Chapter 3: Authority and Freedom
Are children mainly good or evil? Different philosophies have different answers. CM had a friendly, reasonable, realistic approach. We are all under God's authority, with a sinful nature but the possibility for good.
"...children are born with... a curious intuitive knowledge as to which is good and which is evil. Here we have the work of education indicated. There are good and evil tendencies in body and mind, heart and soul; and the hope set before us is that we can foster the good so as to attenuate the evil; that is, on condition that we put education in her true place as the handmaid of Religion." ~Towards a Philosophy of Education, pg 46. Quoted in FTCS p42-43.The first task of education is moral. We have objective truth because God has revealed it to us. The child should be given the source material on right and wrong - the Bible (43).
"In a sense, I do not teach [Scripture] to the child or to any other person who is ignorant of God's Word. Instead, we share together His words which teach us all. And the Holy Spirit is the Person who then takes God's words and applies them to my own personal life at that moment." (44)Children sin and need to be improved. So do I. What is wrong, is wrong not because I say so, but because it is wrong as defined by Scripture. We need to tell the children this. Show empathy when correcting and rebuking, letting them see some struggles we have with obedience as well. Rules are not arbitrary, but based on principles in God's Word.
The first habit to be mastered is obedience (but not arbitrary obedience).
"It is wrong to choose an issue which goes across the natural grain and to make the child "obey" in a grim, unnatural way. A tired two-year-old may not go up to bed at the chosen time. Better to divert his attention, and carry him up warmly held in your arms." (45)Some preventative rules are necessary to keep the child from harm, but positive rules instituted to encourage the child to respect others as persons are also important, such as teaching manners, gentleness, and attention when people are talking to them.
"Authority is that aspect of love which parents present to their children; parents know that it is love, because to them it means continuous self-denial, self-repression, self-sacrifice; children recognize it as love because to them it means quiet rest and gaiety of heart." Home and School Education, p 24. Quoted in FTCS pg 47.Authority: A Balance
Consideration: Understanding the child's needs
A "me first" mentality is unChristian. Consideration begins with understanding the child's needs. Mother is most likely to understand her children since she is usually the one with them all day, but (yay!) some dads in these modern times have also ordered their lives so that they, too, develop a deep affinity with their children. There is a great richness when both parents have this kind of relationship with their children.
Schools are pressed to fit kids into the system. Teachers, take care to serve the child, not the system. Treat kids as individuals. Relationships teach more than textbooks do. Respect, watch, learn, love.
Our fast-moving generation doesn't allow time for the gentle art of understanding, appreciating, and loving the child. Straighten priorities.
"When there is no parent who makes it his business to understand the individual child, and the people whose job it is to care for him treat him as part of their career, perhaps the only place where that child will find understanding is in the counselor's office for one hour a week.
The Christian community is confronted by countless children whose parents do not fulfill their duty and privilege. It is our duty, then, under God, to try to provide that considerate and loving authority which the child is lacking. We may not be able to provide a perfect substitute for the ideal of a caring family, but that shouldn't stop us from doing something. Remember that even one stumbling-block removed from a child's path counts." (49)Justice:
Base authority on true righteousness - the Bible defines that. Make authority fair, right, with no extra burdens to clutter a child's life. But some "burdens" are necessary components to living together with others, i.e. sharing in chores, coming when dinner is ready, being polite.
Set an example for the child to follow - faithful to duties and people. Lead in small steps, not criticizing but giving constructive help. Expect more from the child and he will rise up to your expectations. Always criticizing and condemning often leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. "You're lazy, Jack." Then Jack won't try because he knows you already think he is lazy, and will become so. Don't bind the child by low expectations and criticism. "When human beings, at any age, are expected to do badly, it is too easy to become discouraged, accept the judgment, and live down to it." (50).
Diversion is ok. Sometimes adults have to divert themselves too. If you're on a diet and can't have chocolate, you divert your cravings by giving yourself other options that won't break the diet. You may give yourself options that are "allowed" and healthy, like fruit or banana pudding (that's healthy, right? ;) In the same way that you try to teach yourself self-control, also gently lead the child in the same direction. It won't necessarily happen when he is two years old, but eventually. Children labelled "unteachable" are usually those who have lost self-confidence. Love and like the child to give him the proper self-respect.
AUTHORITY NEVER IN ABEYANCE
God's law stands at all times. He never takes a vacation. But this doesn't mean I should hover anxiously over the children's play.
"... children should have room and time to play without a watchful eye judging their every move. How else can they mature? It is wonderful for children to be able to be trusted. But it should always be freedom within known limits, both physically and morally.
...Children's freedom should be surrounded by adults who bear the final responsibility for what is happening. ...No responsible leader lets a child get into the physical and moral danger of being quite alone." (52-53)AUTHORITY NEVER AGGRESSIVE
Don't be afraid to apologize to the child when you wrongly take your frustrations out on them. It is important to be honest and humble with the children, it adds an authenticity to the relationship.
Spanking sometimes works to draw a clear line of what is not acceptable, but it is not the only way and sometimes is not the best way. Be wary of violence and anger.
"Harshness, fear, and autocracy are ruled out if we follow the New Testament teaching that leadership means a serving of the other person. ...
In my experience, children obey best when their lives are as fully satisfying as possible in the way Charlotte Mason advocated. If minds are interested, skills are being learned, loving relationships are enjoyed, creativity is encouraged, beauty in nature, art, and music are appreciated, hours are spent in free play, and children learn to climb, swim, ride, canoe, ski, or skate - why, these children will be well on the way to having their sinful natures put in the back seat! Sinful natures expand like a malignancy at any age with loneliness, mental poverty, boredom, passivity, hunger, tiredness, and deprivation of daily contact with the rich source material of goodness - the Word of God. When you think about it, many children today have hell on earth. Are we surprised at what happens?" (54-55)UNDERSTOOD BOUNDARIES
These quotes resonate with me. I don't have anything to add here:
"The mother often loses her hold over her children because they detect in the tone of her voice that she does not expect them to obey her behests; she does not think enough of her position; has not sufficient confidence in her own authority. The mother's great stronghold is in the habit of obedience." Charlotte Mason, Home Education p162. Quoted in FTCS (56).
"By-and-by, when he is old enough, take the child into confidence (you are on his side); let him know what a noble thing it is to be able to make himself do, in a minute, and brightly, the very thing he would rather not do. To secure this habit of obedience, the mother must exercise great self-restraint [temptation to use this for convenience]; she must never give a command which she does not intend to see carried out to the full. And she must not lay upon her children burdens, grievous to be borne, of command heaped upon command." Charlotte Mason, Home Education p163-164. Quoted in FTCS (56)Give the child few guidelines, with freedom within those, and the child will learn to direct their own actions, even if it is at the cost of a few minor mishaps.