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Help me break the TV habit

1012 Views 18 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  PM
I'm fed up. All day long, my 23 month old son is asking for "Pubbies, Mama, Pubbies". Yes, he wants to watch the Teletubbies, again and again and again. If the TV is off, he'll turn it on. If the doors to the TV cabinet are closed he'll open them. I hate it and I hate myself for allowing it to get this out of control.

DS doesn't watch hours and hours of TV, but more more than I'd like him to. He watches PBS, which is better than commercial TV I suppose, but I hate the blank stare and the begging and pleading and the fact that he can recognize Clifford and Elmo and Barney when we see their pictures somewhere.

I'm sure some of you are thinking that I'm nuts
: that is TV watching isn't that bad. But it's not how I was raised, and I expected more of myself as a parent than parking my kid on the sofa with Sesame Street. As a child, we had no TV until I was 8 and then only a crummy B&W set with rabbit ears. We were limited to 1 hour a day, of PBS, and eventually Little House on the Prarie. After that hour, my Mom removed all the knobs so we couldn't turn it on, even if we wanted to. As a result, we were very creative and active children. My Mom involved us in all the household activites - helping her cook, doing doll laundry when she did the family laundry, and she also got down on the floor and put on puppet shows with us, played music with us, and was a very involved parent. We were lucky, lucky kids
. And I want my son to have that kind of parent too.

We can't throw out the TV - Dh loves football too much and I'll admit a certain penchant for ER (and Noah Wylie
). How can I get DS off his TV habit?

Mom to Jacob
#2 due in late March
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Indeed, I think many of us have been where you are now. Started out limited but as your child becomes more and more attached to certain shows, the power struggle begins.

We started letting DS watch at about 18 months. Just a show per day and no more. Well, by the time he was 23-24 months, I found he was asking to watch way more often than I was comfortable with. I had started stretching the limits and it was giving me this really oogy feeling. Add to that, I started having to say NO so many more times a day than I was comfortable with. So, we put the TV away, in another room, where he was unable to see it (armoir). He came in asked where it was and I told him the truth, "mommy and daddy put the tv away for awhile so that mommy daddy and you can spend more time together. No fuss. No tears. All fine... much to my total shock of course.

I thought about just holding the line on the limits but having to say NO so often was killing me as in every other respect it went against my parenting philosophy. For whatever reason, I couldn't get him to understand the limits on TV, the whys and wherefores that is, and because of that we decided to just take a break in whole.

I made sure to have lots of activities planned for the first few days and honestly it went so smoothly I really hadn't needed to plan. It was winter so we did lots of cooking (real and play), painting, coloring, reading, etc. Within weeks, he was so much more independent in his play that I ever knew he could be. He was also just so much more tuned in to life and he and I were better attached than ever.

Fast forward to now. We've introduced the TV again (at 2 and 8 or so months). This time, we have clear limits which DS understands and responds to extremely well (2 30 min. shows per day... he can pick the show (PBS)). Once he's watched them, the TV's off. If he asks later, I just explain the limit and he moves on. He's still very independent in his play and able to entertain himself well. He enjoys his shows and is so much more verbal now that I do feel that there is educational value (before, he wasn't so verbal and it was hard to tell).

There's our tale. Best of luck... there is a HUGE thread on this somewhere, btw. Probably down the list a ways but worth look for. I think it's called something like, The TV question.
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First of all, you're not alone! What got me to reduce was the book "The Plug-In Drug". Great book! Anyway, I wanted to ask if you have a rhythm or routine to your days. My girls know that when we come in from the playground, we watch Little Bear while I prepare dinner. (They are 2 1/2 and 4 1/2). They also know pretty much what to expect of the day: go out in the morning (shopping, playgroup, ballet class for my older one, playdate, or just a nice walk in the woods), come home for lunch and to put little one down for a nap, mommy's chores, sometimes a short video for my older one, get snack ready, get little one up, take snack and kids to playground to meet up with friends, Little Bear, dinner, bath, and bed. It's like that every day and they know what to expect. I think this contributes a lot to their acceptability of the rules and limits in our house. Hope this helps. If not, I say cut out TV entirely, at least for a while.

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Hello -

My dd didn't watch any television until age 2 1/2. I introduced it to her when her father came out here for 6 weeks (yes, I needed an electronic babysitter!) before we moved. Then we moved here in the dead of winter - no friends, no outdoor activities quickly translated into too much TV watching for her. Her father and I do not watch much. This pattern continued for about 7-8 months.

Finally, I put the TV down on the floor, unplugged. She never asked for it again. It's been about 2 months.
Kristina- you're an adult who's mom strongly limited how much tv you watched when you were a kid. What was your "relationship" with the tv when you were an older child/teen (8-14)? Did you have cravings? Were you a tv zombie when you went to friends' homes? Or was it no big deal to you?
Just have a sec. here, but we took away our living room TV when ds1 was born. We still have a tv in our family bedroom and I usually watch just a bit. Kids don't miss or know anything about it. I'd imagine that as they get older, we'll watch special shows together upstairs.

I guess you could wonder if they'd go plug themselvse in but i've foundw/my kids and friends' kids, they hate to be alone.
Try putting away all tv's except for one. And don't put that one in the main family area. Unplug the tv and only plug it in when you want to watch something, such as the football or e.r. Good luck!
We had a similar problem. I started letting my then 2 yr old son watch a little TV each day (Sesame Street - 1 hour, I thought it was 30 min
) and he was screaming for it everyday. He was totally addicted.

I knew the AAP recommended NO TV for kids under 2.... so I figured it was OK.

Then, one day I was at the bookstore and picked up Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think and what we can do about it by Jane Healy. I started reading it in the store, couldn't put it down and took it home.

Basically, brain researchers say that experiences help shape the brain... TV watching specifically is not good for thinking/problem solving... lots of anecdotes from teachers around the U.S. who are
puzzled about why recent generations can't do the same school work that others could. Scary.

So right then and there I decided no more TV. I turned it off. He cried for days and kept asking for it... (boy was it hard!) but he finally accepted it.

Around the same time, I also purchased a
Learning Tower (best money I ever spent!) and invited him into the kitchen to help me cook. He usually spent time playing in the sink.
We still use our Learning Tower daily!

Anyway, we have a family room/toy room and that is where our main 42" wide screen TV is (DH
is a tech head and loves his audio/visual stuff... no way in heck we are ever going to get rid of it).

Point is, it's in plain view and he knows the rule. No TV.

When I was trying to wean him this past Spring, as a desperate distraction, I turned on Shrek (we have it saved on
TiVO)and only let him watch one segment (not the whole movie) at a time (the fire-breathing dragon in the castle chasing Shrek and the Donkey). He loved it. Still does.

DH & I do enjoy TV, though I don't have much time to watch. If Giancarlo (3.5 yrs old) is too wired at night and can't sleep, the thing that ALWAYS works is I take him downstairs to sit on my lap (the rule is, his face is away from the TV) wrap him in a blanket and tell him to go to sleep. He is usually happy just to be "downstairs" with us and goes to sleep in 5 minutes.

Get one of the books mentioned... it will *** REALLY *** motivate you to turn it off. Good luck!
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Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. I'm working on some of the things you mentioned - I'm trying to create more structure to our day, and I have unplugged the TV during the day as well. I got a lot of whining one day when it was cold and rainy and we couldn't play outside, but other than that, he seemed to not notice. It helps that the TV is in a closable armoire.

journeymom, your post made me think and YES, I became pretty obsessed with TV in my later-childhood and early teen years. My Mom used to take the knob with her when she'd leave us home alone and my brother and sister and I figured out how to turn it on with pliers! Funny, out of the three of us, I'm the only one who still watches much though. My brother's kids don't watch any TV and my sister lives in Costa Rica and doesn't have one.

I'm sure there is a balance somewhere.
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we watch with the sound all the way off. i don't know how that would work with your child since he's already had the sound experience, but you could try it. ER is totally acceptable with closed captioning on. we find that we don't get sucked into the TV vortex like we did before, but we don't feel like we've denied ourselves something. dd doesn't even notice when the tv's on half the time. i usually don't turn it on during the day, but a lot of times in the evening we have animal planet or something like that on, sometimes law and order after the gruesome stuff is past if dd is still up. even if dd is asleep dh and i find that the only time we turn the closed captioning up is for a music show or something like the weather when hurricane isabel was threatening. dh actually prefers to watch sports with the sound off 'cause he gets so disgusted with the announcers. you might give it a try and see if it works for you.

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we watch with the sound all the way off.

Yea, we're not the only ones! We both hate noise and CC rocks. I think that's why ds has never been interested in tv. It made no sense and was just plain old boring. Okay, I'm sure I'll break down and turn the volume up for Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer, though.
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yeah, i think it rocks. especially if you're familiar with a show you can just hear the voices in your head almost as if the sound were turned up. it really works great for us. it drives us both crazy when we go to a hotel or something and the tv doesn't do closed captioning. and i really do find that i don't get sucked in like i used to. i'm much more able to regulate my viewing. now if i could just do something about this dang internet....
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I know this subject comes up alot, but I'm really enjoying this thread since it's now becoming more relevant to us.

We really are TV junkies, and I always liked to have it on in the background. I think it's a holdover from my single and living alone days. Anyways, DD has never shown interest in TV until recently, and even now the only show she has ever watched for more than 10 minutes is Bear in the Big Blue House. I really enjoy it, too. But it gets worse...

(hanging my head in shame) I have actually been encouraging her to watch it so I can get a break for a few minutes in the morning!! (arrrrgh! running and hiding)

It's just soooo nice to be able to eat my breakfast and drink my tea in peace, and even go brush my teeth!

But I hear what you mamas of older toddlers are saying and I know I'm creating a potential TV monster. So I want to say THANK YOU for all the great ideas, and the much needed wakeup call.

I love having a TV in the bedroom. DH doesn't. But if it were in the bedroom, it would "force" me to do without (DD and I spend alot of time in the living room).

I also love the idea of using CC. I am a Law and Order junkie and that would be a good way to watch it without getting DD sucked into inappropriate scenes and dialog.
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I love my tv, and while I'm seriously considering doing away with the cable (it's so hard!
) I don't think I'll ever get rid of it entirely.

My son is 11 months old and doesn't watch kid shows. I never put them on. I *know* that he'll get sucked in, because that's what those shows are designed to do. So I watch my own shows, and I don't turn on the television before 2 pm. He likes the theme to Stargate SG-1, and whenever he hears a commercial that they usually run (like one for the Sci-Fi channel) he turns around to look; that's about it.

I refuse to put on kid shows, even on PBS, because there's too much paraphanalia that goes with it. Eli will probably never see an SG-C hat in the mall, but he's bound to see a dozen items with Sesame Street, Teletubbies, or Clifford characters on them. And he'll want them all! Even the grocery store isn't safe. By keeping him away from programming directed towards kids his age (and even at 11 months there are programs directed at him. Scary!) I hope to prevent the TV addiction as well as the scary degree of commercialism and the inability to think creatively which are so prevalent among children in America today.

Finding programming that is appropriate or even "safe" is more difficult; I like Stargate SG-1, and there are many shows that I'm willing to record so that I can stop the tape if my son is in the room (Law & Order, when I can stomach it). I also like to take videos out of the library to watch. (Again, no cartoons or kid shows). When he's a little older, I'll probably let him watch Reading Rainbow (which is an amazing show and very non-commercial), and we'll see about other things as they come up, but Nickelodeon is banned until he's old enough for Daria. :LOL

I don't think it's the amount of TV that bothers me so much as 1)what he's watching and 2)how much he wants to be watching it. If, when Eli gets older, he wants to watch Stargate for an hour every night, that's fine. I'd have a real issue with a young toddler asking for Teletubbies over and over again during one day, and then asking for the toys, clothes, and other items that have Tubby-logos on them.
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We didn't have a TV for a long time. Ours broke shortly after dh & I got got together and we just didn't want to replace it, with the amount of money we dealt with at the time it would have been a huge portion of our budget even for a cheap set.

Problem with that was, one morning I remember we woke up to the guy on the radio saying, "I know we don't have any news coverage on our show normally, but there's been a bombing in Oklahoma City, and we're going to broadcast from our sister station WXYZ News Radio." Well, yeah, a bombing, that's sad, but I was really visualizing what you see in the news with the suicide bombers in Israel, or the first WTC bombing. Nothing prepared me for the pictures in the newspaper THE NEXT DAY. I went 24 hours clueless to the biggest news story of the decade that everyone around me was talking about.

Later, during the election of... 96?... my cousin was making a joke regarding Bob Dole's habit of referring to himself in the thrid person.... and I didn't get it. You just don't get that in newspaper or radio. You don't hear debates or speeches, you hear a synopsis of them. So she gave us an old TV set of hers to watch. (We still only got channel 13 with rabbit ears.)

When we moved we got channel 13 & PBS only, and since I worked where I could buy movies used, cheap, my kids only watched pre-screened videos and PBS. (Toddler age then.) Didn't worry about them over-watching it because he usually played while it was on, and looked up for his two or three favorite scenes of the movie.

My mom is disabled and home all day so when she moved in we got basic cable. Similar situation to OK bombing, the day of the 9/11 attack, I was almost on my way to my sister's/babysitter's house. She had a TV but no reception, only videos. So I popped in a videocassette and recorded what was happening for her, but was on the road when the towers actually collapsed. I was glued to the TV for days, and very glad we had cable because that's all I wanted to watch for a while.

We got rid of cable after my mom moved out, but now can't seem to get PBS. All I want is an antenna so I can get PBS again. All I really enjoyed watching was PBS's "American Family" (first time I've used the words 'cinematography' and 'television' in the same sentence) and Channel 13's "That 70's Show" (reminds me of my youth), and if I happen to be up late on a weeknight, DS-9. Anything else was just bubble-gum for the mind.

Final secenario: Our cousin-gifted TV has broken. Dh wants a pretty nice newer one since we have a DVD player and tower speakers. I would be content with a little 13 inch. (I'm relenting because I just got a digital camera for my birthday. Can't complain about his TV.) We ordered on on-line, and it hasn't come in the last two weeks. I was really enjoying myself. It helped us reach the goal of getting the kids in bed earlier, I was spending time practicing my guitar I just got, I talked more with dh and the kids... THEN we got sick. Right now we both have the flu. I'm too sick to sleep, too foggy-headed to read, (if I'm too foggy-headed to write forgive me for not noticing). And to hell with all those vehement anti-TV people, there's nothing that makes eight to ten hours at a time vanish in no time when I'm sick, like watching TV. (Rambling on BBs is second, but a distant second.)

In summary: I don't agree with the "kill your television" people. But I did have a button that said, "Theater is life. Cinema is art. Television is furniture." --Amen!

In the future-- Now that our kids are in school and getting homework (in KINDERGARTEN!?!) My sister is doing a weekends-only rule at her house. I think in mine it's going to be "before 10 or 11 am rule" with maybe a family video rental on the weekend. Meaning it's a good way to spend a morning lounging in jammies, or a PBS babysitter when kids are ready for school earlier than usual, but it's no way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Damn, I am foggy-headed, I rambled on forever didn't I?
: Sorry.
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Originally posted by Piglet68
I love having a TV in the bedroom.
So do we. Right now it's an old 19" which I cannot WAIT to get rid of. TVs emits Radiation and Lead

Drowning in e-waste Safe disposal of mountains of old PCs, monitors is a snowballing problem we've only begun to face

I can't wait to get a Flat Screen TV for our bedroom. We're waiting for the price to go down.
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When my husband was little, he was not allowed to watch any TV, his parents had a television only for the VCR hook-up so they could rent the occasional movie, and dh didn't really mind. Fast forward a decade or so (when we first met) and he was an 18 year old tv addict for sure. He still LOVES it and watches, in my opinion, too much! I, on the other hand, was never limited, and I rarely watch it now. Same for my two siblings. Of course, this is not the only possible outcome from these two situations, but it's how it seemed to work for us. We do allow ds (3 years old) to watch tv each day. He wakes up at 6:00 each morning, has not taken a nap since he was 22 months old, and stays up until 7:30 each night. It's a REALLY long day for a kid who also goes to school for 3 hours each day. We let him watch about an hour in the morning (from 6:00-7:00) and then sometimes 30 minutes in the late afternoon before dinner. It seems like a lot, but really, the rest of his day is SOOOO full of interactions between him and his grandma, dh and I (plus the 3 hours with other kids) that this is the best "down time" for him. We read books for about 2 hours each day, we play games, go to the library and out for walks, play in the yard, etc. In no way do I feel my son is neglected because of this tv time. Really, 1.5 hours out of 13 or 14 hours jam-packed with interaction and learning, does not seem like a lot to me. Oh, and we watch TV together, and he is not at all a zombie. He TALKS about everything that's happening the whole time. Not great for the movie theater, but pretty good for home on the couch! Perhaps you would feel better about tv time if you were directly interacting with your child about what was going on on the screen. (If you aren't already.)
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It was nearly this EXACT topic that caused my first post here at MDC!

No TV when young. Exposed to it now and then. Was mostly totally BORED by it.

To this day, get really, really annoyed when I'm at someone's house where the TV is on all the time. I don't care if they are watching it or using it for "background". I can't stand it.

Our pixie doesn't have one. (No TV in the apartment.) If he feels deprived in the future, that's his problem. If he turns into an addict, that's his problem, too. If I don't let him have any crack cocaine and he wants it later on, did I make a bad decision?
Well, maybe, but not about letting him have it or not.

And I've had people tell me that he'll be "out of it" compared to the other kids. Well, if he feels that way, I also think that that'll be his problem, not mine. There is always something that someone else knows about that you don't.

I don't know much of anything about Survivor; but, I know Latin, Ancient Greek myths, how to measure an earthquake, how to repair a diesel engine, how to ride a horse, how to play the drums and how to make puff pastry from scratch. I also know some rough-and-ready first aid, how to choose wood to make a bow and arrows from, juicy lines for the movies of Mae West, and how to sharpen an axe.

Who would you rather have along if your airplane made an emergency landing?
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Hear hear!

...and don't ever give me the argument "I watched TV and I'm fine."
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