In the world of behavior change, sometimes, specifying the behavior you’d like yourself or someone else to do helps them do it. It takes the vagueness out of the equation. Here is a prime example:

I sometimes work with busy moms who are business owners, job jugglers and all around bad ass women. They have a million things going on and can understandably, get overwhelmed. An issue I see come up over and over again is that these moms want kid-free time but they don’t want to park their kids in front of a screen.

I have a dear friend who spends a lot of time with her kids. She’s an amazing mom. She recently told me that she would love to get some extra time in her day to do things she can’t do when the kids are around. She doesn’t like it when they’re glued to their devices but agrees that sometimes it’s the easiest thing to do. It’s just so effective at keeping them occupied!

However, she cares about their development and well-being… minus hours of screen time. So, she came up with a list of electronics rules for each child and activities/chores they MUST complete before getting on any devices. I want to share this in the hopes that it could work for you or spark some ideas. Below is the list for her 11 yr. old daughter, Kate:

I love the last item on the list. Brilliant!

Each child (ages 11, 9 and 5) has their own separate list which is tailored for their age. Once she wrote out their lists, she sat down with them and asked if they wanted to negotiate anything. They changed one thing. That’s it! Once they all agreed, she said:

You are responsible for checking off this list each day. I trust that you will complete these before you get on any electronics.

She has a special place where she keeps the devices charged and gives them to her kids once they’ve completed their list. This takes the burden off of her to keep up with it, (because let’s face it, what mom has time for that?) and teaches the kid’s trust and responsibility. Of course, she’ll keep an eye on them to make sure they are sticking with it but in general, it’s THEIR responsibility.

She gave me an update recently and said it’s going swimmingly! Now that she’s not policing electronic time and constantly urging her kids to do their chores and other activities, she has more time in her day. The kids are also happily doing their list each day and sometimes go several days with no devices at all! 

Before I published this, she made sure to point out that most moms would love some down time, but in reality, they would use the extra time to get more things done. Cleaning, running errands, scheduling appointments, etc. The selflessness I witness among moms constantly amazes me.

I’m not a mom. I’m a step-mom for a few months a year and an aunt. However, as a former wellness coach, I know that in addition to creating more time to get things DONE, it’s just as important that we all have recharge time and spend time doing activities we love. The hard part is often giving ourselves permission to have that time and making it a priority. Here’s to keeping kids healthy and happy, and doing the same for ourselves.