Olympian Jared Ward stands in front of a sunset with his wife and four young children.

Guest Blog: Olympian Jared Ward shares "A Goal-Driven Approach to Screen Time"

Jared Ward is an Olympian, husband, and father of four. Now, he's sharing some parenting advice and inspiration with us!

A goal-driven approach to screen time.

Last week my 6-year-old daughter purchased a purple electric scooter. She had been saving for this scooter for four months when a used scooter for sale across town liberated her from what was likely another four months of saving. Ellie had totaled $108.85 doing chores — mostly for a quarter each — around the home. I remember one day she set the timer for 20 mins and scrubbed baseboards (she received a dollar for this one). After purchasing the scooter she came home and shared her new toy with her siblings, friends, and the whole neighborhood. This was a proud dad moment.

When I was Ellie’s age, my dad paid me a penny a minute to help out in the family ice business (half rate on deliveries because I was sitting in the truck half the time). I would keep track of my earnings on a pocket calendar and periodically redeem the totals for money from my dad. He would double the money if I invested it in the stock market, so that is where most of it went. Dad taught me the joys of delayed gratification (and the power of compound interest).

Working for my dad, I learned the intrinsic reward of saving for something and then being able to get it. Saving is a type of goal-setting activity, and (at least for me) served to help as a foundation for my belief that hard work paid off in the long run. For my daughter, I hope the experience of saving money for her scooter will translate to a realization that commitment and patience to goals can achieve similar, but often far more rewarding, successes.

But every child is different. My kids live in the moment, for the moment. There is power in this type of living, but goal-setting and delayed gratification seem to be tougher concepts. They’d rather watch their favorite movie and eat gummy bears. So their goals are different. But these children are very passionate, so my wife Erica and I help them identify goals around their interests — they just have to see that they can achieve something they really want. I watched one of my children who fits this category (my 4-year-old) climb 50+ feet to the top of a rock-climbing wall last week. When she realized she wanted to touch the top, there was no stopping her. These two children of mine seem less limited by anxieties, we just have to get them started.

Kids want to achieve. And while it’s easier to “manage” kids with TVs, tablets, etc., with a little thought and effort into how to nudge each child, they may surprise us with their results. Stephen Covey (author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) writes about how sometimes we suffer to give sufficient time to important things that aren’t urgent (think helping our kids learn the reward of goal setting), and that these important efforts are often the things that lose out to the urgent but not-important things in our lives (unimportant phone calls, having the house perfect for guests, etc.).

I advocate creating a goal-setting environment, where kids choose to leave the screens for the more rewarding opportunities of achievement. I’ve had the opportunity to win a number of races, and that is pretty fun. However, some of the greater joys I experience are nudging my kids in the right direction and letting them surprise me with the results.

*PRO tip*: Try modeling it.

- Jared Ward

Jared Ward's young daughter holding her wallet while sitting on her new scooter.