Mama Mantra: Rights vs. Privileges

Posted November 20, 2023 by Prairie Wife -

Over the last 17 years of parenting, I have found that many of our conversations about punishments also revolve around the idea of rights vs. privileges.

For example, when Cowkids aren’t using their tech appropriately…like sneaking it after they’ve been told their time is up, we have to explain that tech time is a privilege, not a right. Nothing at all says they have to have access to tech. And we explain that until they can follow our family rules about tech, they won’t have any access to it.

Having access to their own phone at all is a privilege, something we make clear to our Cowkids.

After all, we pay the monthly bill and pay for the phone, so technically, they’re just borrowing it from us. While there are times when we take away the phone completely, there are other times when it’s more practical for us to turn off any of the extra features and have their phones set to receive texts and calls from us only.

When Cowkids are overwhelmed with their sports schedule, and grades start to slip, we remind them that school comes first. Often, they have plenty of time to accomplish all their tasks without giving up anything important…they choose to waste time or be dishonest about tasks that need to be done when we ask them. #kidsamiright

In times like this, we remind them that school/education is a right, something we must ensure they have access to.

On the other hand, sports are a privilege, not a right.

There is nothing that says they HAVE to play sports. As a family, we have many conversations about the fact that education and good grades are what will allow our kids choices in the future. A solid GPA will get them wherever they want to go career-wise. Success in sports does not guarantee this. When our Cowkids participate in sports, they must maintain a certain GPA and keep up with their responsibilities around the house. While we know they can get tired (and emotional) with their packed schedules, if we see their overall mental health suffering, we will sit down and have a conversation and offer support and advice.

If we see they still can’t handle the workload after some time, sports obligations WILL be removed from their schedules.

I HAVE to provide my children with appropriate clothing (right). But, if they constantly lose their name-brand hoodies or forget where they took their coat off and left it…I am NOT investing money in getting them the most popular (which we all know means ridiculously expensive) trendy items (privilege).

I have to cook my Cowkids healthy meals and give them access to the nutrition they need to grow strong and healthy bodies (right). But I do not have to cater to every whim and urge they have and make seven different meals each evening. Like all parents, I try to cook meals that everyone will like, but in the end, I can’t always end up with a meal that everyone loves! My Cowkids understand that they need to eat the food that I make, and while they can certainly let me know if it’s not their favorite, they need to communicate that to me in a respectful way.

Too often, kids are so focused on themselves and their needs and wants they forget that they are actually not entitled to much of what they have.

It is absolutely fair for parents to take privileges away from children who are not behaving respectfully and responsibly. 

Removing privileges should be done calmly while clearly explaining what behavior led to this punishment. It’s also essential to let your children know your expectations moving forward and what they need to do to earn the privilege back.

Fussing, fighting, screaming, and crying will likely happen at some point in the conversation. Your child may try and make your life miserable for a few days (or longer) after their privilege has been removed.

Welcome to parenting. It’s not about what’s easy for you. It’s about what is best for your child.

Look at the big picture.

A few days of your child being mad at you for removing their favorite app is worth it when you no longer have to worry about them using their phone to bully other students on Snapchat. And hopefully, moving forward, they will be aware of how their actions affect others.

A bit of misery and standing firm is worth it to help your child develop into an adult of strong moral character who will put good into the world!

Questions, thoughts, or concerns? Let me know in the comments.

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