Fiendish Friday: Television

Television is always a controversial subject when it comes to kids. I have had such a love hate relationship with the box on the wall. And none of my friends agree on a policy or method of function. If I poled every  parent at coop they would all give me a slightly different answer that runs the spectrum from “it’s evil, we don’t even have one in our house” to “the kids watch as they please.”

When the kiddo was very little the hubs was adamantly opposed to TV. He had read all these studies that showed how detrimental TV was before age three. I respected his beliefs. No Baby Einstein in our house. Bad TV.

Then one day when the kiddo was two maybe, he got off the couch where we were cuddling and I was reading a story to walk over to the TV and pat the screen. He kept looking at me and patting the TV. Since I had never let him watch any TV, I thought he was just curious about it. So I told him that was a TV, you could watch books on it, and went back to reading the story. Over the next week he would randomly go to the TV and pat the screen. Finally, it occurred to me that maybe he was watching TV at T’s house. She and I had a babysitting swap going. Her kiddo was the same age as mine and we had been swapping child care since they were three months old. I asked and T said yes, she left them watch PBS kids.

At this point kiddo had been through about 6 months of speech therapy because he didn’t talk. And he still didn’t talk. So I started watching one PBS show a day with the kiddo. He quickly developed an obvious preference for Curious George. And we made that our show. Over the next month he developed 20 new words he used fluently. Hrm, perhaps TV wasn’t the devil. Sure he was still going to speech….but that hadn’t been working, the only change was this daily dose of Curious George.  Good TV.

Flash forward a few years, the kiddo is in kinder and every day he comes home so destroyed, so wiped out, so drained of life, all he wants to do is have me read to him or watch TV all afternoon. He lays on the couch like someone with cancer. So I excise the cancer.

Now we have a whole day to fill. I quickly settle on what I feel is a rational process. We handle our responsibilities in the morning and then the rest of the day is ours to do with as we please. For the kiddo this becomes TV. As much as there is time for. Every day. I kept thinking he would tire of it, eventually he would move on to other cool things to do. But it never happened. After a year, kiddo was still watching as much as he possibly could. And then I remembered. I hadn’t reckoned with his compulsive traits. The ones that come with his ASD. sigh. Bad TV. (Bad Mom, too.)

So I banned all TV. But it quickly became apparent that because of those compulsive issues, the kiddo literally could not rest without a distraction. He mind would not let his body slow down. Damn, being a parent is hard.

All this came up for me today because of a book someone recommended to me, Radical Unschooling. It was an ok book, but the author frequently used TV watching as an example of letting kids figure out their own paths. And I knew from my experience that doesn’t work for every kid. Made it hard for me to accept her other tenets of unschooling. LOL. But she had some good points. Like meeting your children’s needs even if they fly in the face of common parenting conception.

So now the kiddo can have TV after 4, when he needs the rest. Sure, TV is a crutch. But we do yoga every morning to help him learn stillness through active meditation. And his reading is improving and I can see a day in the near future where he can read to rest, where he will want to read to rest, rather than watch the TV. TV is a tool for us, neither bad nor good.

What are the rules or lack of rules around TV in your house?


9 thoughts on “Fiendish Friday: Television

  1. We got our first color TV so that Billy (then about 4, now 45), our oldest, could watch Sesame Street in color. This movie aficionado and Phish fan is busy making the same decisions you are about children, but his are older. My opinion on parenting: control is a myth revealed through time. Love counts more than TV or educational methodologies.

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  2. I enjoyed reading about your experiences and thoughts on this topic. It’s definitely something that has to be figured out within your own family sphere. I know for us, that is supposed to mean no TV until school work is done. Every now and again, though, the TV gets flicked on for the lunch hour. When that happens, it’s really hard to get them to concentrate on books again. I also try to keep in mind that as we go on in life, our needs change so I think it’s important to leave some elasticity within those boundary lines which are not complete convictions. Great post!

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  3. I agree with you that TV is a tool, neither good nor bad. My brother never let his kids watch tv growing up. They are 17 and 20 now and the most amazing and talented kids. The family was sure they were missing out, but instead, they are artists, musicians and one is studying physics in college and the other working as a Firefighter cadet while at the aeronautical HS. So, long way of saying, you’re his mom, trust your instincts.

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  4. My grandaughter aged 11 has watched a lot of tv, which always bothered me, yet she is an avid reader, a very creative writer with a publication credit to her name, has sung at the O2 Arena in London and is an elected pupil member of her school council, Her 6 year brother would rather take something apart then watch tv even when it’s on, believe me there are times I’d rather he watch tv! Seriously though I’ve come to the view, at least with UK tv that if its on or not kids adapt to take in what they like and ignore what they don’t … unless you start making rules then their only option is to try and break them!

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