Tennyson and I participated in a child study at the University of CA Riverside Developmental Psychology Lab last week. We’ve done at least five of these the last few years, a chance to contribute to research in a range of child development inquiries, from the effects of media on learning to how children apprehend what they read. The last study happened to be on the question of how children understand prayer. It was a very interesting opportunity to lend perspective on our prayer practices and for me to give voice to my perspective on the role of prayer in parenting.
This time, after completing a questionnaire while Tennyson was busy with questions from a researcher, I was taped in interview. The interviewer asked me some things I had never given thought to, and I in turn offered answers she had never gotten.
Do I believe spiritual development affects cognitive growth? If so, how?
Yes, the nurture of the inner life is very much a work in abstractions. Children are taught to pray to a God who is invisible, learn of a man who lived an infinity and many cultures away. In the field of education, the ability to grasp abstractions is said to be a function of higher order thinking. That is, to conceptualize the unseen requires more brain voltage than to regurgitate facts. (Ah, I thought: hence Tennyson’s attempt back in February to wrap his brain around how God watches him, cast in familiar concrete things.) So maturity in spiritual sensitivity and understanding will challenge and encourage cognitive faculty.
Not surprising because obedience to God always bear rewards, often unimagined. What’s more, smarts are a favorable part of spiritual development by simple virtue of our design. We are mind, body, spirit, heart and what each aspect processes affects the rest.
Tennyson pocketed the $20 he earned and put it in his bank when we got home. I wondered why in the world I had thought I could bribe him with a quarter a few months back when the boy has more cash than I do.
Local parents interested in future studies can write me for information.