Friday, April 10, 2009

TV or not TV?

Want to start a mommy debate quickly? Ask them about TV. Do they let their kids watch it? How much? What guidelines do they have? The answers will range from the wide eyed, 'Well golly, we don't even own a TV' to the defensive, 'Well, only educational shows, on PBS of course' to the nervous, 'Well, we do keep the TV on all day, but it's not like we're watching it or anything, the kids just kinda play and if it captures them they'll watch and then they will play again.' Over and over again you will hear parents deny how much TV their children actually watch.

TV is a huge industry and it caters to our little ones. Programming starts geared from age 0 and the toys and books accompany it. Characters are on everything from their toothbrushes to their placemats to birthday party themes.

I'm okay with TV. I know I can hear your gasp of horror as you read. What? A mother actually admitting that they are okay with it? Please draw your breath of inner relief here. Yes, I am. I fully admit that my kids watch TV. No, it isn't on all day. And it isn't neccessarily on every day. But they do watch. Some days are better than others.

We all agree (in theory anyway), that TV isn't great for kids. Too much TV really isn't great for kids. They become more sedentary. They have shorter attention spans. It affects their brain development. I agree.

I've battled the TV battle since my first son was about 18 months. It was at 18 months when I started to notice that he was watching what I was watching. He was fascinated by Dr. Phil. And that made me wonder. What exactly is he watching and taking in. I know he's just little, but he isn't deaf. He can hear and understand tone and people arguing (even if it is on TV) is not a sound that I want him to hear.
So I did go and look out for something that would be more appropriate for him. That was the beginning. I did buy him a couple of toddler geared DVDs. He loved them.

Over time the DVD collection started to grow. It has grown so much that I wonder who has more DVDs, the kids or us? And we've battled our standards and living out our standards for TV viewing with the kids. We know that we don't want our kids watching TV all the time, but living it is a different thing completely. I will admit that there has been times when the TV has been on most of the day. A long, cold Canadian winter will do that. But we have refined our plan once again. We're now living out what I think is a pretty good TV to life ratio.

During the weekdays, I will put on one show each for the kids, usually when I'm making supper. That's it. On Saturdays we will watch a little more, usually allowing ourselves to laze about in jammies before getting on with the day. When we first decided to do this, we deliberately stopped turning the TV on in the morning. I had been finding that on their daycare days, I was in a mad panic to get them ready and out of the house on time, especially my oldest who didn't want to leave in the middle of his show. On days that they were home with dad, we had been putting the TV on first thing and it stayed on until the kids programming was over for the morning. We decided that enough was enough. We want their childhood memories to be more about time spent together rather than what so and so on their TV show lived out. Now, we are more deliberate. On daycare mornings the TV doesn't go on at all (yes there was a fuss about this at first, but now it's not a big deal). We're getting ready and out of the house on time and the morning routine is a lot more relaxed. On their days home with dad, after breakfast the TV does not go on, they just go and play. They have a great time. They are spending more time together, being creative and they seem happier for it. In fact one of the funniest things to me is the fact that one of my son's consequences for misbehaviou recently was having his DVDs put away. He's hardly noticed. In fact it's been 3 weeks now and he still hasn't asked for them back. I guess I need to find a new, more relavant consequence!

So no, I'm not going to be the parent that sits back and judges you for letting your kids watch TV. There is a way it can be done without it taking over yours and their lives. So relax. Take the time to decide how much is enough for you. When and what is okay? Make a plan and live it out. I totally empathize with the immediate battles you will face during your plan of action (kids will be loud about it, but you can be firm about it). But that too shall pass. Have fun and enjoy life together.

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