So my children watch television and often I feel guilty about it. It’s not so bad that it keeps me up at night. My little Bella nursing is the one doing that, but I digress. I don’t really think my children are being too terribly damaged by watching television; the truth is I just feel guilty because I didn’t really want them to watch until much later in life and it did not fit with my original pre-baby (perfectionist) parenting goals.
With just one child, it was pretty easy to avoid the tv. My first was very content in a carrier or stacking wooden blocks or looking at books while I tended to the floors and dishes that would just not scrub themselves no matter how much I wished for that. Plus there was nap time to get everything else done.
With two children, it started to get a bit tricky to resist turning on the telly. For one thing, most of our friends were letting their little ones watch and talked about all the shows. Peer pressure, nonwithstanding, those wooden blocks were no longer being just stacked but also being knocked down by the younger sibling and tears and screams would ensue. Those floors and dishes were still not scrubbing themselves and sleep deprivation compounding over two years, twenty minutes of animal rescue hardly seemed like the end of the world – but to me, I confess it was and I even cried about it.
Now, there are three of them, two dogs and only one of me. If I were to turn the TV on every time I wanted to rest or prevent a squabble it would be on all the time and I don’t want that. I confess however that I have realized after loads of research to ease my guilty conscious, that it’s not all that terrible either. I have learned that content, amount and attitude about watching is really what matters.
Pre-screening shows for content and messages is really important. If I cannot watch a show with the boys, I like to know what they are watching. We use DVD’s and the DVR to avoid commercials and as a bonus it give us the freedom to start and stop the show when needed. I have no doubt that what they watch does influence them greatly.
Recently the boys have been watching a show about dinosaurs and the different episodes have some nice messages about not being a bully, sharing, being unique to name a few. After they watched they started pretending they were a triceratops and a velociraptor. They decided to build caves and dinosaur nests and even pretended to hunt and prep dinosaur food.
A twenty minute show led my boys to play creatively together for nearly two hours, as a team. Then they asked to look at dinosaur books, worked on coloring pages and had so many questions about paleontology, extinction and even contemplated becoming herbivores, although that was short lived when they realized fish would be off the menu.
The amount of television watched each day in our house is pretty varied. Ideally I would limit it to thirty minutes, however, as the boys get older, their interest and show choices are becoming diverse, to be fair they usually each get to choose one show a day. That could mean one chooses a five minute show and the other a twenty minute show, for now they are not comparing times but rather the ability to make a choice.
One time, Maxi (5 yrs old) wanted to watch a show that was about forty minutes in length, and I remarked it was quite long. Very quickly he suggested that he would pause and exercise during the show so he would not make his body too tired. His idea has stuck and now whenever the boys watch something longer in length we pause and do jumping jacks, crab walking or some other silly exercise before resuming the show again.
Some days, we make exceptions and watch a little more, other days like yesterday we don’t watch at all. Truth is, I love watching a good movie or a fun television show myself. I don’t want the television to become a coveted and prohibited item, I think that will make it worse down the road. Its not a reward or taken away as punishment either. It’s just something we can choose to do, best of all if we do it together.
There are so many other things to worry and stress about as a parent. The reality is we play, read, sing, go on fun outtings, then we read some more. We laugh, invent build and bake together too. So I am resolved to calm this television induced guilt and embrace my children’s enjoyment of these shows and most of all how they spin these experiences into games and creative endeavors, jumping jacks included.
Is there something you do as a parent that makes you feel guilty even if you know it’s not all that bad?
Peace & Be Well