The following post is by editor Kara Fleck.
A few weeks ago our family joined in with Screen Free Week and we turned off the television and limited other screens for the week (for example, my iphone was used just as a phone). I told you that I wanted to let my thoughts about that week percolate a bit before I shared with you.
Today I’m ready to share with you how the week went and what I think will happen in our family from here on out. I also want to share what I learned about my kids and about myself that week (hint: it might come as a surprise who really had the screen habit.)
We are normally a family that finds it has to set limits on TV, for one thing because I have discovered that I much prefer music over the television as a background noise. Aside from a few PBS Kids shows and the occasional movie, I’m a bit leery about the so-called “quality” of children’s programming these days, so we just leave the television set off more often than not.
However, we do watch some PBS and sports on a regular basis. My husband and I try to be mindful in our choices, not just “zoning out” in front of the TV, and we watch together as a family most of the time so that we see what the children see and there are no surprises. We also set a time limit on the amount of television allowed.
My discovery: it wasn’t the kids, it was me.
Although, I have to admit that during a busy season of life this year, when I was doing much of the solo parenting some bad habits regarding the television developed. Bad habits that were mostly mine.
Now, I’m all about allowing myself a little grace. This was the first time I’ve ever faced the month of April (known as the dreaded Tax Season in our house) with four kids, three of them ages five and under. I have a baby who keeps my hands pretty full and occasionally makes my nights long. I’m cutting back on caffeine and, therefore, am not as coffee-fueled as normal.
Have I made enough excuses? Are you sensing the desperation? Can you see why I was reaching for something mindless and easy?
A bad habit develops quickly.
I suppose that is my confession regarding TV Free week: I didn’t see how allowing “just a little” mindless TV viewing had become a routine filled with bad habits. None of them terrible on their own necessarily, but when combined together they were starting to set a precedent that I certainly didn’t want for my family or for myself.
I was snapping on the set in the mornings, before they even asked for it to be turned on. And, I was zoning out on the television in the evenings. Neither one of those things are the habits I wanted to become a part of our home life.
But, what surprised me the most about those habits was how easily they took over, even when I thought my values regarding television were pretty solid and set. It was humbling to be knocked off of my high horse a bit.
Just like Jaimie wrote a few weeks ago, I was using the TV to make things easier on myself – only the reality was that it was making things more difficult. In our house, television is one of those things that, left unchecked, will take a mile when you give it an inch during a busy season of life. In fact, that busyness makes it easier for TV to become more of an escape and a time suck for me.
As a result of our extra television watching, I was finding myself more stressed out (news stories tend to do that to me and there were some pretty tragic ones during that time period), the kids were starting to argue over whose turn it was to pick a show or movie and, I cringe writing this, I would find myself zoning out in front of the TV long after the children went to bed while waiting for my husband to come home – time that used to be filled with reading, journaling, or knitting.
It didn’t take long until a bad habit had become our new routine. A routine that wasn’t serving us very well.
In short, TV Free Week couldn’t have come at a better time for my kids and for myself. We needed to fall back into our normal (or what passes for normal around here) rhythm and not one governed by the TV Guide.
We needed to hit the “rewind” button and that button, for us, came in the form of our television set’s power switch.
As easy as walking outside …
In our case, stepping outside our backdoor or picking up a book were a part of the “magic” cure for too much television. It was almost as easy as pushing that remote button, but many many times more rewarding in both big and little ways.
How did the kids react? Actually, they did really well. Aside from the occasional wistful, “gee, I wonder what is happening on Electric Company today…” they all seemed to accept that we weren’t turning the TV on.
There was a big of moaning and groaning on day one, but it must be said that that particular child seems to be going through a moaning and groaning phase and is prone to complaining these days anyway.
Over all, though, the kids didn’t seem to mind. They found other ways to entertain themselves and so did I. In fact, most days I didn’t mention television and they didn’t either.
It was wonderful!
Wonderful, in part, because saying “no” to the TV means saying “yes” to making room for moments like these in our daily life:
What the future holds.
Do I think we’ll ever become an entirely TV free family? No, probably not. We enjoy IndyCar and football and movies far too much. I like having Harry Potter and Mary Poppins around on rainy days. Big Bird, Curious George, and the Electric Company will remain favorites in this house, too.
But, I do know that setting limits on the television, making sure the viewing we allow is mindful (no “zoning out”), watching together as a family, and giving ourselves breaks from the screen are all good things for this family.
Less television means more of the other things we enjoy doing together as a family, things which mean a great deal to me as a parent.
Are we a TV-free family?
No, but once a year we play one in real life. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
And, that is just fine with me.
Did you participate in TV Free week? Why or why not? What have you learned about your family’s viewing habits, or your own?