LOVE + AUTHORITY
“The principles of authority on the one hand, and of obedience on the other, are natural, necessary, and fundamental but… These principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of children, which must not be encroached upon, whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.” (Charlotte Mason, Principle 4)
Many parents avoid home education because they believe they cannot teach their children because their children rarely listen or obey. This counter-will makes it difficult for parents to believe they were meant to be their child’s teacher. As a parent, you were handpicked by God to be your child’s teacher. But your time on earth is not supposed to be easy. God handpicked your children with your growth in mind. You will only develop charity when you learn to love people who are difficult to understand. Instead of pushing your child away because they are so difficult to understand, pull them closer and ask “what can I learn from them?” Only when you nurture your attachment with your children will you gain authority to teach them.
Pure Love of Christ
Everything Christ did was motivated by love: love for people around him and his Father in Heaven. He was considered the Master Teacher because of his ability to love and lead people, not because of his educational degrees. He was a successful teacher because of who he was and his relationships with the people around him. Remember: teaching is, above all, a relationship.
It is an eternal truth that when you feel loved, you can rest; only when you feel at rest are you free to learn and grow. If a child feels that their parent’s love is conditional or the attachment is weak, the child’s whole focus will be on reestablishing the relationship. This can come out in the form of annoying, clingy behavior, as well as the inability to focus and learn. In his book, Simplicity Parenting, Kim Payne calls these symptoms “soul fever.” You’ll notice this soul fever in a variety of ways: irritability, opposition, hyperactivity, aggression, etc. Just like a physical fever, your child needs to rest from demanding activities to reestablish their relationship with you. Take a break from school or other activities that may be straining your relationship. Spend time together; maybe doing activities that your child loves, or doing nothing besides being together. A secure, positive relationship between parent and child is powerful; it guards your child’s brain from the stresses of life and nurtures its growth.
Relationships Are Sacred
The parent-child relationship is sacred; it is literally ordained of God. Children are meant to attach/orient to their parents, but sometimes that attachment is weakened; school, work, and technology are a few of the biggest culprits. The result is a child who resists adult authority and has a decreased desire to learn. Your child started attaching to you before birth and will continue to do so into adolescence. Although their needs change and lessen as they mature, their attachment needs are just as important in adolescence as they were in toddlerhood. Attachment starts when a baby needs to be physically close to their parent and bond via their five senses. Around two years old, children will start imitating their parents, they also become possessive of the parents. At around age four, they want to know they have significance, that they are valuable to you. Around age five, they seek attachment through feelings of love and affection (hugs, holding hands,“I love you,” etc). Around the time a child starts school, they want to attach by being known through sharing secrets, desires, thoughts, and ambitions.
Authority + Attachment
Attachment is vital to teaching and learning because when a child attaches to an adult, they place the parent in a position of authority over them. They listen to, obey, and seek to please the person in authority. We may assume that as parents we are automatically given authority over children, but we are not. It is given to us by our children when we prove they are important to us and we are experienced/knowledgeable. We may also assume that pure love is naturally given to us as a rite of passage into parenthood. But unconditional love is a gift dependent on our desire and daily sacrifice. Charlotte Mason explained it this way:
“But we have been taught better; we know now that authority is vested in the office and not in the person; that the moment it is treated as a personal attribute it is forfeited. We know that a person in authority is a person authorised; and that he who is authorised is under authority.” (Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, pg 11-12).
Interestingly, the Lord gave this same advice to members of the church:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of [parenthood], only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.” (D&C 122:41-44)
The parent-child relationship is not unlike other relationships in that it requires constant nurturing and mutual respect. It is important for you to make daily sacrifices to show your children they are loved and important. But even more vital is how you connect with them; your tone of voice, your facial expression, the delight you show in being with them.
People of all ages need to feel important. It is such a powerful craving that adults will literally commit crimes and even go insane to gain a feeling of importance. When you give your child a feeling of importance, they will give their heart to you. Your invitations to learn will be accepted, and what you say and do will be enticing.
A Tender Heart
This willingness to listen and learn is vital to education. In the scriptures this is also called having a tender heart. A child must maintain a tender heart to take risks and ask questions. A tender heart is a teachable heart, and we have the power to influence our child’s heart by how we treat them when they are most vulnerable. To maintain a tender heart, Christ has given us a perfect example of what not to do: revile, condemn, and lecture.
To revile means to criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting way. Instead of reviling against his persecutors, Christ remained silent. When people committed sins, Christ did not condemn them, he connected with them and encouraged them to do better. When people were mourning he did not lecture or explain away their pain, he mourned along with them.
The principles shown to us by Christ are almost identical to the “seven principles of natural discipline” that Dr. Gordon Neufeld outlines in his book (Hold on to Your Kids, pg 213), and Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of authority and docility. Read the starred resources below and then write down in your notebook (narrate) what you learn about love, attachment and authority.
“Children learn best when they like their teacher and they think their teacher likes them.
The way to children’s minds has always been through their hearts.”
Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Hold on to Your Kids
Teaching in the Savior’s Way | pg 6
Parents and Children | Chapters 1-2
A Philosophy of Education (Volume 6) | Chapters 4-5
Hold On to Your Kids | Chapters 4-6, 13-16
Christlike Parenting by Glenn Latham
Is love motivating how I interact with my children?
Do my children know I love them? How?
What principles from Christ’s life can I apply to my relationships with my children?
Do my children see me as an authority figure? Why or why not?
“Collect” your child before directing them.
Discipline without damaging the relationship (see Hold on to Your Kids chapter 16)
Make your child feel important.
Take a fast from all social media for one week. Use that time to nurture your relationship with your children.
How to Make Your Child Feel Important:
- Stop what you are doing, and make eye contact when they are talking to you, always ask follow up questions. This can be hard, but try!
- Ask them to teach you about something they love. Video games, books, sports, etc.
- Wrestle or steamroll them.
- Play hide and seek.
- Tell them stories about when they were little; funny things they said or did.
- Leave notes on their pillow or in their lunch.
- Ask them what they are doing and if you can do it with them.
- Hug them throughout the day. Make sure they are the one to break the hug.
- Give eskimo or butterfly kisses.
- Tell your child “do you know what I’d like to do more than anything else in the whole world right now? I’d like to play [insert child favorite activity] with you.”
- One-on-one time every week. Even if it’s just running errands with you.
- Ask them to hold your hand while you walk together.
- Whisper a secret in their ear (usually just jokes or silly words)
- Tell them funny quotes from books you’ve read together.
- Ask them to tell you a joke.
- Ask them what they want to do for their birthday, or another future date.
- Cuddle with them before bed.
- Write messages with your finger on their back (my four year old LOVES this)
- If you notice your connection is suffering, take your child on a date night, or maybe even a whole weekend if needed.