It’s summer, and in our house, inevitably it’s time for the age-old question: “Can I play video games?” And it’s not just video games. It’s time on iPods, watching tv, and computer games that my kids just can’t seem to get enough of. It’s like the moment school ends for the year their brains instantly switch to summer mode and they remember how to whine just enough to make me give in.
But not this mom.
Over the past few years, I’ve starting charging kids for their time. Instead of paying them for chores, they earn technology time coupons for doing non-technology stuff. Things they should be doing anyway, and often things that they want to do but wouldn’t if they were allowed to play on their phone instead. Here’s how it works in our house:
Each day, my kids can earn one hour of time to watch tv, play video games, or use their iPod. By doing just a fraction of what they’ve done in school – reading, math, and activities, they can earn 30 minutes. And they can earn a bonus 30 minutes by being outside and developing skills they may not work on during the school year. This year our focus is on typing skills (not exciting but they’ll thank me later). And possibly my favorite piece of our daily activities sheet is the bonus 60 minutes. At the end of the week, if they have done a few things that they should be doing anyway, they can earn extras. I call this my bargaining chip – something I can point to if bedtime isn’t going as smooth as it should, or if the kids are fighting with each other. Nothing motivates my kids quite like technology time!
Here is an example of my 8-year-old’s daily activity sheet:
The other way my kids are able to earn time this summer is through a bingo activity. By doing things they should already be doing, they can earn 15-minute coupons to be on devices. Things like practicing the piano, playing a board game, or doing some simple chores all add up. As soon as they get a “bingo,” they get a 15 minute coupon. Finish the whole board? We celebrate with predetermined rewards like a trip to get ice cream, a day at the movies, or (gulp) unlimited technology day.
Here is an example of my 11-year-old’s bingo card:
I know it might sound strict or hard to enforce, but it has taken a ton of weight off my shoulders in the summer. As a work-from-home mom, I don’t have to spend time negotiating with the kids over how much time they’re spending on tv. They understand how they can earn time, and they have fun doing it. I get to trust that they’re learning and having fun outside of looking at screens, and I love celebrating their achievements with them!