I want to limit his TV intake for probably the same reasons as most parents: I'd rather him play outside and interact with the world. I worry about what it might do to his brain development in some vague and not scientifically investigated way. But the biggest reason I want to limit his TV viewing is because of the ugly display that happens each time he's forced to turn it off. It's just a bad scene all around and an indication of a deeply unhealthy attachment.
This is how it goes down: [Background: We don't have TV, so he watches DVDs and is always hoping to sweet talk me into another episode.] When I approach to turn off the computer, Caleb looks up to me with terror in his eyes and clutches the laptop like a it was a dying friend, begging, "NO NO PLEEEAASE MAMA NO" with the desperation you might reserve for pleading with an axe murderer to spare you.
If I can wrestle the thing from his hands without any major electronic damage, I get a final "MOM No!!" that sounds a lot more like "You BASTARD!" and he falls dramatically to the floor in final display of misery.
Even so, I can't regulate it entirely. When I'm not looking he steals away to our neighbor's house to
But now I'm starting to question my semi-firm regulation of his TV intake. Here's why:
During a recent visit to South Africa, we spent a lot of time with our good friends who have a beautiful little girl just Caleb's age. The TV is frequently on in their busy multi-generation household. But Kimberleigh doesn't seem to care. In fact, amazingly, she chooses to STOP watching the TV, on her own, to go outside and do something more interesting. On. her. own.
Since it was vacation I had pretty much discontinued our TV policy, and Caleb had at it. And he was completely unable to self regulate. He'd watch the TV for hours and hours, even as Kimberleigh tried to entice him to go outside and ride bikes or play in the pool or jump on the trampoline. Her A material. But Caleb, like a junky unable to tear himself away from a his habit, preferred the dark recess of his cartoon den. It drove me crazy.
|Seriously Caleb? Mouth agape and everything.|
I've polled some friends and the consensus seems to be that those who weren't allowed much TV as kids would go over to their friends houses in which TV was allowed, plant their butts in front and remain immovable.
When I was growing, my mom seriously limited our sugar intake and we were even on sugar free diets for a while (thanks pre-Ritalin cure for hyperactivity). We learned the horribleness of carob and diatetic hard candy. And then we'd go to our friends house and there would be actual candy bars, the kind with real sugar and chocolate, just sitting there in a cookie jar in front of God and everybody, and we'd whisper conspiratorially to our friends: "Do your parents know?" They'd shrug and say they weren't that into it. Could take it or leave it. I'd go home and sneak baking chocolate from the cupboard and eat in under the kitchen table.
In fact, I still, as a grown adult with children and taxes, sometimes eat so much sugary candy that I make myself sick. You see what I'm getting at, right?
I'm not suggesting a Lord of the Flies situation where the kids make the rules and hedonism wins out. I know they can't self regulate.
But I'm wondering if restricting something so much, makes it too appealing. Will our children grow into binge TV watchers and screen interfacers because we limit it, in the same way American teenagers binge drink illegal alcohol, while their European counterparts politely sip at their completely legal wine.
I'm kind of at a loss. How do I regulate TV watching without turning it into a hard to resist forbidden fruit? Should I just take off all restrictions? What do you do?