Media Allowance Revisited

Earlier this year, I posted the system we are using to keep Little Hippie’s media consumption under control. I wanted to do a quick update on how things are going with that endeavor.

If you don’t want to go back and read the original posting, here’s a quick overview of how we roll with media time. Little Hippie gets 4 media tickets per day. Each ticket is worth 15 minutes of media time: TV, computer, or video games. Tickets can be used for media, used to purchase “ticket prizes,” or saved for later media or purchases. LH can also earn extra tickets by doing jobs around the house or exercising. We use a simple kitchen timer from the dollar store to measure each media interval.

The ticket prizes took awhile to figure out, both for the earner and the payer. Now that things have evened out a bit, I have found that the tickets are worth roughly $1 each when it comes to bigger-ticket items. An $8 toy costs 10 tickets, for example. Little toys and puzzles from the Dollar Spot or a dollar store cost 2 tickets. Books are pretty heavily subsidized. Each book, no matter the size or content, is only one ticket.

This week, we ran out of books (I think the original stash had at least 20). LH has been starting almost every day by telling me that she wants to buy a media ticket prize, and she has been going straight for the books. We are reading about Captain Underpants, science experiments, butterflies, Ramona, drawing, and all sorts of other things. When the book well ran dry, she reluctantly chose a 2-ticket toy prize, but made it very clear that she would prefer new books. Luckily, our local Goodwill store has an outstanding children’s books section. At 59 cents each, it’s very easy to go overboard. I put the new stack on the kitchen table so that she could preview the goods that are going into the ticket prize store while she eats breakfast tomorrow. I’m betting that there will be no TV on the agenda for at least a day or two.

I still think she watches too much television and that she loves it more than is natural. However, I love that the system we have developed is so simple, straight-forward, and argument-proof. I don’t tell her she’s out of time, the beep of the timer does. If she is out of tickets, she doesn’t get to watch “just 5 more minutes.” I don’t have to explain myself over and over.

The only drawback is that I can’t use the Leapster or television as a convenient fallback when I could use an extra half hour to work on things. Before the ticketing system, I could just “forget” to tell her that she had watched enough television for the day and soak up that extra time. I wouldn’t trade it, though.

We’re sticking with this system for the foreseeable future. If you decide to use it, I hope it works this well for your family.


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