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We are not a “Screen-Free Family.” On good weeks we could be classified as a “Low-Screen Family.” Other weeks, our “monitoring” screen time has felt more like trying to count calories at an Italian buffet. If your family is “Screen-Free” . . . firstly, congratulations and keep doing what you are doing! Secondly, this post will probably not apply to you in the least. However, if you are like our family and trying to walk that tight-rope of “moderation” and not slip off into the buffet line that your kids are determined to veg out at (and not of the green leafy variety) than this post is for you.
The “SLIPPERY SLOPE” (life lesson from my Dad)
When I was growing up, my dad often defined a principal he called “the Slippery Slope.” He would launch into this monologue whenever we thought one of the house rules was a little too stringent, such as language choices (“shoot” is just one vowel away from appalling), or makeup (lip gloss today means red lipstick tomorrow), hem lines (give ’em an inch and they’ll take a mile), or swim suits (two pieces this year is sure to become three pieces next year). He would explain that one lax decision, or one poor choice, or one step into a questionable situation would inevitably lead to another choice, another step, and then another and another until suddenly you will find yourself hurling down a rocky bluff to your ultimate destruction. The Slippery Slope.
My siblings and I usually rolled our eyes and groaned at the onset of “The Slippery Slope” soliloquy. And then we became parents. My dad never told us that the entire journey of parenting would be one, giant, treacherous, rock-scramble of a Slippery Slope! I had to learn it for myself. And it started with Mac n’ Cheese.
About two years into parenting, I learned the hard way that allowing a treat “just for tonight” can quickly lead to an entire shelf in the pantry being designated for artificial powdered cheese crack. I learned it again with toys. Saying yes to one piece-of-plastic-junk can suddenly produce a living room that is more like a Toys R Us . . . with very little room for the “us.” And then I learned it yet again with that holy grail of slippery slopes . . . the BOOB TUBE.
When our son turned two we slowly started introducing him to some cute little TV shows and movies. Well, I’m not sure how it happened, but what started out as one or two little TV treats a week suddenly became an everyday block in our little love’s schedule. He counted on it. And what’s worse, we did too. At first I thought, well . . . what’s the harm? Then I noticed how our son wouldn’t blink for minutes at a time while he was watching TV. So freaky. Then, I started seeing behavior that I didn’t like. And to top it all off, I had this sinking feeling that no good would come of this.
At first, we just cut all screens cold turkey. Our son had never had access to handheld devices, so that part was easy. We also cut all movies and TV, which was necessary for a time, but we didn’t really want to be screen-free forever. My husband and I love watching movies together, and we love introducing our children to the beloved movies of our childhoods. That slope soon got slippery again, and after a while . . . we were right back where we started. So we permanently cut out TV . . . that is, cable or anything like it. After that, the television itself was moved down the hall and stored in the closet to be brought out especially for watching a movie together as a family or as a rare and special treat. All of these were great moves for our family. But as our son has gotten older, the slope of the Silver Screen has become more and more slippery. And our relationship with “screen monitoring” has gotten rockier.
“Can I watch a movie?” . . . the dreaded question. Just me? Nothing derails a Homeschool day like the simple, innocent question: “can I watch a movie?”
When my son first started asking this question, we tried a few different tactics:
1.) I tried fielding the request day to day. That was a disaster. Some days were an obvious “no” because he had watched a movie that morning or because we were going to be watching a family movie that night. But other days . . . “did he watch one yesterday? Has he been active enough today? Did we do enough activities? What is he going to want to watch? I do need to make that phone call. Oh gosh, I’m so tired.” The problem with fielding the “can I watch a movie” question on a daily basis is that we have too many other things to field as parents. And we’re tired. Our kids will take advantage of our physical or mental or emotional fragility. And we will give in. The decision really needs to be out of our hands.
2.) I tried scheduling “movie time” into his week. This worked great . . . for all of three weeks. Our son happily watched his two movies every Monday and Friday during the week. Then, the little scamp started asking me each morning upon waking “is it Monday? Is it Friday?” If the day was Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or even Saturday or Sunday, little stinker would slump his shoulders and groan. No-movie days were automatically bad days. Ok . . . scratch that idea.
3.) Then I tried Movie Tickets. About a year ago I started giving our son two movie tickets every Monday. He could use them any day during the week of his choice during specific windows during the school day. Once they were gone he would not get them back until the next Monday. This worked wonderfully. But there were still a few kinks. Firstly, he had too much freedom for what to watch, and secondly, he usually used both tickets before Tuesday had enjoyed it’s second cup of coffee. And lastly, and worst of all, the rest of the week was wished away just obsessing on the arrival of Monday. There was still more problem solving to be done.
Enter our Movie Ticket System.
~OUR PRINTABLE MOVIE TICKET SYSTEM~
About these Movie Tickets
I created this set of printable movie tickets to:
1.) Limit our son’s screen time with a set number of movie viewings per week
2.) Vary and enrich our son’s screen time by rotating four distinct movie tickets for: documentary, musical motion picture, classic literature film, and free choice movie
3.) To celebrate our son’s love of painting with customizable black and white vintage illustrations
Reasons we LOVE these Movie Tickets
- Vintage Black & White Illustrations provide child with the ability to color or paint these tickets, obtaining pride and ownership over a completely customized and uniquely-theirs product.
- Removes the Parent/Child Power Struggle: the system is in charge . . . the parent and child can put their gloves down.
- Eliminates “Quantity Wars”: no more arguments about how much screen time is too much
- Eliminates “Quality Wars”: never again will you have to try to convince your child to choose a movie or show that you believe to be of better quality than that trash TV show they love. This movie ticket system has a built-in rotation to enrich and vary your child’s screen time with no more coaxing from you!
- Eliminates Screen-Time Monitoring: once in place, you will never have to keep track of your child’s screen time again.
- Removes Self Doubt: “Should I let him watch that movie again? Has he watched too much TV this week? Am I being too strict?” Mama (or Papa), your brain needs a break!
- Eradicates Parent Guilt: Feel guilty when you tell your child they can’t watch a movie? Feel guilty when you tell them they can? This movie ticket system will kick screen-time guilt to the curb for good.
- Sweetens the Child’s Labor and the Fruit of that Labor: not only do these movie tickets make that mundane task your child loathes a little bit more palatable, but the satisfaction of receiving these tickets as remuneration for a job well done will make the reward that much more . . . rewarding.
- Empowers rather than Entitles: rather than doling out these movie tickets as a sort of entitled right, we practice empowerment with this system by honoring a child’s effort and attitude in a mundane chore or task, allowing the child some ownership, pride, and sense of satisfaction in their work.
Instructions + Extra Tips & Tricks
- Print Movie Tickets onto woven white cardstock for your child to color/paint, or print onto varied/marbled colored cardstock if your child does not wish to customize the movie tickets.
- Cut Out how many tickets you want to have in circulation. This number will vary family to family. Some families may opt for one movie ticket a weekday, others may want only one per week or weekend. We allow our son to earn up to three movie tickets in a week in addition to a family weekend movie for which we do not use a ticket. This ends up at about half the pediatrician recommended allowance of 10 hours per week for the above 2 age group.
- Anchor or Attach Movie Tickets to a task, chore, or expectation. What is the most difficult part of your day with your child? What task, chore, or expectation does your child struggle with? This is where you may want to employ these tickets. For example, your child may claim his or her movie ticket for the day once . . . the morning chores are completed (perhaps without having to be reminded to complete them), or homework has been completed, or his or her room is clean before dinner. For our son, he gets to claim his movie ticket three days a week after completing (with good effort and attitude) his Phonics flashcards and word ladders (his least favorite part of the school week).
- Designate a “BANK” and a “STASH”. Keep the to-be-given movie tickets in a “bank” that only you have access to. Instruct your child to choose a place to be his or her “stash.” Our son loves this. He “stashes” his unused movie tickets by his bed under a mat like buried treasure. Just make sure there is a set and separate location for the “bank” and “stash”.
- Keep Movie Tickets in constant rotation. In order to vary and enrich your child’s screen time, rather than just limit it . . . you will want to dole out the movie tickets in rotating order. That is, only every fourth movie ticket (if you choose to use all four we created) is a “Free Choice” (which will undoubtedly be your child’s most prized ticket. . . something about that “free” word). So keep the movie tickets in order with the front of your “bank” on the next-to-be-given. When your child cashes a movie ticket, just return it to it’s proper rotation. Example: documentary, musical, literature, free choice . . . repeat.
TIPS & TRICKS (get the most out of these Movie Tickets):
- Offer Concessions: If this deal needs a little more sweetening, consider including a special snack or treat with the “Admit One” value of each ticket. Better still, sweeten a less than favorite ticket (say . . . Documentary) with the best treat offering, such as a piece of candy to be enjoyed during the film. Example: popcorn for free choice, juice for musical, candy for documentary, hot chocolate for classic literature film.
- Use as Art Project: Allow your child to paint or color his or her movie tickets. This will get your child excited about the new system and establish some ownership.
- Attach/Anchor to a Chore or Task (see above: Reasons we LOVE this Movie Tickets)
- Use as Remuneration/Payment rather than Reward. Semantics? Perhaps. But you can shift your child’s perception with your vocabulary.
- Encourage “saving for a rainy day” such as a playdate or an actual rainy day.
- NO FREEBIES. Why will your child buy the cow if she can milk it for free? Only exception, at least for our family, is for family movie night which we do not use tickets for.
- NO IOU’S. Trust me. You will forget. Well. . . I did anyway.
- NO ADVANCE PAYMENTS. “I’ll do my chores later, mom, I promise! Can’t I watch the movie first? I’m tired.” No. Seriously, don’t do it. It’s a one-way ticket to failure.
- For a list of great MUSICALS for kids to watch, refer to my previous post: Musicals for all ages!
- For the “classical literature film” ticket, consider only allowing titles of books that have already been read independently, as a family, or as an audiobook.
Well, here they are!! Ready to print! If your family enjoys these tickets, please share them with a friend and leave me a comment with how you used them! And subscribe below for more Parent Printables!
Thanks for reading!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~