TV-Free parenting: How it helps us with our kids

TV-Free parenting: How it helps us with our kids Cover Image

In an age populated by gadgets, is it really possible to indulge in TV free parenting? It’s interesting to hear what this parent has to say.

No, I am not daydreaming. Nor am I preaching something without realizing how difficult it is to attain (Nirvana seems easier sometimes!).

TV-less parenting is not about eliminating TV in your kids’ life. Let’s face it; TV type content is all around us now – the Internet, your phone, their phone, their friends’ phone, their brother/sister’s tablet, the list goes on.

As parents, our attempt cannot be to eliminate TV from our kids’ life, but to orient them on what kind of content to consume, when and how much to consume. It is about making our children realize that there are other means of acquiring the same information/entertainment that they get through TV.

Make them switch the TV off with positive emotions rather than negative.

I am the mother of a 4 ½ yr old (he insists that I add the ‘1/2’ as that makes him a ‘big’ boy). The journey from consuming one type of content on cable TV everyday (mostly cartoon shows such as Chota Bheem, Doreamon etc) to splitting his 1 hour of TV time between ‘Learning’ and ‘Fun TV’ has been tough but a rewarding one.

Here is how we did it and you can too!

1. Acknowledge

Weaning children off TV is a tough job. You need tons of patience and reasoning skills to manage the crying, anger and tantrums that come with the process. Acknowledging that the journey is tough and results rewarding, will prepare you better.

2. Conversation is the key

Giving orders or setting rules without explaining the logic fosters the rebel in your child. We undermine the power of logical conversations. Find a quiet place; switch off all distractions (Yes! your phone as well) and start talking to your child. Ask why they like watching TV. Explain what else they can do in the time they spend on watching TV.

Make the other activities sound interesting and exciting. A lot depends on the tone of your voice, the language you use and your body language while conveying this information. For eg:- “Hey! You’ve been watching TV for an hour now. Your drawing books are waiting for you/ let’s open the board game you got for your birthday/ let’s check if any new flowers have bloomed in our pots/ let’s go down for a walk/ let’s talk to your grandmom” will have a better impact than “Hey! You’ve been watching TV for an hour now. When you will you study?/ Go do something else!/ Read a book!/ Go play with your friends.” You see the difference?

3. Discover Good Content

There is an explosion of content everywhere. Between hundreds of channels on cable TV, millions of videos on YouTube and thousands of Apps, you will never run out of good content for your child to consume. Help them discover it.

Split their TV time between ‘Fun TV’ and ‘Learning TV’. Expose them to different cartoons (beyond Cable TV) during ‘Fun TV’ time. Watching cartoons that are popular in other countries is a great way to expose children to diversity and prepare them for the flat world of the future. I was shocked to hear my son talk about goblins and gnomes until I realized that he picked it up from a British cartoon show about Elves and Fairies. ‘Learning TV’ time can be filled with educational shows on TV/videos from YouTube. It is a good way to further your child’s area of interest as well.

For eg: If he/she is interested in tennis, let them watch legendary tennis matches to not only pick up the game but to understand sportsmanship, passion and dedication.

4. Lead by example

Let’s face it. Our phones are our constant companions. We all go through FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) -on latest updates from our friends on Facebook, videos in a WhatsApp group chat, news on Twitter, sale alerts on our favorite e-commerce shopping site and more. We also know how much our children learn by watching us. Lead by example and demonstrate to your children that you can keep the phone away for sometime during the day. Let them catch you reading a book, indulging in a hobby, listening to music and planning an outdoor activity with a friend – anything but staring at the phone.

5. Make them switch it off

This is the toughest and the ultimate step in making TV less important in your child’s life. If your child has been watching TV for a long time, try switching off the TV right in the middle of your child’s favourite show. Under normal circumstances, this will lead to crying and tantrums and you maybe tempted to switch it back on just to avoid the drama. Be brave and don’t give in!

Take your child away from the TV into a different room and wait for them to calm down. Don’t react until they calm down. Explain that all entertainment options have a time limit. Movies start and end at a particular time; so do sports matches, events, schools, holidays etc. Therefore, TV time should also have a start and end timing. Agree with them on how many episodes of their favourite TV show they will watch in one sitting. Train them to switch off the TV on their own afterwards. Rewards work. Appreciation works. Distracting them with another activity works. Make them switch the TV off with positive emotions rather than negative.

The future of TV is not in the living room on a 36-inch screen. It will be on everyone’s personal phone screen.

Our role, as parents is to train our children’s mind and help them make choices – between more and less, good or bad, when and where.

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