Should children have to earn their privileges?

little boy eating a cherry

By Joseph Sacks, LCSW

Many parents seem to express an interesting philosophy. They say “I don't mind buying him whatever he wants as long as he earns it.” They seem to feel that this way they're teaching the child a good work ethic, that goodies don't come for free and to appreciate the value of a dollar. In addition, having the child earn his privileges relieves a parent of that great fear going around that my child will be spoiled, since if he earned it he's obviously not spoiled. Some parents have elaborate system of rewards for good behavior, achievements, grades or hard work. They feel that the good things in a child's life are a privilege, not a right, and privileges need to be earned.

In my view however, goodies in a child's life such as TV, video games, junk food, toys, trips, entertainment and sports are indeed not a right. They're also not a privilege. They are a deep and fundamental need. All children have a deep and intense need for these fun things to a certain reasonable extent, and just as it is our obligation as parents to for fill their needs for food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare, we must fulfill their basic needs for enjoyment, fun and happiness, as children desperately need them as much as anything else. Do we say to a child, “You must earn your dinner. Clean the house and do your homework so I can give it to you because if you don't, I can't give it to you because it would be unearned.” The truth is giving goodies to our children just because we love them and for the pure pleasure of bestowing acts of kindness onto them on a regular basis is what fills them up and turns them into givers and hard workers as adults. That means giving kids a reasonable amount of goodies unearned is what's best for their emotional health, and emotional health is the most important prerequisite for success in life, as well as for the development of noble character traits.

For a discussion of how to deal with a child who seems selfish, click here.

Fun creates a bond

little girl with flowers in her hair smiling

Giving kids pleasurable gifts creates a tremendously intense bond between the parent and the child and that bond is the most important element in a child's life. However forcing him to earn every gift frustrates the creation of that bond. We need not fear that being generous with children will spoil them. Children act spoiled when their emotional needs are unfulfilled, but pleasures, when properly administered, can be a tremendous tool for creating emotional fulfillment. The rule is, give your child as many treats as possible provided he appreciates them and gets good use out of them. Being kind and generous to a child never makes him spoiled! See my important post: How not to spoil your child, here.

Children absolutely need several hours of on interrupted fun every single day to grow up healthily, so if you find a reasonable amount of goodies and activities with which to fill those hours, you'll be doing the greatest act of kindness to your children as well as ensuring their emotional stability, health, and lifelong success.

Feel free to peruse my interesting blog, the specialties on my website, or download on of my informative free reports. If you are experiencing challenges dealing with your child, and would like guidance or treatment from a child therapist in lower Manhattan, you may call me at 646-681-1707 for a free 15-minute consultation. I look forward to speaking with you!