How Do You Re-Train an Older Kid About Privileges vs Rights?
In my previous article, I discussed how teaching your kids the principle of earning their privileges when they’re young will help them grow up without that feeling of entitlement.
Now, let’s say you have a twelve-year-old boy who has enjoyed many privileges up to now – before you understood the principle of earning privileges. How are you going to help him understand that from now on, he needs to earn those privileges? How will you explain that the sense of entitlement he’s had is no longer going to be tolerated? And that you never set out to create an entitled kid. It is very important that you approach this issue in a manner that is not mistaken as “punishment.”
Let’s consider Mike’s Story…
Smart and active twelve-year-old Mike has had the privilege of having a cell phone for a year now. It started off as a emergency-only phone, but quickly turned into endless-texts, constant distraction, and an expensive monthly bill. Now, his dad wants to begin a new set of rules regarding his cell phone that would:
- Teach him to be more responsible in usage
- Appreciate it for what it is: a privilege
- Limit his use to an appropriate level each day
How Mike’s dad chooses to approach the topic and (re)negotiate the terms will dictate whether this issue turns into a power struggle (leaving the kid feeling punished) or a peaceful and mutual agreement about something (the phone) which the kid needs to learn how to use responsibly for the rest of his life.
Remembering the strategies for being a good listener and hearing/respecting the kid’s needs, Dad tells Mike one day that he wants to talk to him about something very important. He starts by saying, “Son, we (referring to the parent team) realize that you’re growing into a very responsible young man, and we have given you more responsibilities in the past year (mentions some examples, such as chores, getting an allowance, etc…). Now we feel it’s time we expected a bit more from you.” Then he continues, using a tone of voice that indicates some great news. “Of course, with more responsibility comes more freedom and privileges too. We don’t want to treat you like an eleven-year old, but rather like a twelve-year-old who can accept more responsibility. For example, an eleven-year-old is given a cell phone for occasional use. A twelve-year-old however, earns it as a privilege and keeps it by paying for it, like a young adult should. Here is how much your cell phone costs each month. (He shares the exact amount with Mike.) Here is how much you make in allowance, _____.” The obvious discrepancy might be alarming to young Mike and some possible responses may include: “What?? But Daaaad, I can’t afford that! Am I losing my phone? That’s not fair! I don’t have a job!”
Responding to your kid’s disbelief when his “right” turns into his “privilege”…
In a calm and supporting manner, Mike’s dad continues, “You’re right; that is a lot. We want you to keep your phone, of course. Surely we can come up with a solution to help you keep your phone and help you pay for it without using all of your monthly allowance.” This statement brings the kid into the problem-solving process. Then Mike’s dad can help him negotiate some reasonable terms that will result in more responsible use of his phone, valuing his privilege, and a new sense of responsibility.
Some options may include:
- Teaching him how to track his usage better
- Finding ways he can budget his minutes and texts
- Giving him more chores (responsibilities) to earn more allowance
- Showing him how to save a portion of his allowance to pay for his phone at the beginning of every month for the previous month’s bill
As a result, Mike ends up appreciating his privilege, as well as learning some very valuable lessons regarding responsibility and budgeting, which helps him learn to prioritize.
The tone of the parent’s approach to this subject dictates whether this turns into a positive process or a negative one. If you have an encouraging, positive, and supportive tone, then your child views you as an ally in this process. He or she then would be more inclined to work cooperatively to come up with a reasonable solution.
Remember, your child may not be “happy” about it or initially even protest the whole idea! His first reaction may be a very negative one. That is okay. It is normal and acceptable for your child’s initial response to be anger. Ride it out. Don’t react to it. Remain calm. It is your child’s prerogative to dislike the idea of working for a privilege. It doesn’t change anything. Give your child some time to accept it. There are always choices. For example, you may tell your child, “You feel upset. You’re not happy about this. I understand. I want you to keep your phone. Do you want to keep your phone, or are you telling me it’s a privilege you can do without? I am willing to work with you to make sure you earn this privilege.”
It’s never too early or too late to teach your kid the difference between what’s a right and what’s a privilege…, but it is easier when they are young.
This is an excerpt from my book: “Create Happy Kids”
I am a parent strategist, and am available to do Parent Education Workshops, either Private or PTA Sponsored Classes.
Contact me at 425-772-6698.