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setting t.v. limits

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

So, we have strict limits to t.v. time for our four year old, and we always have. No t.v. at all for the first two years, then occasional shows, then only on non-school evenings. Now, a movie on Friday and Saturday nights only and Saturday morning PBSkids shows. We now have a t.v. obsessed kid. He's asking for it all the time, and throwing fits for more even though our rules are well established. For example, everyday asking if it's a school night (pre-school), and fussing/fitting whenever I say yes 'cuz he knows that means no t.v.; or waking up each morning and asking if it's Saturday. 

I would like to help him pass this obsession (for both of our sake) and I wonder if we've actually limited it too much. What are others doing around t.v. limits? We are looking to try other strategies that take the allure of it away while still keeping t.v. time to a minimum. (But we don't use incentives and rewards, so we aren't searching for ideas that involve using t.v. time as a reward.)

Edited by kconeill - 5/20/12 at 7:20pm
post #2 of 13
What about making a calendar that he can cross off so he is part of keeping track? We do tv only on Friday for our almost 4 yeaar old. She was having a really hard time not asking when we let her watch more, but we decided that once a week was better and she has done much better with not having such a hard time. I should also say that we are not so strict about it....if we are at a friends or family, she can watch if they are. Good luck!
post #3 of 13

We do TV mornings only, and alternate "days" for choosing between my 2 girls.  We are homeschoolers, so TV at this time works.  Sick days (theirs or mama's) gets a pass as "extra video day" which can be hard to wean them off of, admittedly, but they are better at it than they used to be and are often tired of TV by then anyway (we only have videos, no "TV").


I'd say you have too many variables.  Give him a small amount of TV at the same time each day, and at least he knows when to expect it.  Some kids might be fine with the schedule you have, but clearly your son needs more consistency.  3yo is still very young to imagine the week ahead, even though a part of them has learned it, it is still not ingrained enough to give them a knowing sense of where they are in the week or day, and to visualize how that week progresses.  Heck, my 5yo still hasn't internalized it!  So, if he knows he can expect some TV time every day at the same time he might calm down.


I like the calendar idea.  That might let you fit in movie night--perhaps--but I think *just* allowing  TV only from x show to X show then turn it off would be best.  And either record Saturday morning shows to watch later or do afternoon videos because I really think the same time of day, every day helps a kid like this.


Also, I do love videos more than TV because the video has a definite *end*.  Nothing is on afterwards.  Though, timing the PBS shows so when you want him to stop watching TV, the News Hour comes on to bore him to tears might be as good as the end of a video!  Libraries are a great source for videos.


Good luck! 

post #4 of 13

I have a friend who made laminated "tv" cards for her 4yo son. He gets two or three a day (I'm not sure of their exact rules) and each time he watches a show he has to give up one of his cards. When they're gone, they're gone. Sometimes he spreads them out throughout the day and sometimes he watches all his shows at once. It seems to work for them and it provides a visible tool for helping the little one manage his own viewing.

post #5 of 13

Vancouver Mommy: I really like your idea!!

post #6 of 13

It might work over the summer when there's not school but what about just letting him watch all he wants. Right now it's forbidden and therefore alluring. We used to have strict tv rules. Now the four kids who are old enough to care can watch it pretty much whenever they want. Their not allowed to stay up late to watch it and they're not allowed to watch inappropriate shows. They no longer want to watch it all the time and generally ignore it when I'm watching something. It's on maybe 2-3 hours a day, one or more of the kids watch it perhaps an hour a day. We have a big cable package, mostly so I can be entertained while DH is away, so there are lots of options for them and the older ones can record shows if they want. The older two now like to watch shows on the discovery channel or animal planet. They watch around two hours a week of these kinds of shows, they're the only shows that hold their attention. They just don't care about tv anymore. 

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

Folks, Thank you so much for insights and ideas that we will try. Just what we need to refresh the system. 

post #8 of 13

I've found that the solution to our TV problems is less TV.  Currently our sons (4 and ~2) don't watch any TV unless one of us caregivers is so sick that this is the only way for us to recover, or if we decide to watch a movie as a family - this maybe happens 6 times a year.  I do find that once we let our oldest watch some TV (during one of the above circumstances), he is whining for more TV for a week or so.  I think that TV is somewhat addictive to them, just like sugar.


I grew up with a TV in  almost every room; we even watched TV during dinner.  It bothers me now that I wasted all of that time watching TV when I could have been learning.  I can recall scenes from all of the movies I watched when I was a kid - what if I was instead recalling scenes from books or from time spent observing nature?  These questions are why we don't watch a lot of TV in our house.


No judgement of others, but almost NO TV for our kids is what we've decided will work for our family.  DH and I watch ~ 4 hours of TV a week, all in the evenings after the kids are in bed on our computer.  We don't have a TV in our house, just a computer.


We may have to change this somewhat due to social pressures when DS1 is in elementary school so that he is completely left in the dark when it comes to social media, but for now this works for us.

post #9 of 13
Originally Posted by boatrat View Post


I grew up with a TV in  almost every room; we even watched TV during dinner.  It bothers me now that I wasted all of that time watching TV when I could have been learning.  I can recall scenes from all of the movies I watched when I was a kid - what if I was instead recalling scenes from books or from time spent observing nature?  These questions are why we don't watch a lot of TV in our house.

This was similar to my experience growing up.  I was a latchkey kid and watched way too much TV.  Not that I needed to spend my time learning, but watching reruns of the Jeffersons (and a bunch of others) every day for an entire summer (after summer after summer) just seems like wasted time to me now.  Bad choice!  I also find the TV and computer distracting for me in an unhealthy way.  So, I do impose limits and my girls have gotten used to them for the most part (for now).


I understand the forbidden fruit concept.  We are unschoolers, and this is one of the few, major, set-in-stone rules that I haven't conceded.  I am not confident that these limits are indeed the best *in the long run* but I certainly do like the *immediate* results.


Something that no one has brought up:  there needs to be limits for parents as well.  Some kids feel injustice keenly (and make a fuss about it).  And they have a point!  So, if there are arguments, parents need to look at this (I bring this up without there being any mention of parental TV viewing on this thread.   It's just something that isn't considered often in problems similar to this.)

post #10 of 13

OP:  we too had a no television policy the first two years, but after that, we did allow certain shows at certain times.  DD (who is 5.5) is pretty good at self-regulating, and here is why I think it works for us: 


1.  I'll be frank with her and say outright:  "Your brain is dying."  That spooks her and she takes great joy in doing what is right by her little grey cells. winky.gif


2.  Aside from the fear mongering (see paragraph "1"), we've had to work hard to encourage her that there are far more interesting things to do with one's life besides watching television.  She's at school all day but often when we get home, we work to steer her away from the desire to watch television by asking if she wants to play a game of cards, asking her to help with dinner, or forego immediate dinner and go to the park to work some additional exhaustion in her.  Sometimes I feel exhausted and just want to chill, but at this point in her life, we really need to develop good habits with her.  Another thing that seems to work for us is that our stereo system (tuner, et al) is connected to the television system, and DH has to listen to his music every night, which precludes television viewing.  She ends up having more fun playing instruments with DH and tends to forget about television shows. 


It has always been a long-standing policy that no televisions are to be on when there are not specific shows being watched.  DH and I only watch about a 1/2 hour worth of news before we go to bed at night, and on occassion I'll ask DD to watch a cooking show with me on Food Network.  I concur with SweetSilver in that parental viewing or non-viewing can have a big influence on what kids do.  DD is far more interested (at least at this point in her life) in doing what we are doing.  Restricting television for the sake of restricting or using it as a reward would not work for us.  I don't want television to be viewed as something "special" but rather as something that is just not that interesting in the long term. 

Edited by CatsCradle - 5/22/12 at 11:42am
post #11 of 13

We have one movie nights on non-school days and that has almost always been our guideline.  When my dd went through this I treated tv tantrums like I did other tantrums and reminded her of the rule, empathized, then allowed her to work through her anger without responding anymore.  I was always there for hugs if it got extreme or to rub her back but I didn't continue to participate in the conversation when my answer wasn't going to change.

post #12 of 13

Our guidelines have changed as DD has aged.  We did no TV for about a year and a half and then some Signing Times videos.  Around 3 she was getting about one half-hour show per day.  She'll be 5 next month and over the last year, it's gone to one hour of TV per day.  It's usually in the late afternoon when we both are tired and want to relax a little.  It works for us.  I spend the time doing something I enjoy---reading, practicing guitar, napping, emailing friends---and she has a healthy snack while she watches, and we tend to be in pretty good moods when we meet up an hour later and ready to finish out the day well.  Sickness (or the 4th rainy day in a row) will often mean a movie, which ends up being about 90 total minutes of screen time for the day.  She spends the great majority of her day reading, learning, playing outside, etc, so I don't mind her taking an hour to watch TV.  

post #13 of 13

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.

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