Many moons ago when I had a three year old and and one year old, I ran into a frustration with screen time that was solved by using TV tokens. They worked brilliantly for some time, but eventually we went cold turkey on screen time, except for Friday movie night, with incredible results. That system has been working well for us for years, but as things go, we’re entering a new phase.
No screen time worked well for us until the lock down began because our days were full. Homeschool or co-op in the mornings, soccer practice, theater class, Taw Kwon Do and more filled out days. When we weren’t scheduled for something, we used that time for free play. And on Fridays, we all were psyched and ready for pizza and movie night. It was a great system.
Well now, like the rest of you, life looks a little different. We are home a lot more. We have a lot of wonderful time for creative free play, school work, moving our bodies, and life skills. And then we still have time left over. It’s been pretty great for the most part, but it brought about a new struggle for us.
With the extra time, Hailey wanted to check her email more; Kaitlyn wanted to play Code Spark; and I wanted some structure in our day that didn’t include whining. When our days were busier, this responsibility chart with paid chore option worked well for us (and before that, the door-hanger chore chart was a hit!).
However, I noticed that the girls were no longer motivated by money. I’d have to hound Kaitlyn some days to get through her responsibilities because she couldn’t care less about earning money with the paid chore option when she had no Target trip to go on and spend it. We had a chat with the girls and discovered that what they wanted most was time on their screens. So I listened, and David and I came up with a new plan.
A responsibility chart that created a win/win situation. They accomplish what I want and need them to, and they earn a reward that is meaningful to them.
Here’s how it works:
- The girls have a list of daily responsibilities they must accomplish. Right now those include: getting dressed and brushing teeth, reading for 15 minutes, doing a chore, completing their review worksheet, running to the stop sign and back, and making their beds and cleaning up their room.
- Once they have completed those things and I’ve signed off of them, they receive a Screen Time Token worth 30 minutes of screen time of their choice (TV/computer/iPad)
- They have the option to use it at any time during the day, or save it for another day. I love how this empowers them to make the choice of if and when they use their reward.
- If they lose the token, it’s void. This teaches them to be responsible with their prized possessions.
- If they choose to do something together (they love playing Code Spark together), they only need to use one of their tokens. This means that they can essentially get an hour of screen time each day, if they spent one token to play computer together and one token to watch a show together. We’ve decided we are OK with that because it means they have to compromise and work together to make their choices.
- If one person does not earn a token for the day, they may not participate in the other’s screen time reward. This hasn’t happened yet, but if it does, we have a plan in place.
- Need some chore ideas? Here’s our take on age-appropriate chores. Remember, a chore for a younger child may not be especially helpful to you, but the idea is that they are learning to pitch in. For example, one of Kaitlyn’s chores is to wipe down all the door handles and light switches. It’s not something that is vital to complete, but it’s something she is able to do and fall under the chore/cleaning category.
We’re one week in and it’s been going really well. They wake up motivated to check off their boxes and earn their reward. What has surprised me is that they have been slow to cash them in. It’s been really rewarding for me to see them practice delayed gratification and contemplating their options.
They will use one token to play the computer together and save the other one. They say they want to save up to cash them in on a single day where they could have computer time AND a movie. They’re empowered and I couldn’t be more pleased. I hope it keeps working like this for a while!
Interested in trying it yourself?