To TV or not

The Spousal Unit likes to say that when I was pregnant with girl child, that my body and mind were taken over by the Goddesses of attachment parenting. Looking back I laugh but the truth is he is right. During my pregnancy and most certainly for the first 2.5 years of her life, I was crazy Mama. Hell, to look at me you never would guess that she was not my first child.

See, when elder boy was born almost 18 years ago, I was young and dumb and there was no internet so I used my instincts long with advice from my Mom and Granny and so far I can say he has turned out to be a wonderful young man. Hell, I’d like him even if he weren’t my son. Truth is, he was what some would call an easy baby and child…its probably for the best he was born first since I was still growing up myself and could not have handled a more energetic child.

Anyhoo, back to the girl, when she was born I was adamantly against her watching any television. Granted at that age, it really wasn’t an issue but around 2-2.5 is when the Spousal Unit and I started having some serious arguments over screen time with the girl child. He felt a little wouldn’t hurt, after all he was born in the late 60’s raised mostly by a single Mama who worked a lot of odd hours leaving him to watch a lot of television as a kid yet he still became a writer of all things, went to a top-notch school and even now at 41 is still bookish. How bad could tv be for the kid? I, armed with articles and books said tv would kill her creativity, rewire her brain…you get the picture. In the end we agreed to disagree and she allowed her to watch tv.

I will be honest, my girl is fun, sweet, lovable, dramatic and what some call highly spirited. On good days its great but on bad days, I want to slit my wrists. Unlike my son, she is not that child happy to get into her own world playing alone, play for her requires an audience and a playmate. Based on the days when my work load is light, I suspect if I was strictly a stay at home Mama I would have more energy to do what she wants. Reality though is that I am not, and there are times when both the Spousal Unit and I are uber busy earning a living since the alternative would be none too nice.

Since time is short, let’s just say that lately the girl child has watched way more tv than even the Spousal Unit likes, in part because tv is the one thing she will do without us. Lately I have observed much of her play centers around what she watches and that bugs me… see I told the man that tv will stifle her creativity (I’m kidding honey). Now it sounds all light and fluffy but her enjoyment in tv bothers me and as a parent its my job to make the best choices for my kids. So we are looking at ways to cut her tv consumption in a way that works for our family. I must admit there is a part of me that would like to pull the plug entirely but knowing her personality coupled with our reality (meaning I/We cannot be the full-time entertainment commitee..I have to know my limits) means looking for the middle ground.

Right now we have come up with a plan that at least here on day 2 is working, she can watch any 3 videos she wants but once she is done watching them, screen time is up. I must say its been interesting to see her make choices other than watching tv, I suppose the deal was also sweetened by the fact that if she can stick with the 3 videos a day with no whining or drama about it, she can earn money. Yeah, she is hardcore about tv and I am hardcore about changing her habits..yesterday was day one and this morning she woke up reminding me that I owed her a dollar.

I suppose this situation is some type of karmic payback for the jokes I used to make about others who were strict about tv, of course as I have learned on this parenting journey for the past 18 years is that every child is different so you do what works best for your kid and even within a family you may have to tailor choices to a specific kid.

So if you are a parent, what’s your stance on tv and kids specifically younger kids? Why do you do what you do as far as those choices. Since actively limiting my child’s tv viewing is new to me, I am looking to get ideas from what other parents are doing.

3 thoughts on “To TV or not”

  1. I don’t really have any specific ideas of how to help, I think what you’re doing with setting the boundary around # of videos and then giving her a choice about what videos is great.

    I do think part of the issue you’re experiencing is that children raised with attachment parenting methods will expect connection and interaction with people more than children who are raised in ways that are more isolating- for example, feeding on a schedule, not co-sleeping, pushing children towards “independence” and punishing them (particularly boys) for seeking emotional connection and having feelings, having adult TV on in the house, etc. One of the big features of Western/American culture as compared to others is how isolated, lonely, fearful, etc. we are and I think a lot of that has to do with early childhood experiences. One way how this shows up is the progression over time in immigrant familes from large extended families to small nuclear families – people lose those connections and even the ability to connect.

    Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that I believe your daughter’s demands for attention are normal and the issue you face is symptomatic of the larger cultural issue. Looking at things this way helps me when I run into that challenge of hanging out with my daughter vs. doing the money-making and housecare. I’m adding stress by not doing the normal 40+ hour work-week with 10+ hours commute, and adding reward by raising a girl who will have much more positive expectations and hopes for the world than I did when I was young.

  2. In our house we try to keep to the no more than 1-2 hours per day rule. Since I have twins, we do have the bonus of built-in playmates, which takes the pressure off us a LOT. How do you parents of singletons do it? I just can’t imagine, but I digress.

    So, 1-2 hours per day screen time at home, but most nights during the week (now that they are in school) they don’t watch any. So since they don’t watch any during the week, I tend to avoid guilt when they OD during the weekend. I do try to break it up, don’t usually go from 1 movie or show into another, but c’nom, sometimes there is a mythbusters on when a game ends. I can’t keep them from learning TRUTH! that would be irresponsible.

    I do notice that when we watch for long periods it takes their young brains longer to move out of Zombie mode. The fighting and arguing spikes which reminds me why we limit tv in the first place.

    So our motto seems to be: limits without fanaticism, or somthing like that.

  3. When my youngest is home alone while my oldest is at school, I let him watch about 3 hours of PBS shows. They are educational. He participates, sings, and I hope retains some of the information. Other than that, he plays with his bro the rest of the day and together they play games, draw, pretend play, build things, etc. I’m not a play-with-your-child parent (lol I supervise only!) so I have always said I had child #2 to keep child #1 occupied. Since, together, they do well with that creativity stuff I don’t worry about the time they do spend in front of the TV.

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