Managing a large family takes a bit of organization and some creativity to help things run smoothly. Things that may work for a family with 2 children will fall flat in our home or they may just make this Mama lose her mind.
One of the things that I have had to figure out by trial and error is how to help my children manage their screen time. If it was up to them, I’m pretty sure they would live like the people in the movie “W*ll-E”, continually staring at a screen. I’d like to have a face-to-face relationship with my children so I’ve tried things from jars filled with marbles to symbolize each time they are in front of a screen, a sticker chart, to a ticket system, to giving them a set amount of time each day. I recently read of a mom that pays her children $7 at the beginning of each week. Each dollar represents an amount of time that is paid to mom for screen time. If they manage to not use all of their dollars, they can keep the dollars at the end of the week. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a money tree growing in my backyard. I don’t have $35 dollars per week to dish out.
I’ve learned that with five children to manage, I will loose my marbles trying to help them keep track of making sure they move their marbles to the appropriate jar. I’ve also learned that if the computer or TV is on, then they all participate. So while one child does the computer or watches TV–so do 4 others. So if each of my children gets 1/2 hour of computer use per day then they really get 2 1/2 hours. I didn’t like this idea. I also didn’t like the fits that were to be had when the timer went off, signaling it was the next person’s turn. Inevitably, someone always took longer than they were supposed to and computer use ended up sucking more time from our day than it was intended to. Anyone else ever get tired of feeling like their life revolves around when TV shows begin and end? Screens were controlling our life and I was going crazy try to manage it all.
I now have a system in place in our home that works well for us–with 5 children. It’s really quite simple and I wish I’d figured it out much sooner. It dawned on me that I have 5 children and there are 5 week days. Hmm…maybe I was on to something. I decided to assign a child to each day. They know they can only do screen time before school in the morning and after their school work is done each day. So that basic rule laid out, they each get a day to pick what we watch, do the computer or even sneak in a bit of DS time. It doesn’t matter to me which one they choose or if it’s a combo of the above. As long as it is their day and it stays within the perameters. This is how simple it is:
Monday – Littlest One
Tuesday – The Negotiator
Wednesday – Daughter of Purpose
Thursday – The Talker
Friday – Mini-Me
Now all I have to do is remember whose day it is and the rest is set in motion. They really are pretty self-monitoring with this simple system. No one seems to have a problem because they know what to expect and when. They know their day will come. I am happy because I feel like the screen time they get each day is managable and I am not losing my marbles trying to keep on top of it all.
Clarification: TV is the only choice before school. After they have completed their school work, there is about 1 hour- 1 1/2 hours that they can control what screen they use. Usually at about 1 hour, I begin encouraging them to turn it off and go outside to play until chore time at 5:00 pm.