Years ago I visited the historic island of Alcatraz with my sister. From 1934-1963 it was used as a maximum security Federal prison. It was fascinating to see the actual cells where some of the most ruthless and notorious criminals had lived. As each prisoner arrived at the facility, they were given a copy of Alcatraz’s rules and regulations. It is the only penitentiary I’ve ever visited, but the feeling was cold and eerie.
Upon finishing our tour there was the usual gift shop to grab a memento of the visit. Typically we choose a magnet to add to our collection. To my surprise, I found some of the rules and regulations had been made into magnets. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I saw this:
Alcatraz Regulation #5: “You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else you get is a privilege.”
How often have you felt like reminding your kids of this very thing?
“Entitlement is the attitude of children who think they can have, should have, and deserve whatever they want, whatever their friends have – and they should have it now, and not have to earn or give anything for it.” Richard and Linda Eyre
The world of entitlement easily sneaks into our homes. I’ve been thinking about the difference between a privilege and what our family is entitled to. What privileges will make the most difference in the long run? How do we create homes where our families will flourish because of the privileges rather than become entitled by them?
After a little bit of study and brainstorming, I’ve come up with 7 privileges every child should be entitled to. As we create environments centered around these values, we are also improving our family’s ability to thrive and survive in today’s world.
- A Mother and Father who Love each other. When we honor our marital vows, we teach our children what a loving commitment looks like. Our example shows them how to work through difficult situations and not give up when things get tough. Everything isn’t always perfect, and they need to understand perfection is an unrealistic expectation. I learned about commitment from watching my parents.
- Spiritual Life. I’m not talking about religion, but religion can be part of it. There is a difference between being spiritual and being religious. Teaching our family how to connect with a being greater than any of us helps create a deeper sense of who they are and why they are here in this life. The value of teaching our families about the importance of a spiritual life has benefits to their overall mental health. Dr. Ryan T. Howell sites how spirituality can promote hope, optimism, and self-esteem to name a few. Our faith has played a huge role in teaching our family strong fundamental values. A spiritual life can be a powerful privilege.
- Forgiveness. Desmond Tutu said: “There is nothing that cannot be forgiven, and there is no one un-deserving of forgiveness.” At some point, we will have all been on one side of the forgiveness pendulum. The golden rule seems to apply here. When we teach our families about the value of forgiving others we empower them with the ability to heal from difficult situations. Forgiveness is a tool they need to navigate the trying world we live in. It is a privilege to know how to forgive and to be forgiven.
- Respect. The foundation to strong and healthy relationships lies in respect. Our family learns about respect through our example and the expectations we place on showing respect for others. Respect breeds kindness, a positive self-esteem, and peace in our homes. It is one privilege worth working toward.
- Love and Compassion. I’m sure most inmates don’t feel a ton of love or compassion from their providers. Love goes beyond loyalty and respect. We learn to love by being loved unconditionally and we learn to love by serving others. Allowing for opportunities where you can express your love independent of behavior teaches our family how love feels. Looking for ways to participate in service projects teaches them how to love others.
- Work. I’m not talking about a 9-5 job. This is about teaching our children what a work ethic looks like and helping them develop it. Our kids took age-appropriate responsibility and ownership for various tasks and needs. Some people cringe when they hear my kids were doing their own laundry by the age of 12. Others think it is inhumane they were expected to earn money for their own clothes. In our efforts to give our children what they want, we deprive them of what they need. How can you help your children recognize their privilege to work?
- Time. Schedule time TODAY to spend with your family. Enjoy who they are, play with them, plan one-on-one dates to teach them they are important. There is something we gain in leaving the cares and stresses of work behind while we make our family feel important. There is no other way to accomplish what time together can do. I’ve often heard it said, “The family who prays together, stays together.” I would alter the wording and say “The family who plays together, stays together.”
Our most important work is what we do in our homes. It is where the future generation lives, learns and grows. When we parent with a purpose our motives reflect the love we have for them. Unlike Alcatraz, we offer privileges beyond the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention.
It is foolish to believe they are entitled to the same privileges their friends might have. As parents, we have to be sure to provide those things which are most important in their journey to becoming responsible adults and human beings.
What privileges do you feel are essential to your family?
Written by Lori Jackson, at Choosing Wisdom. Lori is a wife, mother, friend, and storyteller. She has a love for learning, giggling with her grandson and tandem biking with her husband. She believes wisdom goes beyond being smart or having basic knowledge. “It is the culmination of experiences that help us become. While each of our challenges may be unique, we have the opportunity to choose how we will react, learn and grow.” Her journey has taught her that she doesn’t have all the answers, but she does have a voice to share what she’s learned:
“Life can either teach us or defeat us – the choice is ours.” Lori Jackson
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