It’s been just over a year since the Lord brought me to Barrouallie Saint Vincent as a missionary, so recently I began looking back on some of the lesson that He has taught me here. One of the first learned (and most important) is explaining the difference between a privilege and a right.
In my ministry with children many things are given out such as water, candy, koolaid, games on my tablet, bible stories , peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or toast. While some of these things are always given out to everyone (like water or a story) the other items are used as rewards for positive behavior. For instance in Bible club the best behaved student gets their choice between a glass of juice, a piece of candy, or tablet time.
Beyond these daily rewards there’s a second level based on the amount of good marks (ticks) children have for good behavior. The general rule is once someone gets twenty good marks they are rewarded with an extended amount of tablet time (5 minutes). Then there is the highest level of rewards given to children who exhibit an attitude and testimony of excellence. These are allowed to drink my coffee, watch Netflix (supervised) for 10 minutes, play a game inside the house if it’s more than two people, and even share a meal!
I love offering these rewards to children and encouraging their positive behavior (would give candy, koolaid, and tablet to everyone but it would be overwhelming). However it’s necessary to explain these rewards are special things earned by their obedience instead of privileges that they always deserve to have. In other words if someone decides they don’t want to listen or obey during Bible Club, they have no right to demand a glass of juice.
I realize this may sound harsh to some of you so let me clarify my first response when a child asks for a reward isn’t to ask what they have done to deserve it ?” Instead I try to take into account other things like how hard the child is working, if something like answering questions is harder for them than others, and when is the last time I rewarded them? Unfortunately I’m not in the position to reward everyone.
At the same time it must be made clear these rewards are privileges (things earned) instead of rights (things you can can demand)
Earlier this week I had to take drastic measures to explain that difference to a boy who is normally EXTREMELY well-behaved, and is used to having a cup of my coffee almost every day. A few weeks ago he began to develop a bit of attitude problem, this continued growing till day three of VBS last week after which he was a perfect angel. On Friday when we announced winners of prizes he was confused (and a little upset) about not receiving one and asked me about it; in his mind being there every day and saying all the verses entitled him to one. I calmly explained he was in a tie with some of the other boys and they received prizes because he had a bad attitude.
I thought after that experience he realized rewards couldn’t be expected for bad behavior…I was wrong
While with me Monday he decided to directly disobey one of my rules and afterwards felt like saying sorry was all that needed to be done. Now I’m a kind-hearted soul but realizing he hadn’t learned his lesson (he wanted to come to my house and hang out afterwards) I banned him from any special activities.
- No coffee
- No water with lemon
- No peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- No games
- No feeding the cat 🙂
Today in mercy I allowed him to come and sit on the porch for 10 minutes but that was it. When he asked why I wasn’t letting him do all the things before (he asked to help me make sandwiches, and play inside) I informed him he had broken my trust and had to work his way up to that level of rewards.
I don’t know this probably makes me sound like a cruel heartless person, but I can guarantee after he earns those special rewards in about two-weeks he will think twice about doing the wrong thing. And Lord willing he will know they are privileges not rights