Charlotte Mason’s Second Volume: Authority

Dear Reader,

We are moving on to the second volume in Charlotte Mason’s series. This one is called Parents and Children. I am working from the book edition published by Seven Treasures Publications in 2009. I believe you can also find all the books free online in their digital forms.

The theme of this book, at least for the first portion, is authority. I will admit I found bits of it hard going. To go through the whole book will no doubt take many posts. But for a beginning, here are some of the quotes I underlined:

“. . . and so strong and satisfying is the family bond, that the young people find little necessity to ‘fall in love.'”                                                                                 [p. 14]

This one may seem a little weird. It is not that I don’t want my children to fall in love. But I think Miss Mason is thinking of those frivolous relationships that we might call crushes and all those dangerous romantic entanglements to which teens may be prone. I find this quote particularly comforting because I have one daughter who I think has a large capacity for affection and were it not directed in good ways, I think it would be very easy for her to become as she grows older one of those girls who does anything for what feels like real affection but usually isn’t. Does that make sense? She is a very cuddly person and always has been. And she falls in love easily. For instance, a few weeks ago my brother whom we hadn’t seen in years visited. And in three days she became very, very attached to him. Which was fine in this case. But if she didn’t have good, healthy places to get this affection, then I could easily see her at 15 years old getting it in very inappropriate places (she is only 6 now).

Switching to the temptations before parents, we find this quote:

“Possibly the unregulated love of approbation in devoted parents has more share in the undoing of families then any other single cause.”                                [p.15]

Now I only know what approbation is from reading other of Charlotte’s books. It is the desire to have others recognize our work. It is not a bad thing, but it can be overdone.  In this case, she is talking about “thankless” children. Her point is that we, as parents, cannot go around feeling that we need to be thanked by our children. It is our duty to nurture them. Yes, it would be nice if in the long run they appreciate what we did for them. But in the day to day, we need to do our duty and not worry so much about feeling appreciated. I think this is especially hard for us stay-at-home moms who do not get regular rewards for out labors. It is very easy to feel unappreciated and to let this devolve into grumpy feelings and stubbornness and then an unwillingness to do what we ought.

One last quote for today:

“Meantime, it is well worth while to notice that the causes which lead parents to resign the position of domestic rulers are resolvable into one — the office is too troublesome, too laborious.”                                                                                             [p. 16]

As I said, this volume has a lot on authority. All authority belongs to God, and He has delegated some of it to us parents.  We may at times delegate some of that out, to teachers or babysitters. But it is not something we can just give up or walk away from. What is the most common reason parents today fail to exercise their authority? I can imagine two main scenarios. In the first, it is just too tiring to be consistent. When the child doesn’t obey, one has to get up and go over there and enforce limits. It is tough to do that day after day. Sometimes when working on a particular behavior, you have to address the same thing dozens of time a day. That is tough. And tedious. The other scenario I imagine is when the parent doesn;t want to be the bad guy. They want to be liked by their children. Nobody likes to be the one who has to say “no” all the time. But both of these boil down to, as Miss Mason says, a kind of laziness. We are unwilling to make the effort, to keep enforcing the limits, to risk our children’s displeasure, even though we know in the long run it is best for them. Ultimately, it’s not really our decision to make. It all goes back to that source of authority again, and we have to remember that ours is only borrowed for a short time.

There is lots more to come. There are some parts in this book that really made me think. So stay tuned.


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