Unlock the level and earn a jewel! Collect 5 jewels and you UNLOCK THE ______ (insert tech device-iPad, Xbox, etc.)!
Sound a bit like a video game or app? Yup, it sure does! Does it work? Yup, it sure does! What is it?
It is Busy Boys Brigade’s new motivational chore chart-and it has been pretty amazing thus far (we’ve been using it for a few weeks-with success)! Let me give you a bit of background on how we even got to this point and then I will share all the jewel-icious details!
Picture it…brand new mommy who swears her precious little bundle of joy will never set eyes on a screen or hands will hold a gaming device. No, not her angel! Screen time is introduced to her oldest according to recommended guidelines. No more than 1/2 hour, blah, blah! Then, this same mommy becomes pregnant with her 2nd bundle of joy and experiences the worst morning (all-day!) sickness of her life (up to that point). Aah, t.v. isn’t so bad after all. Mommy can lay down and rest to feel better during an episode of Veggie Tales. #2 arrives and then #3…well, as each new one is lovingly embraced by the family, those new ones are exposed to screen time at a younger age (this mommy could never quite figure out how to isolate one from the other…). As time goes by, new devices are introduced into family-for their educational benefits, of course! But, somehow, mind-numbing, trance-inducing games also invade this home. Before she knows it, her clan can be seen with a puddle of drool at their feet if not closely monitored-all thanks to those “glorious” devices!
This mommy is me (gold star if you guessed it!). And I didn’t even realize what happened to our family. In some ways it happened in a blink of an eye-but, honestly, I think it was more of a gradual process of desensitization & small allowances that grew to a huge pile of this-is-not-good!!
I don’t think I’m alone in recognizing this struggle with technological obsession in families. I look around at community events & sports activities and see more families on devices than not. Parents checking phones, younger siblings on iPads or handheld devices to keep entertained and quiet. It’s a crutch-and an easy one at that!
A few weeks ago, Coach and I got fed up! The brigade are typically good listeners and respond after at least the second time. Well, after asking a question for the fifth time and receiving no response (and by no response, I mean not even a blink or guttural acknowledgement of our presence) from all 4 older boys who were each on a different device, Coach and I knew that we needed to do something to control this tech obsession.
We had set limits on tech time-1/2 hour for each boy. We would, however, be a bit lax at times (weekends in particular) and give into the pleas for “just a few more minutes!” or “I just need to unlock this level”. Yeah, sure, okay…plus, to be honest, it bought Coach and me a few more minutes to get done our stuff. What we didn’t realize that those few extra minutes very soon would add up to a lot more-and we would all end up paying the price with crankiness and less time as a family.
I did some research and found these articles to be quite helpful (yet disturbing!) in explaining the brigade’s behavior.
Children & Technology Addiction on Green Child
So, what are concerned parents to do? We thought about time limits and taking away devices. My concern with completely removing the devices was what long-term consequences would it cause? Technology does not appear to be going away and, at some point, they would be able to purchase on their own. Would we be creating future tech addicts who played in all their waking hours because we denied them these simple pleasures as children? (Coach said I was being a bit dramatic in my thoughts-never!) Honestly though, it is my humble opinion that it’s better to teach them while they are young about controlling their impulses & desires.
I thought we were on the right path as far as setting time limits but how to set? And implement? (Our home is not an open layout and it can be quite easy to be out of mommy’s eyesight). Plus, how does it work if a boy isn’t playing a game but is watching a brother (which, for some unknown reason to me, is apparently almost as fun as playing alone)?
Also, I wanted to find a way to implement a system that the brigade might actually think is fun (and, therefore, do!). I am known for my list making, as well as devising elaborate chore/behavior charts-that are beautiful but sadly often abandoned. What would interest the boys and be useful in controlling tech time-for an extended period of time?
Tech Time Motivational Chore Chart
This is what our Tech Time Motivational Chore Chart looks like. I used an old cork board we had laying around. I cut index cards in half and affixed each card to board with double-sided tape. I already had a box of rainbow colored push pins so used those for the “jewels”.
I decided on 5 “levels” for each boy: meal prep or clean-up, help with baby (X man), (make) bed/(tidy) room, school work (or reading 20 min. on no school days), and chore (varies day-to-day, boy-to-boy-really what Mommy needs help with that day!). Only Coach or Mommy are allowed to award “jewels”.
Bonus is just that-if a boy unlocks all his levels, he has the potential to earn bonus “jewels”. Bonus can be extra reading, reading to little ones (for older boys), extra chore, exceptionally kind/helpful behavior, and positive attitude. I keep adding to this list as I note things the boys are doing or have the potential to do.
For each “jewel” earned, 5 minutes of tech time is awarded. Bonus “jewels” are also 5 minutes. A “jewel” can be removed if one does a negative behavior or chooses not to complete a level. For example, if Bear makes a mess but does not help clean it up, he loses a “jewel”. A “jewel” also must be turned in to watch a brother play a game (learned that the hard way-first day, one boy would turn in “jewels”-only to have the others crowd around until his turn was up & then it went down the line…)
I can honestly say that this system has motivated the brigade to help mommy, get their work done, and even seek out extra kind and helpful tasks to do. Smiley particularly likes this “game” (as he calls it). Professor has been quite helpful with keeping Smiley and Bear on track. Skipper really shines with helping X man.
A problem that I have encountered is that the boys tend to get very excited when working on their tasks. Fun level can quickly go from zero to crazy-like with any game around here. One morning, bed making turned into blanket wrestling. This is, however, quite common with our brigade of boys so not sure if I can completely pin it on new system. Also, I need to get more organized with chore assignments-going to make a list (hurray!) to consult for when one comes to me for a chore. And I need to set a cap on time-with possible carry-over to next day or turn in bonus for special treat. Overall, I am pleased. All levels are really tasks that the boys already were supposed to do-so nothing new there. The new factor of being in a game format and (almost) fun is helping them accomplish what I need them to do. And this busy mommy needs all the help that I can get!
What do you use to help monitor/limit tech time in your home? Does your family struggle with this issue too? I would really love to hear your experiences-and any tips that could help us all!!