someone with an appropriate level of dignity, respct and responsibility aslo fits well in a familial setting. The late adolescent (rfana) should be treated with dignity and respect in view of creation (Gen 2) and redemption (Rev 20, etc.). Thus he should be given experience, training, status, and responsibilities correspondent to his role in the kingdom of God. An adolescent should be initiated into the adult world with celbrations. His status as a redeemed image bearer should demand parental involvement in terms of opening horizons, patient instruction, and loving discipline. It is his dominion destiny and status that the parent must keep in mind. The parent must not violate the adolescent's personhood by authoritarian domination, permissive allowance of immaturity, or overprotection from the consequences of his actions.

, , , , ,