Teaching Kids Responsibilities vs. Privileges

Help children see how taking responsibility leads to privileges.
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Understanding the relationship between responsibilities and privileges can help children to lead happier, more successful lives. One of the best ways to teach this concept is to help kids see how this relates to their lives and to give them hands-on experiences that will help solidify their feelings on the subject. At-home practice and parental involvement can also be an excellent way to enrich your lesson.

1 Understanding Responsibilities

Start with a discussion about different types of responsibilities. Allow children to help you make a list under the headings: personal, interpersonal and community. Personal responsibilities could include taking care of your own grooming, homework and chores. Interpersonal responsibilities could be explained as person-to-person contact, friendships or family relationships. Incorporate a short discussion about kindness, loyalty and respect. Community responsibilities could include good citizenship, taking care of the environment and helping those in need.

2 Responsibility Leads to Privileges

Another facet of the discussion is to take one or two of the responsibilities under each heading and guide kids to see how fulfilling each responsibility can lead to earning a privilege. For example, under the personal heading, explain that being responsible about doing homework earns the privilege of a good grade. Under the interpersonal heading, discuss how being loyal to a friend earns you the privilege of having a good friend in return. Under community, talk about how taking care of the environment by recycling allows you the privilege of living in a cleaner community with less waste.

3 Activities and At-Home Enrichment

Have the students identify tasks needed to keep a classroom or home running smoothly. Suggestions might include handing out folders or papers, taking a lunch count or attendance or ensuring the door gets closed when the class leaves the room together. These would be classified as community responsibilities. At home, a child might take out the trash, help wash dishes or assist with the weekly grocery shopping. Each child could be assigned chores and tasks that help the classroom or home run smoothly. Once a child fulfills her responsibility, she could choose from a list of additional activities to complete in exchange for a privilege, like getting to leave first for recess or getting to choose a sticker or other small prize -- or getting to spend time with friends at home or play outside.

4 Privilege vs. Entitlement

As an expanded discussion for older children, include talk about the differences between privileges and responsibilities Parents are responsible for providing their children with basic needs. However, sometimes children become confused when trying to distinguish between something that is a need, such as shoes, and something that they want, such as a pair of $100 sneakers. In teaching the difference between these two concepts, have children cut out pictures from magazines or newspaper circular ads that represent items from the two categories -- needs, such as a basic pair of shoes, and wants, such as an expensive pair of designer shoes. Explain that a "want" would be considered a privilege -- something a child might earn by fulfilling a series of responsibilities.

Megan Eyden has been an educator, trainer and teaching mentor for eight years. Her articles and reviews on the arts have been published in journals and bulletins in Texas. Eyden also works as a performance coach, clinician, contest judge, vocal soloist and accompanist.