It seems from the Radak that Adoniahu’s motivation which caused him to declare himself king was his haughtiness, but his excuse was that he was next in the royal line of succession, and therefore deserved to be king. However, it would seem that he would not have been so brazen to pronounce himself king if he knew his father would have stopped him and reprimanded him for trying to start a rebellion. One lesson that can be gleaned from here is that a trick to subdue one’s haughtiness is to always feel one has a boss that he has to answer to at all times.
If you think about it, this is quite amazing! Adoniahu saw Avshalom’s rebellion against his father squelched and he himself was killed. Also, one would think that if his father never rebuked him and showered him with so much love, then how could the son rebel against such a father? Furthermore, what caused him to be haughty was his comeliness; what does that have to do with being a monarch or a leader? It didn’t say Adoniahu was haughty because he was intelligent, wealthy, or influential – all character traits of a potential leader ! We see from here the power of haughtiness; as illogical as it might seem, it can still grab hold of you and cause you to make the most outlandish decisions.Yet this whole incident could have been stopped if King David would simply have raised him properly and rebuked him once in a while for his wrongdoings throughout his life. We see from this an incredible lesson in parenting, that one should not pamper their children too much, because not only won’t they appreciate it, they might even one day rebel.
The Cheshbon Hanefesh by Rav Mendel from Satanov has a famous parable in the introduction of his sefer comparing one’s animal spirit to an elephant. One of the unique qualities of a human being is the ability to control nature and animals in order to use them for our own benefit. So too, we have animalistic instincts in our own body, that of eating, drinking, sleeping, etc. which we must control, in order not have our physical drives control us. The Cheshbon Hanefesh does say that we cannot be overly controlling. If a person overworks the elephant and deprives it of adequate sustenance then it will rise up and rebel against its master, trying to kill him, and the master would be forced to defend himself. So too if one deprives himself too much of food and sleep he can become sick.
Then the Cheshbon Hanefesh says the opposite is also true: “Some foolish masters go to the opposite extreme. They pamper their animals by underworking and overfeeding them. They demean themselves by playing with them and condition the animal to kick at their generosity. In the end, the animal subjugates it master to fill its stomach.” The same is true about our physical desires. If we overindulge in our eating or drinking habits, or are too lazy to get out of bed, this can control our lives – instead of us controlling how we eat, drink, sleep, etc. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
I believe this can also be extended to our scenario in Melachim, and to parenting in general. Parents must strike a healthy balance of love and admonition with their children. If they go to one extreme of abuse and power or the other extreme of always looking the other way and letting their children do whatever they desire, it is very possible the child will rebel against their parents one day. We must achieve a healthy median!