Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How to Painlessly Cut The Screentime Habit

Sometimes I look back and laugh. I adhered religiously with the "No TV before they're two, and then rarely only educational shows," when Stinker was little.

Then I got pregnant with Junior and was put on bedrest. What can you do with a super active toddler while on bed rest? A super active toddler who despises coloring. You watch TV. You watch movies. You play computer games. I justified it that once I was off bed rest, I would have more time to spend and we'd cut back on the TV viewing ten-fold. Then Junior was born with special needs and tons of doctor's appointments, and we had three different therapists coming into the home every week. Stinker got to be waaaay too good at Mario Kart, could determine what episode of Curious George was on within the first 3 milliseconds of the show, and could tell me the time based on which show was about to come on.

Something had to change. It was beginning to affect her attitude...all that screen time was making her cranky, and I was frustrated she never played with the toys we had spent our money on!

As I was walking around a teaching supply store one day, I saw some tickets that could be used as bribery encouragement. The next day, I sat Stinker down and told her the new deal. She would get 4 tickets every single day. She could use them as she pleased, save them for later, or trade them in for a quarter each if she wanted to save up for something. Each ticket would be worth 30 minutes of screen time...computer games, video games, or a show. If she was disrespectful or disobedient during the day, she would lose a ticket.

Since we've started the system, I've noticed Stinker has a better attitude, is more discerning about the shows she wants to watch (wouldn't want to waste a ticket on a show she doesn't really care about), and is doing more craft projects and using her imagination more (instead of whining to watch something, she often goes to play outside or gets out a craft project to work on).

While there are times I just want to rip the TV out of the wall completely, I've been really encouraged at how well this system is working for us! Eventually I'd like to get the screen time down even more, but I'm impressed how much more smoothly the days go when she's not clamoring to watch a show all the time.

What works for your family to keep the screen time down?

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