Friday, October 10, 2008

The TV

I enjoy television. My kids enjoy television. I know that some criticize the notion of families sitting around staring at the boob tube together, but this summer in particular, we had some good bonding experiences around the TV. For example, one day a show called Hole in the Wall came on after Terry's football game ended. Kyle, Amanda, Terry and I all watched (and laughed) together at this silly game show/reality event sort of show. We haven't become regular viewers, because in general we are watching less TV, but Kyle still asks me when the "bust through the hole" show is coming on again.

When I was at TJ Maxx early this summer, I picked up some Good Eats DVDs, because they were a bargain (about $5 with 3 or 4 episodes on each DVD) and also because it's a show Amanda and I enjoying watching together on the Food Network. We had so much fun watching an episode here and there throughout the summer while Kyle was napping or otherwise engaged.

Terry and I also bond through TV -- yelling at reality stars together (or politicians). Whenever we're watching a silly sitcom, and I laugh out loud, he says, "I like it when you laugh," because somehow I've gotten the reputation of no-fun Jennifer, even though it is he who recently decided to stop watching a lot of the mindless TV that we used to veg through hours of each night. No matter -- the point is that over the last couple of years, we have been watching much less TV. Mostly as shows that we used to enjoy watching went off the air, we simply didn't replace them in the line up. Instead, we read or talked or just went to bed earlier.

Another thing that has worked for us is watching TV on DVD. For a while, we've done this with 24 and more recently we decided to watch the last season of Friends, which we never really saw. Netflix works great for this. We get to enjoy a show, but on our time (I should probably explain that we don't have TiVo, so we can't just record and watch later as a matter of course. I have been flirting with the idea, but everyone I know who has it says that they end up watching much more TV, so I'll just continue recording House on the VCR so that I can watch it on my own the following day. Between that fact, and the extra $5 (or more?) for the rest of my life on my Direct TV bill, we've again decided against it).

I've realized lately that something needs to change -- again. This time, it's my children's television viewing habits. This summer they watched quite a bit, and Amanda finally got into all the Disney tween empire shows. Now neither of my children are responding well to moderation, so I just told Amanda and Kyle that there will be no TV on school days. Much to my surprise, Amanda said, "That's a good idea, Mom" (proving that even independent tweens actually want to be parented). Kyle complained a little more. I will allow Kyle to watch TV during the day on the two days he's home from preschool while Amanda is at school, but for both of them, there will be no morning or afternoon TV.

See, I don't do well with moderation, and I don't think the kids do either. I was allowing Amanda to veg for 30 or 45 minutes when she got home from school before doing homework and chores, but half the time it led to an argument when it was time to turn it off, "But Mom, I've never seen this episode."

In spite of the fact that she thinks it's a good idea, I think that it will require willpower on my end, so that's why I'm posting my intent publicly. I know that it's going to be a good thing, and it's the right thing for us to do, but it's also not easy always being the enforcer. With complete abstinence, those kinds of arguments are avoided, once they get used to the idea.

What about you? How do you (or do you?) moderate your own TV viewing and that of your children? Are you pleased with how it's working out?


stephanie said...

We've cut back a bunch in the last several weeks. Not because what the girls have been watching was bad per se (we don't have cable so anything they watch is PBS or on a dvd), but it was one 1/2 hour show for this one, and then 2nd got to pick HER show. It wasn't going to be long before #3 had a preference. That's 1 1/2 hours of TV right there. And it was too easy for me to slip away and get on the computer or start working on projects instead of involving the girls in those tasks with me.

The first few days we experienced withdrawal pains, but it's gotten much better. :) And we still kept our Friday night family movie/pizza night intact. :)

Katrina said...

I learned something new about you today -- I didn't know that you didn't have TiVo.

I have to say, we love our TiVo and it hasn't led us to watch more TV. Chad and I really only like a couple shows, but since it is hard for us to stay up late, we TiVo them and then watch them at a reasonable hour (like 8:00). :) The other nice thing is being able to pause while we're watching regular TV. Very handy.

Oh - and we love Good Eats! Chad, Camden, and I all get a kick out of Alton Brown.

Karla E said...

Jennifer, I'll have to agree with Katrina. We actually watch LESS TV with TiVo. We only watch what we want, not what happens to be on. The boys watch very little or no TV on school days, but they do veg on Saturday mornings (if we don't have an early game). They can't watch anything until after homework and chores...and there's usually little time left before they have to get ready for sports practice or a game. Nick does watch alot of sports on the weekend, but it's not "veg" type just happens to be on and he catches it as he runs through the house, or he plays his version of the same game in our living room. My only concern about him watching sports is that EVERY commercial is either for beer or an ED treatment!

dad said...

Do visiting Grandparents have to enforce and abide by the TV rules?
See you soon!!!

T with Honey said...

Princess is only 3.5 so we try to keep her TV time down. We had run into the same problem of her crying and giving us a hard time when it was time to turn it off.

I solved that one real quickly. When the TV is turned on I tell her how many episodes she can watch or warn her when a show comes on that we will be turning it off when the show ends. Then if she still complains when it is time to turn it off I just say that if TV is going to make her cry then we just won't watch ANY TV. Princess does a complete 180, turns the TV off herself and the peace is maintained.

Andrea said...

We are not moderationers either (not to be confused with moderates.) Our recent ban on weekday tv has resulted in Joshua and Elizabeth playing more outside, playing more with each other, and an amazing amount of creative projects...not to mention that they are getting their homework completed earlier and are truly tired enough to sleep well at night. I don't think that television is the box that houses all evil, I just have found that we don't really have enough time in the day for negotiating (okay, arguing)who can watch what and when and for how long, followed by the act of watching, followed by more negotiations. It's not value added to our day. So, fellow extremist, I commend your decision.

Jen Rouse said...

Enforcing screentime limitations truly does take willpower on the part of the parent, not just the kids. That electronic babysitter can be so tempting...

At A Hen's Pace said...

To help attitudes and general cooperation with homeschooling, we have a no-TV/movies-on-school-days policy. The weekend begins on Friday night.

We do make exceptions for times when we're not home and our older kids are babysitting, and I do put on educational 30 minute videos for my two youngest while I'm reading to my older kids.

But that's been our policy for years, and it's worked well. The one who most frequently wants to break it is my husband! But when I remind him that it's to help with homeschooling, he's on board again. The kids really do read more during the week if the TV is not an option--and so do we.

(Although my husband has been watching some kind of election coverage most nights... But the kids aren't interested, so I don't care!)


Carrie said...

Great post!

We don't have tv at all. We have a tv but we don't have reception to any channels. Just fuzz. (I'm not sure why, actually.) So we get our news online and we watch some of our favorite shows on DVD, which we really like to do!

TV via DVD works very well for us because we can decide how many shows we're going to watch at any given time. We usually end up watching 1 hour of tv a week max.....except on weeks when we get a new season of our favorite episode in the mail and we sit down and watch 40 minutes to an hour a night. =X ha! We use it as down time which we honestly don't have much of but we enjoy the opportunity to just sit and laugh with each other over tv. You are right - it IS a bonding thing in its own way.