Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Discipline, rights, and privileges

I've been hearing from a few different sources about what may constitute appropriate rewards for a token economy and this concept of special time with parents keeps coming up. And I've got to tell you, it raises my hackles. If this works for your children, in your family, that is awesome. As I've said before and will no doubt say again, just because something is wrong for my family doesn't mean it is wrong for your family. And to me, the idea that a child needs to earn the privilege of spending special time with his parents sets off the kind of deep, bellowing alarm bells every mother knows not to ignore.

To me, there is a big difference between special outings and special moments. A trip to the movies? Sure, that can be earned. Chuck E. Cheese (or as we refer to it, The Hideous Rat) or a dinner out at a favorite restaurant? Absoulutely. Things of that ilk can be put firmly into the category of "privileges Sam earns for good behavior."

But reading a story with me? A walk on a spring evening? Heading to the farm to see newborn animals? Going to the creek to see the first bluebells? Catching fireflies with his father on the first summer nights? These are the rights of childhood. I will not make these experiences conditional on behavior. Obviously, if his behavior is atrocious I might elect to postpone these, but he doesn't need to earn these. Spending special time with your loved ones is unconditional in this family. You don't need to be good, or smart, or funny, or obedient, or having a good day to participate in family life. These activities are ones that nourish our souls and replenish the wellspring from which we draw on in times of stress and trouble. I will not ration my son's childhood.


  1. i had not heard of this. and i could not agree with you more! sure, outings can be earned, but family love should be UNCONDITIONAL regardless of behavior. my mom always said that even discipline should be done with "arms around in love" and she is SO right.

  2. One of my friends pointed out that in families with more than one kid, special individual time with a child is at a higher premium, and taken in that context, I think this whole scheme makes more sense. It's not just going out to lunch, it's going out to lunch with Dad and just Dad alone. I still think that shouldn't be reserved SOLELY for a behavioral reward, but I can also see how it would be really highly motivating as a goal to work towards. But so far, we just have the one little monster.

    1. my parents didn't do that (give mommy/daddy time as a reward) and i have more siblings than most people in a First World country. i guess that maybe they were just really good at always making us feel like we got special mommy/daddy time with them. i honestly can't remember any time that i felt like i had to compete with my siblings for my parents' attention. i'm sure it happened, it's just not something i remember.