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Children’s Rights vs. Privileges

Children’s Rights vs. Privileges

It seems, lately, that some confusion has developed around children’s rights versus privileges. So, I am going to dedicate the first column in the series to this topic.  Despite children’s protests to the contrary – they have very few actual rights. I have narrowed them to four general categories.  These four categories include: safety, education (until they’re 18), sustenance (e.g., food, water), and shelter. Everything else is a privilege that can be granted AND taken away as decided by a parent, guardian, and/or caregiving adult.

I have been repeatedly shocked at parent’s responses when I list these out so succinctly. “What does this mean?” “So, I can take away my daughter’s television from her room?”  “So you mean my son does not have a right to his computer?” CORRECT! You are the parent/guardian and you have control over all of the privileges bestowed upon your children. Unfortunately, we have all fallen prey to the idea that the kids have RIGHTS to their DSs, iPads/iPhones, TVs, computers, and other various sources of entertainment. In so doing, we have encouraged kids to believe in these rights as well.

Now is the time to stop the nonsense. Now is the time to take back the control over all of the many privileges so many of our kids have these days. You are the parent – you get to decide when the TV goes on and off and how many hours will be spent in front of it.  As the parent you also get to decide how the computer will be used, by whom and for how long. You get to decide how many screens will be in the home and at what time they will be put away.

I hear you already – “but they won’t listen”, “they will have a fit.” Yes – you’re right – initially it will be a battle, but it is a battle worth fighting – and the younger the child is when this precedent is set, the better for all parties involved. You may feel free to use the language I have written here and explain to your kids the difference between a right and privilege. Explain to your kids that the ADULTS, not the kids, decide about the use of privileges. Then, when the time comes you don’t have to argue or raise your voice – you simply have to explain that what your child is using/doing is a privilege and as the adult you will be taking it away. If a tantrum ensues then explain that the item will be removed for an increasingly long period of time and that the choice is the child’s, not yours! As soon as the child can regain control of his/her behavior and emotions then the time clock of removal stops.

If you have any questions or concerns about this article – comments are welcome also – please email me using the website or give me a call!

Dr. Lesli Preuss

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