One of the biggest struggles or temptations we have is unlimited screen time.
It is not simply a matter of removing all screens.
I have on occasion forced us to go on an electronic diet when there is a blatant attitude running amuck in our home.
For awhile we tried to allow them free reign of electronics for an hour each day but it easily became 2-3 hours each day.
For us it usually takes the guise of Minecraft and never-ending arguments. I could look at the surface problems and remove the game or strictly limit free use of electronics on the weekend. BUT it would not remove the problem from taking on a new form in another game.
More often then I would like to admit, I wondered and fretted… is it really possible in this day and age to refrain from all use of electronics? Am I personally willing to get rid of the t.v. and associated devices? It’s easy as adults to lord over our children and tell them what they can and can’t do. In my experience rules are a little harder to follow if the people who make the rules don’t follow it themselves. Would we also limit our screen time to support the behavior we want them to mirror?
Luckily a friend in my local homeschool group recently shared with me what she did to limit her son’s screen time and in the process helped him to reclaim his sensibilities. I realized we could modify it with what we were already doing. …and LOOK! We have these poker chips that we could put to use!
First keep in mind that while my kids probably wouldn’t mind collecting good behavior stars, I have never been able to keep up with them. The moment I couldn’t produce the correct or desired reward… our reward system would fall apart. We have tried different variations and like new resolutions, they started and failed with good intentions.
Second this system was designed for our family in a way that the children know it is not a punishment, but rather a natural cause and effect that allows screen time to be shared in a manner more fair to everyone.
What I also know is that if you decide to do a reward system, it needs to have value to the person receiving them. In our case that means talking with our kids about our proposed plan and seeing what they thought about it. Three of the minions came back in support of earning game time and Pokemon cards. The oldest had a couple of concerns and addressed them with us. In addition he wanted us to consider letting him earn games through the Playstation Store in lieu of Pokemon cards. After hashing things out and giving our new system a test run, here is what we found works for us.
Earn a red token
- For chores done before dinner
- For homework done before dinner
- They can earn a total of 10 red token per week
They can trade their token for a Pokemon card or 10 token for a booster pack. My oldest figured that based on the Pokemon exchange each token was worth 50 cents and opted to save his tokens to purchase downloads through the Playstation store.
Earn a black token
- For getting homework and chores done on time with a good attitude.
- You can earn a total of 5 black tokens per week!
- Each token = a morning or afternoon of game time on the weekend. It sounds generous but it equals 2-4 hours due to late risers, sharing the t.v. with siblings, and various weekend activities.
Have extra black tokens?
We discovered that because the kids had freedom of choice some of them did not earn all of their tokens while others were faithful and had a nice stack growing. We also noticed that not everyone got a chance to play on the weekends. So we made a compromise and allowed them to use their extra black tokens to play games during the weeknight after homework and chores are done.
Other opportunities came up where the kids requested to use their black tokens for other things.
- Trade it for an extra special treat/ snack
- Or save up 4 tokens for a movie ticket
So far this has worked out well for us which is why I added the stars to the top of our Student Schedule Tracker. If they forget to show us what they did for homework or chores, they don’t get to mark it off. On Friday night or Saturday morning we tally up the tokens and get busy exchanging tokens!
When we originally presented this plan to my oldest he was not thrilled. He was irritated. When I explained that he wasn’t really losing game time so much as tracking that he actually earned it, he came around. Of course to sweeten the deal I explained that the transaction was only legit if he performed the token dance. I was being silly and lighthearted in my attempt to explain it… and when the time came to pay up he responded by passing me a token through a interpretive Neko style dance we affectionately now call the Token Dance. It’s become the best part of my day.
In a round about way it helps the kids decide when they want their screen time. It teaches them delayed gratification by encouraging them to wait until they can use their tokens for a long period of time. The best part is without forcing the issue or tying the rewards to a specific task they have naturally gravitated back to figuring out how to deal with their boredom through board games, Legos, and neglected books.
I’m not sure if this system will work for anyone else. Hopefully by sharing what we came up with it might inspire someone else to find a solution that works for them. All I know is that Minecraft is no longer a curse word in my house. 😉