8 Reflections on the Nature of a Child

May 18, 2015
  • The nature of a child and education come together, either to mar the child or to help the child flourish. When a child is not taught according to his or her nature, it is like cutting against the grain, dulling the knife and marring the wood. Yet when a child’s instruction aligns with his or her nature, the process is beautiful and the child thrives. Parents and teachers must understand the nature of a child so that their teaching can harmonize with that nature and cultivate him or her into a virtuous and flourishing adult. 
  • A child is a human being with amazing capacity! A child has been created with innate potential to reflect the glory of God and possess a virtuous soul. Yet a child also bears unique traits unmarred by societal conventions, such as creativity, desires for learning, and a pattern of imitation. 
  • Just as a seed contains all the genetic code for a mature plant, a child bears the full capacity for mature adulthood. Every child is created in the image of God and thus has the potential to show off His splendor and worth. A child is created to mature so as to reflect God in the way he or she learns to create, bears authority, and rules others in the way that God does. A child can love, express mercy, compassion, and graciousness; reflecting the glorious way God relates to His people. A child is also created to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit and so image forth God to his or her fullest potential. Yet that soul is marred by sin and often led into vice. Though children have such amazing capacity, they need Jesus Christ to rescue them from a fallen state so that they might truly live and thus live in their fullest potential. 
  • As a child matures in life and through Christ, he or she can then live in the reality of the virtuous soul that the ancient greek philosophers prized so highly. A child can grow most fully in wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice as well as faith, hope, and love. The ancient greeks and christians saw the potential for such virtue, but those outside of Christ came up short of it due to the power of sin within. The potential for these virtues also mark the nature of a child. 
  • Now a child is a child and not an adult, thus there are distinctions that are both childlike and wonderful. A child’s imagination is not limited by the constructs of reality. A block of wood becomes a steamship. A paperclip can be big enough to move a house. A child’s mind is free to create whatever he or she desires and a child often sees creative solutions to complex problems because he or she doesn’t worry that it functionally can’t work or has not been done before. A child’s mind is free and thus has much more creative potential than many mature adults. 
  • Children naturally love learning because they are naturally inquisitive. A child finds wonder and excitement in discovery. A child feels the thrill of learning something new and being amazed at what he or she had not known before. There is a natural appetite for learning that is ravenous. A child wants to take in as much as they can from their environment, especially when the environment is rich with new things to discover. This is why nature is so intriguing for children. An entire world can be found in an ant hill, under a log, or in a tree. Everything must be inspected, compared, and understood. 
  • Children learn most naturally through imitation. From infancy a child hears words and imitates them, sees movement and tries to mimic it, and observes life and seeks to play it. Imitation is the most natural mode of learning for all children. When a child is educated through imitation, then one is cutting with the grain and the child will enjoy learning, learn faster, and bear much fruit in their education. 
  • These thoughts on the nature of a child should naturally turn our mind towards educating children. Education must take in the whole nature of children, both their capacity and their reality. Since it is most natural for children to learn through discovery and imitation, the learning environment should be filled with lessons that allow them to discover and experience a concept. Yet it is not as though we let children loose into an area to learn for themselves, for they learn through imitation and in relationships. There must be a guide who is worthy of imitation and can guide them in their discovery. The guide must bear those virtues that a child has the capacity for. Thus as the children learn, they learn in relationship with a model of what they are to become and what they are to master in their education. There is a harmony to the learning environment between the wonder of discovery, imitation of arts to be mastered, and the relationship with a virtuous adult who is worthy of imitation and can guide the child in their potential for Christ likeness.

 

Danny Breed

Danny Breed

Danny Breed is Headmaster at Oak City Academy in Raleigh, NC. 

The opinions and arguments of our contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute or its leadership.

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