I grew up in the days when the TV didn’t have a remote. I WAS the remote. My brothers would belt out, “Hey Cheryl, turn the channel to 6” and if I refused, they would convince me that this was the best job and only little sisters got to do such fun things. So I became the remote.
We watched TV as a family and I have fond memories of us all sitting down watch the Solid Gold Dancers or the Facts of Life. I remember when I was 10, Santa brought me a black and white TV for my room. I was beyond excited to no longer be the remote for my brothers.
Over the course of the last few decades, TV has changed in so many ways. From the style and expense of the TV to the channels and shows that we can access and watch.
When our son was 4, we watched Beauty and The Beast on one of the major network channels and when a commercial came on, he began asking what this show was… he wanted the beast back on the TV. It dawned on my husband and I that he had never seen a commercial. In the age of TV on-demand – Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime – commercials are almost extinct and our then 4-year-old was not having it.
As a busy family, we watch some TV but not much. I will admit, as I’m making dinner, or cleaning or any other time I need a little time for my littles to be occupied, I turn on the TV. It is a babysitter of sorts and I find comfort in that if I leave them watching it, they will watch it, mesmerized and not burn the house down while I switch the laundry. Sometimes we watch more TV then we should, on a rainy day or a mental health day – whatever it takes right?
I love to turn on my favorite network show in the morning to catch a glimpse of what is happening in our world and I will admit, I love me some The Office or Blue Bloods and am currently Netflix binge-watching Madam Secretary. I do not think watching TV is bad, quite the opposite, I think watching TV can bring families together, and can educate and many other positive things.
My 6-year-old really likes to watch TV.
He can operate the Netflix remote with extreme accuracy and can tell you within an instant if a show is appropriate or not for him. He can also act out any show he’s watched with leaps and sound effects and accents. This has become a problem in our house. Scratches on the sofa from the beast, wires tangled up like in the Iron Giant, scarves thrown everywhere like Sara and Duck, fighting evil like a Power Ranger, leaping tall buildings like a superhero and my favorite (insert sarcasm), jumping on furniture like King Kong are just a few of the reasons we turned the TV off.
The day we turned the TV off followed a day of horrible behavior at the babysitter’s, followed by a terrible evening at home. My husband and I were at our wits’ end with his behavior and had tried just about everything. We are strict with him and his little, precious strong-willed soul. So we looked at each other and said:
“What about TV? Should we take it away?”
We agreed that we should take that out of his life. The day we turned the TV off we sat his sassy, little self down and told him that he was not going to watch any shows or videos, nada until his behavior improved. He could have them as rewards as we see fit, but it was our choice and he needed to leave it up to us.
The first few days were torture. After arriving home from work, he would ask repeatedly, “Can I watch a show?” We used this as a time to reinforce why he couldn’t watch a show, and he accepted it. Then after a week, he barely asked. And after a few weeks, it is not even an option. I’m sure we will eventually let him watch something on TV, but I’m in no hurry because of what I have learned.
The day we turned off the TV, I learned to focus on my child.
I let TV distract me and distract him. I’m learning to focus on him and hear him without the TV in the background.
The day we turned off the TV, I learned that my little guy can sing and he has some serious moves. Together we listen to more music and dance and sing. He chooses a song and then I choose a song, and it is precious.
The day we turned off the TV, I learned that I depended on TV more than I should have to watch my child. It’s easy… and gives me a break, and it was not good for my child.
The day we turned off the TV, I learned that I really like talking and interacting with my son. He’s being him, no influences from any character, just being him and he is a character for sure.
The day we turned off the TV, it was a good day for my family and it is working for us. I don’t plan on throwing our TVs out the window or giving them away. I do plan on watching TV differently with my children. I plan on listening more and playing more and singing and dancing more and clicking the remote less. Something so simple. Making a small change made a huge difference the day we turned off the TV.
UPDATE: Since writing my original post, we’ve turned the TV on and watched some great shows. We’ve thrown some temper tantrums and are in a season of wearing masks and saving the day in our PJs. I’ve learned that our kids go through stages and so do we as parents. Always learning, always growing.