Chapter two of Charlotte Mason's Volume 3: School Education is a continuation of the theme of docility and authority, but focuses more deeply on what the authority we exercise as parents should look like. Charlotte Mason holds up Jesus as our example:
He says: "I came not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me." That is His commission and the standing order of His life, and for this reason He spake as one having authority, knowing Himself to be commissioned and supported. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, p.16)Our authority as parents is a responsibility we have from God, it is not a right we demand from our children. We expect obedience from our children, and at the same time we give our obedience to God in the exercise of our authority.
Charlotte Mason contrasts autocracy and authority.
- self-derived, self-sustained, self-centred
- harsh and indulgent by turns, inconsistent
- always on the watch for transgressions
- swift to take offence (because any sin is seen as against the parent. I think it is worse still when the parent interprets a "sin" against his arbitrary will as a sin against God.)
- drastic punishments
- many commandments
- derived from God, and accountable to Him.
- consistent, immoveable on matters of principle, easy on every other matter.
- alert and diligent
- merciful and loving
- ready to concede to what is right, especially when it happens that the children are right and the parent is wrong!
I grew up with an interesting mixture of authority and autocracy. In theory, my parents and we children understood these principles of authority. In practice, there was some inconsistency, and some harshness. I now see inconsistency cropping up in my own parenting. My own failures lean more towards the indulgence side, with an occasional flare-up on PMS days. It can be easy to minimize this. We are human, after all, and not at all perfect. On the other hand, it can also be easy to be discouraged by this high calling we have from God. Will we ever get this right (in time not to ruin them)? I'm so thankful for the grace of God. I trust Him, not our imperfect parenting, for my children's salvation.
Let's think these things through, and let the truth soak in and begin to change our motivations and actions.
Authority is that aspect of love which parents present to their children; parents know it is love, because to them in means continual self-denial, self-repression, self-sacrifice: children recognise it as love, because to them it means quiet rest and gaiety of heart. Perhaps the best aid to the maintenance of authority in the home is for those in authority to ask themselves daily that question which was presumptuously put to our Lord-- "Who gave Thee this authority?" (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3: School Education, p. 24)There is more in this chapter that I wanted to think through out loud here on the blog, but it will have to wait until next week!