Why Should Kids Always Earn Privileges?
In this series of articles, we’re talking about the 9 factors that parents must keep in mind about your kids’ privileges, so far I have talked about the first two factors, and today I would like to focus on factor #3, privileges are always earned…
Remember, having to earn something is the major difference between rights and privileges. Kids must always work for their privileges. The main message is:
If they earn it, they can get it!
If they don’t earn it, they may have other opportunities to earn it. If they don’t earn it because they didn’t try their best, then they should not receive the privilege until they do try their best. It’s really as simple as that.
If you are consistent with this message, then your kids won’t feel confused. However, if you’re inconsistent about it, you are going to end up with a confused child. I always tell parents, “Show me a child who acts ‘spoiled’, and I’ll show you a child who is ‘confused’ every time.” It’s common to make mistakes when you begin to use privileges to motivate your kid. It’s okay, you’re not alone! If you make a mistake, own up to it. Make sure your kid understands that you didn’t mean to send a mixed message. Give your child a second chance (as soon as possible) to earn a privilege.
Eight-year-old Chloe was trying to earn some online time to play her favorite game. The agreement was that she would put away her toys and complete her math homework to earn twenty minutes of online time. That was reasonable for Chloe. However, somewhere in the process, her dad let her enjoy the privilege before she had actually earned it. Chloe had put away all her toys, but she hadn’t gotten to her homework assignment yet.
What happened? Well, Chloe’s dad had finished working on his computer when she approached him about her online time, and her dad let her play. What did that teach Chloe? That she doesn’t have to prioritize her homework.
These are not messages parents want to teach their kids.
As a solution, Dad could have admitted his mistake as soon as possible and explained to Chloe what he should have said, “I just realized my mistake. I let you play on the computer before you actually earned your computer time. By mistake, I let you play online before you finished your work. That was my mistake.”
He could also add, “Chloe, sweetie, you forgot to finish your work before enjoying your privilege. That was your responsibility.” This type of explanation allows the child to understand more about sharing responsibility for the process.
Then you could follow up with, “I’d like to allow you to earn more playtime tomorrow. You will do your work first, and then you get to play.”
Note: Dad’s approach to correcting the situation was sufficient and effective in addressing an oversight and sending the correct message to the child.
- It was not punitive or judgmental.
- Tone of voice and body language is important.
- Be gentle and honest.
- Being apologetic is optional. I leave that to your discretion. You are the expert on your child. You can decide whether adding an apology would help or not. I usually recommend it.
When you guide your kids to EARN privileges, you are sending them the following valuable messages:
- It is necessary to work for your reward/privilege.
- Our agreement can be trusted. I trust you to take care of your responsibility, and you can trust me to follow up and deliver on my promise.
- Learn to prioritize what is important, such as your responsibilities, and what’s considered to be a reward, such as a treat.
- These lessons don’t just create a motivated child; they lead to a motivated adult – and a self-starter – in the future.
In my next article I’ll talk about matching privileges to your child’s age and the cost of a privilege.
Dr. Sherkat is a parent strategist who is available to do Parent Education Workshops, either Private or PTA Sponsored Classes.
Contact her at 425-772-6698.