Perhaps the one goal American parents and educators agree on for children more than any other is “high self-esteem.” John Rosemond, a professional family psychologist who writes a nationally syndicated column which appears in the “Watertown Times,” wrote an article entitled “Self-Esteem Isn’t Praiseworthy Goal.” (“Times.” Sunday, December 9, 2001, G5) He cited “an extensive study” “by professor Roy Baumeister (et al.) of Case Western Reserve University (ref: ‘Violent Pride,’ Scientific American, April 2001)” which concluded, not surprisingly, “that people with high self-esteem tend to have low self-control.” “Criminals, he has discovered, do not suffer from low self-esteem.” Mr. Rosemond referenced a second study published in the November 2001 issue of “Personality and Social Psychology Review” which indicates “while self-esteem among America’s youth has been on the rise for the past 30 years, accomplishment and responsible decision-making have been on the decline.” What do the Scriptures teach about “self-esteem”?
It is true that little children, those who are too young to understand God’s law, are innocent of sin. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature.” (1 Corinthians 14:20, NASB) Either little children are innocent of evil, or Christians should be evil.
Does that mean they don’t do things that are wrong?
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
And one’s behavior indicates the kind of person he is. “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7). What does this imply about one who practices unrighteousness? The principle that one’s behavior demonstrates the kind of person he is applies to children.
The rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
“Even a child is known by his deeds,
Whether what he does is pure and right” (Proverbs 20:11).
In reality, children have two basic personality characteristics, and the predominance of one over the other will determine what kind of adult, from saint to criminal, that child will become. Little children are humble and therefore teachable.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. ‘Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18:1-4).
But, at the same time, little children are extremely selfish, so much so that we measure one’s maturity by his unselfishness. All sin springs from selfishness.
“All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
Jesus, our pattern of moral perfection, is the greatest example of unselfishness (Philippians 2:1-8).
So little children have innocent souls, whereas they are terribly selfish and wonderfully teachable. The task of parents is to mold them into the kind of adults they should be (Ephesians 6:4). How do we do this?
Our goal is to make them like Christ (Luke 6:40; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). Christ was humble not proud. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Children must be taught by word and example to follow Him. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3). Will someone please tell me the difference between high self-esteem and pride? Can we not see that the higher one’s self-esteem is the more selfish he is?
And how do we achieve this goal of molding a child into the likeness of Christ?
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
“The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)
“And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, NASB)
Do you want to have children who are selfish, proud, and undisciplined? Then work on building up their self-esteem. Do you want to have children who are unselfish, humble, and selfdisciplined, i.e., are like Christ? Teach them God’s Word, live that Word before them daily, and rebuke and chasten them when they do wrong. How are you training your children?
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