the Childish Nature
by Michael and Debi Pearl
"Behold the Second Woe!"
Just last night while sitting in a meeting, I noticed a young mother struggling with her small child. He seemed determined to make her life as miserable as possible – and destroy her reputation in the process. She had the "Why me?" look on her tired face. He kept defiantly throwing his bottle on the floor (assisted by her picking it up and handing it back to him) and making angry noises that forced the preacher to scream louder and louder. With threats of increasingly embarrassing displays,
the child forced her to put him down on the floor where he proceeded to audition for circus clown while insisting on procuring a neighbor's property. When she tried to prevent his thievery and rescue the stolen goods, he kicked his feet like an eggbeater and screamed his protest.
It was enough to make you believe the Devil started out as an infant. I am just thankful that one-year-olds don't weigh two hundred pounds, or a lot more mothers would be victims of homicide. It causes one to understand where the concept of a "sinful nature" originated.
The mother knows the child shouldn't be acting like this, but due to the child's limited intellectual development, she feels helpless. Older children and adults have their actions constrained by many mental and social factors. This child is not affected by peer pressure, threat of embarrassment or rejection. His life is one of unlimited, unrestrained self-indulgence.
The parents are waiting for the child's understanding to develop so they can correct "bad" behavior. They helplessly watch while selfishness and meanness of spirit grow behind a wall of undeveloped understanding. What is the driving force in this child, and how can it be conquered?
We need to understand some things about the nature of a child in order to institute appropriate training.
For the purpose of moral development, God created us to exist in a constant condition of need and dependence. The needs are most apparent in the small child. He needs food, warmth, companionship, entertainment, and a dry diaper. God has endowed him with strong, involuntary compulsions to taste, smell, hear, with eyes to see, and a desire to touch and feel.
The desires and passions in the infant are not yet complete. As he matures, he will find himself possessed of ever-increasing natural desires for things "pleasant to the eyes," things "good for food," and for those things that will "make one wise." His growing humanity will give way to a desire to build, to know, to be appreciated, recognized, to succeed, be a lover, and survive in a secure state.
As infants grow, they learn to manipulate their surroundings to their own gratification. A smile, a grunt, kicking the feet, rolling and shaking the head, crying, screaming – "Pick me up! ... Feed me! ... Just look at me! ... Doesn't anyone realize I have urgent needs?! ... What could be more important than ME?"
The infant's world is no bigger than his needs. It is the only reality he knows. He soon learns that his "wants" can be just as readily satisfied. The infant cannot think in terms of duty, responsibility or moral choice. He has no pride or humility – only desire. He comes, he sees, he takes. He is created that way. By nature, he is incapable of considering the needs of others. The baby doesn't know that you are tired and also in need of comfort.
The self-centeredness of infants and small children has all the appearances of a vice. But they are acting on natural, God-given impulses to the meeting of natural needs. They "go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." (Psalm 58:3) Yet, God does not impute the lie to them as sin. God reckons as if they had no moral character, and therefore no responsibility. They do not possess the intellectual and moral maturity to say "No" to appetites. They cannot yet be deemed blameworthy. They begin life in innocent self-centeredness.
To Blame or Not to Blame
As the child gets older, say eight to twelve months, the adults begin to pay less attention to his demands, and a weaning process begins. The child is made to wait, told "No," and given boundaries. He must learn that he cannot always be first. If, by now, training has not already subdued the manifestations of his "selfishness," the child may come to be what we call "spoiled."
Guilty, frustrated parents are manipulated by the child's whining and crying. The spatting begins. The kid gets jerked around. Resentment builds. The adults begin to blame him.
The child feels the tension, but does not lessen the demands. He connives, calculates, and resorts to angry tantrums. I have seen a two-year-old take a weapon and angrily strike his mother. The young child is not matured to a point where he can understand responsibility, weigh values, or make conscious decisions based on moral or social worth; but he sure can mimic the criminal mind.
Toward Understanding / A Spiritual Fetus
What is happening? A short time ago, the adults around this child would have given him anything he wanted, including their own life-sustaining food; but now they are beginning to expect a little giving on his part. He doesn't want to give. Taking has been his way of life from conception. The arrangement has suited him just
Life is designed by God to be a spiritual womb, a place where the work of creation continues. Yes, the physical creation is complete and He is rested from it; but the
moral creation goes on. Men are not born wise, righteous, experienced, or developed in
The Dilemma / Parental Responsibility
The dilemma parents face is: How do we relate to a child during this transition period from no moral understanding to complete accountability?
When the child is 30% morally cognizant and 70% morally naive, how do we relate?
How do we know to what degree he is responsible? The parent does not want to destroy the child's natural drives, but we would like to instill moderation.
Here is where we come to the crux of this whole chapter as the background of this whole book. It is important to understand that parents must assume that part of the child's moral duty which is not yet fully developed.
And just exactly how to do this in a
and godly manner is what the rest of this book,
Up a Child is about. Visit their
website via this link:
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