In Part 1 we looked at discipline (discipling) as a chief function of parenting.
In Part 2 we looked at mechanical vs. reasonable obedience and habits in the early years.
Next we are going to look at how authority behaves. Consider your own parenting style as you read through this section.
Charlotte Mason makes a distinction between two forms of government - Autocracy and Authority which she defines as follows:
Autocracy is defined as independent or self-derived power. Authority, on the other hand, may qualify as not being self-derived and not independent. (Vol. 3, p.15)So the first finds its source in self, the latter from a power outside of, and greater than, self.
Let's look first at Autocracy. Having it's source in self, it rules accordingly. If, as a Christian, you believe in the nature of fallen man you must know where this takes us. Charlotte Mason describes it this way:
...uneasy; captious, harsh and indulgent by turns. This is the action of autocracy, which is self-sustained as it is self-derived, and is impatient and resentful, on the watch for transgressions, and swift to take offence. Autocracy has ever a drastic penal code, whether in the kingdom, the school, or the family. It has, too, many commandments. 'Thou shalt' and 'thou shalt not,' are chevaux de frise about the would-be awful majesty of the autocrat. (Vol. 3, p, 16)Does this make you think of anyone you know? At it's core, Autocracy serves self. The bible says;
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer 17:9)If history has taught us anything, it is that a deceitful, wicked heart put in a position of authority can, more often than not, result in treachery.While we may think ourselves above autocracy, Charlotte Mason wisely cautioned otherwise:
The tendency to assume self-derived power is common to us all, even the meekest of us, and calls for special watchfulness; the more so, because it shows itself fully as often in remitting duties and in granting indulgences as in inflicting punishments. (Vol. 3, p, 16)Authority, on the other hand, she says, is...
...neither harsh nor indulgent. She is gentle and easy to be entreated in all matters immaterial, just because she is immovable in matters of real importance; for these, there is always a fixed principle. It does not, for example, rest with parents and teachers to dally with questions affecting either the health or the duty of their children. They have no authority to allow to children in indulgences––in too many sweetmeats, for example––or in habits which are prejudicial to health; nor to let them off from any plain duty of obedience, courtesy, reverence, or work. Authority is alert; she knows all that is going on and is aware of tendencies. She fulfills the apostolic precept––"He that ruleth (let him do it), with diligence." But she is strong enough to fulfill that other precept also, "He that showeth mercy (let him do it), with cheerfulness"; timely clemency, timely yielding, is a great secret of strong government. (Vol. 3, p.17)She gives the example of an authority, under authority, from scripture (Matt 8, Luke 7):
The centurion in the Gospels says: "I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, 'Go,' and he goeth; another, 'Come,' and he cometh; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he doeth it." Here we have the powers and the limitations of authority. The centurion is set under authority, or, as we say, authorised, and, for that reason, he is able to say to one, 'go,' to another, 'come,' and to a third, 'do this,' in the calm certainty that all will be done as he says, because he holds his position for this very purpose––to secure that such and such things shall be accomplished. He himself is a servant with definite tasks, though they are the tasks of authority. This, too, is the position that our Lord assumes; 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. (Vol. 3, p, 15)She gives us another example in her description of Queen Elizabeth. She says of her...
...she knew when to yield and how to yield. Her adroitness in getting over many a dangerous crisis has been much praised by historians; but, possibly, this saving grace was not adroitness so much as the tact born of qualities proper to all who are set in authority––the meekness of one who has been given an appointed work, the readiness to take counsel with herself and with others, the perception that she herself was not the be-all and the end-all of her functions as a queen, but that she existed for her people, and the quick and tender open-minded sympathy which enabled her to see their side of every question as well as her own––indeed, in preference to her own. These are the qualities proper to every ruler of a household, a school, or a kingdom. With these, parents will be able to order and control a fiery young brood full of energy and vitality, as Elizabeth was, to manage the kingdom when the minds of men were in a ferment of new thought, and life was intoxicating in the delightfulness of the possibilities it offered.This kind of authority does not arise from a self-seeking heart, rather, it is a reflection of a much greater authority: Christ himself. He was, and is, the only perfect authority, and in him we find its true expression.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phillippians 2:3-8)Where do you derive your authority from? What does it look like and will it carry you though the many years of difficulty and challenges that are sure to confront you as your children grow into adulthood? These are good questions for us to ask ourselves.
With each trial we may wonder if we are up for the task - and actually we're not. But we can rest assured that he who authorized us works in us. It is his strength and his glorious might that is sure to carry us and supply our every need in this calling of ours.
Charlotte Mason describes parental authority deputed from God as a "grace" and leaves us with one last question to remind us of this:
...authority is not only a gift, but a grace; and, "As every rainbow hue is light, So every grace is love." Authority is that aspect of love which parents present to their children; parents know it is love, because to them it 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?" (Vol. 3, p.24)Let's look next in Part 4 at the child himself as we transition to that "reasoned" obedience which requires some thought on the child's part.