A key aspect of home life simplified is my goal to help parents change the voices in their head telling them all the things they “should” and “should not” be doing as they raise their family. The pressure so many parents feel today stems from being guided by others rather than following what is right for them and their family. It may not match up to what your parents did or what your neighbour is doing right now or the other parents at your school gate. Your family is unique – and your decisions should reflect that.
There is no point pushing yourself to breaking point to deliver every meal from scratch if you are comfortable and happy with most meals being homemade, some being takeaway and others being “fix your own breakfast for dinner”.
There is no point leaving your baby to cry because your mother told you “babies need to learn they are just supposed to sleep” if you feel there is another way that works for you.
Along those same lines I want to talk about the subject of television. In my 8 years being a parent I have heard so many parents expressing guilt that their children watch “too much” TV. I have witnessed parents – who I know let their kids watch TV – pretend they don’t, just to fit in with other parents who claim their children never watch more than a few 1/2 hr shows each week. Somehow they have this feeling of doing something so terrible that they cannot even be honest and that to me is unnecessary. That people should be made to feel “less than” as if they were giving their kids a jar of cookies to eat for dinner every night or ruining their chances at a good education all because they want to watch movies or morning cartoons.
I am here to bust some guilt!
I know there are studies that show the negative side of TV and screen time. I also know that in my 39 years of life there has been a study and counter-study on every subject you can think of. One year you are avoiding butter and eating margarine. The next margarine is evil. Eat eggs – don’t eat eggs – eat eggs everyday. Kids do best in single sex schools. Kids do best in a mixed school environment. And on and on it goes.
I am here to say my kids watch TV almost every single day. Some days it is a shorter amount and other days they watch a lot of movies. I don’t believe TV is the bad guy it is portrayed to be- as with anything else in life it is about balance and what else is going on. A diet of just fast food is not the same as having a happy meal every once in a while (which seriously will not kill your children!) and life spent purely in front of screens is vastly different than a life spent mixing screen time with other things.
Saying even a limit of 2 hours a day misses the mark to me. If one day my child is just so “spent” mentally that they want to veg out and watch 2 movies back to back (or she has picked one and then her sister picks one for after) I don’t see that as a terrible thing as she recharges her batteries. The next day might see her crafting for 4 hours instead – should I put a cap on that activity too – that is where the judgement comes in as TV is bad and art is good.
What else do my children do?
- They go to school 5 days a week until 3pm which is exhausting and challenging on physical, social and emotional levels
- They do homework which is more work
- They read for fun – we have books literally in every room of our home
- They do arts and crafts – self directed – sometimes for 5 or more hours in a day (drawing, creating 3 D projects, designing, using different mediums) and have open access to art supplies
- They write both on paper and on the computer – they create books, menus for restaurants, make lists of information just for the fun of it
- They have pretend play sessions using dress ups or the toy kitchen or endless dolls and toys
- They listen to music or create their own – we have CDs, toy instruments, a full sized drum kit
What are some of the benefits have I seen from the TV time they have?
- Taking ideas they see on a TV show and then turning off the TV to go play their own version that then grows and becomes something great and creative
- Learning so much in all areas – starting with my then-2 year old daughter absorbing all that Spanish vocabulary from Dora and actually using it to learning amazing facts about animals from Deadly 60 to interest in cooking from our time watching Jr Masterchef as a family or science concepts thanks to Ms Frizzle and The Magic School Bus.
- Grasping concepts and lessons on behaviour, friendship, compassion, other cultures from endless shows starting with Sesame Street right down the line of kids shows offering quality messages that reach kids who may not want to listen to Mom and Dad or don’t want to read yet another book.
- Family connections – the joy I feel as we watch the DVDs (I ordered from the States) of “The Magic Garden” – one of my childhood favourites and see them enjoying it too or when my husband has a rare chance to watch sports and the kids cheer for England along with him.
What do you think? Is TV off limits in your house? regulated? a free for all? Do you find yourself limiting or pushing certain things based on what others are doing?
Find your simple,
vintage remote control by flickr user Todd Ehlers
family watching TV together by flickr user Ralph Bijker