Radical Changes

I've been pondering lately how to truly change habits. It seems like it is so hard to do, even when I have good reasons for change. For example, we generally have a pretty healthy diet but I've been wanting to change a few things about it. And yet, every time I go to the grocery store I still buy the same things. One of these days I'll get around to posting about the food issue; that's not really what's on my mind now.

I've been thinking about our upcoming summer vacation and how I can make it pleasant for everyone in the family. S-Boogie loves school and I think she's going to have a hard time without it. I believe in time for free play and the positive value of boredom, but I'm also trying to come up with a bit of schedule for our days so we aren't always sitting around the house driving each other nuts. The other day I was thinking about television time and how to manage it when the thought came to me "just don't have it at all." No television for the kids all summer? Am I crazy?
Before S-Boogie was born I was determined that my kids would not ever watch television. My family didn't have a TV until I was about eight. But we had a large yard and I had two siblings close in age that I could play with. And my parents were not both in school. I did keep S-Boogie away from the television until she was about one year old, but then I started letting her watch Signing Time. That was usually the only thing she watched for the next year, and I actually don't regret it. It's a fairly short program and it does a great job teaching signs. Then she started getting really sick and we discovered that one of the few ways to entertain a hospitalized toddler, or a toddler using a nebulizer, was television. So she started watching more. Then I had Little Dude and we really get into the TV habit during my first few months of recovery. Now when I think about it we probably could have come up with alternatives to TV in all these situations, but I didn't. Oh well. I've still generally been good about limiting their time to about two hours a day and making sure they only watch kid-friendly shows (like Dora, Backyardigans, Arthur, Super Why, etc).

The problem is that the TV regulating has gotten much more difficult as the kids have gotten older. Actually, Little Dude still doesn't like watching it very much and will often get bored after twenty minutes or so. Sometimes I actually beg him to watch something so I can take a shower without worrying that he'll tear down the house (it doesn't always work). S-Boogie, on the other hand, is pretty attached to television. One Sunday a few weeks ago, when the parents were feeling too tired to enforce the rules, she sat and watched it for five hours straight. It makes her cranky when she watches that much TV, plus it's such a big deal to her that we spend lots of time negotiating when and how much she can watch. Generally she doesn't get to watch any on school days, but some times I give in.

I had been thinking of various ways to have her earn TV time during the summer but really wasn't coming up with anything good. So the thought of just not making it an issue at all really appeals to me. It also scares me because it means more work for me as a mom. I can't just say 'go away and watch the TV', which is a habit I've developed as well. It would mean a lot of changes; no more getting DVDs from the library, no more worrying about which show is on when, no more uninterrupted time for me. But I think the kids are old enough to handle it. We have a backyard now and we live close to a park and a pool where we will spend some time. We will also still have our weekly family movie night as well. I think the idea is tempting also because it seems like a challenge. And even though challenges scare me a bit, they are also a bit exciting. Summer vacation doesn't start for about two more months so I have more time to think about it.


Desmama said…
Your post resonated with me because I find myself using the TV to escape as well--I just put something on so I can shower or get something done. Unfortunately, I know we need to scale back on it and I also know that's going to be painful for everyone.

I think I'd explore your options about cutting back. Maybe you could sit down with the kids and make a list of, say, two shows each day they can watch. They can look forward to those each day, but when they're over, they're over, and they've got to find something else to do. Maybe you can do shows in the morning (so you can shower) and playing in the yard, then quiet time or naps in the afternoon after lunch, and then a trip to the park or library before dinner. I don't know, just an idea. As kids we got 1/2 hour of TV each day--total--(so we watched, like, the Cosby Show or something).

That way, it's something they can look forward to but they're not just parked in front of the TV waiting for the next thing to come on.

Good luck. I'll be interested to hear other people's ideas and suggestions.
Sarah said…
I try to have something fun each morning...and that is somewhat routine (park Monday, outing Tuesday, Library Wed, playdate thurs, party friday) and the tv is off and then we have lunch and then they get tv (quiet time...for me too!!!). I have often enforced the "read for 30 min then we'll turn the tv on. It has worked pretty well...just a thought
Yodame said…
When I was a kid and suffocating with asthma at night, TV relieved a lot of my anxiety. It terrifies me to think how much more traumatized I would have been by Asthma without it. It was as good as any pill. So I think TV is perfectly acceptable when you're sick. I use TV w/ Sara when I need to cook or have a break or if she's having a bad day or sick. She is much more excited to watch it too if she doesn't get to every day. I kind of think of it in terms of the TV she doesn't watch as opposed to the times she does, that probably sounds weird.

If you're going to go the no TV route I can't imagine it working any other way than removing the TV from your house. Otherwise it's too tempting at times or too much begging will occur, is my guess.

Also, you could make a giant cardboard box TV and get them to act out their shows instead to entertain themselves or make up new "shows" :) That should be fun for them for about a week.
Em said…
I'm glad you're adventurous enough to give it a shot! I don't know that I'm to that point yet (I plug Bee in to a movie once a day so that I can shower, fold laundry, etc...always while J is sleeping)

I think one thing you can hang on to is that you can always try out the no TV thing...a trial period, maybe? If it doesn't work out, you don't have to cling to it, and going without won't have hurt the kids any. Just a thought.
NEC said…
From the age of about 5 until I left the house my family didn't have TV. I did get to watch PBS until I was five, but then my family moved to a new house and our TV broke in the move and my parents were still students and too poor for a new TV (this was pre-craigslist) and so my mom just said, ok kids, no TV. My brother and I were very sad, for about a week, then we moved on with our lives and forgot about it. It was fun to watch Nickelodeon at my grandma's house when we went, but even then it was limited to a half hour. I don't even remember it being a big deal. I'm 24 so this wasn't too long ago (depression era "I walked a mile to school with barbed wire on my feet" stuff).

Anyways, my mom totally did the no TV thing before it was cool, but she says it made her kids so much more creative. Letting us play in the backyard, do crafts with the junk bin, our brio train set, legos, etc. Oh and the dress up bin. You're definitely on the right track- maybe just keep a TV with DVD player for netflix or something and cut cable? It has to work for your family but it definitely can work. PS: This was in Provo, UT.
Kristeee said…
I think everyone uses the TV as a babysitter every now and again. I have mixed feelings about Kate getting more into it lately. On the one hand, it's really nice that I can put on Barney (which I can't believe that I actually approve of, but it's perfect for her right now) on the DVR and have 10-20 minutes to get something done without little hands. On the other hand, I feel bad when she wants to watch multiple shows or when I want her to watch multiple shows in a row.

I like the idea of 1-2 shows a day they're allowed to watch and no more. I know some friends of mine had some cool device that allowed each child to enter a personal code to allow them time on the TV, and then it turned itself off when the time was up. That way it wasn't the parents fighting the battle of how long they could watch (or play nintendo).

Then again, I can see the argument for no TV. The media doesn't need to raise our kids, and there's so much to explore and do that TV (and the internet!) interferes with.
Julie P said…
I love this, probably because I've been thinking about doing something similar. We have dish, and our contract is up plus we've been getting lousy service lately with the receiver cutting off in the middle of shows. Today I thought I should just cancel. But I think during the summer I'd supplement our afternoons with a movie or show from netflix for the kids while Ainsley sleeps and mommy reads. I admit I'm selfish for "me time" each day, even if I only get an hour.
skyeJ said…
oooh!! Get rid of it. I turned my own cable off in January, and I'm just a single gal with two cats. I have the internet to watch stuff on. It is GREAT. I did have a feeling of "uh, now what will I do" in the beginning. Now, I just don't miss it.

We didn't have a tv for a LONG time. We were little kids. Do it. Get it out. There are tons of research studies that say it just rots the brain. Period. Especially in kids. Do whatever you have to do.

Invest in things like craft drawers with stuff in them, dress up clothes, and "play out in the yard" stuff. Boredom is good for kids.
Lady Steed said…
We moved our TV out of the house July 12, 2009. Prior to this my kids watched an hour or two of TV each morning and a movie once or twice a week. But even with these limits I still felt like they were always asking if they could watch more. To me it seemed they were spending far too much time thinking about how they could watch more TV. It was driving me crazy even though I really enjoyed the time I had to myself when they watched TV. But what I realized was that TV would always be a point of contention as long as the physical presence of a television set was in my home--so out to the garage it went. The kids were sad for a week or two but they are fine now. They do occasionally watch things online and get to watch lots when they visit their grandparents. I think that getting rid of the TV was once of the best things we have done for our kids. I encourage you in your efforts, you can do it--good luck!

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