A fenced-in backyard can be a wonderful thing when you have small children. Ask any mother who has spent a hot summer day chasing after her adventurous terrier and perpetually active toddler. Fences are good.

As parents, our “fence” of authority must be in place if we are ever going to be able to enjoy Masterly Inactivity. Charlotte Mason said, “The sense of authority is the sine quâ non [essential] of the parental relationship, and I am not sure that without that our activities or our inactivity will produce any great results” (Vol. 3, p. 28).

Masterly Inactivity is not some quick fix that solves all our discipline problems. It is a perk enjoyed because we have already addressed discipline issues. We must establish the boundaries that will protect and nurture the children God has given us.

It is not our option to neglect or ignore those boundaries, because we ourselves are under God’s authority. We must obey His authority just as our children must obey our authority. Charlotte emphasized, “This element of strength is the backbone of our position” (Vol. 3, p. 28).

Without this fence in place, we relegate ourselves to a life of chasing, coaxing, bribing, and bartering. And we relegate our children to a life of guessing, second-guessing, pushing, and conniving.

When our children realize that it’s not a matter of Mommy’s doing whatever she wants to do but rather that Mommy can’t tear down the boundary because she has to obey God, they will learn what it means to be free.

As Charlotte explained, “They are free under authority, which is liberty; to be free without authority is license” (Vol. 3, p. 29). They are free to run about and explore within the secure boundaries of our fence. But they are not free to tear down the fence and run wild.

Once that issue is settled, they won’t have to spend all their time trying to whine and manipulate Mom into tearing down the fence. It is not Mom’s place under God to allow her child to disobey. She is on assignment from God and must do her duty. Mom and Dad’s authority is a non-negotiable.

So if you’re in the fence-building stage with little ones, mark the boundaries clearly, knowing that you are operating under God’s authority. Be faithful to establish your God-given authority now.

And if your little ones are now older and are questioning your authority, take heart. It’s not too late to repair that fence. Ask God for the right tools and go to work with a will.

Fences are good.