With signs that TV watching was affecting a Tiny Human, the plug was pulled on weekday television. Natalie Moutafis explains what happened next in this brave parenting experiment.
As the Tiny Humans became old enough, we began to allow them to watch television – not just being privy to whatever was on (news, sport etc.) but actual kids’ TV.
We had a rule that they were allowed to watch TV after lunch. I can’t even recall why this became a rule. I think it stemmed from something I once read about how it’s not great for children to watch TV in the morning (particularly before school), so I didn’t want to set a precedent in those early years. Unless they were unwell, it’s always been a rare occurrence that the TV was on before midday. It was also switched off before the evening’s dinner, bath and bed routine so we could read books and have some quiet time.
Over the last couple of years, TV has crept in a little more. Partly thanks to lockdowns and restrictions, and partly due to it being a good ‘babysitter’ when we were trying to deal with feeding time at the zoo – aka dinner.
With our eldest at school this year, it became a habit very quickly to watch TV once they were home from school and childcare. At first, I didn’t mind so much, as they’d had full days at school and childcare, and I was happy for them to just ‘chill’ and have some downtime. But then I noticed that our son was becoming cranky and upset when we turned it off for an evening, and we realised something had to change.
We started by explaining that we thought their brains were still too young and that we had mistakenly let them watch their ‘shows’ of an afternoon – ensuring the blame lay with us as the grownups, not them. We also explained that they should be playing outside and moving their bodies, seeing their friends, playing independently with their toys or reading (looking at) books.
So we implemented a new rule. No TV during the week, only on the weekends, and then only after lunch on the weekends.
After a weekend of ad nauseam reminders that once it was Monday, they would come home and not watch a show, followed by more reminders on the way to and from school, the ban began.
It didn’t go down well when they got home. The kids were upset and said they were ‘bored’ and that I was the ‘meanest mum ever’. So that told me I was doing the right thing, and I held firm. That week was tough. I’m not going to sugar-coat it. I wanted to throw up my hands and say, ‘fine, watch a show!’ But I didn’t.
I also asked other, more experienced mums how TV was managed in their homes. It was a mixed response – and honestly, one that depends on the child, parents and family circumstances. But one mum friend told me that a few years prior, she’d done much the same with a TV ban. She’d noticed her child seemed to lack the imagination to play that she once had. But eventually, it returned once TV was removed from the equation. So we persevered.
It’s now been about a month or more since we removed the weekday TV watching, and while the first week was rough on all of us, I’m happy we stuck with it.
The kids are much more engaged and happy to play. The footy gets kicked around the yard, neighbourhood friends come out to play, the garden is explored, toys are pulled out of the basket, the trampoline gets a workout and imagination has come alive.
I was also able to try an afternoon of television when they were feeling under the weather, thanks to winter colds. There were no meltdowns or tears when we turned the TV off.
I’m happy to say, for now, it’s working. We can now enjoy a family movie on the weekend together and relax the rules if it’s raining or they aren’t feeling well, knowing that we can quickly reinstate the rule once the day is over.
The other benefit I didn’t expect is that we’ve reconnected as a family over the dinner table. We all talk about our day, even the 3-year-old in childcare. She adores telling us tidbits about her day and the friends she saw. And our 5-year-old even asks boring old mum and dad how our days were and what we did at work.
It’s not for everyone, but for us, the weekday TV ban works – for now.
About Natalie Moutafis
Natalie Moutafis is the author of our Tiny Humans blog, providing her engaging and insightful take on life with two young children. Natalie is also a project manager at ISV.
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