How switching off the TV gave us our darling daughter back

  
Our television has been one of my closest companions and best babysitters for the past three years. When A was just born and J went back to work (after a month at home), I watched Sopranos from start to finish. That’s SIX seasons! Add in a few seasons of Grimm, White Collar, Suits and Lie to me and you get a clear idea of what my life was like. For four months A wouldn’t nap for longer than 20 minutes during the day unless I carried her. And her internal clock only registered ‘bedtime’ as 6am for the loooooooooooongest time.  So I had a lot of time on my hands while being tied to one location. 

Fast forward to her being old enough to toddle around and I could no longer leave her to play contentedly in the campcot while making supper or tidying up. This is where Strawberry Shortcake saved the day and gave me at least half an hour to sort stuff out while she nodded along and clapped to the songs. 

As she got older we enjoyed introducing her to all the animated movies that we love. She could watch Penguins of Madagascar every day and be happy. We even got used to her names for the movies to the point where we forget what it was actually called

  • Dave = Penguins of Madagascar
  • The puppy one = Barbie and her sisters great adventure
  • The doggy one = Lady and the tramp
  • Wawa = Sofia the first 
  • Panda = Kung Fu Panda 3
  • The leopard bad guy = Kung Fu Panda 1
  • And so forth and so on

And if we couldn’t work out what she was asking for…well if you have kids you know the meltdown that followed.

Anyway, the reason for this post: about 6 months ago I noticed that she was becoming increasingly crabby and grumpy and just generally mean especially towards her dad. She has always been a late sleeper but now she would occasionally go until 2am (which wasn’t a trainsmash since she was staying at home and could sleep in). I couldn’t figure out why she was in such a bad mood. The slightest thing would flip a switch and she would become frustrated and highly irritable. We hate scolding her all the time. She’s such a good kid that it was obvious something was bothering her but we just couldn’t figure out what it was. 

I can’t remember what made me do it but one day I told her that the cats were fighting and they broke the tv. They do fight but she loves them so she not only accepted this story but she wasn’t even upset with them. There was some crying and whining but then the tv was forgotten. Just like that. She played with her toys, looked at her books and just entertained herself. The biggest change though was how loving she became towards her dad. It was almost a relief to her to not have the tv on if that makes any sense. It was more difficult for us to adjust to the tv drought than her. No more relaxing in front of the tv in the evening, now we had to be present and actively play with her. We loved it!! So tiring but so worth it! AND she went to bed earlier because she was tired from using more energy. Success! From then on our cats broke the tv every Monday morning and daddy fixed it every Friday after work. 

Then we moved. Amidst all the chaos I dropped the ball and we slipped back into our bad habit of the tv being on almost all the time. When she started school I felt guilty and let the tv watching continue even though I could see the warning signs. Until today. 

We fetched her from school, spent some time chatting about her day then she asked for a movie. Her dad put something on to watch with her. I was feeling lightheaded from the heat so I went to lay down. Five minutes in she realized I wasn’t there and she lost it. Screaming for me but not willing to leave the tv and come to the room. She fought her dad and cried and scratched and just generally lost her shit. Totally out of proportion to the situation. 

She eventually came to the room and cried herself to sleep next to me. When she woke from her nap she asked if the tv was still broken. I said yes. She said ‘oh man’ and that was that. We baked cupcakes, read books, chatted over supper together at the table (another thing I had let slip), played with instruments, had cuddles in bed and she went to sleep at 9pm. TOTAL TRANSFORMATION! It’s freaky. She was happy and playful and chatty and generally more relaxed. 

In trying to make her happy I was making her unhappy. A classic case of putting a child’s wants above their needs. I’m sure there will be times when I am too tired (especially now that I’m in the third trimester) and my resolve will crumble but I will make sure those times are few and far between. I love my sweet child too much to do that to her again.

2 Comments

  • coleramirez

    I have come to the same conclusion with my 3.5 year old daughter. I swear the TV makes her a maniac. It certainly would be a convenient crutch to use, but the aftermath is so unpleasant… she is more emotional, more whiney, and less obedient. We now limit it to one movie once a week (on Friday nights) and our days flow much more smoothly.

    I’m glad you discovered this before you had your new baby!

  • EmilyMaine

    Yessssss! I get this. When baby was born we allowed constant iPad use and things just got out of control – late nights which meant late mornings and feelings of tiredness and bad behaviour by a kid usually so much better behaved. So we have banned it now. It pops out for special treats but that isn’t even once a week. We also have reduced access the to the tv so it didn’t just replace the iPad and it is such a pleasure to see the toys being played with again. It does take more time as a parent – you need to interact! – but the result is much nicer 🙂

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