Privileges vs. Entitlements


Our children want a lot of things, don’t they? They want toys and trips, xboxes and xgames, iTunes and iPhones, apps and accessories, laptops, and luxuries. But, are they entitled to any or all of those things?

If you ask your child, the clear answer would be, “yes.”  I mean, “all the other kids have them.” But they’re not. An entitlement is something that is granted to someone without them having to earn it.  It is a right.

Our children need to know that many of the things they want are privileges that must be earned and that can be revoked at any time. Just because their friend gets a Facebook account when they are 10 years old doesn’t mean your child gets one. Just because a teen can get their driver’s license when they’re 16, doesn’t mean your child gets one at that age.

Privileges are earned based on several factors:

  • child’s track record of handling things responsibly
  • the extent to which a parent trusts the child
  • how impressionable the child is to certain things
  • the child’s maturity level


A child also needs to know that just as quickly as a privilege is earned, that the privilege can be taken away.  For example, if the child is granted the privilege to use the Internet, that privilege can be revoked if the Internet contract you agree to is broken by them.  If the child is given the privilege of driving, it can be taken away if the driving contract they sign is violated.

How do you handle granting privileges in your home?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • PZ2011

    How do we handle an 18 year old, who think they have attained adulthood and can do what they want when they want?

  • Daniel-wright

    Adults say no so many times in a childs life that it becomes just back ground chatter. So say yes do what you want. By the way food cost at home is $5.00 a plate laundry at home $2.00 a wash .50cents to dry If you do somthing dumb here is the number for a bail bond. Life cost when you are in charge. We are trying to lower the payments.  We love you but your to old for us to tell you what to do. But if you want advise just ask. It will be given with love and concern.

  • Denitaann

    Is that child living on there on in your house? Example: paying rent, utilities, telephone, food bills all the things they would have to pay if they were in there own place?  If not, then maybe it’s time they do since that is what adulthood is all about.

  • PZ2011

    Both are good suggestions, but here is the rub…minimal income coming in from the summer job, so there is no money to pay for services.  Then there is the “availability” of support from outside sources; friends would put him up for a duration.  Not sure how long that would be, but the fact that he’d be out of our home for that duration is really hard to consider. 
    I’m guessing that the next comments might be for me to toughen up and let him go and see how hard it is, and how long that outside support will last.  That may be my only option.

  • Eric Davis

    Very good discussion. From my own experience, I would suspect there are somethings that you provide to your child that are clearly privileges not entitlements. Start with these. For example, internet access, use of a car, gas money, tv and/or satellite in his/her room. If they don’t choose to follow your house rules, they choose to lose these privileges. Also, remind them that no matter where they go, there will be rules (as Daniel said much better than I). Even when renting an apartment there are rules to abide by.

    Again, don’t threaten to take these away, remind them that these are privileges that you are happy to supply if they chose to have them. They make the “choice” by following the rules. They then become empowered responsible adults.

    Believe me, I know from personal experience, it is much harder to say then do. It takes a lot of love and commitment. I have even had my child leave, but he came back. Things aren’t perfect, but they are much much better.

  • Tricia

    If they pay rent/utilities then they have more freedom to do what they ‘want’ – if not, then they have to abide by the rules

  • PZ2011

    Thank you for the insights, especially about your child leaving and coming back.  I appreciate all the insights.  We have started with limiting gas money.  Our focus is to keep him in school and on the path he says he wants.
    The “pull” of friends and summer activities is so strong.  We are living with a stranger, and attempting to work thru the challenges.

  • Dish1

    I disagree with your definition of entitlements being a right.  People may believe they should have these without earning them, but it is not a right.  It has just been given for so long.  Things should be earned in some fashion to enjoy the privilege of having or using it.

  • Tylerbarb2003

    Great idea to SHOW instead of TELLING our children what real adulthood is like. As an elementary teacher, I have the problem of entitlement being taught to my 3rd grade children…by their parents! The parents are repeatedly requesting that their child receives something without earning it. They believe that their child is ENTITLED to grades they don’t earn, and fewer behavior/character marks than they have earned. I work as hard as I can to teach them to earn grades & earn behavior marks that reflect their actions. This bothers most of the teachers at my elementary school, so we try to find ways to talk to our parents about teaching their children to earn what they get.

  • Thanks to each one of you for your thoughts!

  • Mrdhorton

    When you come up with the answer, can you please let me know? I’m trying to remember what 18 was for me and use that in my decision making, but…. it seems to make no difference in what approach I use. I can use some advice as well. I’ll pray for you too.

  • Amy

    My son just graduated high school and  doesn’t know what he wants to do. Through his senior year we’ve encouraged him to continue his education after high school. Here is what he wants to do, “I want to hang out with my friends, play video games, watch movies, have fun! I have plenty of time to be an adult! I’m not   done being a kid!”, but at the same time he plays the man card whenever we enforce curfew and house rules. So we’ve stuck to our guns enforcing the rules of the home and have given him a deadline to either enroll on a trade school part time along with a job or one of those full time. After that deadline..we enforce rent ($200. $100 for car insurance & $100 for room & board). If he fails to pay..he will be evicted. We realize some kids are late bloomers and ours is one of them, but we also feel we’re doing him no favors by giving in to his immature entitlement attitude. We’re doing our best to help him man up and out! lol

  • Mrdhorton

    I thank God for giving me the disposition this afternoon to approach my 18yr old and explain, in a concise yet respectful ( instead of yelling ) way that she must get get up and be active in the pursuit of her dreams instead of sitting around dreaming. Explaining what it would cost for her to rent and live in a room the size of the one she occupies and that if she is to remain in ‘this’ house, she must do a much better job of being  an asset and contributer. Playing the part of an adult and really being one, are two very different things. So far, she’s taking it well (lol) and we’ll see how it works? If you want to be treated and considered
     as an adult…. start acting like one.

  • PZ2011

    are we talking about the same son?!  😉  Sounds like a good plan/strategy.

  • PZ2011

    I believe we’ll be on a roller coaster for a while…speaking the messages, gaining their alignment, and then the downhill of them challenging again.  My hope is that each time we speak, as oppose to lecture, they hear a little more of the message.  In our son’s case, it’s a matter of maturity, and basically our rude awareness/awakening to how immature he truly is.  So we continue to parent, love and breathe thru this growing cycle.  Prayers all around!

  • How’s it working Amy?

  • MJ

    I am finding there are more and more of us trying to figure out how to parent our young adults, especially as Christian parents. It has been the most challenging time for us –heartbreaking too. Been thinking about starting a support group for parents of young adults…..

  • PZ2011

    if you start that support group…post it here.  I’d be interested!

  • Net642

    I quit school after my first semester in college. My parents enforced rent and a full time job as my alternative. After working full time the rest of that school year and the summer, I could not wait to go back to school! Real life is hard! I think it’s a great thing to let kids see that.

  • Tallaman

    I can see that most of these comments were from a year ago so probably none of these commenters will see this message, but it looks like a lot of them that are struggling with this issue have at least one thing in common. They are busy telling their +/- 18 yo what they should be doing now to get ready for their future rather than identifying their own goals and willingness to help their 18 yo achieve theirs. 

    I have a 17 yo girl and we have talked several times about her future in a way that gets her to dream about what she wants to do and her telling me what she has to do to get there. I make it clear that my goal is to help her prepare to be a healthy, functioning adult and productive member of society when she hits 18 and I identify the ways I am prepared to do that (provide conditioned privileges). Foremost in that is spiritual development – she knows God who created her, she knows she needs a savior because of her sin, she has a relationship with Jesus as her savior, His grace alone saves her through faith and she worships him regularly. Her actions are now largely dictated by her own reasoning and she is motivated by her own knowledge and goals, and her faith in God. I have no struggles with her and could not ask for a better daughter. Did I mention that I could not be prouder? Thanks!

  • Cokeymo60

    When I was raising my son, whom is 24 now, I recall watching the TV show, The Huxtable’s.  Bill Crosby was the father, Cliff and their TV son, Theo was sitting on the edge of his bed with monopoly money in his hand.  The two were talking about him moving out, and what the costs would be.  It was comical, but it was true to life.  This segment made an impression with me, and I feel my son has learned from it too.  Child rearing starts when they are born.  I am fortunate that I have been blessed with a wonderful young man.  No, he is not perfect, yet who is?  He makes mistakes, and I let him learn from them.  I recall in an earlier post, the word, “choice.”  Starting a child out early in making their age appropriate decisions, blesses them and their parents.  God bless those parents that are trying to let go of the “strings” so their child can become a better part of the community in which they live in.  

  • attagrace

    Wow….God must have known I needed this today.  We have a daughter who will be 17 next month and is a junior in high school and we are dealing with a lot of this.  She has had a lot of “priviledges” taken away for reasons that people have described above – meaning if she doesn’t do well in school or does something wrong behavior wise she loses the privilege of driving our car, working part time, hanging out with friends, electronics, phone, etc.  The problem is that we really thought that at least one of these would be a good motivation OR even a combination (as she has lost them all right now) would be a good motivation to either behave (she’s been caught sneaking and lying) and to keep her grades up, but we seem to be dealing with her strong will right now and it’s been crazy!  We keep telling her that it’s really her choice because she could “have it all” if she just abides by our rules (which are REALLY not too much) but she just pushes the envelope constantly.  As for college, she continues to say she wants to go but refuses to take any type of steps that kids at this age should start doing to prepare, research, test, etc.  Any advice from experience on these issues?

  • R2d2

    Amazing conversation.  We have two daughters, ages 9 and 11…this is a concept we have been teaching already for a few years.  What struck me as I was reading all of your comments was not how important this is to teach our kids as faithful, productive members of society, but as taxpayers in a country who is doing the exact opposite.  This concept is one we don’t even teach in our own country…we’ve taught generations of people to stand around with their hands out for doing nothing.  How are our kids supposed to learn to work hard, earn it when we allow so many, many others to take and take and take from those of us who bust our butts?  Hmmm, food for thought.

  • Dukest28

    I love these posts and all usually hit home on any given day. But, I struggle daily with my 14 yo and have since day one. We are at our breaking point again and have found a program we are trying called The total transformation, which teaches the tough love approach that many of you are describing. The first module was like they wrote it for me. I am hoping for the light to start shining through the tunnel!

  • Amclean5

    I love this answer. Refreshing and life giving, to hear a dad who understands…

  • Hcm

    He’s on your insurance? Health or car? At 17 I paid my own car ins. and repairs. (on time bloomer perhaps). best wishes!!

  • JWorr

    Love the Image…the Braces on this young lady…Braces and dental work are always the outward signs of Class – Economic Privilege.

    That aside, this article is far from complete /lacks critical analysis. It doesnt begin to really dig deep in the White Racial Privilege and (Wrongful) sense of Entitlement – Resentment that really underpins the playthings Parents spoil their children.

    The piece is conceived in totally “Colourblind” way that doesnt recognize White Race as the face of what we call Privilege and Entitlement.

    I fear that the next generation(s) of Millennials will have an even greater struggle with Racism – White Privilege. The pot is already boiling. ‘Racism” manifests itself in the Contempt and sense of “Superiority” White people have over racialized others who have not succeeded. We whites Scapegoat blacks for nearly everything, yet fail to take into account Privilege and our abuse of it, and that we sometimes actively (and passively) create Policy – Legislation that are impediments to Black mobility.

    Conversely, we feel Anxiety and Resentment if they parallel or even surpass White social success / mobility. ie Asian peoples in particular. In the past, Whites just torched Black businesses, farms and churches —-all signs of social mobility – power.

    Today’s Youth remain woefully Ignorant – Unaware of their History of Slavery, Jim Crow-Civil Rights or Global Imperialism (how these systems- institutions / views informed the Present); nor do they critically understand the Ideologies / the thinking processes that create and perpetuate Racism – Unequal Treatment – Access.

    Ironically, many women fail to understand Gender Oppression and Male privilege.

    Part of Privilege – Entitlement is also an inflated and false sense that Other People (usually women / people of colour) Exist solely to SERVE their Needs/ demands. These behaviours often run afoul with People of Colour who no longer feel their Labour or resources should be serving the interests of White people, but rather their own Community.

    People of Colour, in turn can feel ( rightfully or wrongfully ) Resentful when their Chances, Opportunities, Access and Social Mobility are Denied and Frustrated. They did all “the right things”, “behaved in the right way” and still didn’t come out on the winning end, is the general grievance.

    Tough times ahead….I see / hear Entitlement and Resentment so often in the racialized rhetoric of White Youth.

    Dylann Roof of South Carolina / his Manifesto was the worse….