Encouraging kids to complete chores by paying them with screen-time tokens


Or encouraging kids to learn counterfeiting skills; either way.

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Maybe this approach is a little more modern than the “you have 10 seconds to turn that game off or you lose it for a week” lines I got as a kid, but seems like it comes with the downside of teaching kids that literally everything has a price associated with it.

Which might be technically true, but I’m not convinced it’s something I’d want any kids of mine to meter their day by.

I love the idea of gamifying (talk about a weird word) things for kids. Maybe I’m an optimist, but I think most kids want to be “good,” but they are kids and so don’t really understand abstract or vague concepts well. Heck, when I was around 6 or 7, I really wanted an NES, but we didn’t have a lot of money. So I started saving my allowance, and my parents said “if you save up, you can buy one.” $5 or so a week took me a pretty long time to save up, but I did it and bought the thing cash. Actually having the money accumulate taught me a lot about money – I can’t say that the experience taught me everything, but it was positive and tangible and I realized what $107 actually meant.

I don’t know about “screen time” as a reward, since it seems that all this kid wants to do is watch television, but whatever.

I hate this idea.

I don’t think that allowances, deserts, computer time or whatever should be portrayed as payment for services. They’re things which kids should get because they’re a contributing member of the household.

The big problem is that if these things are payment, then if they get an outside job or decide that they don’t need allowance (or game time) this week then they just stop contributing. As “eggy toast” implied, once you make a game of the system then the kids will try to game the system. Which is definitely not what you want.


I think if a child is smart enough to game the system, the parent should be able to recognize that and make the appropriate adjustments. A child old enough to get an outside job is probably far too old to give a crap about hand-drawn tokens, but is also smart enough to better understand vague concepts like “responsibility.”

Child development has been well researched enough to show that children at age 4 view the world largely centered around themselves (very “me” oriented) but in just two short years recognizes that others experience emotions the same way that they do. As they continue to age, they can be brought up in a family and taught about responsibility without the requirement to use games or tricks – I think that’s pretty normal for any family, but perhaps I have my own biases.


I agree that kids respond well to reward systems, but also agree that basing your entire relationship on “here’s a scooby snack” isn’t really the worldview I want to promote. A happy medium of the two is recommended.

However, rewarding kids with the prize of staring at a tv screen for longer hours is a pretty terrible idea, unless the context is these kids don’t watch TV or use computers at all, except for these time tokens. The last thing kids need is more time in front of these damn machines (like the one I’m using right now.)


So can we assume that the mother never makes anyone wait 5 minutes while she finishes up something, and never spends more than 3 and a half hours on her computer per week? I’m all for encouraging kids to do their chores and not procrastinate, but really, you can’t wait 5 minutes? Even kids are sometimes in the middle of something- can you imagine treating an adult that way? Then again, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that someone who wants to hand out “love tokens” to her husband might tend to be a bit controlling of those around her.

My strategy is to do chores with your kids, and show that you’re not just unloading chores on them because you can’t be bothered to do it yourself. My four year old helps with the washing up, cleaning, cooking, clothes washing and bed making and I don’t even give him a regular allowance yet. He seems to enjoy having some responsibility and respect for doing some of the same things I do (and now he gets upset if I don’t let him help with the cooking).


I don’t think that allowances, deserts, computer time or whatever should be portrayed as payment for services. They’re things which kids should get because they’re a contributing member of the household.

I would take this further: they are things that kids should get because they deserve to have fun, to enjoy food like the adults do and deserve to learn about buying power and discipline by spending/saving money. Bribing people to do things conveys the message that these things are not worth doing without bribes.

A proper response to bribes would be “Why should I unload the dishwasher for free, am I crazy? What’s in it for ME?” which is exactly the opposite to the intention of having the child act as a part of the family team.

Check out Alfie Kohn’s “Punished by Rewards” for an extensive list of research showing that bribes and punishment are counterproductive at best.


Giving people (and kids) time to transition out of their activity is only respectful and a good way to teach respect. Bribing them to drop what they are doing and obey immediately is… weird.

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My parents tried this! Good luck! :smile:

I can’t believe that this is reality for someone. Though sexist as reality may be; Yes is yes. No is no. Chores are not made to do anything but help a family survive. Teaching your children that you get a reward for something that is a reward in itself is so depressing.

It scares me to know end, yes I said it that way on purpose, the thought parents have to resort to bribery to get something they want out of a child. Tell the father to get some balls and parent his child.

Also, for those of you who think that it is unfair to tell a kid a time limit for anything because it teaches them that parents don’t respect them is ridiculous. It is an inanimate object. It means nothing. If your child has an emotional attachment to an inanimate object beyond the age of reason you have more serious problems than simple behavioral issues.

You are human beings, maybe go for a walk and talk to your child or teach them how to make dinner - how to survive in the real world?

Maybe this is why our culture expects everything, because the parents are teaching them you maybe, can, have everything? Lets go to Disneyland, where we can all pretend qualitative easing and pumping 1 Trillion dollars (out of thin air) / year into the system will work… Yipeee!!! | What a joke; we are the zombies.

Dont get me wrong fun should be fun. Go have fun; Let it be fun.

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So if you can only get it from Mom and you can only spend it at Mom’s, doesn’t that make it scrip? Will they have to sleep in the millhouse next? You load 16 tons and this is what you get?


My kids would hack that system within days.

I refuse to reward participation in family life with cash or reward tokens. Helping - ‘doing your job’ is part of being in a family. Getting an allowance is part of being a kid and learning about money. Linking the two is only going to lead to trouble - though if the kid refuses to do his job I might not be too motivated to take money out of the bank for him.

And I really dislike the current parenting thing about ‘screentime’. I don’t love the kids watching TV for 10 hours, but I don’t much mind them playing games or otherwise exploring the computers for part of the day. They tend to get tired of it and move onto other things of their own accord - unless we make it into a totemic prize.

We do have times of the day when nobody (even adults) just don’t go on screens, so we can all connect. Mornings before school, dinner time, after dinner. But honestly, I remember getting up early to watch cartoons on Saturdays, I have no issue if my kids get up and play minecraft or whatever for awhile. Ditto after school - when I come home from work the last thing I want to do is work on something else. If it is nice out they will get kicked outside eventually, but sheesh, so many parents are completely caught up in handwringing about screen time.

These kids will be spending most of their adult lives engaging with technology on some level, why wouldn’t we let them explore it when they are interested?


That’s easy: Clean cutlery and dishes.

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Lol - I came up with basically the same system to use on myself, having realized I’d become too much of a couch potato. I have a piggy bank full of quarters, so I just use those instead of tokens. If I want to watch TV an/or have a cocktail, I gotta earn the quarters to cover that by doing chores or errands, exercising, practicing music, processing email, etc. I still watch maybe too much TV, but now at least I’m getting stuff done that had been hard to get around to in the past.

This works on younger kids that don’t yet understand why they should be doing something. And it only works for a short time. As someone said there is a time when everything needs to be about them, so doing something for “payment” or “privileges” instantly makes it about them and they’re more willing to do the task.

You want to talk about a game, parenting is a game. A constantly changing difficulty game where the AI behavior is randomly generated daily, and sometimes hourly. And even your own controls can change often.

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That works great, because its your own motivational system, and your own way of keeping yourself in check. You created it because you know that doing chores is worth doing because they need to be done.

This system, on the other hand, may teach kids that doing chores is only worth doing if they get rewarded.

Ugh. I hate this sort of thing. I don’t support systems that bribe kids to participate in what should simply be a part of family life. I don’t agree that screen time should be a reward. Kids should decide what is fun and valuable to them and then get time to do that just because. And finally, I don’t like that she hinges the reward on the child doing whatever she wants “now”. It shows a real lack of respect for whatever that child might be doing in that moment, as if it is less valuable that the adults time. In fact, I’m pretty sure that mom has at some point asked her kids to wait 5 minutes, so why couldn’t she?

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