Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Operation No TV

In our house, we have new rules that are actually old rules. No more TV on school days.

When we first had Matthew I lived and died by the TV until that fateful morning as I sat nursing my tiny baby after having propped him up in front of Sesame Street in his bouncer to get some breakfast for myself. I did this with stealth and guilt. Why? Before I ever had Matthew I promised I would not let my kids watch TV unless it was under my supervision (obviously until a certain age... I am not THAT crazy.)

Stupid Katie Couric came on with a report that morning about how kids under the age of 1 should not watch ANY TV at all. And TV for kids under the age of two should be extremely limited. Some of the reasons they gave at the time have not been proven - like TV is linked to autism. Supposedly at this time there is no proof of that.

BUT the guilt. I mean what I was doing went against what I essentially promised myself. That day I shut off the TV and it ceased to exist for the most part. I started to notice how Matthew's eyes would be drawn to the TV every moment it was on and how disengaged he was from me and our play. The first week of NO TV when Matthew was around was tough on all of us. I sat there wondering what the hell would I do with the hours at home with this tiny baby.

It turns out there was tons to do with Matthew. I got out of the house more, I found new ways to entertain Matthew and myself. We listened to tons of crazy music from hip hop to classical to opera to jazz. We danced, I sang, we did tummy time every two minutes. We rocked, we napped and we did it all. I soon lost the lust for day time TV. I was over it. Through the first year of Matthew's life the TV was never on during his waking hours. I stopped nursing in front of the TV and started nursing in his room. I read A LOT when we nursed. It was truly amazing for me to see our lives without TV when prior to that I thought I could not live without it.

Let's step back here a second. I virtually did not have TV as a kid. That is where some of my beliefs about TV come from. We had a TV with some bunny ears and we had about 6 stations. If you played with the bunny ears you get two more very fuzzy stations. I did watch TV from time to time like Mister Rogers and Sesame Street but mostly I played outside or with my toys. We did art projects & visited friends. The TV was barely on. And if it was, it was usually short lived because there were fewer shows to choose from. My mom just did not allow the TV to be on 24/7 especially when I was younger.

I LOVE TV. As an adult, I have a serious addiction to it. I could tell you 50 shows I love or have loved both as a young adult and an adult.

So for me, it is hard to say 'you cannot watch TV' to my son. It is like a double negative - I am a hypocrite.

The truth is the TV occupies Matthew so we can get ready in the morning without tears or fights. We just set him in front of the TV and we are off to do what we want without interruption. It started out as a once in a while thing. If we did not have the time to fight him about getting dressed or we were tired. One show - 30 minutes, our choosing. Then it blossomed into two 30 minute shows of his choosing. More recently it was movies on DVD. And the TV seemed to occupy his every thought. "Can we watch TV? Is Bobby on right now? Daddy turn off the TV! I bet so & so is watching TV right now." Morning, noon and night we were fielding this questions.

The first words out of his mouth after getting up and going to bathroom were "I go watch TV now." He knew the drill. Then, getting him dressed even with the TV became increasingly difficult with treats that we would turn it off if he did not get dressed and we were still dressing him entirely without help from him - his eyes would be glued. Mostly recently turning it off was becoming difficult. There was weeping-sobbing-anger thrown at us. He would yell and kick and scream. It just got to the point where Kevin & I looked at one another and said 'something has to give'.

SO we went back to no TV. We are trying "new" things to start our day: art projects in the morning before school. And getting him to help with his breakfast. Yesterday went swimmingly. Today there was a major tantrum. I am sure this is going to be tough. Isn't it always harder to break a bad habit then develop a good one? We told him he can watch once show each weekend day. That is it. He is not happy about this development.

I can hear him in therapist's chair now - "...and then they made me STOP watching Bobbbbbbbbbbeeee..." sob sob sob. Whatev. I know a lot of kids who were or are only allowed
to watch TV on weekends and why not start now so I do not need to do battle with a preteen. Discipline! I will let you know how it goes...


Melissa said...

Sounds like our house. :-)

We've recently been limiting TV time as well. L was getting WAY to dependent on it and VERY demanding about it. We don't turn it on in the mornings anymore. We do let her watch one show when we get home in the evenings. It helps her to unwind and let's us cook dinner. We give her warnings all through the show that we'll be turning it off when the show is over. Sometimes she flips but she has been getting a little better lately. During the week the TV isn't on much while she's awake. We tend to let her watch a movie once on the weekends and maybe another show if we get stuff done. I do like your idea of other activities like art projects, etc. I don't mind if she watches a little TV but I do not like the battle that goes along with turning it off. Drives me nuts!

Welcome to our World said...

Yes, I think that is mostly what it is for me. I am not opposed to TV per say. It is the battle that goes with it. It used to be no big deal but my goodness it has been a fight lately.

I am glad to hear that someone else is going through something similar. Makes me feel less hard core or whatever about TV. I am sure like many parents we tend to think only my child does this so for me it is a good thing to know there are other kids struggling with this!

Pickles & Dimes said...

I don't have kids, but we have a "no TV night" every Wednesday in our house. We eat at the dinner table for once, then play cribbage in the living room. When we're done doing that, Jason reads and I either knit or read. It's so peaceful and I love the quietness in my head during those times.

My godson is so into TV and DVDs and while it's amazing to see him work the remotes, it's kind of weird to hear him ask Daddy to "zap the commercials, Daddy!" when regular live TV is on.

Also, we tried to tell him how lucky he is to have Tivo, because "back in our day, we had to wait a WEEK to see our favorite show. There was no 24/7 Spongebob!" He didn't care. :)