Our family recently wrapped up a super relaxing weekend – BBQ’ing outside with neighbors, hanging out at our swimming pool and kind of just going with the flow. It was nice, and we didn’t set many limits on candy, tv or even bedtimes. I told myself we were letting our kids be kids and sometimes it was okay to get a little lax with our normal routines.
Until I noticed the trantrums. Like the tantrums of all tantrums. They started on Sunday and Monday it hit a peak. We were on COSI (Shep’s favorite place) and he had the hardest time concentrating on a task and really playing. I kept wondering, is he sick? Is he still tired? Whatever it was, it broke my heart to see my 3-year-old unable to relax and focus. It wasn’t like him, and I told myself only I was to blame. That trip ending up with me in tears and once I was home (and recovered) Googling everything to figure out what I could do to help Shep and get us on the right track.
I thought about the weekend and realized he watched a lot more TV than usual. My normal weekly routine is that he gets one show in the morning and one before bed. We keep it well under the hour a day maximum recommended by the APA and some days he wasn’t watching any.
But I noticed after the weekend of no limits, he was asking for it a lot more. Even instead of his beloved LEGOs.
Mommy, can I watch a show?
Mommy, I want to watch Mickey Roadster Racers (one minute after waking up).
I didn’t love his new dependence on television to relax and have fun, so after texting with a friend who said she recently nixed tv to help with tantrums, I thought it was definitely worth a shot. Here’s what I’ve learned on day 3 of no screen time for Shep (FYI – Beau doesn’t watch TV yet. He doesn’t sit still for A.SECOND.). Also a note – the TV is off while the kids are awake as well.
- I’m parenting better. I didn’t need TV to keep him occupied like I thought. While it’s so easy to just turn on the TV and find his favorite show, I was using it as a crutch. But – finding a toy for him or helping him imagine a game doesn’t take that much time either, and once he gets going, he is entertained longer. LEGOs, Magnatiles and seriously cardbox boxes keep his attention longest these days.
- He plays better. TV is an easy way to entertain Shep. Helping him play with toys and use his imagination after TV was doing it for him for hours on end was a tough transition for him.
- Our house feels more peaceful. Without the noise of the TV on all the time, I feel much more at peace myself. Even the sweetest show Daniel Tiger is just full of so much noise. We do play music all the time on our Alexa, and she even reads bible stories for kids!
- I want to go screen-free for a week myself. There is an official screen-free week in the spring that I’d like to try. Until then, I may find a good week in the fall to do that. It can be difficult to nix computer time considering I’m a freelance public relations consultant, but I’m convinced it’s important enough to figure that out.
- Screens aren’t only to blame. iPads, TVs and cell phones are not all bad. In fact, it would be impossible for me to do a lot of things without being able to be connected. But like any good thing, too much isn’t good. So keeping limits on screen time for my entire family is something I’m not going to relax on again.
- He’s finding ways to relax. The most amazing part about our “fast” is that Shep has started to say things like “Mommy, I need a break.” or my favorite, “Mommy, I’m going to relax.” He curls up on the couch, grabs a search and find book (loves this one) and lays down for awhile. I think TV did help him calm down when needed, but I’m so excited to see that new self-soothing skill start to happen.
I do want to caveat – I don’t have intentions of never letting Shep watch TV and I don’t think TV is bad. I am simply on a quest to help Shep get over this tough 3-year hump, and if it means we don’t watch tv for a few weeks or a few months, I’ll definitely do whatever seems to work best for him.
What are your family’s limits on screen time? Have you ever thoughts about going screen free?