Today as I was reading in Home Education by Charlotte Mason, I was thinking about how many different parents (including myself) now shy away from the word “obedience”. So many of the less desirable parenting styles have taken it over, and so it is hard to use it and still convey the proper message. I realized that I tend to use other words in place of obedience because of this. The section that I read today really reminded me that it is all in how you use it. I really like how Charlotte Mason approaches it as the child’s responsibility to obey, and not our job to make them obey. This is very much in agreement with grace based discipline 🙂 She has a couple of points that I’d slightly rework, but hey, the text is 100 years old, so I can see how there could be some difficulty communicating.
Charlotte Mason says
It is said that the children of parents who are most strict in exacting obedience often turn out ill; and that orphans and other poor waifs brought up under strict discipline only wait their opportunity to break out into license.
Um yeah, totally true.
Exactly so; because, in these cases, there is no gradual training of the child in the habit of obedience; no gradual enlisting of his will on the side of sweet service and a free-will offering of submission to the highest law: the poor children are simply bullied into submission to the will, that is, the wilfulness, of another; not at all, ‘for it is right‘, only because it is convenient.
I am so glad that she addresses this. The fact is that many of the popular Christian parenting philosophies are all about bullying into submission and forcing the child to do it, not of their own free-will. This can never last. If the child is not choosing it for themselves, then why would they continue doing it when they no longer have to?
There is no need to rate the child, or threaten him, or use any manner of violence, because the parent is invested with the authority which the child intuitively recognises. It is enough to say, ‘Do this,’ in a quiet, authoritative tone, and expect it to be done. 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.
Yes, yes, yes. I find this so true in my own voice. When I am calm and respectful, so are my children. If I am getting flustered or upset, then my kids don’t have a calm role model anymore and they start following in my bad habits. I was sitting around watching moms today while I was at a drop-in Kindergarten for my kids, and I was struck by how true this is. It is true amongst the teachers, the parents, anyone in authority. Those who spoke calmly and were clear of what they expected had no problem with the children following through. Those who seemed to be asking the child a question did not get the same results.
Like I said, I don’t take every word of Charlotte Mason like the Bible. Even still, I think that her beliefs, especially considering how old they are, are very sound and impressive. As I mentioned above, I would choose not to use the word “obey”/”obedience” because of the negative connotations that it now has for so many people, but I also realize that when she wrote this it wasn’t the same problem. She gives me a lot of food for thought though. Most of it is not “new”, but rather a gentle encouragement that I am on the right track. That is so perfect, since that is what we are to do for our children as well 🙂