Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Solution to the kids' television watching AND helping with chores

In our house we have been having humongous problems with several issues: too much tv, refusal to help with simple family chores, and unwillingness to get ready for school in the morning and bed at night. Utilizing newfound wisdome from the book Positive Discipline, we actually sat down with the boys, mainly Zack, and asked him how could we set up a system to accomplish these tasks. We came up with "TV Tokens" which are basically painted metal juice lids, stored in a coffee can with the rules taped to the side.

Here's how it works:
  • Each token is worth 1/2 hour of television.
  • Tokens are issued for the following: being dressed and ready for breakfast with the bed made, clearing and washing the table and sweeping and swiffering the floor after meals, toys away at the end of the day, and dressed in jammies and ready for bed without being asked twice.
  • Tokens are spent at parents' discretion, ie. we wouldn't let them watch five hours of tv in one day.
  • Shows that are longer than 1/2 hour, such as feature length movies and sporting events must be saved for. For example, a two hour movie requires 4 tokens.
  • As an incentive to keep from watching too much television, extra tokens maybe redeemed for 50 cents each.
  • The most tokens either boy may have at any time is 20. After that, they must redeem them for money or use them up.
The important things husband and I talked about were that 1) this should be fun, therefore we do not take tokens away for bad behavior nor do we "lord it over them" to get them to do something. So if they choose not to do a task, no big deal, they don't get a token. The most we have been doing is giving a gentle reminder: "remember, if you don't earn tokens today, you won't have television privileges tomorrow." 2)We are not adding any other tasks to this in the interest of keeping it simple. Therefore, if it's 5pm and they want Ruff Ruffman, and no one did anything to earn tokens, our response is "oh, that's too bad. Well you have 3 more opportunities to earn tokens this evening, so maybe you'll be able to watch it tomorrow." 3) We understand that our younger son, who is almost 4, doesn't really "get" the token concept yet, but that he will hopefully imitate his brother's behavior. And 4) firmness is key to making this work. If one of us cops out and lets them watch without earning a token, this won't work.

So far we are five days into this, and it's really working. Not perfectly; Zack has already figured out that if he has enough for the upcoming day he doesn't need to do anything. But I have been able to remind him about the $ redemption, and that he could save for a model train this way. And so far Nathan has been following right along with things too. I don't know how long this will last, but I do believe that part of what generated the interest was that we asked for their opinions about how we should handle it. I also like that the privilege of television is tied to responsibility, and that it is giving them an introduction to the world of money-by-proxy. In other words, these boys will be growing up in a world of direct deposits and ATM and credit cards. In a small way, I wonder if the juice-lids might be mimicking this.

Feel free to post your family "systems." What did you do that worked and didn't work ?


  1. when my daughter gets in her "no" mood, she gets a dollar taken away. she snaps out of it pretty quick!! The first time I tried this, I let her earn the dollar back. THAT quickly backfired as she caught on and said, "I'm being good. NOW can I have my dollar back?!!"
    have a great day!!

  2. absolutely brilliant!!!! i love you!!!!

  3. I think that this is a fabulous system and I hope it works for a long time! Maybe as they get older you'll need to implement it in for video games too :)
    But it sounds like a great way to keep them active in the family. Good luck