Raising Self-Motivated Children

Charlotte Mason masterly inactivity self-confident children wise passiveness

Self-motivated, wise passiveness, masterly inactivity

We all want our children to be self-motivated. To take control. To be resourceful. And to be motivated to get it done—whatever it is. Especially school work!


When our children aren’t self motivated, we become frustrated, discouraged and even anxious. As usual, Charlotte Mason has the answer to our worries! 

It’s a tenet she calls Masterly Inactivity and it’s the key to developing self-reliant, resourceful children who possess a long range motivation that endures far beyond our homeschool.

There are 7 essential elements of Masterly Activity. Here we’ll discuss the most important element:


Wise passiveness is the desire and ability to intervene, yet the wisdom to refrain from acting or speaking into the situation. 

Sometimes, actually most times, it’s wiser to not intervene. It’s wiser to let our children work things out for themselves. To let them make mistakes or struggle until they can master it on their own. Sometimes, it’s wiser to let them fail and learn from that failure. 

Wise passiveness is such an important Charlotte Mason tenet, and is probably the most difficult to accomplish.

What is the opposite of wise passiveness? Fussing!


Charlotte Mason talked a great deal about the “fussy parent.” The one who is always fussing over her children, constantly intervening and ordering and corralling. 

A fussy mom is overly involved in her children’s activities, preventing them from having the space they need to act from their own initiative. This tends to squelch the natural development of self initiative.

It’s tempting to constantly redirect and try to “fix” our children. Yet the more we fuss the less our children will develop a healthy belief in themselves and the confidence that they can do things on their own. We push and prod and remind, not believing in our children’s ability to make the right decision without our intervention. That’s the fussy mom.

But it’s so hard to let our children fail! 

We don’t want to see them mess up. We don’t want them to experience pain. So we constantly make sure everything in their life is perfect, whether it’s school, play, or friendship.

This is where we need to learn wise passiveness and restrain ourselves. When we see our children doing things imperfectly, we shouldn’t rescue them. We have to let them make mistakes. 


It’s crucial to step back and let our children learn on their own. Allowing them to figure it out, helps them understand things on a deeper level. Ultimately, this helps our children trust themselves. Charlotte Mason talks about this and describes it as “the letting alone of our children.” 

It’s not wise for a mother to constantly hover over her children’s lessons and activities. The more we let them alone, the more they will develop confidence to be resourceful and solve their own problems.

You’ve probably heard of Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher.  She wisely stated:

“If the child is left to himself, he will think more and better. If less showily. Let him go and come freely. Let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself.”

If we’re continually doing the thinking for our children—telling, explaining, moralizing, redirecting, reprimanding and reminding, reminding, reminding—then we’re robbing them of the opportunity to come up with their own impressions. To discover on their own. 

Too much talking and too much lecturing hijacks the child’s desire to think about what they’re doing. 

Instead, practice wise passiveness by giving your children the space to ponder and consider. They will think more and better if left to themselves. Over time, this “letting alone” aspect of masterly inactivity develops independence. It’s the character foundation for not only self-motivated children but self-motivated adults.

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