Do you worry that your child watches too much television? Do you want to cut back, but dread life without it?
I happen to really like television. I don’t mind my kids watching it and I like to watch, too! But it can be a slippery slope. Before I know it, I am using TV as a way to mollify a cranky child, a way to ease out of nap time (because I love my kids, but it never fails to disappoint me when nap time ends), as a distraction while I’m on the phone, as a babysitter while I’m making dinner. The list goes on.
Half of the time, I don’t even want it on. I have just completely forgotten any other way to while away the time.
Call me selfish, but there is one single motivator for me to reduce my children’s tv time. It’s not because I worry about their development, or their activity level. (I said call me selfish). I worry that my kids watch too much tv when it stops working.
That’s right. There comes a point when the magic in television gets lost. You know how your kids look when they’re really enthralled with something digital? They become motionless. If you look really closely, you might be able to detect a little breathing. They become catatonic and beautifully quiet. But if they watch too much, it stops working! They are cranky, whiny, fighting children again! You’ve used up your last resource and you have nowhere to turn!
My #1 tip for reducing television time is to delay putting it on. Just don’t start the day with it. Don’t let it drag you down into the tv funk. Start the morning off with getting breakfast ready, dressing, making coffee (essential and non-negotiable), and talking. Let your kids find ways to amuse themselves–you’d be surprised at how quickly and easily they can do this within just a few days of less tv time.
- Tell them in advance: ”Starting tomorrow, we will not be putting the television on in the morning.”
- Keep morning activities consistent: ”While we wake up and get ready for the day, you can read books, play with play-doh or color.”
- Put music on: Music is a great replacement for television. It doesn’t have to be kid music either. They can learn to deal with some grown-up music, too.
- Schedule TV time: Now I designate an hour in the late morning for educational tv time. (Usually Sesame Street). I use that hour for writing, or dressing, or getting a head start on chores. I don’t feel guilty because at the end of that hour, the tv goes off.
- Keep the 2 hour rule in mind: The AAP recommends no more than 2 hours of tv daily. I now look at that as much budget. If an hour was spent watching educational tv, I use the additional hour (in 30 minute increments) to break up my afternoon and I let my kids each pick a show.