Thursday, April 9, 2009


When my children are so wound-up, over the top hyper that they find it hard to sit still, let alone string a sentence together (a common state of affairs every day around 5 o'clock, give or take an hour) i put the TV on and let them sit and indulge themselves in some mind-numbing, no brain-activity needed, mass-produced moving images type of kind. Actually, they don't need to be on the verge of a melt-down, I let them watch TV any way. And to my defense, it's usually not brain-numbing TV, it's actually really nice, sweet programmes.
And I don't actually feel the need to excuse myself on this one. I belong to the group of parents who don't think that TV will kill our children, or turn them in to freaks. I also belong to the group of people who wouldn't allow the TV to be turned on 24/7, substituting other activities like, for instance, taking part of real life, but there you go: my kids watch TV.

A close friend of mine and I often run in to this (friendly) argument when we spend time with the kids in each others homes. She thinks that TV is an evil and would rather drop down dead than let her 3year old son watch half an hour of Tweenies (you can take the English out of England but you can't take England...- this is BBC programming we¨re talking about:)) in the evening.
- He should be playing, using his imagination and not be slumped in front of the TV like a zombie.
If you look at the 3 year old at 5.30pm, after a day of play dates, cycling in the park, feeding the ducks, playing with matchbox cars and painting huge landscapes that would put van Gogh to shame, at this point of the day it doesn't look like you'd get much inspired coherence out of him, he's pretty much done and ready to combust. The result is that for an hour or so, he will be completely intolerable, running around like a restless goblin, not knowing what to do with himself, pulling out every toy imaginable without playing with them, throwing tantrums and demanding attention in the loudest, most intense manner.
As an experiment, I convinced my friend to let him watch some TV, just a little. I put on some Bob the Builder, and what do you know, an angel is sitting in the sofa, emerged in "can we fix it? Yes we can!", calm as a summer breeze. An lo and behold, the next day he had even made up a new game: he was going to build a house in the garden, just like Bob.

The moral of the story is a bit dubious. My friend could see the point of the experiment, and could agree that, limited time, supervised, in front of the TV, wouldn't scar her boy for life. But as she still couldn't get over the zombie-reference (all in her head, by the way) she couldn't justify TV viewing in the evenings, but will rather let him watch it in the morning after breakfast, when he is his most active and ready to play. So he has less time to build his house in the garden, and he is still running around like a hellrazer before bedtime, but half a battle won, and all that.
There is still some work to do, but we'll get there.


  1. Hi, I'm Jen. I let my children watch TV far more than I ever said I would before I actually became a parent, before I knew that having a quiet 1/2 hour (or even an hour and a half during a feature length film) would be my lifeline. The bottom line is YOU are the parent and you have to survive. And our children DO need some down time every day. It's hard not to feel like you have to live up to everyone else's expectations, but amdist all the "research" and "professional" advice, you are the only expert on your child! And only you can decide what's right or wrong for him.

  2. Hi Jen, I agree with you, we are all the experts on our own children (which is why I shouldn't push my friend on this issue, because it goes both ways, but she knows I don't mean anything by it).
    If the experts would just stop telling us where we're going wrong all the time, and start telling us about the benefits about the things we do right instead, I think we'd have a lot more happy and confident parents.