Thursday, 1 August 2013

Children and TV

As a child I remember I use to watch TV on Sunday mornings with a dose of Donald Duck and Mickey mouse. This restriction was not only because of lack of options on TV but also I never thought weekdays are for watching TV. No one in the house would watch TV on weekdays except for news at night and Rangoli on Wednesday (I think).On Sunday all of us had different time allocated to watch TV. Mornings was ours, afternoon was my mom’s and evening movie was for all of us. Nights for Dad.

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When I became a parent few years back, there was a long list of “To dos and not to dos” for my child in my mind. One of them was not allowing too much TV time to my kids. But was I able to do it?

No I was not. It was not easy, I was a working parent and he was much calmer and easier to manage while watching TV. So I thought I will allow it for a little while, he is too small/young to form habits but I was wrong, he had gotten addicted to TV and cartoons.And when I finally realised it, he was about 3.5years. A 3.5 year old with a very strong mind and personality, hence just telling him to not watch the TV suddenly was not working.

This raised a question..Should I completely stop him from watching TV? And if not how much is okay? And how do I change the habit?

I asked around and I was bombarded with contradictions. Most of them said that children should not be allowed any television but their children watch because they can’t help it and there is no alternate entertainment etc etc. Hence though it is not okay, still I won’t be able to stop him. Hence I should let him be; maybe he would grow out of the habit on his own.

But I didn’t want to let it go. I decided to learn with my own experience. I was sure if I work would with him I would be able to come up with a balance. I didn’t want him to never watch TV. Why not? But I wanted a balance.

With a lot of efforts and hours put in with him, I can proudly say he is not addicted to Television any more. He is 4.5 years and does have a favorite cartoon character but it is limited to stories and he understands the difference between television world and real world.

After a lot of trial and error the plan that has worked for almost 6 months now and is still working is this:

Ten stars
I don’t know how I came up with this concept. I am sure it was through surfing on the internet but this is what works with my son. Though it was devised for TV viewing, I follow it diligently for good and bad behaviour and it works like magic.

In a week he has to earn atleast 10 stars in order to watch television. If by Saturday he has earned 10 stars he is allowed TV for 1 hour. (Nonstop, with no interference and breaks)

If he earns more than 10 stars, with each star his time increases by 15 minutes (this rarely happens, most of the time he just about manages 10 stars)

When I started the plan, in order to encourage him to participate in it and to motivate him; I use to give him a star for every small thing that he would do correctly. Like brushing his teeth properly on his own, at correct time would yield him a star earlier but now it has become a healthy habit for him and I have increased level of difficulties for him to earn a star.

These are the activities at my home that earns him a Star:

1)Following correct routine for brushing, bathing, keeping his clothes in the laundry basket, getting ready for school, keeping his things at their place and cleaning his room at day end. All these things done correctly would yield him one star, daily!

2)Eating his meals on his own. Finishing all the meals. One star, daily.

3)One good deed (this I have started only now). Since he is not even 5 this is a difficult concept for him. I have brought it down to a simple and uncomplicated level. He needs to either help me or one of his friends or his brother or any uncle/aunt in carrying out any task. Again one star daily.

In order for this system to work I am very particular about:
1)Following it diligently and not letting it go.
2)Being strict about stars. He has understood that he has to earn the stars. No amount of pleading or buttering would work.
3)His dad is an equal partner in this and most of time he doesn’t give in on his buttering
4)If he has earned 10 stars, I make sure that he gets his TV time as promised. (Even if Patidev wants to watch TV, he has to wait)

Along with this I also think children learn a lot from parents. We are not a big television viewing family. I think this is also helping me in establishing a good habit. He doesn’t see us watching TV, hence he never questions why is he not allowed?. But if you do watch TV at home, make sure to lead with a good example. Show restraint in front of children, they will also learn and will show restraint when asked for.

All kids are different. There are different things and different concept that would work with them. This has worked with my child but it may not work with yours.Also I am a stay at home mother; so its easier for me to look after small things. It may be difficult for a working mother.

 But I do urge every parent to keep trying. There are always ways and concepts that would eventually work with your child. Just telling them no and expecting them to follow may not work everytime. I believe we should strive for a balance between being strict and being creative.

Things that can be handled in a creative way; may look difficult in the starting but with a routine it gets easier and saves a lot of headache later.


  1. Being a responsible parent and enforcing rules is tough. Love the innovative idea. And unless both parents are in it together, it never works.

    1. Alka yes it is very tough. Kids are getting more vocal and won't follow rules without given reasons :)

      Thanks dear :)

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  3. I wanted to read this post the moment I saw the title. My 1.5 years watches TV regularly, I'd say for the entire day. But that is limited to songs only as of now, I'm not sure of future. We have deliberately kept him away of cartoons, but how long would it work? He'd know about it once he steps out, isn't it?
    About the star program, it has only one disadvantage that he might expect to get rewarded for everything in life. But the other side of the coin is that he would know that things have to be earned which is so true about life. Nothing comes here for free and sooner he understands that, better for him. Nice one Sfurti, I'm going to implement this after a year or so :)
    By the way, I have thought of one thing more as I had this problem in mind even since he was born. I'd try to turn him to some hobby like Guitar (it would be easier for me if he likes Guitar as I can teach him myself :))

    1. Thanks Animesh. I agree my elder one started cartoons at 2 years, he was hooked on to songs before that. And I am going to be shameless; I found it cute when he started watching cartoon because I always thought I could control it. parents sometimes live in an imaginary world! :)

      Yes there may be disadvantages but right now it is working and I am planning to graduate it to some financial understanding in few years. Lets see.

      Also as we were discussing it earlier; along with this we also have to be firm with them sometimes. Talking and explaining logic doesn't work everytime.

      And I am sure your little one already has a big artistic bone in him like you :))

  4. Parents need to be firm at times (and not mollycoddle and "appease" too much by "rewarding" good deeds that are expected of children normally)
    The child must understand that the adult parent has "earned" the privileges like the right to watch TV, and the child has to wait his turn and cannot compare himself to an adult parent.
    Be a bit tough - children must love you, but when required to inculcate discipline, they must "fear" you too.
    A bit of no-nonsense parenting (where required) proves better in the long run

    1. Vikram Sir...I totally agree. There are some basic good habits which are formed through this and which he knows he has to do. And I am firm with him for those.

      I also believe that children should know they are children and we are parents. This line is getting blurred these days but I agree not everything can be questioned and not everything can be answered.

  5. Now days every kid is addicted to television to that extent where you can't stop your kid to avoid

    1. Yes K2. But as a parent we should never give up!

  6. What a nice and different idea!!

  7. i am just 21 and in no capacity to comment from the parent mindset, but if you ask the rebel-just-past-teenage-mind of mine, i feel you are being too strict.. instead of controlling tv timings, how about controlling what he watches on TV… TV can be a good educative medium.. also i feel, its much better to get a child into books.. i know 3.5 years is too early but try getting him hooked to more of prints, say painting books or stuff like picture books…

    don’t mind if i went too obtrusive..

    but saying that, i feel we had better things on tv during my time.. todays cartoons are spoiling the kids more than shaping them.. we had real stuff!!

    1. Aersh my elder son is 4.5 years old. He is an excellent painter like his mom..yes he already paints. Good dancer like his mom. Good bowler like his dad. Teachers pet and good in academics. And I have not forced any of this on him. He enjoys all of it. He doesn't go for any classes, no tutions and doesn't study except for Sundays (Yes kids start tutions at an age of about 3 years now...don't ask!!!)

      All the time he has in hands before and after school is his.

      As a parent I am enforcing good and correct behavior by this and I have started at an early age, so most of the things that I see other mothers struggling around me, I have already managed; by just being creative about it.

      All kids are different, all parents are different. I am one of the most lenient parent you would ever know but I am not careless. I like paying attention but I don't interfere and force things on him. But it doesn't mean that I would let my 4 year old watch TV as per his willingness. He would watch it 24 hours!

      I hope you are getting my point.

      And Welcome to my blog dear. Do check out other posts and let me know your feedback :)

    2. of course i will read

  8. This is marvelous. A very ingenious system. Hats off to you. Children definitely don't need so much TV.

  9. Sfurti, I enjoyed reading this post from another perspective. I have been guilty of using TV as a baby sitter for my daughter who was home alone till I came back from office. She was older than your son though.
    We all have to do what we need to do. No two homes, parents or children are the same.
    Best of luck! Wait till they grow up a bit more.

    1. Madhu completely agree with you. No two kids are same ever, I can even see the differences in both my sons already, the younger one is not even 14 months. And I am not sure that this will work with him but I will surely try it out.

      Also I am stay at home mom, so this is my job and I keep thinking of ways to solve tricky situations without being too strict. And keep sharing them here, hoping may be it could help someone.No judgement, none, ever!! I believe every mother is a good mother (Exceptions are there) but generally all mothers have their kids best interest in their hearts.

      And don't scare me please...I am just about managing now.I have two boysssss. I don't know what will happen in few years :P

  10. This is a brilliant idea. Helps you install good habits and morals into your child's brain. A very nice read this post was..Sfurti.

  11. Wow! A good plan! Glad it worked out for you.


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