Friday, December 3, 2010

The Benefits of a Broken TV

It finally happened. Our TV died. Sunday, we watched football and America's Funniest Home Videos. Monday, the television wouldn't turn on. It's a good thing, really.

Our kids were getting in the habit of watching PBS cartoons when they woke up. The problem with one is that it turns into two, and two can easily turn into three. When I would tell them it was time to shut it off, usually at least one child whined, and discipline problems began.

Same thing when they woke up from their naps. If they woke up still groggy or cranky, they would ask to watch a cartoon. A "no" was not often met with a compliant, "Ok, Mom. No problem. I'll just look at a book instead."

Sometimes, on a bad day, I would allow them to watch an afternoon cartoon or a short video. After all, it can be a real sanity saver. Many times, crying kids, clinging to my legs, would stop if I offered them a video. Then I could unload the dishwasher, start dinner, and keep that last little bit of sanity. Sometimes it was already gone, and I could work on getting it back before my husband came home.

From not turning on the TV all week, I've noticed my kids are better behaved. They play better together. They look at books more. They draw. They find creative things to do that they haven't done in awhile, or ever (like get down the Memory game and try to play it on their own). I like it.

The problem, I think, is that kids' brains are small. When the TV goes on, it's like their brains turn off. It takes awhile for them to power up again. Their behavior after watching TV illustrates this. I just never knew it was directly related to TV. From my own unscientific study, I can now confirm television viewing does affect behavior--usually negatively.

Not only are our kids behaving better, I also love that not having the option of watching TV makes it so much easier to be intentional this Christmas season about family time, crocheting gifts, reading books as a family, baking, doing craft projects, and more.

For the record, my husband wants to buy a replacement television. He found one on close-out at Sam's. He's planning to pay for it with part of his Christmas bonus--that is, as long as he doesn't receive jars of jam instead (like what happened on National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation )!  But we won't watch TV until after Christmas.

Also for the record, I don't think television is inherently evil. There are many educational programs out there, and we like to watch good quality, clean movies together as a family on the weekends. Plus, I think there are moments when a 30 minute cartoon or video can be a life-saver for a mom at home without any outside help. So I'm not saying you need to turn off your TV. What I am saying is I'm glad mine is broke. It's a nice Christmas present in an unexpected way.

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