How many can empathize with this scenario? I can. We’ve all been there. Parenting is hard work and the television can be a very convenient babysitter. TV time, once in a while, can be fun for the family. For a while we were even convinced that with the right programs or DVDs, this habit could be educational. However, it is very easy to become dependent on built-in entertainment.
In his recent article “Toddlers and TV Sets Don’t Mix,” author Kevin Ryan shared that in 1998 Disney created the Baby Einstein video series designed for children 3 months to 3 years. The videos were marketed to increase child IQ at a young age in order to give them an advantage later in life. Now, Disney is dropping the word educational and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for infants. Studies even show too much TV watching can diminish IQ, not improve it. We rationalized that TV was a good baby sitter—we were even encouraged thinking that it made our kids smarter. Now, experts are returning to the view that kids need nurturing, play, exercise, and having a parent teach them how to be a better human being. Is this surprising news, or is this just common sense coming back around? Think back to when you were a kid. Would you like to be playing, creating, and spending time with your parents, or would you like to sit in front of the TV because it is convenient for the adults?
Ryan shares that parents need to focus on building CQ: character quotient. Teach toddlers habits such as “persistence, self-control, diligence, and how to set goals and get a job done.” He notes the word character comes from the Greek word meaning “to engrave”. What does the TV engrave–commercials, jingles, and inappropriate content your kids stumble upon? What can we do to engrave good CQ into our kids? Taking it a step further, what can we do to build their EQ, emotional quotient, a positive identity in our kids developed through parental connection and time together?
Even though we know TV may not be the best solution for our kids, it is very convenient. What are frazzled parents, or single parents, supposed to do? In the article “Television is Not a Good Babysitter,” Renee Dietz, author and single mom, shares that she, too, fell into the trap of using the television to entertain her kids. It worked. Without her kids underfoot, she was able to get the house cleaned and dinner on the table in half the time. Unfortunately, she slowly realized that her kids were not only preferring TV- time over family-time, but they were missing out on important lessons such as learning how to take care of their home, fix dinner, and spend time together. She gave the following tips to turn away from the television:
- Substitute crafts, coloring, or other pen and paper activities at a table near where you are.
- Allow your kids to help out with dinner, laundry, tidying. Chores may take longer, but she learned her kids enjoyed helping out and found pride in the work they did.
- Take time to talk. Once she turned off the TV, Dietz found her kids used the time to share about their school day, and plan weekend activities.
Her family still watches television. But now it is limited to intentional family-time, not mindless viewing. For more information on how to interact with young children, visit The Talaris Institute. Here you’ll find information on how your children think, feel, and learn at a young age.
I know it is hard parenting a young child. But our kids need us. Remember, these years go by so quickly. And no one can instill character better than parents…certainly not the television.
Written by Jeff Kemp, Founder of Stronger Families