How to encourage children to despise themselves

Posted on · Posted in Authority, Parenting, Proverbs

It seems like such a simple thing. You ask your child to do something and in response, he quietly keeps playing with his toy. You decide to press on, so you ask again, this time a little more firmly, and then one more time. Your four-year-old grudgingly, slowly does as he was told. You breathe a sigh of relief, no harm done, at least he obeyed.

But actually this little boy has taken a step down the road to self-hatred. Solomon warns that those who disregard discipline despise themselves. What appears to be an inconsequential delay is actually a step towards self-hatred. The Holy Spirit provides a wake-up call in Proverbs 15:31-32:

“Whoever heeds life-giving correction
will be at home among the wise.
Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.”

Listening and following God’s instruction brings life. But children who disregard discipline despise themselves. This insight from Proverbs places disobedience in a different category than mere confrontation. This passage teaches that disregarding discipline is a form of self-hatred! Let that sink in. In contrast loving wisdom is to love life itself:

“The one who gets wisdom loves life;
the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.“ Proverbs 19:8

When our four-year-old boy above embraces correction, he not only does well in the moment but he is learning to value the company of people who love wisdom. However, when he rejects discipline he is walking down the path that leads to self-loathing. To reject discipline is to trust in one’s own judgment, this is never a good idea. He is headed toward the awful fate of the young man in Proverbs 5:1l-14, who had come to the point of ruin because he rejected correction.

Few children, for that matter few adults, would say that resisting obedience is a form of self-hatred. But according to Proverbs this is exactly the case. To prefer yourself is to despise yourself. Think it through. If obeying God brings blessing and health to your body, Proverbs 3:5-8, then to despise God’s direction is to despise yourself. The goal of obedience is to do exactly what is directed, right away, with a pleasant, willing attitude. Anything less is self-accommodation on the part of both the parent and the child and is leading the child to despise himself!

So what may appear to be a harmless slow response may be the beginning of a child learning to not trust God and thus, despise himself. Solomon is not mincing words in Proverbs 15. He is making an urgent plea to remember this warning the next time your child refuses to obey exactly, quickly and with a pleasant, willing spirit.

Remember the goal of obedience is not to earn acceptance. The goal of obedience is to live a life of praise in response to God’s holy character.

Get Wisdom!

Get Wisdom!

Sign up for our weekly newsletter! You'll get our latest blog posts, special discounts, news about upcoming resources, plus a free ebook and a chance to win our monthly $50 coupon giveaway.

Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.