Key Scripture: "He also said to them, 'This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain-first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head'" (Mark 4:26-28).
Key Words: Me Level, Approval Level, Affiliation Level, Others-Oriented Level.
Growth is a part of God's natural order in the world. In Mark 4:26-29 Jesus used the analogy of plant life to illustrate how growth occurs in the kingdom of God. In this parable the "seed" (of faith) produces "first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head." Jesus' illustration reminds us that the physical, emotional, and spiritual growth of both ourselves and our children is characterized by a progression from immaturity to full maturity.
As Christian parents it is our task to disciple our children so that they respond to us with love and obedience, as we ourselves respond to Christ. If we are to accomplish this task with compassion and wisdom, we need to recognize the level at which our children stand in the maturation process. From years of personal and professional experience and the study of Scripture, Drs. Arroyo and Selig have mapped the stages we pass through on the road to maturity. Knowledge of these four motivational stages can serve as a powerful tool in understanding both our children's behavior and our own.
The Four Levels of Motivation
Level 1: The Me Level, or Baby Stage (1 Cor. 3:1-4)
At this level children are motivated primarily by the need for self-gratification. They obey because they fear punishment, or because obedience serves to earn them some tangible reward.
Level 2: The Approval Level, or Little Child Stage (1 John 2:12)
Children at this level are motivated to seek the approval of those around them, not only as a means of gratifying tangible needs, but also as a way of satisfying their increasingly complex emotional needs. At Level 2 self-esteem and a sense of right and wrong begin to develop.
Level 3: The Personal Relationship/Affiliation Level, or Young Man Stage (1 John 2:13)
At this level children desire not only the approval but also the respect of those around them. They want to be seen as competent and to be accepted as responsible individuals. Level 3 children begin to assert their independence as they become more confident and emotionally self-assured.
Level 4: The Others-Oriented Level, or Father Stage (1 John 2:13)
This is the "transpersonal" level, at which a person learns to "love others as he loves himself" (Matt. 19:19). At this level the individual operates out of a sense of God-centeredness rather than self-centeredness. It is possible for a non-Christian to function at Level 4, but to live consistently at this level the presence of Christ is needed in our lives.
These four categories are, of course, only general in nature. Neither adults nor children remain at any one level at all times, nor is progress through the levels necessarily sequential. Nevertheless, knowledge of your children's general motivational level helps you understand what your children are experiencing and why they choose to obey or disobey. Equipped with this insight, you can communicate with your children more effectively, discipline them more appropriately, and help them develop character and self-esteem.
Making It Work (Select 3):
Fill out the Motivational Development Inventory found on page 1-1 of your Family Quiz Packet. Note that the directions state that you should "think of the individual being rated as he would act in one particular setting such as home, school or work."
To get a better overview of your child's behavior, you should complete and compare two complementary behavior inventories. Base one inventory on behavior that occurs in a setting in which the child is most natural (probably at home). Base the other on behavior that occurs in a setting in which they experience some difficulty (in public, at school, etc.). Further instructions about taking and interpreting the Motivational Development Inventory are found on pages 19, 20, and 223 in LOD.
Discuss the following questions after taking the Motivational Development Inventory:
At what stage does your child generally fit among the four motivational levels?
What types of behavior show the lowest and highest levels of motivation on the score sheet?
Choose three examples of the lowest and highest motivational behavior and consider:
What needs are being expressed in your child's negative behavior? How can you better satisfy unmet needs?
In what situations do negative and positive behavior emerge? How can you structure situations to minimize negative behavior in the future?
In what ways are you taking time to praise your child for positive behavior?
In the lessons that follow you will explore the characteristics of the four motivational levels in more detail and learn how such knowledge can be used to "train up a child in the way he should go" (Prov. 22:6).
Further Study: At what motivational level do you think Peter was acting in Matthew 26:69-75? How does Jesus restore Peter in John 21:15-17? What new level of motivation is expressed in Peter's actions and words in Acts 2:14ff.; 4:13; and 1 Peter 4:7-19?