Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Son Won't Put Down The Remote

This lament isn't uncommon among parents, and I'm always a tiny bit baffled by it.  After all, we control the remote, right?  Our kids can't use it without our permission, overt or other.

Ten years ago, we removed the television from our family room area.  We still don't have one on the main floor of our house.  Horrors, I know!  We are crazy, Amish-like even, right?  

Except, no.  Our kids love American Idol and crack up over Simon's outbursts.  They watch football on weekends and see just about every stinking movie that's made.

I don't have a problem with watching TV.  In fact, I enjoy it.  (For the record, we have two.)  But the reality is that TV takes time.  It's time my kids aren't building Legos or playing outside or reading a book.  It's time I'm not reading a book, for that matter. 

Parents ask me quite often how we manage without a daily diet of PBS and Nickelodeon.  The answer is simple.  Truly.  My kids don't know any different.

When they were little, they watched for 30 minutes every Friday afternoon because, Lord knows, I needed a little break.  When they got to school age, that time simply evaporated.  My boys don't even think about TV on a daily basis because they never have.

If this idea rubs you the wrong way, ignore it.  You are the parent and I am a firm believer that we each must parent in our own best way.  HOWEVER...

For those of you who read this idea and are intrigued, I challenge you to try it.  A new year is upon us, right?  If your kids are watching more than you'd like, try these ideas:

1.  Set a schedule.  Thirty minutes a week might seem like heresy to you (and your kids) if they're used to an hour a day.  Scale back bit by bit and let them watch their favorites WHEN IT WORKS FOR YOU.  Use your DVR or VCR, I don't care, but don't be held hostage by the time a show is actually aired.  Tape it one way or the other and use it during your planned TV time.

2.  Stick to it.  There you are, having a great week, on track and then, HEY, your kids go crazy.  Your strongest desire is to turn on the plug-in-drug and avoid conflict.  Don't do it!  Get out the play-doh, the puzzles or dump some rice in a huge bowl and let them "find" little toys in it.  Be creative and stick to your schedule.  One foot in front of the other...

3.  Introduce "Room Time."  If your kids have outgrown naps, you still need some time to get things done without them underfoot.  It's time to introduce this concept:  you work around the house, they play in their room.  By themselves.  Books on tape, puzzles, etch-a-sketch, a bazillion matchbox cars:  kids will learn to play with whatever is available.  Be warned:  if you've never done this before, start with a small amount of time, like 15 minutes.  Use a timer.  Have a fun reward at the end.  (Dare I suggest Candyland?)  Kids can do this for over an hour, I promise, but it takes time.  Give them some and you'll reap big dividends later. 

4.  Set an example. Ohhh, this one is ugly, I know, but I'm big on it.  It doesn't feel right for kids to see their mom or dad watching the Today Show all morning but deny them PBS Kids in the afternoon.  Yep, I know you love it.  Yes, the weather forecast, the gossip, the home tips, I know.  I'm just sayin'....what goes around comes around.  Try to cut down on your viewing if you want your kids to cut down on theirs.

5.  Don't go crazy!  We watch the Olympics all night every night when it's on.  We watch every Packers game that's aired where we live.  Movie night with popcorn is a family favorite.  Sure, you can completely disconnect and your kids will be fine.  (You, however, may go crazy.)  But you don't HAVE to completely disconnect in order to achieve your goals.  The whole idea is to KNOW YOUR GOALS.  When you understand WHY your desire is for your family to watch less TV you will be much more likely to make it happen.

Good luck friends!  I'm cheering for you.


Heather said...

I'm excited to get our DVR in a few days much for this reason. Then we can have the shows when it's convenient and needed for us instead of being a slave to the schedule. (which is often NOT when I want the kids watching)

I like these ideas. I don't think I could limit to 30 minutes a week, but my kids still prefer to go outside to play than to sit in front of the TV so I guess we're doing okay.

Hip Mom's Guide said...

30 minutes a week is my own personal craziness, and I definitely recommend picking something that works for you. I think since we started that way, it's easy for us. But if we hadn't....who knows! You will LOVE using the DVR and having kids (or you) watch shows when you want them, not when they're aired.

Your kids rock--no worries!