Using privileges to teach politeness

By Bettie Bradley on October 25, 2012
What do you want for your kids? Let me guess. You want them to achieve in school. You want them to do well in sports or to nurture some other talent. You want them to socialize well. You want them to be polite and kind and learn the basics of civilized behaviour. Being popular would be nice. How am I doing so far?

Now, what do kids want? They want to avoid homework. They want to stay up later. They want the latest electronics. They want to be popular.

That polite and kind thing can be a stickler. However, Jennifer Koontz, author of When Your Centerpiece is Made of Play- Doh and the Dog Has Eaten Your Crayons. has developed The Privileges System for Children: Ten Steps to a Courteous Kid. She insists that you can raise kind, well-mannered kids with no yelling, no spanking, no time-outs.

You make a deal with your child. They get to choose, say, five privileges every day. You write or draw each one on a sticky note and mount them in full sight. Every time the child whines, is rude or misbehaves they see a privilege come down.

The parents must never raise their voices, never show anger and, in fact, should sympathize because the child made a bad choice. Just remind the youngster that tomorrow is a new day and can be better than today. Kids soon understand that there is a payoff for good behaviour.

Last week, I watched a grandmother having lunch and chatting with a child about six years old. I heard him say, “Mommy says young kids should hold the door open for their grannies.”

Later, “Mommy says it’s not nice to complain when you don’t like the food.”

Still later, “Mommy says it’s nice to look at the waitress when you say ‘thank you’.

When they were leaving he said, “Granny, did I do everything just like grownups?”

Yes, he did. And he and his grandmother basked in the approving smiles of the waitress, the couple at the next table and me.

Kudos to that Mommy.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, November 2012.

By Bettie Bradley| October 25, 2012

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