First, I in no way am judging the mamas who do not limit screen time. To each their own. Consider hearing me out though…
I was a big fan of screen time and have given Daniel Tiger many a thank-you speech in my days as a parent. Shout out to all the neighborhood friends!
I have used screen time to survive certain periods of parenting: First trimester exhaustion? Screen time. Have a new baby and sleep doesn’t exist? Answer, screen time. All parented out? You guessed it, screen time.
But here’s the thing that I began to realize, and had also read from numerous other moms. Screentime was beginning to affect my kids, and me. And it was actually the source of a lot of my complaints with my kids. It wasn’t easy to see at first because it was that good at masking the problem it had become.
It became a crutch in my parenting. A way to avoid dealing with a temporary hard thing, in order to maintain the easy.
Decreasing screen time for kids is not unlike a person giving up smoking. It helps pass the time. When things are boring you go to that thing. The desire is triggered by other habits. It is basically an addiction for our kids, and by extension, for us adults.
My kids would wake up and feel entitled to turning on their favorite show of the day. Clue number one that this was slowly becoming a problem…
When we would inevitably turn the tv off, their positive attitudes also turned off. We were left with sour kids. And yes, we do the whole warn your kids before a sudden change deal. But here’s the thing: when it’s something we think we need, it doesn’t matter how long we were warned beforehand. We will fight for that “need”—no matter what.
Have I even mentioned how that much unlimited screen time for my kids has affected me—a grown adult in charge of the little people?
I became easily annoyed with my children when they would disengage with the show and “bother” me. I would end up saying things like, “can you please just watch your show?” and threaten to just turn the show off. We all know this is secretly terrifying and really an empty threat. I really dislike threatening and bribing in parenting. But that was the exact vicious cycle I had found myself in.
And for what?
For a few minutes—hours, really—of peace? Of mindlessness for days on end. Days went by that I avoided interacting fully with my kids. And if I’m being honest, parenting them.
It’s a hard truth to face. No one has to spell it out for me, this parenting gig is plain hard.
What I didn’t realize was that I had made it harder on myself in the long run. I finally took the responsibility back from my television and explained to my kids why we were now going to limit how long we would be doing screen time. And then we just did it. We cut back to 90 minutes total for the day. I told my kids that was one movie, or three shows—their choice. But that was it, period.
Then I dealt with the sour attitudes for the next few days. But as they came down from the need to watch television, they suddenly became more interested in the toys that had been collecting dust in their playroom. Their imaginations blossomed and continue to grow daily. My daughter now works on a new drawing almost every day, and the detail is building just as fast.
My kids and I have had to go through a rough period of learning how to play together—and play together well.
The point of this all:
It was worth it all to get to the point we are at now. They will entertain themselves for hours, allow me to jump in with them, and still let me get a few things I need to get done, alone.
There is no doubt we will have another a season where the television feels permanently turned on. But I can promise that I won’t let it linger for long. Tip: Turning music on in the house was a big help for replacing the distraction and sound of the tv. Plus, it always means dance parties. BONUS!