We are avid TV watchers in our house, but the television is always off during meals, and on Sundays we watch the BYU channel only. Even as adults it is important that we are not glued to the television set all day long, and we enforce strict rules with the kids to get them off their butts and away from “Hannah Montana” now and then.
The kids LOVE cable, as they don’t have it at their house. This means the Disney Channel is on full-blast pretty much from the second the kids walk in the door. We allow them to veg out for about an hour or so, but the second they zone out and ignore full conversations inches from their ears because they’re so into their TV program, the remote is located, the TV is turned off, and the kids are forced outside to go ride bikes, rake leaves, do SOMETHING other than drift out into la la land on TV.
Get your kids to watch less TV by taking control of the remote, and only allow television to be watched in the main room so you can control volume, channels, and length of time TV is being viewed. The kids know that if they hide the remote so we can’t turn the TV off we’ll just unplug it from the back and there will be consequences, as in no TV for the rest of the night. Be firm about the remote- it’s YOUR TV, and a privilege the kids can watch it, not a right.
Allow TV to be watched an an appropriate volume only. If the volume goes up, TV goes off. Plain and simple. Always turn off the TV for meals so your family can eat together, even if you’re the one who wants to watch TV during meals. You have to lead by example. Also, turn the TV off when it is time for homework and chores, or good luck getting anything done.
After a while you can train your kids to automatically pop up out of their seats when the TV goes off. It’s like a dinner bell to the kids- the second the TV goes off, they all turn around simultaneously wanting to know what we’re eating, or who’s going to be chewed out, or who is going to get stuck with what chore. Kids learn by repetition and if you stick with TV rules, they will adhere to them because they don’t want to lose TV watching privileges.
Reward your children with TV as opposed to punishing them by turning off the TV. When homework is finished, an hour of TV is allowed. After chores, the TV gets turned back on. Eat your dinner, because the TV stays off until everyone is done. When you allow TV to be something the kids can have when they are finished accomplishing something, rather than a punishment for NOT doing something, you get more productive kids (they want that TV on), and more involvement in the home without everyone being zoned out on TV.
The hardest part is allowing yourself to have the TV off in your home. You may want to watch TV while the kids are out in the yard raking, or while they’re doing dishes, but you’ll just have to pick up a book instead, because in order for the TV rule to work, nobody gets to watch TV. Period.
As it stands, the kids are allowed to fall asleep with the TV on, until about 10 o’clock or so. They get a full hour of uninterrupted TV time before bed on weekends so they can have their downtime, too and just simply enjoy themselves. It’s important to let your kids just be kids as much as it is to instill responsibility and activity.
We’re lucky that the kids aren’t used to TV (my fiance has never had cable for them before- rather, we have cable now because of my Internet needs). It’s a novelty, not a right, and nobody in the house dares to abuse the privilege. As a result, we play more board games with the TV on a music radio channel than we do with the TV blasting a Disney show in the background. Chores get done, homework goes finished, and the kids have time to communicate with us and tell us about their day because they don’t have the adults distracted by TV as well. It’s a win-win for everybody.
Turn that TV off and spend time with your kids. It’s wonderful, and even though it’s hard at first, everyone is rewarded with the family attention everybody gives because nobody is glued to the TV set.