Oh boy… I am about to delve on to a touchy subject, especially when it comes to children.
The Television… dum, dum, DUM!
I used to be the type of mom who cringed when my son even got a glimpse of anything that was on TV. I wanted to shield his eyes and protect his brain from becoming all mush and no substance. For most of his first year I vehemently opposed any viewing time for him. I was horrified when we came home from a special movie date, and the babysitter had put on a Veggie Tales movie, and told us that he loved it. (The irony- I know!) I wanted him to be the type of kid who gobbled up books by the boat load, got lost in the characters and stories, all while using his imagination to entertain his days. I wanted him to be more interested in going outside and exploring the world, rather than sitting on his butt all day staring blankly at the colorful pictures that flashed before his eyes. I tried to fool myself into thinking that he will never watch TV, and if he was ever subject to that “activity”, he would find it incredibly boring. I even remember a conversation I had with a friend about how I didn’t want him to watch TV early on, because it would hinder his cognitive growth, and I felt that he had the rest of his life to discover it. I enjoyed how good it felt when my friend praised me for my decision to essentially “ban” TV from my home. We had even gotten rid of cable, and only used the internet (i.e. Netflix) for our viewing entertainment. Who am I kidding? We love to watch TV. Well, mostly movies, and a little bit of HGTV when the mood hits. I would sometimes even watch episodes of 30 Rock and Desperate Housewives while I nursed him so I wouldn’t get bored. To quote Homer (as in the Simpsons, not the Grecian) “I grew up watching TV, and I turned out TV.” I always think of that quote when discussing whether TV is good or bad. Sometimes I feel that quote holds true for most of our society, like they don’t really hear what they are saying because they have become so distracted with being entertained by the TV. That is my biggest fear for my child when it comes to television.
One of the very first dates my husband and I went on was to the movies. I think that is now the typical “first date”. It’s a safe place to go in public just in case your date is a flop, but it’s also sort of intimate when the lights go down. Then you have something else to talk about just in case your “conversation ammunition” runs low. Watching movies with friends is a great way to bond, and is also a fun family activity to do. If it is something that you don’t do all day (unless you are sick), it becomes something special that your whole family can enjoy. Yes, movies and TV are great, especially when used in moderation.
So to answer your burning question, yes I allow my son to now watch TV and movies, but in moderation. How did that happen you ask? I think that it started when I was so exhausted trying to entertain him myself ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, that I finally just gave in. I allowed him (and still allow) very limited amounts of TV during the day. Shows like Pocoyo, Baby First, and Curious George have short 7-10 min episodes, so it was able to keep his attention and I didn’t feel too guilty about taking a small respite for myself. Prepping dinner became a joyful event again, rather than my desperate attempt at keeping a smile on his face while I practically threw everything quickly onto the stove in a flurry of frustration. I was able to make dinner in a reasonable amount of time, instead of spending a ridiculous amount of time with my attention divided between occupying him and chopping the vegetables. What would take me upwards of two hours finally went down to a reasonable 30-40 minutes again.
Slowly, over this last year, his watching has increased, and a big part of that came due to all of the traveling that we have been doing. By allowing him to watch a movie on the airplane or episodes of his favorite cartoons in the car, offered my husband and myself a HUGE relief. He wouldn’t scream, fuss or cry, and when we finally made it to our destination he seemed much happier and more content. I don’t know why, but it works for us. We set limits, and of course we absolutely DO NOT sit and watch TV all day long. We involve ourselves in activities, and even now it’s rare that he will sit through a full movie. He gets bored and decides to go play with his toys all on his own. I don’t have to make that decision for him, and I honestly think it is because I allowed him to watch instead of with holding TV from him.
But seriously, if TV is used moderately, rather than as a crutch, it can be an incredibly effective teaching tool. One that teaches, self control, patience, and appreciation for what you have. You can even use it as a special reward that is something that your whole family can enjoy.