My son is two and half years old. Since he was 17 months, we have been letting him watch some TV. We started with some Kidsongs (a show from the 80s with real children singing songs and dancing). It was nostalgic for me since it was a show I watched as a kid.
My husband and I, eager to revisit our childhoods, went to YouTube and showed him musical clips from Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Barney, and many other Disney favorites. This quickly morphed towards his preference for the current shows like Cocomelon, which quickly became all that he wanted to watch.
As nervous as I was to introduce TV (with all the stigma and mom guilt circulating) I was just as desperate to have something else to entertain him while I cooked dinner or washed the dishes in peace. The routine started off benign with a permitted 30 to 60 minutes of TV in the evenings after a day full of play. He learned many new songs and we would sing them, listening to them on Spotify throughout the day. With the benefits of some downtime and enrichment of new words and music, my mom guilt quickly vanished.
But quite insidiously, the 30 to 60 minutes in the evening turned into another 30 to 60 minutes in the morning, with an additional 30 to 60 minutes sprinkled in throughout the day.
My son began asking for TV over playing with his favorite toys or going outside. He preferred it to the playground and pool time, and even one-on-one time with Mickey Mouse, whose voice I have nearly perfected. The response from the continuous nagging for TV was either met with a firm “no” that caused a meltdown or admittedly, a defeated, “Fine you can watch one more show.”
My husband and I both noticed a change in the kind and carefree personality of our son to someone we felt we didn’t know.
How did this happen? Who is this child that wants TV so much that he will cry and beg incessantly for it? Eventually, the meltdowns were too much. No more. We cut TV cold turkey. No screen time. Nothing.
Although it has only been two weeks, which doesn’t seem like much time in the grand scheme of things, it feels like a triumph. Not only has my son asked for TV less, but his meltdowns have also virtually gone away. His independent play with his toys has increased, and he now asks to go on walks and play outside again.
There’s always the temptation after a full day of childcare to put on the TV for “just a little while.” Sometimes I desperately want a break. How am I going to cook dinner when my two-year-old is climbing the furniture and reaching for his sticky toy that is stuck to the ceiling? But for now, as tempting as it is to bring peace with the click of a button, I am not ready to face the meltdowns and whining that inevitably come with it.
I am sure we will reintroduce TV again, perhaps sooner than later. There are still some great benefits after all. But we are managing for now. And although it takes more than a click of a button, there is peace in our home once again.