Every year following Christmas I see the recurring question on Facebook about screen time. Kids have received new electronics for Christmas, its been a few days, and its a pain to pry them off their newest device. “How can I decide how much screen time to let my kids have?”
My Kids Have Control of Their Screen Time
After you hear our system you might say “but they really don’t have unlimited screens.” But I try to let my kids have the maximum amount of control possible over their screen time. I don’t want to have to decide or think about how much screen time they’ve already had. I just want them to understand the circumstances that must happen in order for them to have screens. They know that if they have met the right requirements I will always say ‘yes’ to screens.
My kids earn points for (some) of the chores that they do to help out around the house. If they sweep a floor they get four points, if they fold a basket of laundry by themselves they get six. When they have ten points they can choose to cash them in for twenty minutes of screen time, either TV, video games or computer time.
They can also choose to save their points, if they save 100 points they can cash them in for ten dollars. Sometimes I will pick up prizes on sale and set a number of points that they can spend to get the prize. Last summer they wanted swim goggles, I picked up a couple cheap pairs and set them at 25 points to redeem.
Give Kids as Much Control as You Can
I want the girls to have as much control as they can over their lives. There have been times when one of them really wanted to complete something in Minecraft. L spent almost an entire day doing chores and playing on the computer. She spent more time on the computer than I would normally allow, but she did more chores than I would ever ask of a child in one day. After a few days of this she picked up a book instead and my house was super clean.
There are days when none of my kids has or asks for screen time, and there are days when I let them have screens for free. But most of the time they can decide whether they really want to do the work it takes to earn screens.
When we first started this I quickly realized that I did not want my kids constantly asking if they would get any points out of it every time I asked them to do a chore. So I sat them down and talked to them about what it means to be in a family.
Some things families do to help each other and for no other reason. Some things I give points for. One example is picking up toys, especially in the main areas of the house. I don’t give points for that. I do give points for cleaning floors, laundry, dusting, etc. Occasionally I will have a one time job I want help with and I will announce that I’m giving x amount of points for it.
In general they don’t ask if I’m giving points when I ask them to do a job. They know whether a job comes with points or not because if a job has points attached, it always has points attached.
Fussing Gets You Nothing
The major exception to getting points is complaining. Many times my kids will find a chore to do because they want points. However, as the mom I always have the choice to ask for a chore to be done because I need help. If I ask a kids to do a chore and they whine or complain, they get no points for doing that chore. Also, if they continue to complain they get additional chores added which they can also do for free. After all, complaining takes my energy, and if a child takes my energy they must have enough energy to help out around the house.
I first gave my kids a chore chart based on this system several year ago. I didn’t know that I would later struggle with migraines for several years when I first made the chart. When I did start having health problems it was such a blessing that my kids could help out, and that there was a benefit to them in helping.
Our house was not at it’s best in terms of cleanliness, but it was so much better than it could have been. Ken wasn’t shouldered with so much of the burden, and I could depend on the kids to help some in the midst of the chaos.
Helping has to be taught just like multiplication or learning to drive. If I hadn’t taught my kids how to sweep a floor or that chores are a part of life, it would have been so much harder than it already was.
I have put together a simple chart for getting started with a points system of your own, it includes a blank chart for writing in your own chores and points. If you are interested in access to the printable as well as other free resources sign up for my emails below!