The Momentum Optimization Project List: They’re Rules, Not Guidelines.

Make a list, and check it twiceHere’s the rules we use:  (not guidelines!):


  • You have read real text (not comics) for at least 25 minutes
  • All your homework is done (one item may wait until morning with approval from Mom/Dad)
  • You have marked the calendar with any upcoming tests or deadlines, and made an appointment to study with Mom/Dad
  • You have done something creative, active, or productive for at least 45 minutes
  • Your bed is made and your room is tidy
  • You have done at least one chore (see chore list below)

And here’s the chore list:

  • Clean a bathroom (completely)
  • Brush Sparky
  • Clean out Ron’s cage
  • Do your laundry (wash/fold/put away)
  • Quick yard clean up: poop patrol and pick up any litter
  • Clean your room (really clean it: dust/vacuum)
  • Change and wash your sheets
  • Tidy up the Room of Requirement
  • Do the dusting: At least two rooms
  • Pickup boogie: Go through every room in the house and find everything that belongs to you that is out of place and put it away (shoes? books? coats).
  • Purging boogie: Find five to ten things (clothes, books, whatever) that belong to you but which you do not want or cannot use anymore; throw them away or put them in the donate box
  • Put away or load up dishes in the dishwasher
  • Do the food shopping with Mom
  • Do errands with Mom



49 thoughts on “The Momentum Optimization Project List: They’re Rules, Not Guidelines.

    • Wow…this is brilliant!!! Plan on incorporating in baby steps (seeing as right now, well let’s just say my 6&10 year olds don’t do much aside from school & screens!)…thanx!!!

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    • Angela I too have problems with that…we have tried hiding their devices until they can show what they have done…labor intensive for us….

      • We have a no sneaking policy. I mean, if I’m just not paying attention, and say, my daughter picks up her ipad and I don’t correct her, I let it slide…. But if I catch her with it after I’ve given her the warning, she loses is for an extended period of time. I can’t say how long, because I’ve never had to go quite that draconian. Once they get a warning they know we’re serious.

  4. I just read this article twice and wrote down all the information I will need. My daughter is only so we will have to do lots of adjusting over the years but I feel like this is something that can be successful even now! Thanks for sharing your life with us!

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    • Heh. It’s the basement–which in our house serves as the gaming/music/movie watching area. It’s named after the magical secret space in Harry Potter, that changes to suit the purposes of the user and disappears when it is unneeded.

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    • MIne were, I guess, about 9 and 12 when I started. I’d been doing it for a little less than a year when I wrote this post. I guess if they were smaller I’d have had different chores.

    • It was mostly stuff we were trying to get them to do already; it’s not like we suddenly sprung a list of chores on them. I had been trying to get them to clean the bathroom once a week for a long while. They’d done it here and there, but it took a lot of prodding and supervision.

  8. We have boys ages 2, 6, and 9. I don’t think my two year old should have access to unlimited screens, but this would work for the other kids. Suggestions for how to make this work with a toddler in the house?

    • Yeah, I don’t think you want to offer unlimited screen time to a two year old–probably not even a six year old! I don’t know that this would work for a kid that small–mine were about 9 and 12 when I started.

  9. Love this, but what I really need to know is more about what you call your Room of Requirement. I understand it in the Hogswartsian sense, but what/where is it at your house?

  10. I see this post is from a year ago. Do your kids still follow this screen time rule? Also, do you change your list of rules during the summer?

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  13. Hi!

    Last day of school (ok 1/2 day =3 hrs) in Virginia! I loved your explanation of how to clean the bathroom. Do you have one for their bedroom? I can’t tell you how many times I get it is done but it isn’t. Any for Family room or kitchen?

    They are rising 2nd, 4th, 4th and 6th graders so (7, 8,8 almost 9 and 11 year olds.

    Lastly, do you have an electronics contract with your oldest? What does it cover? App, hours of use, acceptable use, etc? Thanks Kristin

    • I have a basic list posted for keeping the bedroom tidy, as well as the one for the bathroom. Not for cleaning other rooms–I don’t want to overrun the kids with lists while they are still building habits. We’ve never done any sort of contract regarding computer time. We just keep the machines in a shared space, and keep an eye on them. My oldest is 15 now, too old for me to be policing what he does online. His time on the machine is his own, as long as he does his homework and chores first.

      • Makes sense, thank you! Would you share the basic list for their bedroom. I feel like I need to be in there or they get overwhelmed. Just that area would elevate much of my stress!!!!!

      • Hi: the basic list is included in this post:

        That’s the basic minimum, and it’s a pretty low bar (and I’m not very strict about enforcing the “clear surfaces” rule–there’s always crap piled on their dressers, but you know, my dresser is the same). I also make them do a weekly cleaning–not much more, but they have to do their laundry and have the floor “vacuum ready” so I could go in and vacuum without having to pick anything up first. But at this point, they’re actually doing the vacuuming themselves, too.

      • I love this idea…but I have to say I totally disagree with your comment about policing what a 15 yr old does online. There is a whole lot of BAD stuff out there and kids get introduced to it very easily, whether by accident or school friends or purposely. I forget the statistic but there is a very high percentage of kids who have viewed pornography by the time they are 16 yo. I hope you have good filtering software!

  14. I read this post about a month ago and it so resonated with me. I’m so tired of telling and arguing about screen time. I have a 5yo who really doesn’t do much screen time. She’s a creative kid who is happy to play for hours but with the 7.5 and 10 year old are around, they all want to and it drives me nutty. So after reading we started the next day. I didn’t read your original list, so I think we’ve been a bit stricter, but it’s been miraculous. My kids get up early so they can start the chores. They love checking off the boxes. I also added in “fun” chores like read 1h (that’s fun for my kids) and make a craft, go practice your instrument, play a family game. They understand the list is subject to change weekly and I’ve been adding more complex tasks as they learn the basics. The morning I was in the bathroom and my son was on the floor I asked what are you doing: taking out the trash mom, duh. Carry on kiddo. Thanks so much for the inspiration!!!! I will say my 5yo need extra help. I really just want her to brush her teeth and get dressed. If we get that much plus the “fun” chores the rest is cake!!!

  15. Since you let them select one chore to do, what happens with the rest–such as if no one picks to do the laundry or clean the bathroom all week? Do parents pick up the slack?

  16. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for to reduce screen time with my 15, 12, & 10 year old kiddos.

  17. My husband and I actually love this idea. We are going to make time to meet and get our MOP Control Center ready for implementation the week before school starts. We have 2 boys, 1 starting jr. high and the other starting high school this year. Can’t think of a better time to get this going. Thank you!!

  18. Love your posts and this list / philosophy. I found your blog while searching on the topic to make sure I wasn’t too ogreish (?) a parent when it came to media access.

    We tend to be on the lower end of the screen time spectrum, and I’ve even thought of opening up the time allowance for our kids a bit more. But, with the advent of our 12 year old son getting enough money to buy an iPod touch and his subsequent transformation into a boy with chronic flickering of the eyeballs, I am teeter-tottering over to an unplug-everything-and-run-off-to-live-in the-woods philosophy. (Which will be hard on my career as an IT pro.)

    • It is really hard telling them to lay off the screens when you are kind of on a screen for a living, isn’t it? I try to lay some of the same ground rules with myself for the kids, at least during non-work hours. My phone goes on DND at 8:30 pm (and I’m contemplating making it earlier), no devices at the dinner table ever, and I’m not allowed to do any social networking /blogging/internet time wasting until after MY chores are done!

  19. I’ve been using your “no glowing screens” system for 1 month now with my 10 year old twins. It really works!!! They check the list and actually get things done. They remind and motivate each other to do everything on the checklist. The beauty of it is that they feel like they are “in control” with the idea of unlimited screen time as the final reward. But they get so involved in the reading and then playing that it’s often not until the end of the day that they get the screen time and they’re fine with that. Thank you so much for sharing this idea!

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