Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer and Siblings

Here we are, two weeks into summer vacation.  The kids want to vegetate in front of screens, be they computer, tv, videogame, whatever.  While I understand, I also know that it's not what's best.  Since I always aim to give my kids the best, their desires here are not going to happen.

Limiting screen time is difficult, sometimes very difficult.  But it must be done.  In some families, a token system by which screen time is earned seems to work.  Mine is not one of those families.  My kids do not work for tokens, nor do they compromise for tokens.  I've found that taking away something they have already is more effective than promising a reward for the future.  For example, if they know that they get 2 hours each of screen time, they will be more motivated by losing 15 minutes than by having the same 15 minutes given to them.  Don't ask me why, that's just how they operate.

Son 2 made it through fourth grade by starting the day with 10 dimes, and having one taken away each time he was off-task.  Sometimes, we need to figure out what they work for (salient reinforcer) and add it when desirable behavior is shown, or remove it for undesirable behavior.  For my kids, giving up something is waaay harder than not getting it.

The plan, so far, is that they each have a list of chores to do, and may use their screentime when they're done.  Having someone else do their chores costs 15 minutes per chore.  I think it's fair, a few even get excited about getting someone else's minutes and offer to take on extra.  This may contribute to elevated sibling rivalry, but so far, I'm not seeing that problem.

The important thing is to get creative.  If what you're doing isn't working, change it up.  Reverse it.  Change reinforcers till it does work. 

When they don't respond as you want them to, there has to be a consequence, of course, but it needs to be one that they both understand and that makes sense to them.  Appeal to their sense of logic, whereever they are with that.  I don't believe in being punitive just to hurt them, it needs to make sense.  An example is a child who hits.  It makes no sense to hit them.  It does make sense to keep them away from the object of their aggression.  I "ground" my kids from being together if they can't behave together.  In about 15 minutes, they're begging to be allowed to play with each other.  If they're jumping or climbing on furniture, I "ground" them from furniture.  Really, one meal standing at the table, and they're re-considering the jumping/climbing.

We tell them, "Every action has consequences. Positive choices have positive consequences, negative choics have negative consequences.  You choose your consequences.".  It works.

Sometimes, things get worse before they get better.  Don't expect overnight compliance, but keep working the program you've put in place.  Progress is our goal, not perfection.

We're all in this together.



  1. Don't forget the knock down drag outs that come with compliance too :) Just had one of those with collegeman. OH well, at least he starts a new class in two weeks. Oh yeah, he's feeling much better, obviously.

  2. Oh, yeah. That's not till 13 years of age or so...although son 5 may be growing a little faster than the others. :)