09/15/2013 10:03 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Trick That Keeps My Kids Away From TV

In our house, we barely have time to breathe, let alone watch hours upon hours of TV. My children, Catcher and Louisiana, love them some TV. They are especially prone to crappy (but harmless) Disney shows and "smart shows," a.k.a. nature/history/documentaries. If I let them, they would have spent the summer watching the same episodes of Jessie and Shark Week shows on an endless loop.

But I don't let them because I love them.

I know that too much screen time can turn kids into overweight zombies, and as a mom and a human, I am not OK with that.

Managing screen time gets a little tougher as my children get older because they are aware of how many GLORIOUS (not) options they have whether it be TV, Wii, Nintendo DS or our boring, "old-fashioned" computer that has learning games.

In our house, screen time is limited to 30 minutes per weekday, no matter what. We've recently implemented a ticket system. Each week, they get seven tickets. Each ticket represents 30 minutes of screen time. The minis write their names on them and they go in a jar. Throughout the week, they can lose tickets for things like arguing in the car (a favorite of theirs), being mean to each other, not listening to mom or dad or many other common misbehaviors that come so easily to a 5- and 8-year-old. They can also win tickets by helping around the house. Louisiana earned a ticket yesterday because she cleaned their entire bathroom almost all by herself! Throughout the week, they can only use one ticket per day after their homework is finished. If they want to use more than one at a time, it must be on the weekends, and they can use no more than three at a time.

So far, this system is working well for our family. Most of the time, the kids forgot about using tickets. School started this week and they both have six tickets left. Our daughter is going crazy trying to earn more by helping me around the house (bonus!) and our son is "saving up" to play "Skylanders" this weekend. It works for me as well because I prefer music as the soundtrack of our home as opposed to bad reality TV blaring throughout its halls. The ticket system allows my kids to have a healthy understanding of limitations, hard work and payoff for their efforts.