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How to Get Kids to Listen, Limit Electronics, and Get Ungrounded

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Getting kids to listen and follow directions is one of the hardest parts of parenting. But I have developed a behavior chart out called “The Penny Method” that works like a charm to get kids to listen, limits their electronics time, and allows me to get ungrounded.

Watch the Video: How to Get Kids to Listen and Limit Electronics



I used to struggle a lot with “Mom Guilt.”

I remember when I used to be a patient mom. I’d talk sweetly to my kids, I wouldn’t fuss at them, and I didn’t tell them to “go away” when they “interrupted” me.

But life had gotten sooo busy, and I started letting my kids watch more and more electronics, letting YouTube babysit the sweet boys that I should have been nurturing.

Instead, they’d get hours and hours of screen time, especially over this past summer. It’s a wonder their brains didn’t turn to mush! (Click here to see just how damaging excess screen time is for young kids!!).

And when they wouldn’t listen, my stress levels exploded, as did my voice.

I’m not proud to admit it. But at least I’m brave enough to take responsibility and “Mom” enough to know when it’s time to make a change.

I knew that we needed a major overhaul in this household, with lots of structure and guidelines, and it was going to be up to me to make it happen.

Plus, I missed seeing my little boys (ages 10, 6, and 4) being kids! Those days when they’d play nicely with each other, build LEGOS, and build forts from the sofa cushions. I didn’t want those days lost forever.

So I put my DIY skillz to good use with this DIY project.

Let me introduce you to The Penny Method. 🙂

Bye-bye, Mom Guilt! Hello, happy home!

How to Get Kids to Listen and Limit Their Electronics - The Penny Method - Thrift Diving

How to Get Kids to Listen (Plus, Limit their Electronics, and Unground Them)

I had downloaded this awesome checklist from COIT.com for parents to unground their kids (update: Feb 2019, I checked online for the checklist and it looks like COIT removed the checklist from their website, unfortunately!).

It reminded me of the behavior system I used to do with my boys a couple years ago called The Penny Method.

This checklist along with a recent conversation with a friend was just the catalysts I needed to start up The Penny Method again to get my kids to listen better, to limit their electronics, and to teach them about responsible (and may accountability, too?).

We needed some structure again!

(And I couldn’t stand the mom guilt of getting frustrated with my kids and plopping them in front of screens for hours!).


COIT Get Ungrounded


So here’s what you need to make your own Penny Board to get your kids to listen, to limit their electronics, and to get them ungrounded when they misbehave!

How the Penny Method Works!

Before I get into how to make a penny board and checklist, let me explain to you how The Penny Method works. Trust me–your kids won’t know what hit ’em!

  1. Give each kid 5 pennies every day to hang on the penny board.
  2. If they have good behavior–great! They get to keep their pennies all day. If they misbehave, don’t listen, hit their brother, etc., they lose a penny for each bad behavior.
  3. At the end of the day, they get to use their remaining pennies to “buy” electronics time. They can use a max of three pennies for 1 hour (essentially, 20 minutes for each penny).
  4. They may use 1-2 pennies per day for a special treat (lollipop or some other treat).
  5. If they want to save up their pennies for a special treat, like going to the movies or something, they can save them in the “Bank” section. But by saving up their pennies, that means they’d have to forego buying daily electronics time or treats. It’s up to them to keep their pennies and decide what to do with them. Pretty “tricky” parenting, huh? 😉


How to Get Kids to Listen Using the Penny Method - Thrift Diving


You could easily substitute the pennies for quarters, dimes, nickels–heck, even dollars, for older kids! But the pennies have always worked well for my kids and they’re familiar with using pennies.

But the concept is the same:

You must have good behavior in order to “buy” your favorite things and favorite activities. And if you choose to, you can save up your pennies in order to “buy” other favorite activities, like a trip to the movies, having friends over, etc. But by saving up your pennies, it means they may not be able to have their daily electronics time, etc. They have to “budget” how they spend their pennies. But watch out! They better have good behavior or else they can lose those pennies!


What Happens When They Lose Pennies?

Well….no pennies, no electronics.

No pennies, no treats.

No money, can’t buy nothin‘.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

Using the COIT checklist for “How to Get Ungrounded” the kids can check off chores on the list to earn back pennies!

One chore equals one penny earned back.

If your kid needs 3 pennies to play 1 hour of video games, well, then they’ll be cleaning toilets, taking out the trash, and whatever else on this cool checklist! 🙂


How to Get Kids to Listen Using the Penny Method - Earn your pennies back - Thrift Diving


The checklist has everything from bedroom chores….bathroom chores…and much more.

I’ve got mine framed and hanging under the penny board so the kids know that there are the things they may get the opportunity to pick from if they don’t have any pennies at the end of the day.

And you know kids…..they hate doing chores, for the most part! LOL

The most magical thing happens: they listen.

The system works, my friends!!

So now that you understand the concept, here’s how you make your own penny board for The Penny Method!


How to Get Kids to Listen Using the Penny Method - How to make a behavior chair - Thrift Diving


Go Grab These Materials

(I participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites).


First, create a similar “ungrounded” checklist like this:


How to Get Kids to Listen Using the Penny Method - Download the checklist


I had found a thrifted frame for a few bucks at my favorite thrift store.

My goal was to keep a clean copy in the frame. You’ve seen those Pinterest crafts where you can make an erase board from a picture frame, right?

(You can also use a thermal laminator so you can write on it and easily erase).


How to Get Kids to Listen Using the Penny Method - Thrift Diving Blog - 679


With the printable inside, I can use dry erase markers to check off the chores for kids to do.


How to Get Kids to Listen Using the Penny Method - Thrift Diving Blog - 762


Next, use the SPONTAN magnetic board from IKEA, or some other metal, and add your kids’ names to the top. You should also add a title called The Penny Board.

I added my own name because you know Mommies need structure and discipline, too, right?! 😉


How to Get Kids to Listen and Get Ungrounded - Create a behavior board that makes kids listen to earn rewards for good behavior. - Thrift Diving


Down the left side, add the following:

  • Earned
  • Spent
  • Lost
  • Bank

It should look similar to this:


How to Get Kids to Listen and Get Ungrounded - Use a magnetic behavior board. - Thrift Diving


How to Get Kids to Listen and Get Ungrounded - Use magnets on a magnetic behavior chart. - Thrift Diving


You’ll want to pull your glue gun out for this! 🙂

I didn’t want yucky old pennies, so I picked out the shiny, pretty ones from my money jar.

I know….I know….we shouldn’t “deface” our nation’s money, but for the sake of kids who listen, we can make this one exception, right?? 😉 Plus, if you pull hard enough, the glue will come off. No harm done.


How to Get Kids to Listen Using the Penny Method - Thrift Diving Blog - 692


I put a dab of hot glue on each magnet. But you have to make sure you glue the magnet on quickly or else the glue dries sooo fast! Then you’ll have lopsided magnet pennies. 🙂

Press it for a second and it should stick instantly!


How to Get Kids to Listen and Get Ungrounded - Glue small magnets on pennies for a magnetic behavior chart. - Thrift Diving


I did about 25 pennies since each kid will need 5. It’s good to have some extras on hand.


Glue small magnets on pennies - Thrift Diving


Using the washi tape, I created sections on the penny board.


How to Get Kids to Listen and Get Ungrounded - Use washi tape on a behavior chart. - Thrift Diving


With the sections, I can add pennies to each person’s section each morning (we just reuse the same pennies). Each day, move all the pennies get moved up to the “Earned” box (but you’ll need extras if your kid is saving up for something special in the “Bank”).


How to Get Kids to Listen and Get Ungrounded - Magnetic behavior chart for kids. - Thrift Diving


The morning I snapped this picture, you can see that one of my sons was already starting off on the wrong foot! :). He had started that morning off badly and hubby took away all of his pennies and wouldn’t let him earn them back!

The next day, my son learned that he better tread carefully, because those pennies are too precious to lose since they translate into electronics time, snacks, and whatever other treats he’s looking for!


How to Get Kids to Listen and Get Ungrounded - Magnetic behavior to help kids listen. - Thrift Diving


I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I feel now that we’re doing The Penny Method again (with a new and improved penny board!).

Now….I don’t just let my kids sit mindlessly on electronics. They can “buy” one hour, and then that’s it. The timer goes off and they’re done.

Now….I don’t have to scream and shout to get them to do what I ask. I simply ask….ask once more….then threaten to take a penny away. And boy, they move their butts fast!! 🙂

It’s amazing how just having a system in place makes everything parenting soooooo much easier (and it’s healthier for them, too!).


How to Get Kids to Listen and Get Ungrounded - Hang a magnetic behavior chart in your kitchen. - Thrift Diving


A Few Fun Ideas to Entertain Kids Without Money

And when you want your kids to have a little fun without electronics, here are a few quick ideas:

Fun Idea #1 – Play Mushroom With a Fitted Bed Sheet

Spread a bedsheet over your bed on laundry day and trap the air inside. Let kids jump on it. We made this game up and the kids love it!

How to Play Entertain Your Kids with a Fitted Bedsheet - Thrift Diving


Here’s a short clip of us playing “Mushroom.”

Fun Idea #2: Give them a roll of tape.

Kids are super creative. Give them a roll of tape and not only will they make new costumes, but they’ll entertain themselves. I also find that kids love junk drawers. Just make sure there isn’t anything unsafe in your junk drawer. 🙂


How to Play Entertain Your Kids with rolls of tape. - Thrift Diving

Fun Idea #3: Have fun with old CDs.

Music is digital now, right? CDs are obsolete. Why not give the kids a few CDs and let them make rainbows on the ceilings and walls?


How to Play Entertain Your Kids with making rainbows with CDs. - Thrift Diving


Do you have kids? How do you get your kids to listen? Do they spend too much time on electronics, too?


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  1. What is the spent row for?

  2. Such a clever idea. I’m sure lots of moms are going to be trying this out this summer. Thanks so much for sharing each week at #HomeMattersParty

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