Monday, February 24, 2014


Every once in a while, I feel like Nate needs a reset. It's almost always my fault, or my fault combined with less-than-ideal circumstances, but it always happens when I've been letting the television take over our lives.

Recently David has been traveling a lot for work. I'd say that at least two weeks out of every four, he's spending a few days per week on the road. Right now, we're in the middle of a four-week stretch where he's gone at least two and up to six days each week.

There are a lot of ways in which this simply isn't a big deal for me. Nate is, after all, only one kid, and he's long out of diapers and isn't particularly needy in the night. But the downside of his being only one kid is that he has no built-in playmates, and so when I need to get a few things done and he won't readily play by himself, it's all too easy to turn on Netflix or hand him an iPad.

Last week we were in Georgia visiting my family, including my sister's darling new baby, and between the 10-hour drives each way and my family's tendency to leave the television on all day, it was pretty much non-stop screen time for a week. By the end of the drive home, poor Nate was in full-on meltdown mode, and I knew that this would have to be a screen detox week.

The weird thing is, it's somehow generally easier to cut the screens for him altogether than it is to limit them to only an hour or so each day. Am I the only one whose kid works like this? I already try to wait as late in the day as possible to pull out the electronic entertainment, because once it's turned on it's a battle to turn it off. I know plenty of moms who can do a mid-day 30-minute TV break to make lunch or do a chore or even--heavens!--just have a few minutes to themselves. It works perfectly well for them. I don't know whether my kid is just more headstrong or somehow reacts more strongly to this sort of stimulation, but dang does it change his behavior. And not for the better.

Right now he's happily sitting at the kitchen table, playing with his approximately one gazillion LEGO minifigures and listening to the Nate the Great books on CD. I discovered during a previous TV detox that he loves listening to books on CD, and will happily listen to certain chapter books over and over while he plays. In addition to Nate the Great, which we were borrowing from the library so frequently that I finally suggested that the grandparents get them for him for Christmas, he is also a huge fan of the Magic Tree House series. (Any other series recommendations? He seems to like to hear stories with the same characters over and over.)

There's a part of me that for years has wanted to get rid of our TV altogether. I know it will never happen, though for a number of reasons, but primarily that my husband is a big sports fan who would be terribly unhappy to lack access to football and hockey. I also watch a fairly large number of TV shows. (It's always weird to see how many I really watch, because now that television series don't always adhere to the older September-May season scheduling, it's never that many shows at once. But I watch Downton Abbey, The Good Wife, How I Met Your Mother, Parenthood, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Episodes, Homeland, Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, The Americans, and Call the Midwife, and I'm committed to see Grey's Anatomy through to the bitter end even though I'm behind by several episodes.) On the rare occasions when I turn on the TV just to have something on, it's almost always something from HGTV or Food Network.

I don't actually think that TV is bad, but I do have a tendency to use it as a crutch with my kid, which I know becomes bad for my particular family when it's on too much. I know it'll creep back into his days before too long, but it really is strange to me how much easier it is to give him a consistent "no" for a while than it is to cut back on how much he watches.

Am I the only one who has to detox her kid from television sometimes? Do you do a full-on stoppage like we do, or are you able to simply cut back? How do you know when it's time for a break?

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I'm participating in 7 Posts in 7 Days, hosted by Jen of Conversion Diary


HereWeGoAJen said...

We definitely do. Usually around vacations and visitors and the like. Now that Elizabeth is in school pretty much full time, she doesn't watch much because it has been so much easier to control. I really dislike the first few days of detox though. So whiny.

Lisa said...

We have had to detox. For my kids, TV in expected increments (half hour for quiet time, or right after getting home from school) is OK and they will handle having it off afterward if it is the expected plan. Snow days were BAD because we had nowhere to go and were getting on each other's nerves, so screen time went WAY up. I think too much TV adds to Olivia's inability to sleep through the night at times.

Mama Bub said...

We love the Magic Treehouse books, but not the audio books. The narration grates on my last nerve. We love Cam Jansen and I just downloaded Geronimo Stilton. (Also Nate the Great, but haven't listened to them.)

A'Dell said...

It's WAY easier at my house to say "nope" than to say "time to stop!" Muuuuch bigger fight on the second one. And when I tell them the TV is off or iPads are off limits they actually get creative They make huge messes and get out everything they own but they DO legit play AND imagine. But yes, we go through the same thing after. Trips or weeks with awful weather.

Hillary said...

The more TV my boys watch, the more attached they are to it. Luckily, they're so into Legos right now that most times they actually choose those over TV.

Susie said...

Obviously Eliza is a lot younger than Nate, but yeah, we have this issue. It's WAY easier to have zero than to try to keep it to some small amount, and she goes coo coo bananas if she has more than, say, half an hour a day or the odd movie here and there.

I also sort of wish we could get rid of TV altogether, but we never will, because sports. I mostly watch older shows (Veronic Mars, woo!) these days, but often have a couple current shows we follow (Top Chef! and so forth).

april said...

None is way easier than less. The boys always get a show before bed (although my 6yo has been more often asking to do other things, like tonight he was continuing to build a transformer from a kit, score!) but the rest of it varies. Sometimes they have a lot of tablet and tv time, and sometimes we'll go days not turning on the tv until that one 22minute netflix program before bedtime. I hate the added noise, so if it's me doing the majority of the kid handling, the tv doesn't get turned on (especially because it's so hard to turn it off.) My husband likes the background noise.