Parenting with Authority and Mutual Respect

September 29, 2020

One of the benefits of realizing that my authority as a parent is “divinely deputed” (as Charlotte Mason puts it), that it lies in the office and not in me as an individual, is that it quells that sort of fearful grasping to establish or defend my authority that besieges me in my lesser moments. It needn’t be asserted as much as accepted. Sure, it can be forfeited, but it is as easily forfeited through arbitrariness and autocracy (which Mason defines as “independent or self-derived power”) as it is through abdication or neglect. When I am grasping for authority through my own will, I typically harp on the respect I believe I deserve but am not receiving: the disrespect that my children are showing me. And in fear and frustration I believe it is a thing that can be demanded and procured through brute force. It is only when I have a quiet confidence in my authority under Authority, the realization that I am authorized, that the grasping falls away, and I am able to see that respect is not unilateral, but mutual. You could say that authority belongs to the office of parents as a (Divine) Natural Right, and the philosophy of Natural Rights also gave us the concept of the dignity of all people. Like authority, this dignity is not self-derived, but is due to the Imago Dei that each person bears. Respect is simply an active recognition of that dignity. Certainly we all believe that our children are made in the image of God. We have no greater right to be disrespectful (to be rude, to roll our eyes, to deprecate, to mock) than they do.

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Gentleness is Not Weakness

March 30, 2020

If you are like me, and are rather disheartened by parenting these days and its results, and (also like me) you tend to be suspicious of the many popular parenting books and philosophies rooted in modern psychology, then it’s likely you have developed a sort of aversion to the word gentleness in conjunction with parenting. To be fair, I have seen plenty of parenting philosophies that utilize this term which think it is somehow unkind or unfair to require obedience from a child, or to issue consequences of any kind, or to even talk sternly. But the truth is that letting a child walk all over you is not gentleness, it is weakness, and really it is not a kindness to the child at all. And so we discover that really very few parents on either side of the parenting spectrum are being truly gentle with their children because both sides share the same misunderstanding of the term. But gentleness is not weakness; gentleness is restrained strength.

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