Moderation in all things, including moderation
It has been a rough winter. Like some of you, I am a fan of snow, generally speaking. I enjoy when those pretty white flakes are falling, painting the trees. I enjoy the slower pace when everyone is homebound and the Currier and Ives look of the city. I love watching my children sled in the snow and even brought my son home from school one day on his plastic sled. It was fun.
That is, until it wasn’t. The day I sledded my four year old home turned sour almost immediately after I took a picture of them. My two year old daughter went from being “a lille shilly” to a full-blown crying fit from the freezing cold as quickly as…well, as quickly as I did.
When we finally arrived home after the longest three block walk of our lives, the TV went on. And on. And on.
Then of course I read “10 reasons why handheld devices should be banned” and its counterargument, “10 reasons why the ’10 reasons to ban handheld devices’ article is wrong, stupid”, the combination of which left me feeling a little guilty and a lot confused.
I am not in favor of rampant TV watching, but have always encouraged moderation on this point. Although I have paid attention to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations on television, I have to admit I have never fully followed them. Even when I had two children under the age of three, I still relied on TV to hold their attention during those times when I could not: making dinner, taking a quick shower. It seemed that, when it came to a home made meal, the 25 minute episode of Curious George was a small price to pay. I would even joke with friends, “Hey American Academy of Pediatrics, do you cater?” But things were getting out of hand. One episode quickly turned into more. And more after that. What was going on here?
When I actually took the time to notice what was going on, a noticed something over and over. When I turned on my phone to “quickly” check email, my kids would immediately ask for the TV. A quick analysis consistently looked like this:
Before behavior (antecedent): I look at phone
Behavior: Kids: “Can we watch TV?”
After behavior (consequence): Me: “Okay. But just a little.” Kids: “YAY!”
I was no longer using the TV only when necessary, and moreover, I couldn’t stand it. After taking a look at whether to teach or not to teach, it was definitely important enough to work on. And, fortunately I now knew the pattern, making it much easier.
We instituted “Screen-free Saturdays”. The rules were simple: use the phone as a phone. Turn off the 3G and the wireless. It was a struggle for the grown-ups. I found myself wanting to change my Facebook status within my first hour. But after a bit of time, it was fun. The grown-ups got a much needed respite from reading several things at once.
And, proving my theory, the kids didn’t ask to watch TV. Not once. They had a great day. There was the zoo, and a violin lesson. They played all day with their toys, each other and us. It couldn’t have gone more smoothly.
Some weeks may be more of a struggle, but we are determined to stick to it. And we’re all looking forward to creating some space. We won’t be leaving them behind for good…just a bit of moderation.