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no television

The Great “No Television” Experiment? It Works!!

“I think,” My wife said “we should eliminate television for the kids Mondays through Fridays for the Summer.”

“Huh?” I asked, stalling for time.

“Sure! Let them read books in the morning; or dig through some of their toys; or play outside.”

no television

Why don’t we open a foster kennel for dogs recovering from rabies, while also holding therapy sessions for people with acute pet allergies? I thought.

But, like a marriage Jedi, I have learned from past mistakes, and cleverly answered:

“Hmm.”

****

It’s Summertime.

I’m free from the prison that is school lunches; free from pulling my son through homework assignments on dreary Monday afternoons (especially on Mondays, when pushing a Jeep with a missing wheel through the Dakar Rally would be easier than motivating an 8-year-old through a page of subtractions); free from setting fire to the vestibule in an effort to encourage my children out the door before the morning bell.

Now, thanks to the woman I love, instead of having a second cup of coffee and reading Dear Abby, I have to interact with my kids?? Isn’t that what Wordgirl and Wild Kratts are for? Three cheers for free digital babysitting, no?

Let’s try diplomacy:

“Sweetie?” I gently approached, “On the days I leave for work early, won’t you miss having that time to yourself in the morning?”

See what I did? I made her the subject of the story. I put her in the position of being the primary beneficiary of morning television. Clever, eh?
“No.” She answered confidently. (Crap; I hate when she’s confident.)

“They’ll have their swim lessons later in the morning, and until we leave they can keep themselves busy.”

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned to you, Dear Reader, that achieving a ‘playful’ interaction between my son and my daughter can be…challenging; the way carving Mount Rushmore was challenging…and underfunded…and understaffed…and required expertise far beyond my capabilities.

“Okay.” I said, with that tone we use when we want our spouses to understand we think they’re making a big mistake, but we still want the option of defending ourselves with ‘I never said that!’
Thus began the great No Summertime Television Experiment; during which, I have learned as much about myself as I have about my children.

****

Pediatricians and child psychologists stress television should never be used as a babysitter. They are absolutely right. But, that doesn’t stop me from using television as a babysitter:
weekend mornings over breakfast; the hour before supper to allow me to have the kitchen (and some quiet) to myself; a movie on weekend evenings to tidy the kitchen and write, or catch up on emails.

Although I have noticed these periods of quiet create for me a new form of stress. I tend to closely monitor their television program, always remaining conscious of how many minutes are left in the movie before I must again answer questions like ‘What’re we doing tomorrow?’, or ‘What if something got stuck in my bum for good?’.

As their movie progresses, I get anxious and rush whatever chore or activity I’ve become involved in.

I get frustrated when I feel I didn’t have enough time to myself.

I get resentful when I am pulled away from my free time and am forced to return to my parenting stable.

How would I find any peace without those couple of hours of cable/babysitting?

The answer was that ironic task parents are faced with daily: I had to create new habits in my children.

It is as difficult as it is rewarding to shape new, consistent behavior in kids.

But, within three days the kids had stopped asking for morning television.

Two days later they had stopped demanding my wife and I be responsible for finding them alternative activities.

During that same timeframe, they rediscovered our backyard, removed cellophane from birthday presents 6 months old, and even lay quietly on the sofa with books when they were tired on rainy afternoons.

The change within them echoed the change within me.

Without a defined period of distraction for the kids, I stopped trying to calculate how many minutes I had left to myself. I was no longer rushing them through supper; there was now no danger of the evening’s movie running past bedtime – there was no movie.

Instead, the kids, my wife, and I initiate more family activities. We go for bike rides after dinner, or play Snakes and Ladders.

The kids have actually learned to ‘go play’; and so have I.

On weekends, movies make a comeback; we all love them too much to completely exorcise Hollywood from our living room. They are appreciated even more because they are now only occasional visitors to our home, and not roommates.

Parenting isn’t easy, and no one method can necessarily apply to all families.

But, for us, there is something to this ‘deprivation’ thing.

In fact, it works so well, once the new school year begins in September, I may deny my children shelter and see whether it results in straight A’s.

Kenny Bodanis

Kenny Bodanis is the author of MenGetPregnantToo.com.
The site's articles and interviews focus on the trend of shifting gender roles in parental duties and involvement, as well as such topics as bullying, stress, and other challenges facing both children and parents.
His blog was named by Reader`s Digest Canada as one of the top parenting blogs in the country—the only dad on the list. It has also received accolades in the U.S. and the U.K.

Kenny's column, "Questions Parents Ask," appears weekly at
LifeWorks.com. He was part of a trio of bloggers at the site who won the Marcom Platinum Award for their writing.
He is also the regular parenting contributor for Montreal's Breakfast Television.
He lives in Montreal with his wife and two children. This is his first book
Feel free to follow him on:
Facebook | Twitter

37 comments

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  • This is one of the reasons we love camping as a family. Without television, phones, and video games to distract us, we get creative with how to entertain ourselves, most of it involving interacting with one another. By hitting the “off” button on electronic devices, families can connect better.

  • When I was growing up my mom did similar thing with me and my sisters. We were not allowed to watch TV during the week while we were in school and during the summer she gave us a set amount of quarters for the week and we could “buy” half and hour of TV with them or we could save them. When you’re a kid it’s much of inciting to find something to do other than TV and keep the quarters. I thought it was crazy at the time, but now I will probably do with out kids.

  • This was a hilarious read, but aside from that, good on you for even agreeing to trying to separate your kids from the television during the week Your results and what changed within you in that time is just amazing. You’re doing it right, I think… well, unless you really do plan on denying shelter. Not in that case.

  • So funny! I think this is another case of parenting style 🙂 There’s definitely not one right way. It is all a matter of preference. My kids are teenagers and have always watched as much television as they wanted. My daughter just graduated summa cum laude from high school, so I am thinking she did ok 🙂 My son gets bored with television very quickly, so he monitors himself.

    • Did she graduate in media studies by any chance ;)? It is ABSOLUTELY a question of parenting style. I think monitoring WHAT they’re watching is more important than how much they watch. I remember watching after school specials; spending ever Saturday and Sunday morning in front of the T.V.; and then watch a movie at night. No harm was done, except I throw in too many movie and Star Trek references during party conversations sometimes.

    • Are you no T.V. all the time?? If that’s the case, I may be forced to no longer communicate with you due to some sort of cultural law…

  • I’m glad it worked out! I really do think everyone spends too much time in front of the TV these days. I love a day outside where no media-related things can bother me!

    • I actually left my phone IN THE CAR during a dinner party last night; it’s ridiculous how liberating it was. My dad was watching the kids, and I simply left him the home number of the place we were eating…imagine! That’s old school…

  • Too funny! We have been tvless for over 3 years now best thing we ever did! We do watch movies here and there but we have discovered the family time we were missing when we had tv 🙂

    • I have a close friend who watches movies with her family, but really limits T.V. That also changes T.V. watching from a zoning-out activity to something more family oriented. Again, a question of parenting style,

    • Suuuure…that’s what they all say….(kidding)! It DOES cost a small fortune whe you really look at it. It is definitely something we COULD do without, yet choose not to. (Full disclosure, I LOOOVE my cable.

  • Wow, I am very impressed. We have the no electronics rule from 3pm on… they can go to the play room, outside, etc… also, no electronics for my Little Man (age 6) until he reads his 1st grade sight words and one book… yes, I am a mean mom, LOL

  • This is nothing short of brilliant. Love it. And I’m sorry, but ‘What if something got stuck in my bum for good?’ is going to stay with me all week. You can’t un-read that.

    • You can’t unremember trying not to laugh at her, either. that REALLY tried her temper…(it’s not wonder she gets stuff stuck up there!)

  • I think that is a wonderful idea! And see, it worked out! Kids spend waayyy too much time in front of the tv with movies and games. I honestly believe they have almost forgotten how to play by themselves, use their imagination and their creativity! More parents should consider what the two of you did!

  • I have no children—and I rarely if ever watch TV–I may watch NCIS on occasion but that is about it–either I’m on the computer or I’m reading–so no TV doesn’t scare me one little bit–but I imagine it would scare a lot of parents!!

  • Wow, I am both stunned and impressed. I don’t know that we’d ever make it totally tv free throughout the weekdays…but it would be nice not to have it on all the time. Some of that will take place naturally. We moved into a home in the country last week and will be putting in some late-season croppage. And mam

    • It looks like your thought got cut off…
      I HONESTLY never thought we’d make it. But really, it was three days of really difficult battles; and then things got easy really quickly.

About Author

Kenny Bodanis

Kenny Bodanis is the author of MenGetPregnantToo.com.
The site's articles and interviews focus on the trend of shifting gender roles in parental duties and involvement, as well as such topics as bullying, stress, and other challenges facing both children and parents.
His blog was named by Reader`s Digest Canada as one of the top parenting blogs in the country—the only dad on the list. It has also received accolades in the U.S. and the U.K.

Kenny's column, "Questions Parents Ask," appears weekly at
LifeWorks.com. He was part of a trio of bloggers at the site who won the Marcom Platinum Award for their writing.
He is also the regular parenting contributor for Montreal's Breakfast Television.
He lives in Montreal with his wife and two children. This is his first book
Feel free to follow him on:
Facebook | Twitter