Getting Through the Day Screen Free

Just under a year ago, as I looked across the room at my then 2 and 3 year old girls staring numbly at the television screen, I began to contemplate what life would be like here without TV.

Getting Through the Day Screen Free ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

We didn’t use it all the time. I mean, it came on once a day, maybe, for 30 minutes to possibly an hour. The shows were always screened for suitability and it was usually something pretty tame like Playschool or Dora or Peppa Pig.

So really, it didn’t seem like too big a deal.

I loved being able to get things done around the house, uninterrupted. Secure in the knowledge that my children were being expertly babysat.

It hadn’t always been like that, we haven’t always been a huge TV watching family.When the girls were younger, they were not as easily drawn to the TV so it was not worth putting it on for them anyway.

But as they grew, so did their understanding of the shows, recognition of the characters and overall enthusiasm for this mind numbing device. And I say mind numbing in the literal sense. My children would transform from loud, energetic, shrieking avalanches of fun to drugged-up zombies in an instant. It was quite shocking now when I think about it.

As household and work pressures grew and the girls became increasingly resistant to brushing hair and teeth, getting dressed and many other daily tasks, the lure of the TV became too great for this Mama.

Over the weeks and months, TV became more and more involved in our family life. Even when the TV wasn’t on, the characters and the dramas dominated the girl’s play afterwards. Less and less were the girls satisfied with their own company and in their own play.

Increasingly, they would ask, no, demand, that I turn on the TV.

Keen to stay in control of this beast in our house, I set limits about when it could be watched and for how long but increasingly there were fights, tantrums and wailing if it did not live up to the girl’s expectations of when and what they thought they should be watching and for how long.

In the end, I had had enough. The TV had outgrown its welcome and it was time for it to fade into the background.

We had heard of other families doing weekly movie nights and I liked the idea of this. I thought it might also soften the transition away from the daily viewing the children had become accustomed to and give us some nice family time to look forward to each week.

So one day, we sat the children down and explained to them with excitement that we would be introducing a family movie night on Friday nights. We let them know that we would all get to watch a movie together as a family and that we would make popcorn and pizza and snuggle under doonas to watch a movie. The children were excited.

But it meant that TV was only going to be turned on on Fridays.

Over the next few weeks, the children continually moaned for the TV to be turned on but we would consistently say that it was not Friday and that they could watch it when it was movie night.

I would be lying if I said this transition was easy.

It wasn’t. It meant that I no longer had a guaranteed number of minutes in a day to get my jobs done in peace and quiet. My uninterrupted ‘me time’ was now going to become a rarity for a while. It meant that when the children were driving me up the wall, it was up to me to find a new level of strength to keep motoring through with the poise and confidence my children needed from me.

I can tell you, that was hard but I did it – most of the time.

And here’s how you can too…

1. Arm yourself with knowledge

I strongly believe that to be successful in lasting the distance with the abandonment of  screen time, you have to believe in it and be completely convinced that it is the best thing for your children. You have to understand all the benefits of limiting screen time for children and keep these near to you to help you stay motivated when you are ready to cave. Here are some great articles to help keep you motivated on your journey.

How to Break Your Toddler’s TV habit ~ Janet Lansbury

A Creative Alternative to Baby TV Time ~ Janet lansbury

Unplugged: Why we Quit All Screens ~ Kate Gribble

It’s Official: TV Linked to Attention Deficit ~ Jean Lotus

More TV for Toddlers Means More Problems by Age 10 ~ Tiffany O’Callaghan

5 Great Reasons Not to Watch Too Much TV ~ Tsh Oxenreider

2. Arm yourself with support

It helps enormously to have someone who can support you along this journey. When my days were going pear-shaped and I was on the verge of picking up the remote control,  I would always ring my husband first.

I suddenly became more accountable when I did this. These were his children too and if I was going to make a decision about them, he needed to have a say. It was great to hear him coax me away from the remote, refocus me and give me a pep-talk to power through until his shift ended.

3. Arm yourself with organisation

I plan my days as best I can. Nothing fancy, just a simple schedule that breaks the day down into more manageable chunks. For me it takes the guess work out of the day. I have it all on paper so that when my mind loses focus and I am struggling through the afternoon slump, I have a guide coaching me through until the end of the day.

Getting Through the Day Screen Free ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

This is an example of a schedule I write out with my children in the morning. As you can see, Art is not my talent but the children insist on drawings so they can make sense of the schedule when I post it on the fridge.

Having it written out on paper also helps my girls cope with transitioning away from the TV. They sit with me as I plan it out in the morning and my spirited eldest daughter in particular has me go over it several times before she is able to recognise my (sub-standard) drawings and read through it on the fridge herself. We then consult it regularly throughout the day.

During quiet time, I do a quick house tidy up and then I might put out something interesting for the children to explore or set up and activity with paints or drawing implements for after quiet time. I then go to my children’s bedroom and spend some one-on-one quality time with them for about 15 mins each. This allows us to reconnect and fills their attention bucket, helping them get through to the end of the day with more independence.

The times are just a guide and of course there is room for flexibility, but having that plan keeps me strong and on top of things during some of the more trying hours.

4. Arm yourself with an alternative

Swapping regular, babysitting-type TV for a weekly family movie night has been the perfect deal. It is easier to let the children know when they are able to watch TV and have it set in stone so that we are not ambiguous and they know exactly what the limit is. We love our movies in together and although we have to watch ‘Frozen’ pretty much every week, we are finding that this is a beautiful time that we all look forward to as we wind down at the end of the working week.

Giving up our TV habit was not the easiest task. It takes strength and commitment to show our children that they do not NEED to watch it. Arming yourself with some simple strategies can definitely make the screen free transition less harrowing.

Now that I see how much more playful, creative and engaged my children are becoming, I am relieved that we bit the bullet and made that shift when we did. It has been one hundred percent worth it.

Getting Through the Day Screen Free ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

12 thoughts on “Getting Through the Day Screen Free

  1. katepickle

    Great practical advice!
    I’ve found limited to no TV was much easier when my kids were little… we could always find something else to do, but I have to work harder at it now that they are older. It is really worth it though.. time is so precious, I don’t want to waste it all in front of a screen!

  2. Christine

    Thanks, I needed this! I have been mindful about not turning it on, but I do enjoy the break. The other night they started to get wound up just before bedtime, and I was tempted to turn it on because they really do get quiet and turn into zombies (although I know TV before bed can actually be stimulating). Instead, I grabbed a handful of books and put them on the floor while they ate bed time snack. Worked like a charm!

  3. christina

    my kids have hardly watched tv for about the last 6 months, maybe one programme each a month, they are preschool age, 2 and 3 and one 5 and at school. ourhouse is nearly always a mess with games, play thing from their dres up and toys, craft stuff, drawing, cutting, all sorts (we do tidy) but also their behaviour is so muchbetter, no fighting which programme will be put on, and for how long and the dreadful behaviour when it has tobe turned off as if they are addicted to it…. our family is so much better for it. I went to a meeting last week and I took with me a box of crayons and plain paper for my kdis to draw on, I had to take them with me and knew this would keep them occupied. the person their wanted to hand them the ipad and said they will be bored with that soon enough… I was so annoyed, I politely said, children without screens don’t get bored, and I truly believe that as their brain works and thinks and can create their own play….. my oldest said no thanks to the ipad, though later was using it as other kids there were too.. just annoyed with that sort of comment which children hear and then believe that other stuff is ‘boring”’ my kids are never bored, always doing their own things. my kids used to watch a lot of tv previously, so glad 6 months ago we stopped it.

    1. peacefulparentsconfidentkids Post author

      Wow, Christina! It is quite alarming how these devices have become so ingrained in our society so quickly that no one stops to think that maybe children can entertain themselves without one! Good for you for bucking the trend 🙂 Thank you for your comment!

  4. Melissa @ Honey Bee Books

    What great suggestions. I have to admit that we have become very reliant on the TV recently. After moving house twice in 6 months, the kids watching TV (or playing on the iPad) meant that I could focus on other things like selling our old house and buying a new one. Now we have settled into our new house we are still watching just as much TV. I think it’s definitely time to break the habit! Thank you for the nudge in the right direction 🙂

  5. Belle

    Great tips here. I am also mindful of how much my 3.5yr old and nearly 1 yr old watch tv, but it’s just so easy to get some quiet time!
    Could you possibly give an example of your daily schedule to give me some ideas of what we could be doing together? I’m really bad at organising things to do with them and always find myself doing my chores “around” their play. Or maybe emailing me privately?
    I’m very mindful with how much the tv is on. My 3.5yr old loves it and asks for it all the time and now I see my 1yr old loving it too…… I will definitely take your tips on board!

    1. peacefulparentsconfidentkids Post author

      Hi Belle,
      I have added to the post a photograph of an example of one of the schedules I have written this week. Sorry for the poor quality but I wanted to show you that it doesn’t have to be flash. it just has to be meaningful to you and your family.
      BTW: i did exactly what you do until I started making this schedule. I was very inefficient with my time and struggled to get through the day with any sort of purpose. I feel much more inwardly calm now armed with a plan.
      Kate xx

  6. Mrs.B

    This has been on my mind for weeks. the zombie kids, the amount of time spent in front of it, the endless whining fussing and tantrums associated with it….
    we just had a third baby, who is now 3 months old. add in a healthy dose of cold winter and lets just say we have all had way too much tv the past few months.
    Thank you for this article, I believe it is a good start to ending our tv problem, and at this point it is definitely a problem!

  7. Pingback: Encouraging Independent Play in Toddlers - Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.