All of the things that come into the house to distract us! Somewhere, somehow we had fallen into a habit of being on some kind of device during any possible free moment. It was bad on weekdays. The kids would rush inside after school and have their snack, reaching for the iPod or the keyboard or the TV remote at the same time. At some point of the evening I would pull them away for twenty minutes so they could work on homework but they usually jumped right back on as soon as that was done.
The weekends though, were so much more worse. I had no idea how much time they were spending on devices but I knew it was a lot. I wanted a way for not only myself to keep track of it all but for the girls to notice it too. I think especially with using things like Netflix, episodes blend into one another and you don’t realize that you’ve sat there for an hour or two already.
Each of the girls gets four “bucks” for the day. I started out saying that each buck was worth 30 minutes of TV time, iPod time or computer time. I’ve had to revise that to mean one episode of something when my daughter tried to reason that one Netflix episode was actually only 22 minutes so that four bucks should really equal five episodes. Likewise two bucks can mean one movie even if that movie is longer than an hour.
There is the ability to earn extra bucks for a day. Because of this I added things besides screen time that the girls could spend their buck for, things like playing a board game as a family or if they save up four bucks that can equal to a trip to the dollar store.
We have a bank pocket where I hold the extras, a pocket for each of the girls and pockets for all of the things they can spend their bucks on. Only extra bucks can be saved up for something big but the 30 minute cards can be traded at the end of the day for an extra card if it hasn’t been used. I’m thinking of adding things like a trip to an Italian ice place or an hour at the park or library to our board.
Things that can earn extra bucks:
Wiping down doors
Taking a trash bag outside
Tidying up your bedroom (We clean their room together once a week but this is upkeep and helps a lot when they do it before then.)
Running to the end of the yard and back three times.*
*My husband didn’t understand why this was on the list but I figure if they are earning more minutes towards something sedentary, moving in order to earn that balances things out a little. And they like running so it’s not a punishment type of thing. If they decide they’d rather just stay outside and play then come in and watch tv? That’s an added bonus. Last week we had a tree service company come out to our house to trim some of the trees in our yard. Needless to say they kept him highly entertained. And I think they had a lot of fun themselves. They spent almost the whole day outside watching and talking to the crew!
The biggest surprise while using this system is that the girls almost never use up all of their bucks. The first day my oldest decided to do all of the extra tasks for extra bucks but she didn’t use them. She’s very careful with her money and I think that these bucks have become like money to her. She’s more selective of what she’s going to watch or whether she really wants to spend time on the computer or iPod. My youngest sees that and is also hesitant to pay up in order to gain screen time. They are playing more and even better than that,they are playing together more. This is a really big thing for us because prior to this experiment they had gotten really short with one another. There’s a lot less fighting now and I’ve began to think that there is some truth to to much time spent watching TV or playing games leads to a more hostile spirit.
There is another thing that we’ve introduced lately that is helping with the sister conflicts but I’ll tell you about that on another day.