Thursday, December 5, 2013

No(t much) TV

Yesterday afternoon I posted a picture of my kids sitting in front of our computer, watching a video Levi got from the library. We try to watch one TV show or video per week here at the Hefner house.

I say this not to brag about how awesome we are or anything like that. I post this so that others can know that it's possible.

I originally wrote about not watching TV a few years ago here

Note: I'm going to use the words video, TV show and movie interchangeably. They are all pretty much the same to us.

So, a few years ago we started having babies and found out that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child have no screen time until they are two years old. So with Levi we decided to actively keep him from watching television and movies, looking at our phones and things like that.

Ben and I have since made a very conscious decision to keep our kids from watching very much television. It's hard because Levi loves TV probably as much as I do. He begs for TV and movies, longs for them, loves them. Maybe it's because he's starving for them.

My answer is always "one movie per week." You would think that he would quickly use up his credits first thing on Monday, but with a little direction I help him to wait and forget about it. I'm amazed that sometimes we even get to a Sunday afternoon at my parents house and realize he hasn't watched a single video.

Life is more painful without TV. It's much easier to just "plug my kids in" so that I can actually get the house cleaned or just have a moment to myself. But, every mom knows that her child is affected by television. You know because as soon as your precious little one's show is over they howl for more. It's all fine and roses until that show is over, then all of hades breaks loose. I hate that time, that time when that beautiful space is over and the child just wants more. That makes me not want to have movie time at all. But that's when I just put my head down and give the firmest "No" I can give. It has to be the most steadfast, no ifs ands or buts kind of no, otherwise the child will sense your lack of position and pounce on his chance to get his foot in the door for another movie.

Here's the best part about my kids only watching one movie a week. They play by themselves. They get creative. They have long attention spans. They carry on conversations with adults. That last one has only been happening recently with Levi, but I am totally pumped about it. This morning they played in our bathroom with a little glow in the dark toy for about 20 minutes. It was amazing. I actually got the dishwasher unloaded. Levi was pulling cars on his new wooden train last night. They played in Aria's room with her stuffed animals for at least 30 minutes. Yes, it was here and there and yes I had to stop a few fights and tell them, no, we are not watching the planes DVD again. But that's just part of it. It's part of the sacrifice.

I say all of this to encourage other moms to try it. It's hard and it stinks and your child WILL ask to watch a movie dozens of times a day, but EVENTUALLY they will find something else to do. They might get into things (Aria is the queen of this, how many stains do we have on our carpets from me not being a responsible parent? Too many). But eventually they learn to pick up a book and look at it. I know I sound like a psycho for those of you whose kids watch a healthy amount of TV, but I can almost guarantee you that a child will find something else to do besides sit and watch. You just have to be firm and ready for a fight. Oh yes, and I do discipline Levi for whining and falling on the floor when he doesn't get to watch a show. Bad attitudes get spankings, at least at our house.

Okay, so that's my post. It's definitely one of the parenting choices we have made that we have not regretted.


  1. Me too!! We NEVER have the tv on when the kids are awake (plus, kids shows seriously freak me out). And now, the tv annoys me. I kind of dread all the continuous noise at my parent's house now.

  2. We are a no screen time family where HP is concerned. Neil and I watch shows occasionally in the eve after he goes to bed, but I try and avoid being on the computer when he is awake and he's never seen a show/movie/tv before. I have no illusions that we'll avoid tv forever, but I think it's important to limit (eliminate) it in early childhood. For now, we are planning to be screen-free (at least within our home) until he is in elementary school. Of course we may change our minds, but it is something we both feel strongly about so that's our current plan of action.

    I find it a little backwards that people think they *need* tv so they can get stuff done around the house. I think it's easier to get stuff done without it, b/c HP is so good at entertaining himself. As you said, kids find ways to be imaginative and creative and occupy themselves if given the chance. Using screens as a babysitter starts a vicious cycle where children feel they need to be entertained 24/7. I love this article that talks about that (and it's one of my favorite parenting blogs out there):

    Thanks for sharing, Jody! I've had a post titled "screen time" for awhile but haven't gotten it together to post it b/c I haven't found the right balance between sharing what we do without sounding preachy. I love what you wrote!