Earning Privileges

So, I am not a big fan of sticker charts.  I see them as a bribery tool that teaches kids to follow directions and make good choices because they will ultimately be given "something."  Sticker charts make me cringe.  And what about the kid who doesn't care about the reward and therefore has no motivation for engaging in the desired behavior?  Sticker charts are useless for this kid...

But what about earning privileges?  My kids were lucky enough to receive some pretty fancy tablet computers for Christmas this year from a grandparent.  An extravagant gift that they are thrilled about.  Thrilled to the point of obsession for them, and severe headache for their dad and I.  We were pretty loose about how they used them the first day or two, and it was pretty amazing to see how savvy the kids were with using this technology.  I did some research of my own and learned how to set some pretty severe restrictions on what exactly they could do with these tablets, and my husband and I decided on time limits for use.

Now, I am proud to be raising our kids the Positive Discipline way, and we decide a lot of thing together as a family during our weekly Family Meetings.  Well, when Ben and I initially tried to lay down the law with the kids about technology use, they were quick to say, "Hey, you can't do that, we need to talk about it at the Family Meeting!"  Dang!  They were right!  Fortunately for us, a Family Meeting was only a few days away and screen time was on the top of the list for topics to be discussed.

Everyone had a chance to discuss what they thought about time limits for screen time.  We also had to discuss what screen time was...  I mean, T.V. time isn't available during the week on school days, but sometimes the kids can play on the computer - was it the same for their tablets?  Were they entitled to technology time every day?  What about when we were busy with other things?  What if 7 o'clock rolled around and they hadn't had any tech time?

Long story short, the decision was that the kids could have 30 minutes of tech time a day, but school work needed to be done, rooms cleaned and (for Rowan) piano practice completed.  Oh, and no tech time after 7pm on weekdays.  We decided this as a family, everyone was in agreement.  I thought we were good to go. Riiiiiight....

So jump ahead a few days and I am letting the kids know it is time to turn off the tablets, their 30 minutes is up.  Ian can't deal.  He freaks out, "Please mama!!!!  Can't I have my half hour from tomorrow and use it right now???  This isn't enough time!  I'm NOT turning it off!  You're MEAN!"  On and on he goes, like a child possessed...  I tried to use my calm and kind charm on him, reminding him of the family meeting, the agreement we made together, he wasn't having it.  Finally I said, "If you can't handle turning off the technology today, there will be not tech time tomorrow."


I use caps to show you the level of emotion coming out of that boy.  So I said, "Maybe we need an emergency family meeting then."

A crazy thing happened.  He calmed right down.  "Yes, tonight," was all he said.

So that night at dinner, when I had finished my meal, Ian went over to where we keep our Family Meeting Book and brought it over to me.  "Time for our emergency family meeting mom,"  he said as he laid the book down in from of me.

I wasn't really sure the best way to lead this discussion.  I knew what I wanted the rules to be, but ultimately, it would only be a meaningful experience if we worked together on a solution.  How to start...  I decided the best thing to do would be to give everyone a chance to speak about what they thought the problem with tech time was.  We used a pencil as a talking stick and told everyone that they needed to be quiet while the person with the talking stick spoke.  Everyone had their chance, Ian went first.  Here are the notes I tool from this go around.

Ian - we should be able to take away screen time from other days to have for that day.  You (mom) shouldn't be able to take away screen time and kids should get a whole hour.
Daddy - problem is when its time to turn off there is too much arguing.  "5 more minutes," "One more guy," "Not yet!" Then the huge meltdown when its time to turn it off.
Rowan -  there is not enough screen time.  Should be 1 hour/day, or add it up if you want to take some from another day.  We should get to have screen time hours in the morning (before school) if we are all ready to go.
Mom - problem with screen time is the turn off meltdown.  When the kids have screen time it makes the rest of the day harder.  I notice that kids have a harder time listening and getting done the things they have agreed to do (family work, homework, etc).  Makes more work for me and Daddy.

The conversation continues, and the problem solving carried on.  The theme that emerged was that the kids felt entitled to the daily screen (tech) time, while Ben and I saw this as a privilege to be earned.  Much was said and in the end (30 minutes later) it was decided that the half hour rule was staying.  During the week kids could play 25 minutes of learning games ("learning" determined by the parents) followed by 5 minutes of other types of games.  Some days there would be no time for technology.  No technology after 7.  And if you had a hard time when it was time to turn it off, no screen time the next day.  There we go.  Done.  HA!

It's still a nightmare.  Ben and I are wondering how to create a visual that tracks the completion of tasks to earn privileges...  This sounds like the dreaded sticker chart to me.  Something that motivates them from the outside to do the right thing...  I want them to do the right thing because inside they know its the right thing!!!  But maybe I need to change my perspective a bit...

What if we worked with the kids to make a chart?  In my vision it would have "Good attitude during the morning routine," "Put away backpacks and lunch containers upon arriving home from school without being reminded," "Completed homework/piano with a good attitude," "Took care of family work after dinner," "Was helpful when asked (or not asked)."  Then we could decide how many of those things needed to happen in a day to earn screen time for the next day.  I don't know, is this bribing?  Is this external motivation?  Or is this just earning this privilege?  It does feel a bit like a bribe in disguise...  But the things on the chart are non-negotiable.  They aren't being judged on whether or not they do these things, but rather the attitude behind it.  And I think it is important for them to do some self-evaluation....

Big sigh.  I guess I am going to have to see if this helps them do better to know if it falls into my philosophy of PD.  I am hoping that their involvement of the chart and decisions on what it includes will invest them in using the chart.  The best I can do is to see what happens and report back.  I would love any advice or suggestions that any of you readers have...  Wish me luck!

Smiles - Casey

From Wikipedia -

Motivation is a term that refers to a process that elicits, controls, and sustains certain behaviors.

Extrinsic motivation refers to the performance of an activity in order to attain an outcome, which then contradicts intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of the individual. Common extrinsic motivations are rewards like money and grades, coercion and threat of punishment.

Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on any external pressure. Intrinsic Motivation is based on taking pleasure in an activity rather working towards an external reward