Your kids don’t want to watch TV – they want to work! – Yu-kai Chou: Gamification & Behavioral Design


On Sunday morning, my family got together at my mom’s house to eat brunch. My dad and brother brought steaks, my mom made some scrambled eggs and waffles, and my wife made her famous roasted potatoes and avocado toast. Each family member planned to contribute to the brunch.

My kids on the other hand were goofing off in the living room while the prep work for cooking was taking place.

My 5yo approached me, “Papi, can I watch silly Muppet Babies?”

“Hah!” I laughed. “Now is not the time for TV. Now is the time to make brunch! Look how everyone is contributing to the family brunch. Grab your sister and let’s get to work.”

Eagerly, the 5yo grabbed the 3yo and came to the prep table. I assigned them the following tasks:

Mixing the waffle mix
3yo cooking eggs
5yo cooking eggs

T = Togetherness!

In Michaeleen Doucleff’s book, Hunt, Gather, Parent, she creates the TEAM framework. The “T” in TEAM stands for “Together”.

As parents, we often feel that we need to encourage our children to do things alone or independently. For example, when they need to clean up their toys in the living room, we tell them to go do it by themselves.

If they don’t do it, then we threaten to throw their toys away. We do this as a way for them to learn responsibility.

But kids need encouragement as opposed to punishment. Kids learn by our example; if we’re there with them cleaning up their toys, then they feel like they’re a part of a team. By doing it together, we teach our children to clean up not through fear and threats, but by leading by example and showing them that we expect them to contribute to the family.

Set the right expectations

When we teach our children through threats, then the expectation is “do this or else!” Let me ask you, what happens if you’re not there to enforce the rules?

If your child is home by themselves, will they clean up if you’re not there to tell them what to do and to enforce the punishment?

Instead, if you’ve taught your child that we all have our place and responsibilities in the household, then your child cleans up not because they’re afraid of the punishment, but because it’s the right thing to do to contribute to the family.

It’s not our job to entertain our children

Our job is to teach our children.

When you’re doing a family activity, make sure to involve them. Yes, I know that involving them in making eggs or waffles makes things messy and the food won’t come out perfect, but the experience for them is so valuable.

In the GRACE Framework, by involving your kids in your family activities, you’re giving them Responsibility and building their Confidence.

And of course, kids do deserve the simple pleasures in life. Here are my 5yo and 3yo sitting together, enjoying the eggs that they made and Muppet Babies.

This article was written by Jun Loayza, creator of the Dad Smarter Not Harder podcast. Jun and Yu-kai work together on Metablox and Octalysis Prime.

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