Yeah, I know we all know that using the TV as a babysitter is BAD! But I did it anyway. I knew what I was doing was not the best solution to accommodate my needs, but it sure was easy and convenient.
My needs: To Have Some Time To Myself; To get Something Done; To Give The Kids What They Wanted and Seemingly Enjoyed; To Minimize Whining and Complaining From Said Kids (there may be a few more "needs" but this is enough to speak of).
Our family has a good early morning routine (starting at 6:30 a.m.) of family prayer, scripture study, followed by a grand send off for daddy to go to work. Then the day is on it's way, but I am usually still not quite ready to clock in for the day. To try to extend my actual start time, it started off innocent enough. After serving up a nutritious breakfast, I simply popped in a movie for the children, and proceeded to check e-mail, facebook, blogs, news, etc,. It was a nice way take a little extra time to wake up and gear up for the day.
Well, then the busy holiday season approached and there was a lot more things I needed/wanted (the distinction between these two are often a muddled mess) to get done. So one movie turned into two movies. Then the girls were watching separate movies in two different rooms to accommodate their different interests. It soon got completely out of hand and out of my control.
That's right the kids now were controlling me with their endless quest to watch more movies. I was popping movies in and out on demand as their attention spans actually shortened! They barely got into a movie before wanting to watch something else.
Again, I knew this was not the best choice from the beginning, but now I really knew I had to take the risk of my needs not being met and making my life even more difficult by denying my kids what they thought they wanted and therefore subjecting myself to endless whining and complaining. It seemed like it was going to be a really difficult challenge. But I did it anyway!
I made a chart (mostly for my 4 yr old) to keep track of TV/Movie time. The plan was 1 movie and 1 TV show per day Mon-Fri. (We rarely watch TV on Saturdays and Sunday the TV is refreshingly dark and silent). This still seemed like a lot of TV time but it was, in my mind, a start to a difficult challenge ahead. They get to take turns choosing the movie and one day a week they had to agree on a movie. They both like Wonder Pets at 6pm so the TV show was easy and it is only 20 minutes long.
Last Monday morning I presented the plan to my two daughters. The reception was oddly well received. I chalked it up to "They were too young to understand/realize what limitations I was setting". Also, my four year old loves charts and stickers and goals. I figured that the novelty would fade along with the darkening of the TV screen. Not so! It was an instant success. I still let them watch the movie after breakfast at 7 am. So from 7 to 8 am they watched their show and I get that time to myself. And yes, I am choosing to continue to use the TV as a babysitter for that one hour.
But it's really amazing how well this is working and how easy the transition went. They rarely ask for TV outside of the time allowed. There is no whining or complaining about not getting more. They are playing more on their own and with each other. The time I spend with them is more productive and fun. And I am still able to get "things done". So this is week two now. I am going to continue with the same plan. I am looking forward to seeing how our lives literally improve.
Most of all I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who continued to prompt me to turn the TV off despite my lack of willpower and faith. He continued to assure me that I could do it and that things would be better as a result. All true of course!
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