Tokens for TV Time

Tips Jr. is seriously addicted to TV, Wii and Computers at only 3-1/2 years old. It's a good thing we don't own an IPad, ITouch or IPhone yet!

Last fall I really began to limit his TV time. I had to cut him off cold-turkey for a few weeks in order to begin the process of normalizing him. To put it mildly, it was a bit like what I expect hell to be like for some people with a newborn baby to take care of and a preschooler who broke down and threw temper tantrums everyday when he couldn't watch TV all day everyday (or even for a few hours).

Although I totally get how appealing it is to use the TV, Wii or computer as a child's entertainment, it's not something I want to become a large focus of our home and family life. I don't want Tips Jr to grow up addicted to electronic media for his entertainment. I want him to interact with the REAL world! I want him to know how to play with real, physical toys and how to play outside and with friends and how to use his own imagination. I do NOT want him to sit in front of a computer game all day and be socially isolated for his entertainment. That is how you raise people who aren't capable of contributing to society - I want my children to contribute to society.

Perhaps I need to have Tips read some of the Montessori books I have read so that he can see part of the larger picture then he currently does and get him on the same page as me. He's very supportive in pursuing that for our childrens' educations, but I don't think he's on the same page as I am when it come to implementing it in the home as he allows a lot more screen time than I do. 

In any case, anytime the breakdowns become horrible, I get Tips on board with me on cutting back the electronic media for TJ. The last couple of weeks I've been tying to figure out how to implement my friend Holly's method she uses for her 3 boys. She shared it with our play group last summer but I felt Tips Jr. was to young at the time to understand it. Essentially what she does is that her boys can earn 'screen' time by doing their chores. They earn it in increments of 10 or 15 minutes. I was trying to think of how to create some fancy tokens with my Cricut, but then realized I could just use nickels since we seem to have a lot of those (must be from when we went to the Nickelcade for Tips birthday!)

I decided that Tips Jr. can have about 1 hour of screen time a day. So Saturday morning I told Tips, "TJ needs to do chores before he watches TV or plays the Wii. For each chore he will earn a nickel that he can redeem for 5 minutes of screen time." I had about 12 different 'chores' he could do to earn a nickel, from making his bed, to putting all the silverware away (he's graduated from sorting his silverware to now putting our silverware away), to doing his 'homework' from his speech therapist we need to work on over the summer, to even trying new foods at dinner! He picks up and puts all the shoes in the entryway in the shoe basket, he picks up and puts away his toys, he has a chapter or two read to him out of our current chapter book I am reading to him at night (each chapter = one nickel). It's fantastic! My mom even suggested I involve him in helping me and/or Tips prepare and make dinner once a week. Maybe then he'll actually eat the food if he helps prepare it!

It's amazing how he has transformed into such a willing little worker now that he has the incentive of earning a nickel! The sad thing is that he will use up all his time at once and then still be really upset (like above) when I have to turn the TV and Wii off because he has run out of money.

I'm hoping that eventually the concepts of time = money will eventually seep into his conscious and he will begin to understand that this is a major life skill that many adults don't understand. One of my friends was lamenting to our online group last week that with how busy she and her husband are now, she has no idea how he had time to play video games for 4-5 hours a day with wife and children to take care of! (Apparently he is no longer playing video games to that extreme anymore).

I also realized that if we can be consistent with this teaching time management method and our children have to PAY us money to watch TV or play video/computer games as they grow up and into teenage years, then they will hopefully realize that they can spend their hard-earned money on better things than playing video games. Although maybe not - arcades still exist.

We'll keep you updated on how it goes. Three days in and it seems to be working okay. Although I think I am going to have to 'commission' Tips Jr. to draw me pictures, build me block towers and design railroad layouts for me this summer. My hope is that by 'commissioning' to develop these abilities/talents he will get distracted and realize that playing with toys is more fun. We'll see....


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