Tuesday, August 19, 2008

what is your t.v. tolerance?

I need some parenting advice regarding the television: I hate it, but sometimes I need it, and I hate that I need it . . . to babysit my kids. I've been feeling pretty proud of myself because for about the past month or even longer, Sami was rarely if ever watching t.v. On days that she wasn't tired for a nap, or maybe once in a while on a weekend evening, I'd let her put on a show. But other than that she wasn't asking for it, didn't seem to even remember that there was a Big Red Dog right there, in her living room, just waiting to be turned on. She had reached this stage of independent play and imagination that is what I had been waiting for her entire life. Then one morning, in desperation, I made the mistake of asking her if she didn't want to watch a little t.v. (probably so I could have just a few more minutes online . . . stupid, stupid), and now Clifford's got her back.

I site one of the reasons I hate the television so much from one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, who says, (from her website), "She counts among her most important early influences: the Bookmobile, a large family vegetable garden, the surrounding fields and woods, and parents who were tolerant of nature study (anything but snakes and mice could be kept in the house), but intolerant of TV."

So I have a question: what rules have you come up with regarding your kids and television? Any ideas for what to do instead of turning on the tube? I'd love some advice on this one!


heather of the EO said...

I struggle with this as well. My boys are 3 and 1. My 3 year old is quite familiar with PBS and the Big Red Dog. He's probably the biggest fan of the Curious Monkey.
I try to stay away from TV, but it varies. Some days we go out and do a lot of things and we play outside and never think to turn on TV. Other days, we are struggling and I turn to the TV for help. I've gone over and over it with friends with older kids, friends I respect, and they assure me that if it's in small doses, it's fine.
I struggle with keeping it at small doses on the bad days.
The only advice I have is that I try to tell my son that he can finish watching the show "and then we're doing to ______" fill in the blank (draw, play doh, go outside...) Many times he stops watching right then and moves on to my suggestions. Or he finishes and is happy to do something more productive. By telling him what's next, I also hold myself accountable.
I hear you! It's such a temptation! After all, Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers are really good for a kid, right? :)

Betty & Jerry Quillin said...

Hey Jess-I don't know if this will help but when I realized I was doing that with my boys I started to make a schedule hour by hour of how i wanted my day to go. I allowed 1/2 hour in the morning so that I could have my coffee and then our day would start.Breakfast, We would have a time to make our beds(I let them do theirs how they wanted, organize their bedtime buddies etc). I realize the baby is too young but Sami may find it fun!
I would schedule playtime,lunchtime ,and allow another 1/2 hour for tv while I fed the baby and made lunch for the other 2 and myself. Then it was naptime yeah! Anyhow you get the idea but having the schedule helped me enormously when I had very small children and felt like I was never completing a task. Eventually you and your girls will be so used to it your days will run a little smoother. It also forced my boys to come along side me in what I was doing and they have grown to be very helpful and understand that Mommy has more time for them when she can finish her "chores" too. Meal planning helped free up time for me also, which I am sure you do but just thought I'd throw that out there-
Betty Quillin

charrette said...

While I grew up on a steady after-school diet of Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island re-runs, my husband (who works in the film industry and truly understands the power of media, for good and for evil) and I have tried to set better limits for our children.

We don't have a per-day limit or anything that would give them an automatic threshold or a sense of entitlement. Rather, we treat it as the rare privilege. I eschew network t.v. for the most part, both for the ads and the content. PBS is better, and we prefer the quality of purchased DVDs over any of the above (carefully previewed when possible.) My favorite approach is to trade them so many hours of reading for half that amount of media. Or so many hours of music practice, etc. The goal is to have them experiencing real life. They learn by utilizing all of their senses. And there is so much research about t.v. leaving children with underdeveloped synapses and even something resembling a drug-induced state.

That said, it can be a helpful distraction for a toddler. And can buy a mom a much-needed nap on occasion. And I did cave in to those moments. But, like Heather said, in small doses. Offering alternatives is great. Best investment we made during the toddler years was a Rainbow play structure. Hours of healthy, outdoor play!