Several years ago I was unnerved to hear private schools requesting parents to turn off the television at home, until the weekends. The following year they suggested family televisions stay off until summer, to allow students focused time to complete their coursework. Back then I thought it was too severe to just cut my kids off from their favorite TV shows, and take away my preferred source of local, national, and world news.
I hadn’t remembered much about our private school “no-TV” mandate until just recently, as my family was preparing to move to another house. My 13 year old son was extremely nervous, knowing that his TV viewing, and mine, could be interrupted during the transition of moving from one home to another.
No Cable TV
We were moving to a remote area which required cable TV hookups for any television reception at all. It was offered to us at such a ridiculously high price that I temporarily opted out, in lieu of getting other utility services hook-up, so I could get back to work. I had not realized what a problem watching television had actually become for my family, until we went without it for one entire weekend.
We set up our living room around our large HDTV, where I would do my work, and my son would do his school assignments. We would work a little while, and then gaze longingly into our blank TV set, not knowing quite what to do, because we had never been without television service before.
An Angry Child
We simply were not used to a blank, lifeless TV screen, and like everything else wrong with the world, it was somehow mom’s fault. My son was furious with me, and my cruel tactics, as he thought I was punishing him (and myself) in a completely inhumane manner.
The first week was explosive, one which I would not like to repeat. Week two was filled with resentment, with bargaining, and pleading. By week three there was desperation and withdrawal, all clinically predictable.
Breaking Bad Habits
Experts tell us any habit can be broken within three weeks, a mere 21 days, and they are correct. What those same experts fail to mention is that you are not going to be happy about it, and will in fact be quite miserable.
Yes, you will walk more, talk more, and actually get more accomplished, but your family will not be happy giving up TV. Although it was easier than when I quit smoking, it was still not a happy time for me either.
Reading Finally Wins
By week four my son had reluctantly picked up his school books, reading them on his own, without being reminded. We went ocean fishing, did more cooking, planted veggies, finished work, and school projects on time, and were no longer bound by television schedules or parental controls.
After years of exhaustive pleading with my son to turn off the TV, pick up and read any of his extensive library of books, without much success, he finally asked me for books this Christmas! We have since found my son’s favorite television programs online, and have reconnected with a few of them over our computer. But we will never again be bound, to rearrange our living room, or run our lives around a meaningless television!