Growing children have a natural tendency to believe that they are the center of the universe and that they have natural entitlements. I recently heard someone referring to my teenager’s generation as the generation of entitlements. With so much opportunity and stuff so readily available, it can be incredibly hard for modern parents to convey the responsibilities and sense of duty that go hand-in-hand with freedom, privileges and rights.
Privileges and freedoms definitely come with responsibility and the need to have an understanding and appreciation for the realities of such freedom. For example, teaching our children the histories and reasons behind some of our rights, privileges and freedoms–as well as what happens when those same freedoms are infringed upon or disappear can start to give them a basic appreciation. I remember a few years ago when I restricted my daughter from the computer and telephone for a major infraction–going so far as to remove the telephone from her room. Her response was, “You have no right to do that!” I had to wait until she’d cooled down before I could continue trying to educate her on the difference between a “right” and a “privilege” and continue the parenting to help her see that there are responsibilities that affect our freedoms for the good and bad.
Seemingly small things that we parents can do ourselves show our children the connection between freedom and responsibilities–voting, getting involved in civic or community activities and causes, or even taking the time to educate our children about why we pay taxes and what happens with our tax payments can start to lay the ground work for understanding the responsibilities that come with increased freedom. On a smaller scale, letting our child know that with the increased freedom to stay out later or get themselves to school, comes responsibilities and expectations for responsible behavior and self-regulation.