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CHILDREN'S NEEDS, SOCIETAL CONSEQUENCES

By Jo A. Witt
Copyright 1997, Revised 2001





What are the possible consequences to society from children's needs not being adequately met? I have identified three needs of children that I theorize when not sufficiently met, may ultimately lead to their choosing to engage in defiant/delinquent acts. Those needs are the need to perceive adequate love, the need to receive adequate discipline, and the need to be taught moral values. In this article I utilize biblical references to discuss each of these needs and how not meeting these needs may lead to defiance/delinquency. While focusing on two parent families in which both parents work, day care is examined in relation to whether children's needs are being suitably met under these conditions. Possible reasons for both parents working are discussed, as is children's value and the need for us to take more responsibility for our children in an effort to curb possible future negative consequences to society.

The possible cause and effect relationship between children's needs and defiance/delinquency can be illustrated as follows:

ChildPerceives Inadequate LoveDislike of SelfLack of Love for OthersDefiance/Delinquency

ChildReceives Inadequate DisciplineUnclear Boundaries for Acceptable BehaviorDefiance/Delinquency

ChildReceives Inadequate Moral TeachingIgnorance of What's Right and WrongDefiance/Delinquency


Inadequate Love.

Whether a person has a healthy love of self may be determined in childhood by his/her perception of love from significant others. If a child perceives inadequate love from significant others (primarily parents), then he/she may feel unlovable resulting in a lack of love for self. In Matthew 22:39 Jesus states to "love your neighbor as much as you love yourself." Conversely, when one doesn't love him/herself, he/she may not love others either.

I base my theory regarding the perception of inadequate love leading to defiance/delinquency on an interpretation of Romans 13:9. This passage states, "If you love your neighbor as much as you love yourself you will not want to harm or cheat him, or kill him or steal from him. And you won't sin with his wife or want what is his, or do anything else the Ten Commandments say is wrong. All ten are wrapped up in this one, to love your neighbor as you love yourself." Conversely, if someone doesn't love him/herself, then he/she may not love others either and thus be more apt to harm or cheat them, kill or steal from them, etc.--in other words, to engage in defiant/delinquent behavior(s).

In an effort to determine why children may perceive inadequate love from significant others, it may be helpful to first examine the relationship between parents and their children in contrast to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. This scripture states, "Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him." Is this the kind of relationship parents have with their children?

Children's perception of inadequate love may also result from parents not spending enough time with their children. Whether due to necessity or other reasons, in many families today both parents work and the children (preschool-aged children in particular) spend most of their waking hours with a day care provider. Unfortunately a day care provider may not be able to provide any one child with sufficient attention to meet his/her psychological needs nor would a day care provider give a child the same love his/her parents would. Is the time parents spend with their children quality time? Do they take interest in their child's talents, interests and activities? Do they take the time to play with their child? Do they compliment their child or over criticize? Do they hug their child and say "I love you."? If a child perceives that he/she is not important to his/her parents, this may converge into feeling unloved and lead to a dislike of self.

In regards to school-aged children, what kind of environment is their school setting? It is my belief that the loving environment of Christian schools can be beneficial to children in assisting to meet their need for love.

All these factors may affect a child's perception of self, whether he/she loves him/herself, and subsequently whether he/she loves others or possibly commits defiant/delinquent acts against them.


Inadequate Discipline.

When a child is inadequately disciplined, the boundaries for acceptable behavior may become unclear to the child, thus possibly leading to defiance/delinquency.

The following advice is offered in Proverbs regarding discipline:

"If you refuse to discipline your son, it proves you don't love him; for if you love him you will be prompt to punish him." (13:24)

"Discipline your son in his early years while there is hope. If you don't you will ruin his life." (19:18)

"Punishment that hurts chases evil from the heart." (20:30)

"A youngster's heart is filled with rebellion, but punishment will drive it out of him." (22:15)

"Scolding and spanking a child helps him to learn. Left to himself, he brings shame to his mother." (29:15)

"Discipline your son and he will give you happiness and peace of mind." (29:17)

"Sometimes mere words are not enough--discipline is needed. For the words may not be heeded." (29:19)

Clearly the need for disciplining children is emphasized several times in Proverbs. Even so, I do not advocate severe physical punishment or abuse. Colossians 3:21 states, "Fathers, don't scold your children so much that they become discouraged and quit trying." and Ephesians 6:4 states, ". . . Don't keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice." What I am emphasizing is the need for effective and consistent discipline.

Although I believe most parents would agree that children should be disciplined, although opinions differ as to the appropriate method, a lot of today's children may not be receiving adequate discipline because of the amount of time spent in day care. How can a day care provider give any one child sufficient attention to identify behaviors that warrant discipline? Further, is the day care provider's reasons for and methods of discipline consistent with the parents'? What discipline do children receive in school? Who monitors the children after school? Is whatever method of discipline being used in each setting effective for the children?

When children experience several different environments each day, they may become confused as to what behaviors are acceptable. Inconsistent rules between environments and ineffective forms of discipline may be primary reasons for this confusion. If the boundaries for acceptable behavior are not clearly established at a young age by utilizing discipline and consistent reinforcement, the child may in time exhibit defiant/delinquent behavior(s).


Inadequate Moral Teaching.

When children are not taught moral values, they may become ignorant as to what is right and wrong. This ignorance may lead to defiance/delinquency.

Proverbs 22:6 states, "Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older he will remain upon it." Proverbs 29:18 states, "Where there is ignorance of God, the people run wild; but what a wonderful thing it is for a nation to know and keep his laws!"

Who is teaching today's children moral values? Is the child's day care provider's moral values consistent with the parents'? The provider's moral values will probably affect the way he/she cares for the children; however, I believe the teaching of moral values should primarily come from the child's parents and also through involvement with the church of their choice.

Although it may mean financial sacrifices, by having children attend Christian schools they will not only be taught the skills necessary for functioning in this world, but will also receive moral teaching, etc. in preparation for eternity.

How many families regularly attend church these days? 2 Timothy 2:22b emphasizes the need for Christian fellowship by stating, "Have faith and love, and enjoy the companionship of those who love the Lord and have pure hearts." Hebrews 10:25 further emphasizes the need for church attendance by stating, "Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near." By regularly attending Sunday School children can learn moral values through discussions, and by regularly attending church they can learn by participating in the pastor's "children's time" and by listening to the pastor's messages.

Do parents read and discuss the Bible with their children? In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 the importance of the Bible is stressed: "The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God's way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone." The Bible, then, can be an excellent tool for teaching children right from wrong. Even so, if children do not see their parents living according to the principles set forth in the Bible, then they may not either.

How will children learn right from wrong if no one takes the time to teach them? If they are ignorant as to what's right and wrong, they may engage in defiant/delinquent acts.


Why Parents Work.

What factors lead both parents to work? Although in some families it truly is financially necessary for both to work, the focus of this article is families where this is not the case. In these families I believe the two major reasons for both parents working are 1) pressure from society to be successful as defined by one's career and 2) materialism.


Society's Pressure.

In our society, it seems, one must find success in his/her career in order to be identified as successful. This pressure may compel both parents to work and has a negative impact on parents who choose to stay at home with their children. In fact, I have read that these parents often experience low self esteem. Ironically by society's pressuring parents to both work and parents yielding to this pressure, society may suffer the consequences if children's needs are not being adequately met in day care.

Perhaps we could gain some wisdom regarding the drive to be successful from Solomon in Ecclesiastes. His search to find understanding about everything in the universe (Ecclesiastes 1:13-14) included trying to find pleasure in hard work (2:10b), which he concluded (along with everything he tried) "...was all so useless, a chasing of the wind..." (2:11). That is not to say that one should not strive to do well in his/her career, and several scriptures emphasize the importance of hard work (i.e., 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10); however, in the long run our career success can be viewed as a chasing of the wind as we "must leave the fruits of all (our) hard work to others" (Ecclesiastes 2:18). On the other hand, being successful meeting the needs of our children may have longer lasting rewards for not only us, but for society as a whole.

Perhaps it is time for us as a society to expand our definition of success beyond the work place and to acknowledge the significance of parents who sacrifice their careers to stay at home with their children to ensure their children's needs are more adequately met.


Materialism.

Another factor which seems to influence the decision for both parents to work is materialism. There seems to be such a push these days to own new vehicles, a wide array of electronic/audiovisual equipment, new furniture, an extensive wardrobe, expensive homes, etc. We seem to seek a life of leisure--to frequently dine out, to spend absorbent amounts on vacations, to hire maids to clean our homes, etc. And who pays the price for the life style we have chosen? It may be society as a whole if children's needs are not being adequately met in day care.

The Bible has several references to materialism:

Solomon in Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 indicates: "He who loves money shall never have enough. The foolishness of thinking that wealth brings happiness! The more you have, the more you spend, right up to the limits of your income, so what is the advantage of wealth--except perhaps to watch it as it runs through your fingers!"

In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus states, "'Don't store up treasures here on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen. Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value, and are safe from thieves. If your profits are in heaven your heart will be there too.'"

In Mark 4:18 Jesus states, "'The thorny ground represents the hearts of people who listen to the Good News and receive it, but all too quickly the attractions of this world and the delights of wealth, and the search for success and lure of nice things come in and crowd out God's message from their hearts, so that no crop is produced.'"

In Luke 12:16-21 Jesus gives the illustration of a rich man whose barns were overflowing, so he built bigger ones and then said to himself, "'Friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Wine, women, and song for you!' But God said to him, 'Fool! Tonight you die. Then who will get it all?' Yes, every man is a fool who gets rich on earth but not in heaven."

Colossians 3:5b states, "don't worship the good things of life, for that is idolatry."

1 Timothy 6:7-10 states, "After all, we didn't bring any money with us when we came into the world, and we can't carry away a single penny when we die. So we should be well satisfied without money if we have enough food and clothing. But people who long to be rich soon begin to do all kinds of wrong things to get money, things that hurt them and make them evil-minded and finally send them to hell itself. For the love of money is the first step toward all kinds of sin. Some people have even turned away from God because of their love for it, and as a result have pierced themselves with many sorrows."

Hebrews 13: 5 states, "Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, 'I will never, never fail you nor forsake you.'"

1 John 2:15-16 states, "Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love these things you show that you do not really love God; for all these worldly things, these evil desires--the craze for sex, the ambition to buy everything that appeals to you, and the pride that comes from wealth and importance--these are not from God. They are from this evil world itself."

Perhaps parents should evaluate the necessity for both to work and consider whether their children's needs are being adequately met in day care. If materialism is a primary reason for both to work, I believe they should reevaluate their priorities in the best interest of their children.


Children's Value.

Jesus emphasized the importance of children in Mark 9:36-37, "Then he placed a little child among them; and taking the child in his arms he said to them, 'Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming my Father who sent me!'" Again Jesus emphasized children's importance in Matthew 18:10 by saying, "'Beware that you don't look down upon a single one of these little children. For I tell you that in heaven their angels have constant access to my Father.'" And in verse 14, "'it is not my Father's will that even one of these little ones should perish.'" In Mark 9:42 Jesus indicated our accountability for children's salvation by stating, "'But if someone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to lose faith--it would be better for that man if a huge millstone were tied around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.'" In Matthew 19:13-15 Jesus' disciples tried to send away those bringing children to Jesus for his blessing, but Jesus said "'Let the little children come to me, and don't prevent them. For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.' And he put his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left."

Jesus took the time to bless the children when they were brought to him and emphasized their importance. Shouldn't we then, too, take the time to realize the importance of our children and to ensure that their needs are sufficiently met?


Taking Responsibility.

The decision to have children should involve the willingness to accept responsibility for their care. But unfortunately our society has seemingly become too materialistic and success-driven, resulting in both parents choosing to work and children being left in day care. I do not believe children's needs for love, discipline and the teaching of moral values can be suitably met in day care. As a result we as a society may pay the price if inadequately meeting children's needs leads them to a life of defiance/delinquency.

My husband and I have had varied experience with child care providers. We found that day care providers oftentimes did not really provide the settings they led us to believe they did in our interviews.

Our first child was in day care full time from the age of 6 weeks until 13 months old. Weekdays typically consisted of our spending roughly 3-4 hours of awake time a day with her and 10 hours a day in day care. In time we came to notice that our provider would inattentively leave crying babies in their cribs during times when we were picking up our daughter. She even berated a young boy to his father in the presence of several other parents because he had had diarrhea in his pants and she was obviously annoyed that she had to clean it up. We also came to realize that she was actually caring for several more children than she had indicated during our interview. I don't believe the children's love needs were being adequately met in this setting. Upon realizing this and our provider's other inadequacies, we soon found a more suitable provider.

When our daughter was 14 months old, my husband's work resulted in our relocating and my being unemployed for two months. During this time I came to realize how little of a relationship I actually had with our daughter since most of her waking hours had previously been spent in day care. Upon this realization, I decided to seek part-time rather than full-time employment so that I could be more involved in her upbringing.

The provider we chose at this time was conveniently located near our home and the care she planned to provide was consistent with our specifications. However, in time we became aware of a rowdy and violent two-year old boy under her care and were concerned about the safety of the other children as well as the negative influence he might have on them. We also came to realize that she was increasingly caring for more children--sometimes as many as 15--which made for a somewhat chaotic environment and made it difficult for her to adequately meet the children's emotional and physical needs. There also seemed to be inadequate discipline in this setting--perhaps partly due to her caring for too many children and in part due to her non-assertive personality. We were considering finding a more suitable provider when circumstances led to my husband changing jobs and to our again relocating. At this time (when our daughter was 21 months old) I became a stay-at-home mom, having come to believe that our daughter's needs for love, discipline and the teaching of moral values could be better met under my care rather than in day care. Our second child has never been in day care.

I now refer to the situation of both parents working (especially both full time) as a "rat race." So much time is spent rushing around. Our children are constantly put on a never ending "tread mill" so they can keep in pace with our own hectic lifestyles. So little time is left to rest--for them or us. When both parents are tired from working, how can they then spend quality time with their children? What kind of life is this for our children? And if children's needs are not being adequately met in day care or at home, what kind of adults will they be?

Our decision as parents for me to stay at home with our children has involved making sacrifices. We now drive older vehicles, have older furniture, at times have to delay fixing things, etc. Yet, we feel that it is in the best interest of our children for me to be their primary care giver. Admittedly it is lonely at times to not have the outside contact I had while I was working, but that too is a sacrifice I am willing to make to ensure that our children's needs are appropriately met.

A further sacrifice financially we’ve made in recent years is the choice to send our children to a Christian school. It has been an absolutely wonderful experience, and I highly encourage other parents to consider doing so as well. It is a loving and caring environment where moral values are taught alongside the regular curriculum.

I believe it is important for parents to carefully examine their current family situation and to evaluate their priorities to determine where their children fall on the list. Are children's needs for love, discipline and the teaching of moral values being adequately met? And if not, will they possibly become defiant/delinquent adults? For if today's children are the building blocks of tomorrow's society, what kind of society will we have?


Bible Reference:

The Way (illustrated edition of The Living Bible), (c) 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL, additional text and photos (c) 1972 by Youth for Christ International, Wheaton, IL.



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