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Lessons Learned From Turning Off the TV

We”re right in the middle of Screen-Free Week and Megan already shared some great resources to help us with ideas and activities as alternatives to turning on our TVs and computers this week.

I think many of us can relate to resorting to entertaining our children with the TV and computer more often than we”d like.  I know I can.

After a long winter, and weeks of being sick, I realized that my kiddos were watching more TV on a regular basis than I really felt comfortable with, and so I declared “No TV Month” in March for our family. (This didn”t include my hubby and I in the evenings – it was March Madness, after all! It was more for the kids during the day).

We went cold turkey, going from at least an hour of TV per day to none.  It was hard for the first few days, but then it got much, much better.  I learned a lot during that month, and we actually liked our turn-off-the-TV month so much that we decided to just keep it going, indefinitely.

Photo by angelrravelor

Lessons Learned During Our No TV Month

Kids Behave Better

I found that my kids behave better when they”re not glued to a screen.  While it was nice to be able to get stuff done while they watched a show, turning off the TV or computer always caused huge tantrums, no matter how I tried to explain and prepare them ahead of time. Less screen time meant fewer tantrums.

I worried that my kids had become so used to watching TV that they would throw tantrums if not allowed to watch TV.  Obviously, we don”t always give our kids what they want just because they throw a tantrum, but when you”re sick with the flu and your daughter wants to watch Dora, it just seems easier to turn it on than to deal with a fight.

At first your kids will probably resist, but I found that my kids quickly learned not to bother with asking because they new what the answer would be. And it was nice to blame it something external, “I know you want to watch PBS; I wish you could, but it”s no-TV month, so we can”t.”  Then I didn”t have to feel like the bad guy.

TV Was My Crutch

The TV had become too much of a “tune out” crutch for me as a mom. Honestly, turning on the TV was sometimes easier than actually coming up with something for my kids to do, cleaning up a mess they made playing, or actually getting involved and playing with them myself.

Like many of you, I am a busy mom who works part time outside the house, as well as working from home on my blog, and I often struggle to get it all done.  But, in the month of not letting my kids watch TV I realized how much of a default it had become for me.

As much as the kids learned not to ask for the TV, I learned that I didn”t have to resort to turning it on just to keep them occupied. I needed to break out my and ideas for again. I realized I actually wanted to stay engaged with my kids instead of just tuning out while they watched TV.

Photo by biofriendly

Kids Can Entertain Themselves

Really!  My kids are much better at playing together and entertaining themselves than I sometimes give them credit for. I really didn”t feel like I lost my time of being able to get stuff done because my kids weren”t watching TV.  Kids will adapt to less TV time and began to play and engage on their own in different and more healthy ways.

I also realized that I had gotten away from including my kids in a lot of my chores and cleaning. My kids don”t have to be entertained and engaged in something else just so I can get stuff done.  It was important to get back to involving them in my daily routine and helping out with things around the house.

TV Can Be a Tool

We did turn on the TV just a few times during the month.  One time, I was trying to give my son a hair cut and it was the best way to get him to sit still and not worry about what I was doing.

You can use TV intentionally to help in situations where a little hands off entertainment is helpful, both for you and for the kids.  The problem is when it becomes a default, using it even when you don”t really “need” to.

So, now we”re continuing our TV-free days, and we”re really not missing anything at all. This is not to say that our kids never watch TV, but we are much more careful and intentional about the times that we do turn on the TV and let them watch.

Instead of every day, it has become a once or week, or less, activity.  Now that it”s getting even nicer outside I”m looking forward to them watching even less TV, and being happier and healthier all around.

How is your Screen-Free Week going?  Will you continue to be screen-free, or at least use less screen-time, after the week is over?

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  1. se7en

    I love your voyage of discovery… Kids really can entertain themselves far more than we give them credit for!!! My husband grew up in a home with TV and will sit on the couch in the evening and watch TV to unwind… I grew up without a TV and it never occurs to me to put it on, we even have dvd’s for school that I never ever can find the time to watch. I just don’t know when people find the time to watch TV, especially kids – mine are just go go go all day kind of guys. My kids expect the TV to be shut in the cupboard all day when I am home with them… and they know they can shnooze on the couch with their Dad when he is home… it is definitely a different kind if engagement from each parent!!!

  2. Kara

    Well, I’m not watching much TV (which is normal), but I’m not exactly screen free. Oh how I wish I could reduce my screen time at work!

  3. Cori

    When we moved here to England we didn’t buy a TV right away. It wasn’t a blatent choice, we just never did get it done. A few weeks stretched into a few months and it’s now been almost 3 years without a TV. At first we missed it, but now I don’t think I’d want to add one in! We use our computers for an occasional movie or baseball game via, but other than that no screen time. A couple of Sundays ago we were all snuggling up in our bed reading and my eight year old said, “Isn’t this great? If we had a TV we wouldn’t do this!” He then described how his friend’s families watch TV together, but their families don’t often read long chapter books together. He thought this was a tragedy!

    • Emily @ Live Renewed

      Thanks for sharing your experience being totally TV free Cori! That is such a sweet story about your son!

  4. Tiffany

    It sounds like learned a lot, Emily.! What a rewarding experiment! We are moving this week so I had to abandon screen free week in favor of keeping kids entertained while I was packing and cleaning. Once we move, I think I’ll give it a shot. It’s more for my husband and I though since we veg out at night in front of it. My kids are so active, they won’t sit down long enough to watch much!

    • Emily @ Live Renewed

      Good luck with your move Tiffany! It’s definitely hard to pack and clean with little ones running around!

  5. Evelyn

    I started enjoying the benefits of not watching tv around the time I turned 12 and decided it just wasn’t for me. We wouldn’t even have a tv except that my hubby does enjoy watching it (although mostly dvds of shows actually). For us the rule has always been no tv when daddy isn’t home (and of course when eating). She would often ask when her dad was at work: can I watch _____? and I just say, “Now you know we don’t watch tv when dad isn’t home. Really this mostly just means no tv most of the time, but it makes for an easy excuse and it didn’t take long until other people would ask “what did you do today maddi, did you watch something on tv?” and her answer is “no, theres no tv when daddy’s not home.” lol 🙂

  6. Deb

    I’m curious — which days of the week are “TV Free?”

    • Emily @ Live Renewed

      For us, it’s not specific days. We try to be TV-free most days, and on a rare day here or there we will let our kids watch a show or video.

  7. Heather Anderson

    I appreciate your perspective. We have tried to be very careful about the amount of T.V. we watch (actually movies because we don’t have regular T.V.), but found ourselves using it a lot because of sickness as well. We did a month of screen free and have gone to just letting the kids watch one or two movies over the weekend. During the week we keep the T.V. off.

  8. Andrea@FlourishingMother

    Love your lessons learned. We take TV Free weeks every now and then. But I love the TV free month!

  9. Kristen

    I have yet to institute a screen-free week. I’ll admit the idea scares me a little. I grew up in a house where children’s programs were running constantly. I can still see it when I drop my children off at my parents and the first thing my father does is turn on the TV for them. Sad. However, I have started screen-free mornings. I was guilty of feeling like I needed them to watch TV in order for me to shower and dress. Yet I was always barking at the kids to get ready and we were always running late and grouchy. There was a transition period where it got worse instead of better, but after about a week it was wonderful. The really nice thing about being screen-free in the morning is that we tend to get wrapped up in other activities and before we know it, its dinner time and the TV has not yet been on. I am hoping to decrease its usuage even more. I really want my children living life, not watching it.

    • Emily @ Live Renewed

      “I really want my children living life, not watching it.”

      That is a great perspective Kristen. You’re already taking great steps to lessen your kids screen time, and as you’ve found, it does get a little worse at first, but then it gets much, much better. Remember screen time doesn’t have to be all or nothing, I think it just needs to be intentional.

  10. Rita

    Any great ideas/suggestions for making screen-free work with teen-agers? When my kids were young, I limited TV to half an hour a day during the week, and not at all during the day on weekends. Now, they are 13, and I can’t use the same tactics that worked back then. I know I could outright ban it, but I’d love to come up with alternative things for them to do.

  11. Sharon

    We only get 2 channels, so there’s not much to watch. About 5 years ago (when we had more channels) we started having tv-free summers. I am looking forward to it! I think my kids behave much better too, without tv.

  12. Jen

    I find we are not big TV watchers…so not really an issue. The bigger issue, with 2- 13 year olds and a 7 year old…is the “screen time”, with computers, cell phones, ipods, etc. (not so much the 7 year old obviously) Our whole family is seeming addicted to one or all of these things. No TV…no problem. No wireless/internet….that would be really interesting.

  13. Lisa

    We are just finishing up a month of no tv. My kids are older 6-10-13. So they are busy with activities in the evening and homework. Going to no tv has not hard as we already had no tv until after homework was done. This ment that most nights the tv never came on until after the kids went to bed. Now that lent is over we plan on continuing to limit our tv viewing. I call it intentional tv watching. If there is a great show everyone wants to see then the tv will come on. But for the most part the tv will remain off.

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