Wednesday, April 15, 2009

TV Wars

Ahhh, TV. Moms fall all over the spectrum on the subject of how much is too much, ranging from the permissive "let them watch as much as they want" view to the strict "no TV at all" standpoint. While I disagree with forbidding TV completely, I will admit that I do fall on the stricter side of things when it comes to screen time, allowing my kids to watch only one show per day (20-30 minutes max). We rotate who gets to choose the episode each day (one day Nicki, next day Gabe, next day me) and they only get to choose from a group of shows or DVDs pre-selected by yours truly.

Too stringent? Some might say so, but I would have to disagree. There are so many better uses of their time, no matter how "educational" certain programs might be. (I have heard this refrain so many times: "Yeah, my kids watch a lot of TV, but it's ok they only watch educational shows.) My kids do not turn to the tube out of boredom. When left to their own devices they are more than happy to look at books, listen to music, build, dress-up, colour, run, dance and (gasp, are you ready for this?) use their imaginations to entertain themselves. My kids never ask me to turn the TV on. Seriously. Never. We have a time set aside for it each day and that's it. Sometimes I wonder if they think that the TV won't even turn on outside of that time. They've never tried. I don't watch much TV myself, only 2 hours a week - House and 24 for those who care! So while I only watch TV 2 days a week, I read 7 days. Hopefully this will rub off on them. So far so good.

I have wondered to myself though if I am setting them up for failure by being too rigid when it comes to TV. By not allowing them to watch more am I somehow glamourizing it, making more seductive, more intriguing? Am I dooming them to a couch potato future once they grow up? My ultimate goal here is to teach my kids that moderation is the key to a happy and healthy lifestyle, whether we're talking watching TV or eating less than healthy foods.

Now before I really start to sound like a kill-joy, I need to say that I am flexible when the occasion calls for it. For example, I take the kids to the gym with me on Saturday mornings where they have a TV set up in the child care area. They often play movies there and my kids have come to look forward to their special mornings at the gym, in part because they are getting to do something they don't get to do at home, which makes it an enjoyable time for both them and me.

One Saturday morning the child care provider told me that one of the other moms had requested that she keep the TV off. I was surprised by this and asked why. Apparently it was because the mom was trying to limit her kids' screen time and if they watched TV at the gym that morning they would not be able to to watch any more at home that day. My first reaction to that was "So? What's the problem?" But then I understood. The mom was obviously using the TV at home as a way for her to get some time to herself, for chores or other things, and without it she wouldn't be able to keep her kids occupied long enough to get these things done. She "needed" them to watch TV at home, so in an effort to keep a cap on how much TV they watched in a day, she didn't want them to watch any TV at the gym. How convenient.

To me this was completely ridiculous. If she was so concerned about their viewing habits, then the changes should have been made at home, not when they were out in the world. This is exactly the type of thing that I never worry about. I know my kids watch only minimal TV at home, so if they get to watch a little extra at the gym on a Saturday morning, no big deal. Same goes for junk-food or sugary treats. These types of foods are not a part of our daily living, so when a special occasion rolls around and they eat a slice of pizza or a piece of cake, again, no big deal.

What I find most ironic is that this mom, who was leaving these kids at the gym child care so that she could do something she wanted to do, could not even be lenient enough to allow them a little fun of their own. How unfair. And the most hypocritical part of the whole thing was that while she was on the exercise bike working out she was...? You guessed it! Watching TV herself. Ugh.

There's a time and a place for everything and moderation really is the key. If I can lead by example and ingrain these concepts into their heads now while they are young and have them carry these values into adulthood, at least part of my parenting will have been successful. Here's hoping!