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 received 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 on ready-to-buy 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 entitlement and how to determine what our family needs. What privileges will make the most difference in the long run? How do we create homes where our families will flourish because of their privileges rather than becoming entitled?
After a little bit of study and brainstorming, I’ve come up with seven 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.
1 | 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.
2 | 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 God helps create a more profound sense of who they are and why they are here. The value of educating 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.
3 | Forgiveness
Desmond Tutu said: “There is nothing that cannot be forgiven, and there is no one undeserving 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 our families need as they navigate the demanding world. It is a privilege to know how to forgive and to be forgiven.
4 | Respect
The foundation of 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, positive self-esteem, and peace in our homes. It is one privilege worth working toward.
5 | 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 their behavior teaches our family how love feels. Looking for ways to participate in service projects teaches them how to love others.
6 | 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 laundry by the age of 12. Others think it is inhumane they were expected to earn money for their 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?
7 | 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 do you think your family is entitled to?
“7 Things All Kids Are Entitled To” was first published as ” What is the Difference between our Homes and Alcatraz” on Confessions of Parenting.