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Those Juniors, Part 6: More Natural Phenomena

by Eric B. Hare

Last week: There are certain actions and habits that are common to most children at different stages of their development. Last week we looked at restlessness, curiosity, credulity, imagination, and imitation. This week we will continue our study of these natural phenomena.

Group Life
While group life is practically missing in the kindergarten division, it is decidedly present in the primary division, where they are thrilled to have class names, such as Builders, Crusaders, Watchmen. As they grow older they delight in clubs, and a secret society with a secret code is just made to order. A little older, and the uniform appeal stimulates to participation in the band, the glee club, the junior cadets, and the choir. In college, group life becomes stabilized, and continues with us through life.

Responsibility, almost lacking in young children, progresses in proportion to age and the vision of parents and teachers, and is greatest in adult life.

Competition is lacking in small children, but it appears about the time they start school, and reaches its climax in high school days, after which it settles down to normal in college and adult life.

Sex Association
Little children are not sex conscious at all. In the kindergarten division Tommy and Jane and Billy and Ruth will sit and play together without any fuss or show. But by the time they get into the primary division, boys suddenly realize they are BOYS, and girls that they are GIRLS; and even as two north poles or two south poles of magnets will repel each other, so do boys and girls in this age want to be separate. Mixed classes do not work well here. In fact, a boy can think of no punishment or shame greater than to be made to sit with a girl.

I know a little boy nine years old who, one bright Sabbath morning, did not want to go to Sabbath school.

“Are you sick?” said his father.

“No—but—I just don’t want to go.”

As this did not seem sufficient reason in the father’s eyes, the boy went to Sabbath school anyway.

Next Sabbath morning it started out the same way. The father was anxious and took time to coax out the reason. “Bill said my shoes looked like girls’ shoes,” he finally confided. Of course we smile, but that was a serious primary problem.

Not for long, however, does this repulsion of the sexes continue. All too soon the awkward, don’t-care-how-I-look boy begins to shine his shoes and use dad’s hair oil. All too soon the budding young ladies take more pains with their primping and want to get their photos taken, and then, presto! Oh, say! what has happened? The poles of the magnet have just turned around, and the north is attracting the south, and the south the north. In the youth’s division they just love to have mixed classes. In fact, some troublesome boys from an all boys’ class become “angels” when they can sit with the girls. In these adolescent days let us do all we can to focus this new, thrilling attraction onto group association. Let us do all we can to influence this age from attempting to single out one of the opposite sex and “go steady.” This is a time to become acquainted and to learn to measure and weigh our acquaintances. The singling-out step rightly belongs to college days, when the choice of serving God and the choice of a life work have been duly made.

The comparison of reason in the various age groups is a very interesting one. Psychologists declare that reason is developed in adolescence, when doubt begins to demand a reason why. Then parents want to know what makes a baby cry for its milk. Biologists tell us that the great difference between man and beast is the reasoning ability of man. Then folks want to know what makes animals act with such intelligence.

In the writings of the Spirit of prophecy we find these expressions: “From the first dawn of reason, the human mind should become intelligent in regard to the physical structure.”1 And again, “Before he is old enough to reason, he may be taught to obey.”2 In the early stages of the development of the mind we find that ideas begin to group together: an act will link up in the mind with its results; a cause will link up with its effect. The baby cries; it is fed. It cries again; it is fed again. Soon these ideas combine, and the baby knows what will follow if it cries. This is the same process whereby animals are taught tricks, and while we may even call this grouping of ideas the dawn, or the foundation of reason, surely it is very different from the process of reasoning in which we project ourselves into one set of circumstances, then another, and then exercise the power of choice.

Edwin A. Kirkpatrick speaks of the development of reason thus: “Naturally, reasoning is first instinctive, sensory, and practical, then conscious, imaginative, and individual, and finally abstract, analytic, and general. The school unsuccessfully seeks to develop the last form of reasoning before the others, which are a necessary basis for it, are sufficiently developed.

“After about twelve years of age, a child’s interests usually broaden so that he is no longer almost wholly concerned with his own affairs and with particular results, but begins to develop a social and speculative interest in groups of persons and classes of objects and events. By this time the child has also acquired enough concepts and general truths, together with the power of analyzing and discriminating difference and likeness, so that he now has the ability as well as the impulse to reason in a general and abstract way concerning persons in history, words in language, and things in science.”3

The study of reason will be continued later in this series.

Conscience is the faculty whereby we know the will of God; it can be developed early in life. It becomes strangely erratic and flighty in adolescence, and becomes a steady controlling factor of the mature life.

In spite of the great differences we find in the early surroundings of a child, it is very common to find little children of five, six, seven, and eight years of age who love the Lord Jesus with all their heart and soul, and as far as they know how, have decided to be Christians. Even more definite decisions are made in the primary years; a few nine- and ten-year-olds are baptized. Most baptisms, however, come in early adolescence,4 and comparatively few decisions and baptisms take place in late adolescence and adult life. Wise teachers stress the making of a decision in the early years, allowing the Holy Spirit to indicate the time of baptism.

(Next week: “Natural Phenomena, Part 3.”)

1. Medical Ministry, page 221, emphasis added.
2. Education, page 287, emphasis added.
3. Kirkpatrick, Edwin A., Fundamentals of Child Study, pages 302, 303.
4. Bonner, Carey, The Christ, the Church, and the Child, pages 18–25.

Copyright © 1973 by Eric B. Hare. Used by permission.

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