I basically told my son what his limits were and considered his feedback. He like many children was very reasonable and more restrictive than I was when I asked him what he thought his limits should be. When he violated those limits, I noted them and pointed this out to him. After three times, I reminded him that he could petition for exceptions but could not willingly violate the agreement without my consent. This was this formal because he tends to get really, really into whatever he is doing, and that included TV. Well, he violated again, and I did what I told him I would do, not as a punishment but as a way to make our lives easier. I removed all TV's from our home and stored them in my girlfriend's garage. No more sneaking and no more fuss. Halfway through Fall of my son's sophomore year, I decided he was mature enough and I'd put them back in. Well, his grades dropped about five points in that six weeks. If it happened again, he could be out of the running for MIT, and MIT had been his goal for years. I asked him if it still was and showed him the grade printout. We did the math. He had a hard time breaking his habit, but fortunately, that was when the TV signals went all digital. I asked him he thought we should buy a converter and he said we should not. His grades returned to very high A's. Then, he said, "Why couldn't the FCC have gone digital earlier!?" I cruelly said, "Why couldn't you have turned off the TV earlier?" He acknowledged that I was right. Now that he is in college where he is, he has no time at all for TV. I really never thought it would be a problem there, and it isn't. It would have been nice to have it available sometimes, I guess. But, when we did bring it back after having it out of the house for a few years, we were both kind of disgusted at what we saw. He was fascinated too, but I was not really. I saw the really graphic things they were showing and the more vulgar sexual references in "family sitcoms." So, instead of watching TV all those years, we read books, went on hikes, watched Youtube videos of things that interested us both, visited with friends, and so on. And, he got his homework done. For other kids, it may be completely overkill to remove the television, and I would never do it as a punishment or in a blaming, angry way at any rate. It's just a practical option. For really important things, you can usually find it on the internet anyway.
My point is that if you have a truly obsessive child, feel free to take action to make your life easier, even if you lose a little in the process. Just tell them that you wish you could have a TV in the house and not have conflict, but since you can't, it's out of the house. Don't say it to try to get him to change himself or beg you to bring it back. Say it only if you mean it and with no resentment. Kids do not need TV. Neither do adults. It can be fun, but so can other things.
Having said all that, I know that it's sometimes hard to get the husbands to agree to such choices. As a single parent, I had an advantage in that area. When I was convinced I should go in one direction, that is the direction I went in. Would a good dad have helped this situation so another solution was possible? Maybe, but no childhood is perfect, and my son turned out really well despite things like this. I would rather he struggle over TV than over drugs.
In my opinion, it helps parents a lot for them to realize that they can make choices that may be different than what they see others making while still very wholesome and effective. Every kid presents challenges. Even the "compliant" ones are often not nearly as angelic behind mom and dad's back as they are in full view. Sometimes parenting is a matter of "Pay me now or pay me later." Concede a few inconsequential battles but always win the war, and win it with dignity and grace. The war isn't about TV. It's about "raising" a baby to be a man or a woman who respects him or herself, is happy to be alive, and who is a good person to have on the planet.
Looking at it that way, isn't it easier to decide to put the TV away if it's a problem? Or to let the child watch it till he is sick of it and always have something more exciting to do in the next room.
Okay, one more story. I mentored a bulimic girl who was fourteen and suffering through her parent's contentious divorce. Both parents were off track, but the mom's home was chaotic, filthy, filled with flies and fleas, and at least verbally abusive to her. The dad was definitely problematic as he had been taking turns sleeping with the two teenage girls, one at a time. The girls said nothing happened, and the dad (and Army Chaplain) was warned by social services not to do that again. The girl ate very lightly and then went to the bathroom, turning on the fan and always leaving droplets of brown or yellow stuff nearby. Her teeth were damaged, and she had signs of neglected medical conditions. After convincing the dad to allow me to take her for educational testing on post, I got him to allow me to go with her to a recommended visit to a psychologist. He refused to allow her to get tested for bulimia. I asked if I could work with her, noting I had no expertise in this area. He consented. The psychologist encouraged me to keep helping her develop boundaries and to keep tutoring her. My son actually tutored her though she was much older. Finally, he got custody of the girl and moved across the country. He said his television was broken. Well, the significance of this is that the girl had not even read halfway through a very thin book all year at school. She had an untreated reading problem that had been diagnosed but not treated for long. I made the device she needed as best I could from materials I could buy, and she started to read more. Then, her dad insisted she didn't need it and threw it away, which left her in tears. So, concerned for her future, I convinced him NOT to get his television fixed but instead to enroll her in a day program for teens and provide weekly stacks of books from the library. He refused to allow her to go to the teen program. He pretty much left her trapped in the house all summer since the heat, humidity, mosquitos and unfamiliarity with the neighborhood prevented her from getting out. She knew no one. Well, the dad started bringing her home stacks of books recommended by the librarian. I sensed I would soon lose contact with her, and I called her church youth counselor to "pass the baton" so that she would have someone to look out for her and hopefully connect her with female mentors and get her into the youth choir since she had an angelic voice and no encouragement to use it. One day she called me, excitedly telling me that she was reading a book a week. That was huge progress for her, but soon the line went dead. I heard nothing from her and knew I better not call without the dad's express permission. Later I found out that her dad had pulled the phone out of the wall in anger that she wanted to talk to me as he felt that she liked me more than she liked him. (Sad.) Two months later the phone rang. She said she was at the counselor's house and just wanted to say "Hi" quickly. She sounded really upbeat. She was now a regular soloist at church, her dad playing his guitar to accompany her. This was good because it gave him a way to be "partnered with her" as he wanted but that had the effect of improving her confidence and giving her some skill she was lauded for and knew she was good at. She also told me that she had gained nearly twenty pounds since the beginning of summer and finally at fifteen started her period. She thanked me for teaching her to like healthy foods. I don't know if she got treatment for or beat her bulimia but I did see a photo of her on the internet a few years later, and she looked healthy, not too thin. Finally, she told me something that was my whole reason for telling you this story. By the end of the summer, she had gotten to where she was reading a fairly long chapter book every single day. No longer was she the kid who struggled to read, but instead she had read many of the books that that librarian knew she would be assigned in her upcoming school year. This helped her tremendously that year, and she was basically mainstreamed into school that year. There is more to the story, but the point is that a lack of TV didn't hurt that girl. Prior to going without TV, her grades were absymal, her social skills amounted to her being bullied, and she had no life to be envied. Without the TV, her grades in all subjects improved likely due to her improved reading level and confidence. The TV had been something to distract her from her miserable life. When she turned to books to serve that purpose, her life got better. Just food for thought. Very different than the issue with a well cared for four-year-old, but it's added to give another perspective on TV.