Published On: Tue, Oct 2nd, 2012

Ditching The TV Guilt

Danielle Mantakoul

Ditching the TV GuiltWhen the question is asked “how much TV do your kids watch”?  Many of us are telling fibs, fearful of being seen as a bad parent who uses TV as a babysitter. Well I am coming clean. I love kids TV and I am tired of feeling guilty about how much my kids watch. Around five years ago when I had three children under three, our TV was on for most of the day, far more than the recommended viewing time. It was though my saving grace on many, many occasions.

This is not an article about endorsing kids TV, or even educating you on how much TV is recommended.  This is an article for all those mummy’s that feel the guilt associated with their kids watching more than the recommended 2 hours a day.  (Healthy Kids Site NSW)  More of us are in the same boat than we realise, kids TV on, all day. It’s happening in so many households, but no one seems to want to admit to it. It comes back to that guilt thing, being seen as the bad parent, the parent that is not mindful, and makes poor decisions. The truth though, for many of us, it has kept us sane. It has allowed us to clean up that mess, have that cup of tea, get the washing out, speak on the phone, or keep the house quiet for a sleeping baby.

When my kids were little, coming from an early childhood teaching background, I was determined to do the parent thing right. The problem is, that before you are a parent you don’t know where your stresses will lie or how you will deal with them.  Others can tell you, “but hey, that’s you, it will be different for me”. Oh how little you know before babies invade your home. Part of doing the parent thing right meant very little or no TV. Let me see, this little mission of mine lasted six months, but only because they were too little to watch it!

I recall when my kids reached toddlerhood, trying especially hard to be strong and not put the TV on as soon as I got out of bed. But breakfast demanding children would always get the better of me. It’s so much easier to get breakie without kids under your feet. I would plonk them infront of the TV and tell them “it’s coming”. Like a magic wand being waved, good old Dora was my ally, some would say, my babysitter. This sits fine with me….. now. Being a mum is bloody hard, and constant. I remember thinking to myself, “well, at least it’s educational”.

Now no one can deny that kids TV these days is far more educational than it used to be. When we were kids it was Wacky Races, Tom and Jerry, H.R. Pufnstuf and Josie and the Pussycats, just to name a few. When it came to education, the menu tended to consist of Sesame Street or Playschool. These days there are so many educational kids TV shows to choose from, even Looney Tunes who when we were kids tends to bring to mind characters chasing each other and whacking them on the head. Even they have turned educational with their charming cartoon, The Baby Looney Toons Show. The focus in the past certainly seemed to be entertainment, where today, it seems to be much more on education. This factor alone, should at least make some of us feel a little better.

But education alone does not relieve the TV guilt, and nor should it. Some might suggest that if you don’t turn the TV on then your kids will find other things to do. This might be true, the problem with this is at times we need to get stuff done, and Murphy’s law says that whenever you decide to do this, your kids will choose this time to be unwilling to initiate their own play. In no way am I suggesting we open the flood gates to TV, I believe that many of us are currently doing this already. I do though want to tell you mummy’s at home with young children that you need to let go of some of the guilt and simply start making some conscious decisions about TV. Sticking to the 2 hour recommendation may seem like a long shot for many of us, but with some strategies in place, you can start to experience guilt free kids TV.

To help make your kids TV time guilt free, here are some pointers

  • If you notice your kids are not watching, turn it off.
  • Record shows in advance so you can be more choosey about what your kids watch rather than a that will do
    approach. Many parents make the mistake of allowing their preschoolers to watch shows like Ben 10 or Power
    Rangers where a lot of physical contact is part of the story. The problem with this is that preschoolers are yet to
    fully understand what “going too far” with their play is, and often end up getting into trouble because that
    punch or kick was too hard. These types of shows should be left for at least school age.
  • Think outside the box a little. While Dora and Blues Clues may be great shows, the Animal Planet channel has
    some great stuff too. My daughter loves Meerkat Manor, a show about a family of meerkats being studied by
    scientists. They are certainly PG, and I would at times have to walk her through something, but, good quality TV.
  • Turn the TV off at the end of the show the child is watching. If they start to watch the show after, we tend to let
    them continue.
  • If you are going to try to commit to a certain number of hours a day, decide on what the best times of the day
    to use TV are and be realistic.
  • With older kids, you can write down some TV rules together. Just make sure they have assisted in the creation
    of those rules to encourage them to adhere to them. With younger children, you call the TV shots.

Let your guilt be your driving force for change. You can do it. Good luck.

By Danielle Mantakoul
Copyright 2012

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