Sunday, October 31, 2010

15 Parenting Tips I Give Myself: Privileges and Responsibilities

Tip #12
Teach your kids the principle of responsibilities before privileges

We do our homework before we watch TV. We get our chores done before we play. We take care of  (AKA "play with") a younger sibling before we do our own thing. Teaching this principle comes pretty intuitively, but on the other hand it is not always articulated into a child's ears. It can easily sound like Mom is just being a big wet blanket on a kid's fun so take the time to talk about it:
  • "I want to be sure you and we get to play a game of Uno later today like you wanted. Let's go look at the chore chart to see what our responsibilities are so that later we can have our privileges."
  • "Mom, can I watch a TV show?" "You can have that privilege when your responsibilities are taken care of. Is your room clean like I asked?"
This principle can be modeled by mom beautifully, too. As moms, we have a mountain of tasks to accomplish in a day. We can help our kids understand that we can't always drop what we are doing and play dollies because WE have responsibilities, too. Using that same language to describe "the life of a mom" will help them catch the idea all the more. "Let me finish my dinner prep responsibilities and then I can enjoy the privilege of playing, ok?" I have to stop a moment for my own benefit (since these are tips I give myself) and say watch out that YOU DO STOP and actually play that Uno game. You know all too well that a mother's work is never done so don't go using a neglected floor as an excuse to neglect the bigger responsibility of nurturing your children.

When the older kids were younger (like ages 2 and 5) was when I first heard about instilling this principle. It was quite easy for me to come up with a healthy list of responsibilities for the older child but the list of privileges for him was terribly short. It was a good exercise to go through. I had to ask myself if I was being reasonable and balanced. You don't need a one-to-one ratio, but when the only privilege in a day is one 30 minute show but the list of responsibilities is looking more like a wedding registry at Bed Bath and Beyond, it begs the question: could I stand to lighten up a bit on one side or another? What is more, I had to ask myself if I should be looking to increase that 5-year-old's list of privileges to be broader than the 2-year-old's since I asked next to nothing of the younger one but they BOTH got the same reward for their hard work.

Rights verses privileges: Is it a right or a privilege to play alone (for a season, my oldest craved time away from his younger brother)? Is it a right or a privilege to have a room full of toys? Is it a right or a privilege to have mom read to me at night? Is it a right or privilege to join the family for a night out? is it a right or a privilege to have a morning snack? Is playing without adult supervision a right or a privilege? I won't answer the questions because in some homes I think the answers will vary. My point is that it is something to think through.

Teach kids that we work before we play and they will learn a work ethic that will truly be useful all the days of their life.


alainaw30 said...

We discovered this system last summer and LOVE it! With me working full-time now, it has saved my sanity in so many ways. Now I just need to find ways to lighten up my plate...

Jenne said...

Wow! L-O-V-E it!! thanks for sharing