Monday, May 12, 2014

Charlotte Mason on Obedience

I didn't have time today to write a post, but thought I'd copy out a quote that I found thought-provoking.
Now, if the parent realise that obedience is no mere accidental duty, the fulfilling of which is a matter that lies between himself and the child, but that he is the appointed agent to train the child up to the intelligent obedience of the self-compelling, law-abiding human being, he will see that he has no right to forego the obedience of his child, and that every act of disobedience in the child is a direct condemnation of the parent. Also, he will see that the motive to the child's obedience is not the arbitrary one of, 'Do this, or that, because I have said so,' but the motive of the apostolic injunction, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1: Home Education, p. 161)
Some of my thoughts:
- "Accidental" here means "incidental, subsidiary"...she means that teaching children the habit of obedience is not unimportant, it is essential.
- Obedience is not about me as a parent being in control of my child's behaviour, it is about the rightness of submission to authority as deriving from the Lord.
- Our children, just as we ourselves, must choose to submit to authority every day. We obey the rules of the road, we keep the laws of the country, we do what our bosses at work tell us to do. And of course, as Christians, we seek to obey His Word.
- But, she makes clear this is "intelligent obedience." It is not mindless. I think there's a balance here. Obedience involves the child's own choice, and yet habit as it is formed makes the right choice easier and easier. Though Charlotte Mason doesn't draw out this point, I think the words "in the Lord" in the last line quoted are key. We also obey the laws of the land "in the Lord." We see the authority of our government as put in place by God. We obey the laws. But if any authority were to ask something of us that is wrong, we choose to obey God rather than man.
- Charlotte Mason uses strong words: "every act of disobedience in the child is a direct condemnation of the parent." I'm not sure I understand or agree. Could anyone shed some light on this? She talks about the child being "self-compelling," so she cannot mean that a parent is ultimately responsible for the choices her child makes. I myself would never judge a parent by a disobedient act of a least, I hope I wouldn't. I know as a mother how these things take place just when you least expect, and especially when you least want them to! I see creating the habit of obedience as a process. We make progress, but even children who have been well trained still disobey sometimes. (To be honest, I think I would worry if they never did...does that sound crazy?) On the other hand, I'll admit that I would see a habit of disobedience in a child as a sign of parents' neglect in training.
- I think I got off on the wrong track with the last comment, but I'll leave it there for now. I think I may have it now. Based on the context (a parent has "no right to forego the obedience of his child") I think what she's saying is that every time parents are confronted with an act of disobedience from their child, they must take it as seriously as though their child has just directly condemned them - it's a prodding to act instantly to right the wrong.

What do you think of this quote?

(So much for not having time to write a post...Ha!)