The TV Battle
Game shows, comedies, soap operas, reality television, etc. The list goes on forever. Television is an escape from our own reality. It allows us to peek into lives of other individuals – whether they are true or not. However, it can often be difficult to set parameters on the amount of TV consumed and determine what is inappropriate. Have you experienced the epic battles of “On vs. Off” and “What’s Appropriate vs. No Way You’re Watching That?” It’s a struggle in our home.
Setting limits is good, but most parents also find that talking in terms of hours and minutes can lead to frustration. There is always going to be a battle about watching “just one more show” or your kid’s disappointment because they aren’t allowed to watch certain program.
Of course kids want to watch TV and play video games. These activities provide an entertaining, easy, reliable escape. There is no point in arguing with our kids’ desire.
If we look through the lens of reflective parenting, our most effective tool in these moments is empathy. Acknowledge that there’s something great on right now. Tell them that you’d never argue with them for wanting to watch television. Say that when you were a kid you used to feel the same way. Maybe you even feel that way now. Remind them of the boring, old person show that you can’t get enough of. And once you’ve shown them that you can relate to how they’re feeling, you can shift the conversation to one about what’s important to your family when the television is off.
One approach that I’ve found helpful with Tess is to talk to her about how there are only so many hours in a day. If we’re going to live life according to our family’s values, then we have to use those hours wisely. There’s time to study and learn, time to move our bodies, time to be with friends and family and so on. Not every hour has to be spent productively, but we need to be in control of when we choose to engage in life and when to escape.
The answer to the question of how much is enough TV has nothing to do with minutes or hours. The answer to the question is to figure out where television (or video games or anything) fits in with the larger picture of what’s important to your family. If your values are aligned, keeping screen time to a minimum will be easier. It’s simply a matter of reminding your kids (and yourself) what your values are and then defining how and when TV fits into your lives.