By Scott Alexander
Next we needed to firmly establish games as a privilege, not a right. For that we defined conditions that needed to be met without exception before a console got powered up. To be specific: clean bedrooms, made beds, and all chores done. It took exactly one time being denied interactive gratification for our usually organizationally challenged children to develop a fastidiousness we'd never seen before. (At least on weekends. Hey, it's a start.) Their swift response made something else abundantly clear. Video games gave us considerable clout as disciplinarians. The threat of no dessert lost its effectiveness by age 4, but the notion of losing their weekend video games got their attention in a big way -- and could be deployed at any time during the week.
This gaming thing was turning out to be a pretty good deal. We decided to press our luck. Could we use it as a carrot as well as a stick? Turns out, yes. Our next decree was strictly optional: We told the boys that any chores they did above and beyond their normal load would result in a one-to-one earning of video game time (capped at one extra hour). As a result we now have two boys who regularly ask if they can do some dusting, sweep the kitchen floor, or tidy up the backyard. This I could get used to.