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Can You Say No?

Carl W. Wade

One of the most tragic figures of antiquity is that of King David in his role as a father. Although for the greater portion of his life he excelled in the work of the Lord in the guiding of the Israelite kingdom, in his duties as a father he came short of perfection. One of his failures as a parent was his inability to say “no” to his fourth son, Adonijah. In I Kings 1:6 we read, “And his father had not displeased him (Adonijah) at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?”

Apparently David never questioned the actions of his son Adonijah. He had not given Adonijah any rules of expectable or acceptable conduct in his most formative years; consequently, in young adulthood Adonijah attempted to seize the kingdom as David appeared near the point of death. His coup d’etat foundered when David appointed Solomon King. Later, after the death of David, he again conspired to take the kingdom. Adonijah desired Abishag, who had been the ministering wife of David before his death, for his wife. This act, too, was treasonous and King Solomon had Adonijah put to death.

In our realm of thought we can see that perhaps the disastrous end of this young man might have been averted if his father had been able to say “no” to him as a child and a teenager.

Some parents are timid when it comes to a “yes” or “no” showdown with their children. Parents are afraid, in some cases, that they will alienate their offspring. This fear checks any “no” attitude toward their children’s desires. However, the fear is unfounded. Dr. Edwin F. Patton, M.D., a nationally known pediatrician says, “As a pediatrician who has handled thousands of parents and children in more than 40 years of practice, I say flatly—don’t be afraid! If you discipline your children, you will not lose their love or break their spirit or alienate them. The best adjusted, happiest, and most loving children are the ones who are best disciplined…Children don’t resent discipline if it is just and reasonable; in fact, they relish it. It does not frustrate or unsettle them. On the contrary, it gives them a firm base of operation, a solid sense of belonging.”

The Bible was teaching this philosophy of child-rearing almost 3,000 years ago when Solomon penned, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Again, “The rod and reproof give wisdom but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.”

A child must learn the meaning of “no” at an early age…A child with permissive upbringing leads a life of anxiety and frustration. He becomes neurotic in his actions because he is unable to react in an acceptable manner to the “negative commands” of his society. Since he, or she, has never been mentally tempered to abide by a “no” response to an impulse or a desire, what he sees, he wants—and expects to receive. When he does not receive, then he takes, not as much for the need as for self-satisfaction because he has never learned through discipline to say “no” to his wishful appetite…

Inspired of God, Peter wrote of the seven Christian graces which would keep a righteous person from falling. Among these is the restraining ingredient of "temperance." This is from the Greek enkrateis, which literally means "self-control." The person without self-control is never able to check the impulse of passion or temptation. He cannot say "no" to his inner self, because as a stripling he was never trained with "no's". Again the venerable sage of Proverbs affirms, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Permissive parents do not teach, nor train, a child in righteous self-control. Mrs. June Resseler of the Florence Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers in Knoxville, Tennessee, said recently of permissive parents, "They give a child everything she wants; they never tell her the meaning of 'no'. Consequently, she does everything by impulse because she has not been taught the meaning of self-control."

In the face of this weighty evidence, we pray that more parents will become less fearful of their offspring's reactions to the word "no" and pray that they will become more concerned with the need for impressing upon the growing mind and heart an understanding that negative commands are a necessary component of a happy life. Also, all Christian parents should see the great need to teach their children self-control by guiding them through the most formative years with the godly discipline that only a loving parent can give them.

"Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying" (Prov. 19:18).

Firm Foundation, Feb. 24, 1970

West End church of Christ bulletin for July 30, 2022


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