Thursday, July 10, 2008

Darn TV

Why is it that everyone's first instinct, including paid sitters, is to turn on the TV to quiet kids? And what does it take to get people to think of other activities? Is that asking too much? I feel bad being the strict, uptight mom who says no TV, and I feel like I let sitters down or ask too much of them when I request no TV. How do you all keep people from flipping on Caillou (who I can't stand... could he be any whinier?) as soon as there's down time or pre-tantrum behavior or at any and every moment? We don't have cable. My husband and I watch good movies some weekends on it. The way I see it, during the weekdays, PBSKids is my free babysitter for the kids if I'm dying for a moment of peace and quiet. Paid sitters or people who are with my kids only briefly shouldn't use it. Unreasonable?

Can you tell I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning (12 or so times between last night and this morning, to be more precise)? I guess taking it out on the TV isn't that bad... could be worse.


Right Said Red said...

I HATE my children watching television with someone else! We don't have cable (makes me a bit sad since I'm a big sports fan), and I let the children watch TV about 2 times per week (a video). My general rule is that I don't allow anyone to watch my children who will put the TV on for the kids. My parents occasionally violate this rule, but I'm forgiving of the because it's usually happens when they take the kids for a weekend, not a few short hours.

My thoughts, just give your sitter a firm NO, and if she doesn't respect your requests, find a new sitter. If it is relatives or friends, make the effort to plan an activity so that TV is less of a temptation.

I have read numerous articles about how children under the age of 3 shouldn't be watching ANY TV because it affects brain development. After 3 TV is ok in moderation. One was actually given to me by my doctor!

So I share your frustration Juris Mater!

k said...

Ugh this would make me nuts. I am similar in tv watching to you and Red. We try to do none at all in the spring/summer/fall which actually means once or twice a week it might go on after nap if I am still working on something (this was more true when I was in school) and then some long stretches without it.

Winter it might come on a bit more...but if you are PAYING someone to be with your kid??

This has never come up with my sitters, maybe it is just the kids I find. Most of them are through the toystore I worked at, or relatives of the toystore they aren't geared that way themselves.

In fact our regular babysitter who is a 14-15 yr old boy LOVES to sit in the evenings because he doesn't have cable at his house and he can watch ABC Family and the Discovery Channel (yes I do love him and he is always free, I perish the idea that he will head off to high school and start dating!) But the few times he has sat when Jack is awake they read books or run around outside or build blocks, etc.

I say find new sitters, this is a reasonable request and it shouldn't even be an issue.

Elizabeth M said...

This has always been a constant bone of contention with my in-laws. From the time the kids were toddlers, they (mostly my MIL) would turn on the television or even a full-length Disney feature movie almost as soon as we arrived. Luckily dh would address it right awy and try to explain that they didn't need to watch anything!

We do have cable, but we control access. Even at 7 and 10, our kids don't ever get to just sit down and turn it on. They get no TV weekdays during the school year (other than sick days) and even on weekends, it's limited. We rely more on DVDs and shows we choose to record with DVR. That way, when we do have TV time, they don't just watch whatever junk is on. They like some of the scientific or factual shows (Popular Mechanics for Kids, Mystery Hunters, Bill Nye). This way, we can give them something they like, that we approve of.

There are many homes in which the TV is just ON all the time (or nearly so) -- Cartoon Network, Nick, etc. Some people just figure that they are kids' channels, so it's OK. But many of those shows have the pre-teen and teen attitudes coming right down to 5 year olds!

Our at least know how to entertain themselves without a screen (Lego, dolls, books, stuffed animals, coloring, etc.). They might not always CHOOSE to do it well for long stretches of time (they are kids afterall), but it seems they are capable of more of it than some of their friends. We had one boy bring a handheld game to a Cub Scout camping trip! His mother just assumed he needed it to have fun.

Anonymous said...

I tell them: no TV. Our TV is in an obscure place; if you've doubts, you might unplug it, put it in a closet or cover it up while you're away. Of course, after Feb. 17 this might not be an issue at all....

"H" said...

Any advice on what to do if the person always turning on the TV is your husband? Right now I don't think the TV programming has any impact on our newborn who doesn't even realize this is the reason Daddy is sitting on the couch and not walking her in circles around the house. And I will admit at 5 weeks there aren't a lot of alternative activities he can pursue. But I'm worried about his predelection to watch hours of TV per day, particularly in the summer (he's a teacher and not working for 2+ months). Any advice on how to begin to address this (or how long to wait)?

Juris Mater said...

"H"--I just typed up a longer, more eloquent comment but the computer consumed it. Here's the abbreviated version.

I think husbands really need space at home to relax and pursue their own activities. They work so hard all day outside the home, and home is their haven. My tendency is always to invite/force my husband into the family chaos when he's home. TV has a way of helping the viewer relax and tune out what's going on around him, and I think that's some of the appeal of TV for husbands. So, maybe the solution is to encourage other hobbies where husbands can relax and tune out and have their own time and space at home. They don't get it anywhere else. Hobbies are wonderful, too, because children can often be included in them (I don't usually consider TV a social activity, although some will beg to differ), and because it's great for kids to see their dads using their hands and their minds to do something they love for its own sake. But I'm no expert, I've only been married for 4 years myself!

"H" said...

Juris mater, I think your analysis of why husbands gravitate toward the TV is quite insightful. I'm just not sure how to apply it in our non-traditional situation. As I mentioned, my husband isn't working at all over the summer (though he is taking one class at a community college to add to his teaching endorsements). And in the fall, he will be working less than 4 hours a day, after which he will be taking care of our baby for 8 hours by himself while I go to work. I don't want him to spend most of those 8 hours in front of the TV!

There's already so many times when he says he'll watch her in the afternoon so I can run errands or complete a project, and then he just holds her while watching the Game Show Network (or sometimes, to his credit, EWTN) and she cries and cries because she wants him to walk around and/or sing to her. He's good at quieting her when he tries, but a lot of times he'll just tune out long crying bouts because he wants to wait until the end of a show before getting up and responding. I know I need to avoid criticism and I'm very grateful to have relief, but as I said, I'm worried about what's going to happen when my maternity leave is over and he's watching her for more than half the day.

Mary Alice said...

"h" -- I've been giving this a lot of thought. Here is my advice, from a SAHM perspective -- it is easy, and ultimately unhealthy and depressing, to get into a home with the baby routine that involves watching a lot of TV. Too much time on the couch is as bad for the parent as it is for the baby.

The men in my life (my husband, dad and father in law) are all not so great at the unstructured playtime, but they are all GREAT with to-do lists. I don't know if your husband would resent this, but what if you left him with a list of things to do, like grocery shop, go to Costco for diapers, paint the living room, garden chores, anything, the baby, up until 6-8 months, will happily spend some time in a bouncy chair, playing with a rattle, etc.

My DH spent the afternoon cutting down some really out of control bushes while the Lion (6 months)sat in an exersaucer in the shade. I sort of teared up when my husband mentioned how glad he was to have the baby to keep him company!

My father in law is happy to do activities like go to a museum or sports event with the kids, but if he has unstructured time with them there will definately be TV involved. As JM said, it is how he unwinds, and he also doesn't really know how to play with kids.

Lastly, when my husband was in grad school I made him do a "music together" class with PT -- he was the only dad there, but I think it was good for him, it does teach you how to play a little bit.

I think my main point is avoiding actually saying "don't watch TV" and instead setting him up with other things to do.

Anonymous said...

I share your frustration -- we just moved, but our last babysitter would plug them in all the time! The last time she babysat while I was at a dr. appt., I was gone for only an hour, I had them outside in the kiddie pool (they're only 18mo. and 3) and told her, they should be happy out here while I'm gone (in the summer, we practically live outside). When I got back 50 min. later she was almost finished with a movie!!!! And she makes $10/hr.!! I'm going to tell our next sitter that our children simply don't watch TV, period. I'm glad others out there are just as frustrated with this ... my friends just laughed at me for getting upset b/c they plug their kids in all the time!

"H" said...

Good ideas, Mary Alice. Thanks!

Kate E. said...

"H" whew I understand your fears and frustration. I think Alice has a lot of good ideas and I will add to that...
Once the little one is past the sitting and hanging stage (you've got a ways to go and Alice's suggestions are great for that time) I would really recommend activities/toys that husbands love.

My husband would watch tv all day but he loves to play with
1: Blocks/Legos
2: In the sandbox
3: Go for hikes
4: Walk to the coffee shop (morning coffee)

If your husband is a book guy...get them into books...and tech guy do building art guy gets lots of crayons.

Guys do love to play still it's just finding the right toys. And I think babies are a bit baffling because they do just sit there, but toddlers are a different story, fortunately.

Mary Alice said...

H -- I thought of one more thing, well, two actually. Since your husband is a teacher, see if you can get him to read "The Read Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease. This will inspire him to read more to the child over his life and he may also get some great ideas for the classroom. K has great tips and she is totally right, it is about finding ways to involve the child in what is already interesting to the caregiver, life doesn't have to be mindless barney play all the time. For me, cooking alot with my kids is fun.

For the first six months, I was thinking that maybe you could get your husband into baby wearing? I was at a wedding recently where the father of the bride spoke about mowing the lawn with his infant daughter in a backpack, for him this was clearly a big bonding point. Men do not carry these babies on them for nine months, so the physical attachment of baby wearing can be great, and he will have the freedom to go about his day, not feel like he has to just sit somewhere because he is caring for an infant.