Keith Hunt - Christian Child-Rearing #6 - Page Six   Restitution of All Things

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Christian Child-Rearing #6

Spiritual Development

Continuing with Dr.Meier's book


Spiritual Development


     We are made up of body, soul, and spirit, so if we feed a
child well and use healthy psychological principles, but ignore
his spiritual development, we will be developing only two-thirds
of a person.... I believe the development of the child's spirit
is the most important of the three. Psychological development
will enable our children to live in society and earn a living,
but spiritual development will enable them to understand the
meaning of life. Carl Jung once stated, "The least of things with
a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things
without it." I have had wealthy patients with everything this
world has to offer - but they were groping desperately for
meaning in life.
     At Duke University Medical Center I have done extensive
research under Dr. William P. Wilson. Dr. Wilson is the Head of
the Neurophysiology Department. He has published over 150
scientific articles and several books; he's the former President
of the Southern Electroencephalographic Society, and has also
been an officer in the Southern Psychiatric Association. Dr.
Wilson was an agnostic not too many years ago. He had acquired
everything scholastically and scientifically - but he says he had
a gnawing void in his life. He went to a Boy Scout retreat with
his son several years ago, and a lay witness told the boy scouts
about God's simple plan of salvation. Dr. William P. Wilson,
Chairman of the Neurophysiology Department at Duke University,
decided then and there to humble himself and accept Jesus Christ
as his personal Savior. That met his void. He has been a changed
man ever since, and a tremendous witness for our Lord. I'm very
thankful that God gave me the opportunity to study under Dr.
Wilson. We have spent many hours praying together for our
patients, and for each other's needs.
     Dr. Wilson's conversion thrills me, but something that
thrills me even more is the salvation of a young child whose
parents have lovingly guided his spiritual development by
following God's commandments to teach (Dent.6:6-7), to train
(Prow.22:6), and to build (Eph.6:4) their child in a way that
would enable him to experience the abundant life (John 10:10).
This is where Christian men have fallen short. They have become
so wrapped up in the world that they have neglected their highest
calling - the spiritual development of their children.
     God tells us fathers that He "established a testimony in
Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our
fathers, that they should teach them to their children; that the
generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born,
that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they
should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of
God, but keep His commandments" (Ps.78:5-7, NASV). God has also
said, "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be
in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy
children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine
house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest
down, and when thou risest up" (Dent.6:6-7). God gave instruction
to "know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to
your herds" (Prov.27:28, NASV). Solomon told us that "in the fear
of the Lord there is strong confidence, and his children will
have refuge" (Prov.14:26, NASV). Now that we have seen our 
tremendous responsibility before God, let's look briefly at ways
to encourage spiritual development in each age group.

A. Prenatal.

     You can't teach your child Bible verses before he is born,
but you can influence the environment in which he develops by
enjoying the pregnancy, listening to soothing music, and taking
good care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Many
scientists believe that such measures can influence the
developing baby in some ways, although the proofs are not
definite.

B.   Infants (birth to fifteen months).

     Some of the foundations for spiritual development are laid
during infancy. The infant certainly does not understand our
religious beliefs and concepts as such, but our religious beliefs
and concepts strongly influence the attitudes we will have toward
that infant. The infant can sense the overall home atmosphere,
and begins to respond to our behavior and attitudes.

C.   Toddlers (fifteen to thirty-six months).

     The young toddler is rapidly acquiring language skills,
grasping for new experiences, and observing everything that
happens in the small world around him. How the child and his
father relate to each other lays the groundwork for his future
conceptions about what God is like. You can start by teaching him
to say a memorized prayer to a loving, heavenly Father, though at
thirty-six months of age, of course, he will be saying the words
but thinking about what his earthly father is like. If you are a
harsh, critical father, that will influence his conception of the
Father to whom he is praying. If the child is in a loving,
secure, and accepting environment during these months, he will
develop a basic trust that will enable him later to have a more
meaningful faith in God. I think what you let your child watch on
television, and the music you play in the home, strongly
influence his personality development in ways that will either
facilitate or hinder his future spiritual development.

D.   Preschoolers (three to six years).

     During these years, our children pick up thousands of words
in their vocabularies, but their knowledge of abstract concepts
is still almost nil. They reason concretely, and everything is
either black or white. This is known as dichotomous thinking.
Without a stimulating environment, and some formal education,
many people never outgrow this dichotomous way of thinking. In
children this age, words are just that - words. Gary Collins
mentions that even during the national anthem, which is supposed
to be sung with such meaning, young children frequently
substitute words like "the grandpas we watched were so gallantly
streaming." (1). And they think that's what the song is about.
This is just one example of how children this age reason.
     I studied the works of Jean Piaget to some extent in my
psychiatric training, especially when I was learning child
psychiatry. My wife, who has a master's degree in early childhood
development, studied Piaget even more than I did. Piaget did very
extensive research on the neurological, social, and moral
development of children. He even set up a timetable for the
earlier years. (2). From his studies, we know among other things
when the average child will say his first word, be neurologically
ready for toilet-training, understand concrete concepts, tie his
shoes, and understand abstract concepts. I'll be quoting Piaget a
number of times in this book. His studies show that three-to
six-year-old children reason quite concretely, and that they
believe almost everything we tell them. The average child, in a
relatively good school system, doesn't begin to reason abstractly
until he is about eleven years old. (3). That's why prolonged
reasoning with a three-to six-year-old child about his misconduct
is such a futile waste of time. I make this mistake occasionally
with my younger children; all the time I am reasoning with them
about the moral concept they have disobeyed, their little minds
are wandering at least a mile away. A quick spanking, hard enough
to bring repentance, is so much more effective and useful in
dealing with children this age. They can understand that if they
do certain bad things, like rebelling, the result will be either
a short verbal rebuke or else instant physical pain; and if they
do certain good things, like sharing their toys, the result will
be parental praise, approval, and maybe even a big hug. This is
what psychiatrists call behavior modification - positive
reinforcement of the behavior you want to develop, and negative
reinforcement of the behavior you want to discourage. Sometimes
just ignoring some types of mild bad behavior is in itself
negative reinforcement.

     By now some of you may be asking yourselves, "What does

1. Gary Collins, "Man in Transition," p.48. 
2. See bibliography references 307-18.
8. John E. Peters, "Lectures on Piaget."

all of this have to do with the spiritual development of my
three-to six-year-old?" Well, the answer is that we need to
understand his level of reasoning in order to multiply our
effectiveness in teaching him spiritual things. For example,
stories about Jesus and some of the little children in the Bible
have a great deal of meaning to children this age, whereas
teaching them about abstract concepts like parable interpretation
or "agape" love will only make them wish you would hurry up and
get done so they can get back to their toys. The more appropriate
the spiritual training the child has during these three years,
the more he will rely on his Christian faith when he is older and
has meaningfully accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. I believe
some children can understand enough during the latter part of
their first six years to know that they are frequently sinful,
that they want God to forgive them, and that they want to live
forever in heaven - (we of course who know the truth about death,
resurrection, and that heaven will be on this earth, will teach
them so - Keith Hunt) and they put their simple faith in Christ,
who taught that unless we as adults put our faith in Him in the
manner of a little child, we will in no wise inherit the kingdom.
     I was reared in a very godly home, and I was six years old
when I understood enough to put my faith in Christ. Moreover, I
have personally led to Christ five-and six-year-olds whom I felt
to be genuinely ready for salvation. (It can be very true that a
six year old is ready to fully believe in God and the Bible, and
Jesus Christ as savior - a six year old can understand wrong from
right and forgiveness. I know it is true because I went to a
"religious" school at age 5 where the Bible was read each morning
for the first half hour, starting in Genesis - it all made
logical sense to me, hence my spiritual development took root -
Keith Hunt)

     As we help our three-to six-year-olds develop spiritually,
we must keep in mind that the main sources of their learning,
whether at church or at home, are their total life experiences
rather than our words. As Gary Collins says, "A 'loving heavenly
Father' is foolishness if the child's earthly father is harsh and
unkind.... Even the child's views of God, heaven, angels, and
hell are in terms of pictures he has seen.(4). Children this age
frequently pray as though God were a magician in the sky whose
purpose is to grant their thoughtless and selfish wishes. I have
known a great number of adults who still pray that way. They try
to play God and to use God's magic to accomplish their will,
instead of asking God to show them His will in the matter, so
they can act accordingly. As we pray with our children, we should
show them by our example that prayer is a means of merging our
will with the will of God.
     During this stage of development, children pick up their

4. Collins, Man in Transition, p.53.

notions of what is right or wrong from what they see us doing,
not from what we say is right or wrong. For instance, I know on
the basis of Scripture that there is nothing sinful about feeling
the emotion of anger, and I encourage my oldest child to let me
know when he feels angry (see, e.g., Eph.4:26). If he in-
appropriately hits me when he is angry or throws something at me,
I spank him; but if he comes up to me and tells me he is feeling
angry toward me or someone else, I thank him for telling me and
we talk about it for a while. But somewhere or other, probably
from my own behavior at some time, he has picked up the concept
that it is sinful to feel anger. To my surprise I found this out
when we were watching a Walt Disney show on television one
afternoon. There was a good man in the show who became quite
angry when he discovered that someone had stolen his prize
watermelon. Later, the boy who stole it came and apologized. He
and the man shook hands and made arrangements for the boy to do
some work on the farm to pay for having stolen the watermelon
(which is a great idea, by the way, because it will relieve the
boy's guilt feelings and at the same time teach him that there
are consequences for bad behavior). Anyway, I was glad my older
boy and I had watched it together. But about an hour or two
later, he came up to me and said, "Daddy, that man was bad!" I
didn't know what he was talking about, so I asked him. He told me
that the man in the watermelon story was a bad man. So I told
him, "No he wasn't! He was a good man!. What makes you think he
was a bad man?" And to my dismay he replied, "He was a bad man,
because he got angry." So I explained to him that its all right
to feel angry. It all depends on what we do with that anger.
     Another thing we have to watch out for is lying to our
children. This is a terrible thing to do, and yet lying to our
children is an American tradition. Before any of you throw this
book away, let me explain what I mean. Our child loses a tooth,
and what's the traditional thing to do? Why, of course! We tell
him that if he'll put his tooth under his pillow, a tooth fairy
will sneak in at night and put money there. When Christ's
birthday, commonly known as Christmas, comes around, the American
tradition is to go to all ends to convince our three-to
six-year-olds that there is a man called Santa Claus who is
omniscient ("he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when
you're awake"), omnipresent ("he knows if you've been bad or
good," no matter where in the world you live), and omnipotent (he
can carry tons of toys all around the world in a matter of hours,
and fly up and down chimneys). For many Christian children, Santa
Claus is an idol that replaces Jesus Christ, whose birthday we
are supposedly celebrating.(5). But instead of focusing on His
birthday, Christmas becomes a big materialistic experience that
keeps us going from Thanksgiving until New Year's Day! Do you
realize that when your six-year-old goes to school and finds out
you, his Christian parents, have been lying to him for six years
about something that has become a major part of his religious
beliefs, he will subsequently have doubts about everything else
you have taught him -especially about God? Is this a laughing
matter? I don't think so...... (And of course you who are
studying from this Website will know the truth about Christmas,
Thanksgiving, January 1st and many other false ideas and customs
that are part of modern popular Christianity - so teach the truth
and hold to God's teachings and customs - Keith Hunt)......

5.   Ibid., pp.55-56.

     Another thing we can do to be truthful with our children
is to be sure to let them know when we are telling them a fairy
tale and when we are telling them a true story. It's very
difficult for a young child to separate the two. I believe some
of the traditional fairy tales American and European mothers tell
their young children can have detrimental effects. All the
stories of violence and witches and people cutting off other
people's heads create tremendous fears in three-to six-year-olds
who see mean giants hiding in their closets at night. My wife and
I are even somewhat selective as to which Bible stories to tell
our children at each stage of their development. I eventually
want them to know all the Bible stories, that is, when they are
ready to comprehend their significance. We don't read them the
Song of Solomon yet, but we will when they are teenagers. I would
encourage you to buy your children Christian story books and to
use them often, along with some healthy secular story books.
Fleming H. Revell publishers even put out Christian comic books.
just remember that your child's brain is much more complex than
our best computers, and like a computer, what you feed into your
child's brain during those first six years is what's going to
come out of his brain the next seventy years. This applies to
television and the type of music played in the home too. My
approach to raising children might be called a type of Gestalt
approach. "Gestalt" means looking at the whole forest instead of
just singling out one tree. One single mistake, like one tree in
the forest, won't do much harm to our children. In fact, they can
tolerate quite a few parental errors and still turn out quite
normal. It's only when most of the forest has been raised on
Satan's fertilizer instead of God's rain that we produce a
depreciated plot of land (6).

6. If you comprehend the meaning of this last sentence, you have
what we call abstract reasoning ability. If you think the
sentence merely refers to fertilizer and trees, you have only
concrete reasoning ability. The average child, according to
Piaget, is able to understand these last three sentences at about
age eleven if he has had an adequate education.

                           ....................

NOTES:

Today, the local Christian Books Stores and/or the Seventh Day
Adventist book stores, carry a large selection of "Bible Things"
for ALL ages of children and teenagers. Yes, you will need to be
selective, for sometimes, false teachings are presented in the
books or games, or puzzles. But the selections are so plentiful,
you will have no problem picking out the correct theological
teaching ones.

The Sabbath day should have certain favorite "Bible things" just
for the Sabbath day. With special meals and food, and favorite
Bible books, games, movies, puzzles, etc. the Sabbath day can be
looked forward to, as a wonderful DIFFERENT day of the week. Be
creative in your Sabbath day observation, make it a day all in
the family anticipate with joy and happiness, with many "Bible
fun things" in it, as well as enjoying God's creation when the
weather permits. Of course the Sabbath will contain family Bible
study, prayers, church attendance (if possible). Today we have so
many things to serve us and our family in Sabbath observance. It
really should be a day the whole family looks forward to. But you
as parents must put forth the effort to think of ways to make the
Sabbath a delight - a different day, but a delightful day as
well.

It is in my judgment that no Television or Computer should be
allowed in any bedroom of children (and by children I mean from
birth to age 18). Such modern items should be in the open house
area, or an open type room where their use can be seen by the
parents at any time.
Of course it is Christian logic to make sure incorrect and wrong
and even very bad programs are not allowed on the Television and
Computer. It is a good idea to sit down as a family at the
beginning of each week and go through the programs that can be
watched for that week. Television and Computers have much to
offer that is good and educational helpful for growing children.
In the western world today, a child just about needs a Computer
to do their schooling. It is like many other things, we need
balance and the wisdom and character quality to use such modern
tools correctly.

If you find those tools can NOT be controlled CORRECTLY, then it
is better to GET RID OF THEM!! That is the teaching of Jesus when
he said if your hand offend, cut it off, better to go into the
Kingdom handless, than all of your body to be cast into hell-
fire.

Parents, need to know, what, where, when, how, the life of their
children is going, in the home, at school, and at play. There is
no need to be a harsh drill master. In fact you need as time
marches on to become your child's best friend. Give them a
ROUNDED BALANCED life, of work and play, a time to be serious,
and a time to be having fun. Spiritual development for them is
then one part of their balanced and rounded life - Keith Hunt.

                             .................

Entered on this Website July 2007  


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