One day the TV was blaring excessively, the next it was switched off and never went back on again. For the toddler, anyway. Annie Ridout explains her daughter’s accidental TV ban and the positive impact it has had on her life…
I’m into routines in a big way. Somewhat obsessively, if I’m honest. That’s not to say I won’t stray but it’s got to be quite firmly in place before I’m comfortable with bending it. For me, routines feel as if they actually gain me freedom. Once naps are in place, I have time to work. When the bedtime routine is set, I have evenings to myself.
Unfortunately, though, about a year ago, we got into a routine that wasn’t so good.
When I was pregnant with my son, I suffered the same fairly debilitating morning sickness I had with my firstborn, only this time I had a toddler to look after. The only way I could keep her from following me to the loo while I threw up was by turning the TV on. And so it was that our nearly two-year-old daughter developed a taste for screens.
Until then, we’d managed to entertain her between us – my husband and me – without having to resort to screens. (By getting out the house as often as possible, mostly). It wasn’t that we were against TV, we just hadn’t got round to introducing it. However, we soon slipped into a routine of mornings in front of the telly. It was the only way I could cope not just with morning sickness but also with the incredible exhaustion that accompanies the first trimester.
A few months later, I started to notice my daughter’s behaviour changing after she’d been watching TV. She became grumpy, despondent and disobedient. Tired of the daily battle it took to lure her to the table for dinner, I told her that if she continued to behave like this, she wouldn’t be allowed to watch TV any more.
The next day, she was tantrumming when I called her for dinner. I turned the telly off and explained that when she watched it, she became grumpy. The following day, she asked for Peppa Pig and I said no. Again, I explained how it negatively affected her moods. She sulked for a moment then ran off to play.
She didn’t ask to watch TV after that and we didn’t offer it. And since Christmas, it’s probably been on twice during the day. We let her watch nursery rhymes on a phone if we’re at the pub with friends and we’ve forgotten to bring entertainment but other than that, it’s no screens. And you know what? That bad behaviour seems to have cleared. We have the odd tantrum but nothing like those post-TV-watching moods.
And instead of spending the morning and late afternoon plonked in front of a screen, she pulls out her ‘make and do’ box and sits at the table painting and making collages. Or she’ll play make believe with her toy kitchen. Or help me cook. Or dance around. Or do some gardening with her dad. These activities make her smile and teach her about using your hands and mind. They enrich her life.
I’m not saying it’s no to TV for ever – and I have nothing against any parent whose child does watch TV – but for us, right now, that accidental television ban was the best thing that could have happened.
What are your thoughts on children and screens (TV, mobiles, iPad)? Would love to hear if you’ve ever tried a TV ban, or how you make it work for your family…