vol 2 paraphrase pg 10
Let's continue our illustration of the family as a miniature nation that has the same responsibilities, rights and requirements that nations have. The parents are like the 'government,' but the parental government is always an absolute monarchy. It makes adjustments according to the needs of its citizens, but it rules in accordance to whatever laws the parent has engraved on his own conscience. Some parents reach levels of higher thinking and are like Moses when he came down from Mt. Sinai beaming, with the tablets of The Law whole and complete in his hands. Other parents never reach those challenging heights and have to be satisfied with whatever scraps and fragments of broken tablet they can find lying at the bottom of the mountain. But whether a parent's knowledge of the law is thorough or only a fragment, he can't escape his responsibility to rule his household.
The first thing we want to know about any ruler is, 'Is he capable of ruling? Does he know how to maintain his authority?' A ruler who can't rule is like a biased judge, or an immoral priest, or an uneducated teacher. He's incapable of the most essential attribute of his role. It's even more true in a family than in a State government.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 11
A king can delegate the rule of his country to someone else. But a parent's functions are so urgent that he can't delegate the job to anyone else. He can have helpers, but the minute he abdicates his rule and gives over his functions and authority to someone else, the rights of parenthood pass to that other person and no longer belong to the parent. British parents in India have felt the heartache of coming home to England only to find that their children's affections belong to someone else and their duty is owed to someone else, while they, the parents, are relegated to the role of a fairy godmother who can have fun with the children, but has no authority over them at all. And this isn't anyone's fault, because the guardians who have kept the children at home have done their best to keep the children loyal to their parents while they were away overseas.
This is an example of one obstacle that the head of the family can stumble over. Parents sometimes think that parental authority is built into them, a trait that might lie dormant inside of them, but that can never be separated from parenthood. Such parents think it's okay to let their children do whatever they want from the time they're babies, but then they find themselves complaining along with King Lear,
But it was King Lear's own fault. All along, he had been stripping off the honor and authority that should have been his, and handing his rights as parent over to his children. This quote tells us why he had been doing this: his disappointment is in his children's ungratefulness. His goal and what he had been working for had been the thanks of his children. His desire for them to think of him as an affectionate father was more important to him than his duty towards them. And in proportion to how much he neglected his duty towards them, they
vol 2 paraphrase pg 12
were oblivious of their duty towards him. I suspect that parents' unrestrained desire for approval is to blame for more ruined families than any other single cause. One current author has a mother saying,
'But aren't you afraid of me, Bessie?'
'No, of course not. Who could be afraid of a dear, sweet, kind little mother like you?'
That kind of praise is sweet to many affectionate mothers who yearn for the love and approval of their children. But they don't recognize that words like these from their children are as treacherous as words of outright defiance.
Popularity isn't the only shrine where parents sacrifice their authority. Prospero [The Tempest] describes himself as,
Meanwhile, his authority over his dominion is given over to Antonio. Is it any wonder that Antonio found that having authority fit him like a glove, and that Prospero found himself usurped from the role he failed to fill? In the same way, many busy parents who are preoccupied with many cares suddenly find that the authority they failed to hang onto has slipped from their hands. That authority may have been picked up by someone less fit to wield it. Perhaps a daughter has been given over to the care of a neighbor family because her own parents are always out looking for rare art prints.
In other cases, the desire for an easy life tempts parents to let things slide. Their children are good kids and won't go too far wrong, we're told. That may be true. But, no matter how good the children are, the parents have an obligation to society to make them better than they are, and to bless the world with people who are more than good-natured and agreeable. Their children should be raised to have a determined purpose, and perseverance to meet that purpose.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 13
The love of convenience, the desire for popularity, preoccupation with other work--these are just some of the causes that lead to parental abdication, which is disastrous for society. When we understand the nature of parental authority and how it's used, we view parental abdication as more than mischievous. It's also immoral. And I'd like to add that all the reasons why parents abdicate their role as leader of the family really boil down to one underlying cause: the job is overwhelmingly hard and too much trouble to bother with. The temptation of parents to neglect their duty is the same one that tempts kings to escape from their duty by becoming monks.
'The head that wears the crown rests uneasily,'
even when the crown is the natural crown of parenthood.
Paul's advice that rulers should rule 'with diligence' [Rom 12:8] helps to shed light on the nature and goal of authority. Authority isn't an issue of personal honor and dignity. Authority is something to use and serve with. The honor that goes with it is only to help those in authority to serve better. An arbitrary or severe parent who demands compliance and duties 'because I said so' for his own honor and glory, is even more hopelessly wrong than the parent who abdicates his role. The majesty of parents is hedged in with obedience only because it's good for children to 'faithfully serve, honor, and humbly obey' the leaders God has placed them under. Only family life can properly train children to have the noble character of 'proud submission and dignified obedience.' If their own parents don't inspire and cultivate obedience, reverence and loyalty, how will these glorious graces of character survive in a harsh, competitive world?
vol 2 paraphrase pg 14
It can be a challenge to keep an attitude of authority these days when democracy is such a dominant concept and when even educational advice says that children should be treated as equals from infancy. But the children themselves confirm that authority is fine for parents. Children naturally have a sweet humility and dependence on us, and it fosters a gentle dignity and trace of reserve in parents that is very agreeable. Parents don't have the option of laying aside the burden of honor that rests upon them, or sinking under it. All of us have witnessed families full of confidence, sympathy and love where the mother is like a queen among her children and the father is honored like a king. When there are two parents who honor each other and are still free and relaxed with each other, it's easier for them to maintain the elusive state of parenthood. The first element in raising children who are loyal, honorable, reverent and able to command respect is to have a slight, undefined sweet sense of dignity in the household.
Parental authority rests on the fact that the parent's role is that of a deputy, in two ways. First of all, God, the Ruler of all of us, has personally appointed parents as His immediate deputies. Not only are they required to fulfill His duties towards the children, but they have to represent Him. To a little child, his parents rule over him like gods. And, even more seriously, in a little child's eyes, God is like his parents. He's not capable of conceiving a greater and more wonderful personality than that of his own parents. Thus, his first approach to the infinite God is through them. They are
vol 2 paraphrase pg 15
his standard for the best and highest. If the standard by which he measures God is as small as weak as his own small self, how will he ever have the reverent attitude that he needs to grow spiritually?
Besides that, parents hold their children in trust for society. A child is only 'my own' in a limited sense. Children are entrusted to parents to be raised for the good of their community. In this sense, parents are the ones who have been given the authority that's needed for carrying out their job. If they fail, they can be replaced. The one State [Sparta?] whose name is no more than a proverb that encompasses a group of virtues that we have no other word to describe, is also a State that practically deprived parents of their right to parent because they failed to raise their children with the virtues that were good for the society. Naturally, the State reserves the right to raise its children in the way it deems best with the least possible co-operation of parents. In our own day, a neighboring nation [France *] has decided to take charge or rearing its infants itself. As soon as they can crawl, or even earlier, but well before they can run or speak, they're brought to a 'Maternal School' and nurtured to have the values that a good citizen should have, as carefully as if they were being fed on mother's milk. The plan is still in experimental stages, but I have no doubt that it will be followed through because this nation discovered long ago that, if you want a certain kind of adult, you have to train the child to be that kind of person, and that nation has acted consistently on that discovery.
* [In 'Bringing Up Bebe,' Pamela Druckerman, references the French 'ecole maternelle' (p. 150) which she describes as 'a national project to turn the nation's . . . three-year-olds into civilized, empathetic people.' It's preceded by the 'creche' from birth to 2, which institution began in the 1840's (p. 98). Thanks to Amy Bardwell for this reference.]
Perhaps the State taking over the parental role is the last disaster that can happen to a nation. These poor children will have to grow up in a world where even the name of God isn't allowed to be heard. They'll never know
vol 2 paraphrase pg 16
about the loyalty to parents, brotherly love, and kindness to neighbors that all children learn from living in families, except for a very few unnatural families. After a certain age, or at certain hours, these children might be allowed to visit their parents. But once the alienation from their parents has been established, and the strongest, sweetest bond has been broken and the parents have been publicly absolved of their duty, the destruction of the home is complete. What we'll be seeing is a generation who have grown up like orphans from their birth. This is unprecedented in the history of the world. Even Lycurgus left children with their parents for their first six years. Some newspapers applaud this nation's plan and advise us to follow their example in England, but God forbid that we should ever lose faith in the value and blessing of family life. Parents who recognize that their children are both a public trust and a divine trust, and who understand that their authority is deputed authority that shouldn't be treated lightly, laid aside or abused--such parents keep the home immune for the nation, and safeguard the privileges of their role as parents.
Now that we recognize that it isn't the parent's decision whether to use or set aside the authority they hold, let's look at the limits and extent of this authority. First of all, this authority is to be asserted and used only in the best interests of the children, whether it's to benefit their mind, their body or their situation. And this is where there's leeway for the individual discrimination and delicate intuitions that parents are blessed with. A mother who makes her adolescent daughter get the exercise she needs outside is acting within the limits of her rights. But a reserved father who enjoys quiet evenings and discourages his children from social activities, is only thinking of his own
vol 2 paraphrase pg 17
preferences rather than the needs of his children. That's an invalid use of his authority.
As I said, the authority of parents only rests on a secure foundation as long as their children understand that their parents' authority has been delegated to them. A child who knows that he's being brought up to serve his country, and that his parents are fulfilling a Divine role that they were commissioned to discharge, won't turn into a rebellious teen.
Even more, although the child's independent emancipation is a gradual process as they learn the art and science of self-management day by day, there will come a day when the parents' right to rule is over. The only thing left for them to do will be to pass on the reins gracefully and leave their grown sons and daughters as free agents--even if they still live at home, even if their parents don't think they're fit to be trusted with their own self-management. If they fail to manage themselves with self-control regarding how they spend their time, what they do, their money, who they choose as friends, then it's most likely their parents' fault for not gradually introducing them to the full liberty that's their right as men and women. At any rate, by then it's too late to make them stick around for more training. Ready or not, it's time for them to take control of the reins of their lives for themselves.
As far as how to use authority, the best
vol 2 paraphrase pg 18
way seems to be the art of ruling without seeming like you're ruling. The law inspires dread in evil-doers, but it's for the praise of those who do well. In families, just like in States, the best government is one where peace, happiness, truth, justice, religion and purity are maintained without having to invoke the law. A household is happy if it has only a few rules, and where a simple, 'Mom doesn't like this,' or 'Dad wants us to do that,' are all it takes.