Have you ever been watching a nice family friendly show with your kids and then a super-grown commercial for something like Scandal comes on? In addition to diving for the remove, you’re wondering, “Why is this even on during Free Willy?!” That’s the type of day I was having when I decided to do a 30-day no-TV challenge. I was sick of the curse words, sick of the sex slipped into everything, sick of depressing, “We only talk about death and mayhem” news, sick of kids shows that aren’t kid appropriate. So I said, “Enough.”
Why I did it
Up to that point, I had gotten pretty lax in my TV stance. I had always planned to raise my children with minimal TV, but as a stay-at-home mom who was constantly surrounded by two demanding children, I began to rely more and more on TV just to get a break. I didn’t want to do it, but I needed something to get them out of my face! So, I let them watch a show here, a show there… and then another show here, and another show there… and then three shows back to back here, and four shows back to back there. And even though they were always children’s shows (allegedly), I was constantly bothered by the themes. I mean, who said THIS is children’s content? It’s practically one step down from Young and the Restless.
Before reaching my breaking point, there were many times where I wanted to cut back on TV, but I always thought, “But then that would be more work for ME! I’d have to entertain them every second of every day.” That thought alone is stressful, so I shoved it aside and went back to whatever I was doing. But you can only ignore things for so long. Sooner or later, you’ve got to face what’s there. For me, that meant making a commitment to watch no TV for 30 days straight.
Off to a rough start
Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard to get the children on board. I just told them they could have a party if they went a whole month without TV. Notice I started with the reward first. They agreed instantly. But early the next day, my 3-year-old jumped up and wanted to watch TV. I told him, “No-TV challenge, remember?” He wasn’t having it. He started crying.
At that moment, I had to reassess my decision. “Are you ready for this?” I asked myself. I could have canceled the whole thing and avoided a meltdown, but I had avoided it long enough. I had to do what I had to do. I distracted him by talking about the party he’d get at the end of the month. “So what kind of pizza do you want at your party? Who do you want to invite?” I started naming cousins. It worked, but sure enough, he was back at it a few hours later. My daughter was doing just fine, but I could tell it was going to be a struggle with him. For the first few days, I wanted to give up every other hour. It was real work getting him to forget about TV and even consider doing something that didn’t involve staring at a screen.
Amazing things started happening
After the first few days, Son mellowed and accepted that we wouldn’t be watching TV. That’s when it started to happen: the peace, the creativity. They seemed like totally different children! You probably think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I wish you could have seen the transformation for yourself. I’m used to them fighting a lot, but without the TV, they were calm and loving. I couldn’t believe it. We’ve all heard of the studies that suggest watching violent scenes on TV encourages children to be violent, but my kids never watched that sort of thing. So why were they so easily agitated when the TV was on and so relaxed without it? I now know the answer: stimulation. TV provides constant, fast-paced stimulation that makes it easier for children to be in an irritated state. With the TV off, they were relaxed enough to NOT get upset every time something happened. And not only were they not fighting, but they were working together and saying things like, “We’re a team!” It was truly amazing to witness. I’m not to only one to get these types of results.
Once I noticed the difference, I kicked myself for not doing this early. Just days ago, they were whiny TV Zombies on the verge of WW III, and now they are calm children who do puzzles, make up stories, and create all types of fun projects with things they find around the house. Just yesterday, they used some old boxes to make a train. They tied the boxes together with a plastic bag. Genius!
I originally thought I’d have to do more work (and I do), but its not at all like I’d imagined. I do spend more time reading to them, making up stories with them, and helping them think of things to do, but they do a pretty good job of entertaining themselves without my constant input. And their play is so imaginative! They make up colorful stories to go along with their activities. It’s truly amazing considering they used to just say, “I’m bored,” whenever I made them turn the TV off.
hey completed their 30 days a while ago, so we’ve added TV back in, sparingly. Thankfully, they don’t ask to watch much anymore, and I don’t mind it in moderation. But they know there won’t be anymore back to back episodes of anything.
Of all the changes I’ve observed, the biggest has been the change in me. I’m not sure how this is going to sound, but I’ll go ahead and say it: I like my kids way more when they aren’t watching a lot of TV. Does that sound bad? Does it sound like I didn’t like my kids before? Well, I won’t front: Sometimes I didn’t like them suckers! As much as I love them, my like was a little shaky at times. It’s hard to like your children when they’re fighting all day and crying about EVERY SINGLE THING. But once I cut the TV off, it all changed. Their entire disposition became much more pleasant. Before, I constantly thought about boxing them up and shipping them off to Anytown, USA. Now, I’m totally okay with keeping them.
Would you ever consider a no-TV challenge? If you’ve already done one, how did it go?