In my first entry on motivation, I shared some thoughts on the value of intrinsic motivation. One of the central components of the Biblical Principle Approach is the principle of Christian Self-Government. While this does apply to our civil government, its more immediate application is in our hearts. According to the Foundation for American Christian Education, “In order to have true liberty, man must be governed internally by the Spirit of God rather than by external forces. Government is first individual, then extends to the home, church, and the community. This principle of self-government is God ruling internally from the heart of the individual.”
External motivations, forces or controls yield a child who is governed externally. Research in a variety of fields has noted that extrinsic rewards and punishments actually decrease motivation to perform certain tasks. Bonuses for job performance yield workers who do the minimum required unless some other reward is offered. Public criticism yields fear of trying anything but what has been done before for fear of failure.
The infant is motivated by few desires: nourishment, comfort, mental stimulation and physical touch. As a child ages, his motivations become more complex, yet they still fall under these categories. While it is true that we can use the physical discomfort of spanking or the mental stimulation of a new toy to control a child’s behavior, we must be careful how we go about this.
In subsequent entries, I am going to explore the eight spiritual needs outlined in The Christian Idea of the Child by Carole G. Adams. Hopefully this will lead to a more coherent, Christian view of motivation as it applies to parenting and teaching.
- Significance: Children need to have a deep sense of safety, of feeling loved, cherished, and significant.
- Trust: They must develop trust in the character of the key adults in their lives.
- 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.
- Purpose: If children see themselves as having a place in history and see the events in their lives in light of a providential God, then they can have assurance for their present and future.
- Work: They need activities that are real to them, significant, intriguing, not just amusing or entertaining— nnobling work or occupation—in order to acquire vision for the value of their life and purpose.
- Wisdom: Children need wise guidance from adults to help them make sense of their experiences and interpret their world through principles.
- Models of Christian self-government: Children need Christ-governed adult models who accept the authority that is theirs by virtue of their greater experience, knowledge, and wisdom, and who represent God’s government in their lives.
- Models of Christian character: Children need adult models who exemplify personal qualities of victorious Christian character, who are productive and committed, and who inspire them.
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works…
For more information, on research behind motivation, you can check this article, Management Implications of the Interaction Between Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Rewards, and this article, Hard Work and High Expectiations: Motivating Children to Learn.