The demands placed on children today to learn and perform can cause quite a bit of stress. While I encourage a challenging environment and think nothing ill of competition, especially when engaged with oneself, there is a time to play. Children learn through play and express what they have learned through play. Masterly inactivity is when a parent steps back and allows the child the freedom to play within boundaries. Every mom needs time to relax and step out of the front of the classroom as much as every child needs time to play.
What is Masterly Inactivity?
Masterly inactivity is defined as much as what it is and what it is not. The concept is often difficult for a parent to understand or balance. A parent who is nervous or stressed will pass along those traits to her children. A parent who passively watches her child explore the world with no boundaries will pass this false idea of freedom to her children. The balance is where we meet masterly inactivity.
The cornerstone of masterly inactivity is the confident parent. A confident parent is one who has established a sense of authority over her children. She can allow for a day in the sun rather than a day studying math indoors as a gift and not a concession or feelings of “giving in”. Consider what Charlotte Mason said, ““The mere blessed fact of the parental relationship and of that authority which belongs to it, by right and by nature, acts upon the children as do sunshine and shower on a seed in good soil. But the fussy parent, the anxious parent, the parent who explains overmuch, who commands overmuch, who excuses overmuch, who restrains overmuch, who interferes overmuch, even the parent who is with the children overmuch, does away with the dignity and simplicity of that relationship.””
Every parent has times when her confidence is shaky and all make mistakes. However, you are the parent figure and that demands a forgiving of oneself to allow one to move forward with grace.
When children are playing dollhouse, blocks, or outside, the parent keeps a watchful eye yet does not intercede unless redirection is needed. The parent exhibits a self restraint that allows a child the freedom to express what she has learned and her character. The parent is alert but not intrusive. When my children play outside I take that time to read or do some work on the porch. I can maintain a close eye while not hovering over them. If my child runs toward the street or misbehaves I am there to correct yet I am not there to instruct their play. The setting for masterly inactivity is set by the parent to show calmness and a time to simply play.
What isn’t Masterly Inactivity?
Masterly inactivity is not characterized by a parent who is overly intrusive during playtime. This will cause the environment to be stressed and not produce the desired result of allowing the child to distress. On the other hand this is not a parent who allows the child to run rampant throwing caution to the wind. A parent is to keep a watch on the child but in a discreet manner.
Masterly inactivity is not forced playtime or a day filled with busy activities and field trips. We are not to fill up the day for the child but allow the child’s mind to run free and have a leisurely good time. Go to the park, the apple orchard or your front yard for a fun causal time of your child playing with other children or with siblings.
Having a confidence as a parent and confidence in your children is crucial. You are not to worry over the child but be confident in how your child can handle herself. You should not sit over the child and caution her over every crack in the sidewalk or shaky tree branch. Yet, the parent is not to turn a blind eye. Achieving a balance is the key. This balance can be hard for parents given their love and involvement with the child.