After my son started building his new game, several people approached us and asked how we did it.

It all started with the original card game project using Asian parenting 101 :

  • Psychological torture (you’ll grow up to be a dummy and all the kids from India and China will take all the jobs)
  • Blackmail (do XYZ or no more ABC)
  • Punishments (following through on the blackmail).

None of this worked and it was painful for all of us. From there we have come a long way and progressed to our current complicated system:

Screen Time and Work Tracker

Getting to this point where everyone is happy took a lot of fine tuning. We initially started with a simple system where any of his non-screen tasks (piano, learning a language, code, reading, homework – either from school or from us) counted towards screen time 1:1.

A few weeks later, we found our son learned to follow the letter of the law – doing almost nothing except reading to earn screen time. So we put a weekly maximum on the amount of screen time earned from reading. What this caused was screen time from reading to be exhausted during the week, which led to weekend battles about how he cannot manage so much of all the other stuff.

Our next strategy was to switch from a weekly maximum to a daily maximum for screen time earned from reading. This was better but still didn’t result in devoting much more time to anything else and while the weekend battles weren’t as bad, we still had them.

Then by a stroke of luck, Ahan came up with the concept for his game Blob Attack. At the same time we reduced the weekday reading maximum and upped his weekend reading maximum. The weekday reading maximum was exactly as long as his bus commute which freed up time in the evening to focus on the other activities.

Now we were getting close to an almost perfect system but piano was being ignored and learning another language didn’t seem to interest Ahan much. We dropped the language learning requirement and instituted weekly minimums on piano and code.

After that, the last bit that really made the system much smoother was carryovers. If weekly minimums are not met, the next week’s screen time does not start until previous week minimums are met. Also excess work done and not used up as screen time meant more screen time the following week.

The picture above represents a good week where he spend more than five hours coding (this was the week he implemented Boss Blobs and health). It also represents a week where he did not meet his piano minimum and had excess screen time to carry over into the next week. So the next day needed to account for 20 minutes of piano which he needed to both satisfy his minimum and account for his screen time overage. He woke up early and timed himself doing that!

Now I have this picture which is definitive proof for Ahan that screen time is really unlimited because he got 11 hours that week. That is not counting any educational tutorials. Those are free screen time. So to all of you that asked, hope this helps!

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