My husband and I do our best to limit their time with these things, but up until recently that has been really hard for us. The kids wake up very early in the morning – like 5:00AM early most days. They are early risers and there is nothing we can do about it. We’ve tried putting them to bed later at night for weeks (as it is they go to bed around 7:30/8:00PM, so we moved it to closer to 8:30 for a while) – it doesn’t help. They still wake up super early and then are extremely grumpy because they’re operating on even less sleep than they’re used to. So we told them to play quietly or read in their rooms until 6:15AM. That didn’t work – they would play LOUDLY and wake everyone else up. Then we told them they could take themselves downstairs and watch TV or play on the iPad until we came down to make them breakfast and get the day going. Well … this was fine until we realized that it turned into hours of the TV and the iPad every morning. It just wasn’t working.
A few weeks ago out of sheer desperation to make some changes around here, I came up with a little system that so far has been working like magic around our house. I call it “Privilege Bells.”
I love crafts and have a lot of things stored in our basement for when we’re inspired to do a project. I went down to the basement and grabbed a few baby food jars and some bells I had leftover from a Christmas craft a couple of years ago. I labeled the jars with masking tape – one for Will, one for Abby and one for me and Robert labeled “M&D.” Here are the rules and how it works:
- The bells are each worth 25 minutes of iPad, iPhone, computer or TV time.
- The kids have to earn 4 bells before they can “spend” any.
- Bells are earned through specific good behaviors each day (brushing their teeth morning & night, staying in their rooms quietly until 6:15AM, eating their veggies and taking their plates to the sink, Abby has to do her homework, Will has to take care of his bathroom routine on his own – flush the toilet, close the lid and wash his hands!).
- Bells can be taken away by M&D if certain bad behaviors happen (being unkind to others, yelling, losing temper, ignoring M&D)
- They can save 15 bells and turn it in for cold hard cash – $5.00 of real money!
The jars and the rules are on display on a shelf in our kitchen so everyone can see them. We have been doing this for a little over 2 weeks and my kids have not gotten us up before 6:15AM once since it started. They are earning their bells consistently. We have had to take bells away almost every single day, but not like crazy. The system is encouraging more mindful behavior on everyone’s part. It is also teaching the kids about earning and saving (in case you are wondering, the most anyone has saved is 8 bells by Abby, but then she decided to start spending them!). The kids think twice before they lose their cool or ignore me and Robert. Robert and I are spending more quality time with them – it is making us better parents. We are all in better moods and I can’t help but think this system has a little something to do with that.
I’m sure this system won’t last forever and ever, but my hope is that the lessons learned by all of us will carry through once the bells are old news. I guess only time will tell on that one.
What about you … are you a parent faced with similar challenges? How do you control TV/video game time in your house? In what ways do you encourage good behaviors and discipline bad behaviors in your family?