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Screen Time and Chore Issues?

Melodie Stryker, Kitchener, ON

Setting limits around screen time is something that my husband and I are learning to navigate as our boys get older. Our two oldest, ages 7 and 5, are eager to interact with any screen available to them whenever they can get it. They don’t have any devices of their own yet and they need our permission in order to play on the computer or iPad so they ask at all hours of the day. Most of the time, this can be very frustrating….and annoying….for my husband and I.

When school started again this fall my husband and I faced another dilemma. The boys were not cleaning up after themselves on a daily (and often hourly!) basis. This resulted in us nagging them to pick up their stuff, or we ended up putting things away ourselves. We were not happy with either of these “solutions”!

We felt that all of our interactions with the boys focused around negotiating screen time or nagging about chores. Not fun for any of us.

I had heard about the idea of a family meeting, so we decided to try it, to see if, together, we could come up with some solutions. We told the boys that Friday after supper, we were going to eat some ice cream and talk. Then, the four of us sat down around the dinner table. My husband and I put together a rough draft of what our expectations were (for chores, cleaning up and screen time) and our goal was to work together to make a concrete plan.

Child doing chores, taking dishes to the sinkOur first topic was the cleaning up after themselves issue. The past number of months their room would get messy enough that we wouldn’t be able to see the floor. Another one was putting their things away after they got home from school. These chores were non-negotiable, as far as my husband and I were concerned, so these were put on the list at the beginning.  We then gave them a list of chores that we feel are age appropriate and they each got to pick the ones they wanted to do. We talked about how being part of a family meant that we all had to share in the work of keeping the house tidy.

Our second topic was the screen time issue. We wanted our boys to feel that they could have some control over the amount of screen time they are able to have, all within a bigger limit that we set. We also wanted them to know that screen time is only one of the many wonderful activities we have to do in our home. We enjoy all kinds of things together—playing, eating, reading, talking, visiting, going to church, or just relaxing together on the couch.

Here’s what our discussion produced: screen time and chore issues chart

  1. We implemented allowance. We had 4 lines on a spreadsheet for chores. They each chose chores from their lists that need to get done everyday from Monday to Friday. We keep track on the spreadsheet and if they get checks in all their boxes, they get $3 per week. We pay up at the end of the month. Some of their money goes to savings, some of it goes to charity/church, and about half is for them to spend. My husband and I want to model our values for the way we spend our money so this was important they understood that. Giving is high on our priority list.
  2. The bottom half of the spreadsheet lists the things they need to do to earn screen time. Each item is worth 5 minutes totaling 30 minutes a day. That list includes hanging up coats and putting away shoes right after they get home from school, emptying their lunch bags, and making sure their room is tidy (meaning—all the dirty clothes are in the hamper. Their future spouses will thank me someday!).

We are just over a month into this system and so far it’s been a success! If they don’t do their chores for allowance, they know they won’t get paid. They know that the amount of screen time they earn is in their control.

As soon as the boys get into the house after school I make a point of connecting with them. I watch them run off the bus and into the house and greet them with hugs and big smiles. I ask them how their day went (I can tell by their body language if something didn’t go right) as they unpack their bags. My husband and I want them to know that spending time together is our first choice, our favourite “go to” activity. Then they’re off to start working away on their lists. The time between 4 and 5pm is a little busy in our house because parents come to pick up the children I care for during the day, so the boys get their allotted 30 minutes of screen time during this hour. They know how to start the timer on the microwave and they switch off as soon as the timer is up. Sometimes they need a few reminders to get off, especially if the house is still a little busy. They know they get more time again the next day so logging off games and turning screens off hasn’t been too big of a challenge (yet…).

We feel that this method is teaching them some responsibility for their own things, their time, and simply being part of a family that works together. Our oldest just made his first purchase yesterday: a Lego advent calendar from Costco that he proudly saved for. We’re proud, too!

screen time and chore issues, child putting dishes in dishwasher

Eventually our system will need some tweaking and adjustments as the boys get older. They’ll need screen time for homework, and we know that our youngest will soon want to do more than watch his big brothers play. When that happens, we will sit down again, eat some ice cream and talk about the changes that need to be made. When that meeting comes, they’ll be able to have a lot more input into what they feel is and isn’t fair and what they think will work.

Our meeting came to a close. They hurried off start on their chores:  clear the table of our dessert dishes and load them into the dishwasher. We didn’t have to ask them twice.


Melodie Stryker is the proud mother of three boys. She is an Experienced Parent with Parenting Now and looks forward to connecting with website visitors via the Let’s Talk Parenting chat button. Ask her about screen time, chores—or any other topic that has to do with raising boys! She may not know all the answers, but she would love the conversation.

The Canadian Pediatric Society says...

The Canadian Paediatric Society recently posted a position statement regarding screen time and young children, titled, Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world (November 2017). While their guidelines are specific to children under the age of 5, their strategies could be useful for any aged child or teen.

They recommend the following strategies for parents and caregivers:

Minimize screen time:

  • Screen time for children younger than 2 years is not recommended.
  • For children 2 to 5 years, limit routine or regular screen time to less than 1 hour per day.
  • Maintain daily ‘screen-free’ times, especially for family meals and book-sharing.
  • Avoid screens for at least 1 hour before bedtime.

Mitigate (reduce) the risks associated with screen time:

  • Be present and engaged when screens are used and, whenever possible, co-view with children.
  • Be aware of content and prioritize educational, age-appropriate and interactive programming.
  • Use parenting strategies that teach self-regulation, calming and limit-setting.

As a family, be mindful about the use of screen time:

  • Conduct a self-assessment of current screen habits and develop a family media plan for when, how and where screens may (and may not) be used.
  • Help children recognize and question advertising messages, stereotyping and other problematic content.

As a parent or caregiver, model healthy screen use:

  • Choose healthy alternatives, such as reading, outdoor play and creative, hands-on activities.
  • Turn off devices at home during family time.
  • Turn off screens when not in use and avoid background TV.

The full position statement is available here…

Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world.




11 Responses to “Screen Time and Chore Issues?”

  1. Omkalthoum says:

    Thanks Melodie for sharing this. We used to employ similar strategies. From experience, I believe this reinforces good behavior, teaches discipline, and skills that will last even when they grow up.

  2. gsanjay says:

    Just started using the chart, it was great sitting down with my kids 8 and 10 and going over what we expect and how this will or will not work. Its been going great for the last 2 weeks. We added a bonus $ 5 for overall good behaviour i.e using words and being good to each other.

    • Melodie says:

      I’m so glad to hear this! We’ve been using the chart since September and it gets used daily – I’m happy to report that it’s been a really effective tool in our household so far. Keep it up and let us know how it’s going in a few months!

  3. Victorialynn says:

    Great ideas

  4. Hayley says:

    I like your spreadsheet and allowance approach! We do the same thing with allowance: one jar for spending, one for saving, and one for giving. We haven’t been consistent about chores & allowance, though, so reading your article prompted me to really get back into it with the kids!

  5. Melodie says:

    We make a point of sitting down every night too. Our phones are silent, the radio is off, and all we’re doing is talking.

    Thanks for adding that you have different ages – I don’t have that experience but I’m sure you get a variety of discussions and opinions around your table!

  6. Sally says:

    We have committed to sitting down to dinner together whenever possible. We have lots of great discussions and enforce the no fighting/arguing at the table. It’s not always a family meeting but just a good time to connect. I try to ask questions like ” what was something that made you happy today” ” who did you talk to at recess”. It has helped our family stay connected even though we have busy schedules and lots of different ages around the table.

  7. Priyanka says:

    its really good practice, besides appreciating your effort to post this wonderful idea I have introduced some thing like this at my home too. Its really helping every one in house.Thanks Melodie

  8. Teresa says:

    I like how you’re encouraging your boys to be accountable to family chores and how you involved them in a family meeting. Sounds like they felt heard and understood and feel a sense of ownership in the decision making. Nice story and all the best! Keep us updated as to how it’s going

    • Melodie says:

      It’s been going really well! We were a little relaxed over the holidays, but now that school is back in we’re back to our regular routine. Some days this week they haven’t done their chores right away, and all we have to do is remind them that they don’t get paid.

      We don’t need our chart every day anymore – we know what their chores are, and we know what gets done and doesn’t. If we miss a day or two we figure it out at the end of the week of who did or didn’t do their chores.

      The list of things for screen time gets done every day. It seems right now that’s the more valuable thing to earn 🙂

  9. Teresa says:

    I really like how you included other family activities as pleasurable and not just screen time. . . Family meetings can work – thanks for explaining it and making your kids feel heard and accountable 🙂

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