Dad Hack: This sneaky strategy gets kids to read more

Editor’s note: This week we welcome our new crew of TODAY Dads, who will be regular contributors to TODAY Parents. We'll introduce a new one each day with their best #DadHack, that time-saving trick or soul-saving strategy that makes parenting just a little bit easier. See all the Dad Hacks on this page!

Zane (8) and Atticus (11) Honea get a little bedtime reading in.

We take a lot of shortcuts, whether it’s in parenting or other things we do. That’s the royal “we” in that we all do it, and we either choose to flaunt it across Facebook and Instagram, or we bury it in the deepest caverns of our soul like the time the gas was out in our kitchen and I made grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron. We ate them, and we never spoke of it again. BUT WE SURVIVED.

These days my Dad Hacks are light on the starch and fill my status updates, because people love that stuff — or “like” it, one digital thumb at a time, and who doesn’t need virtual validation?

It was during a moment of deep reflection, one of those extra moments freed through inventive means, that I realized all of my hacks had been influenced by technology — the deliberate misuse of one gadget or another for the greater good. I couldn’t help but wonder if there were any unplugged options. Spoiler alert: There are.

Take our nightly routine. My desired goal is getting a good 30 minutes or more of reading from my two sons — something that is becoming more and more likely thanks to a little trick my wife and I have implemented. Is it dishonest? Maybe. It’s called the Bedtime Hack, and I’m totally going to copyright that.

Here’s how it works: the boys have been led to believe that their bedtime is 7:30 p.m. In reality, we are not really that concerned with what time they go to bed, as long as they get a good amount of sleep. They also don’t appear that concerned with what time they go to bed, as long as it is later than 7:30.

That works to our advantage. First, we enforce bedtime, and then we make a deal.

We tell the boys that they need to go to bed at the appointed time; however, they may stay up later should they care to read in bed. It works every single time.

It feels so sneaky when it’s written out like this.

It should be noted that the boys do enjoy reading, and the further they get into any story the more enthralled they become with it, and thus the prophecy fulfills itself — the children expand their vocabularies and imaginations while cherishing the pure giddiness of staying up late (8 p.m.-ish). They enjoy reading, but without our little bit of trickery they enjoy doing other things more, things that involve running, yelling, video games, and the making of messes. Reading is just so quiet.

And quiet sounds pretty amazing at 7:30 p.m., assuming you can hack it.

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Whit Honea is the author of The Parents’ Phrase Book and the websites Honea Express and Family Life on Earth. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, or the couch.