Archives for February 2012

Too much TV?


Do you ever wonder if your child watches too much TV? Do you monitor your child’s screen time?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has firm guidelines on how much TV they think our children should be watching. They “strongly discourage” any television for children two years old and younger. These kids’ brains are still developing, and they learn best through interactive play.

Older children, they advise, should watch no more than one to two hours per day of educational, non-violent TV that is supervised by an adult.

I wholeheartedly agree with their recommendations. This statistic simply astounds me: “By age 3, almost one third of children have a television in their bedroom.” Really?! Ugh!

But I am also a parent who knows that the “electronic babysitter” is very effective at giving us some down time. It’s not always easy to follow the AAP’s guidelines. Sometimes we don’t always track how much TV our kids watch. Other times, maybe we’re not as honest with ourselves as we should be.

In fact, when you calculate how much TV your child watches, include all types of electronic devices. All “screen time” should be kept to a minimum.

So I have a very simple solution to determine whether a child watches too much TV. Ask yourself, Does my child ask for TV time?

That’s all you need. If your child requests TV time (at all), it’s likely he watches too much. It has become a habit for him, and he’s familiar with it enough to know that he wants it. Also, if it’s a battle between you, then he watches too much. If he’s requesting it, and you have to tell him no, then he whines and complains about it, it’s too much.

No child should be that dependent on TV. I speak from experience when I recommend this. During the week, my boys typically don’t watch TV at all. Between school, sports, homework, piano and outside play, they have enough to keep themselves busy. And they are very content to play with their toys rather than watch. In fact, if they do watch, I am usually the one who asks them if they want to watch. (I’ll do so if I need to be on the phone or really focus on my work.)

But over the years, we certainly have had times when they have watched TV regularly and have asked for it. I have always used that as my cue that perhaps they are watching too much, too regularly.

So what do you do if you find that your child routinely asks for TV time? Cut it out altogether. Yes, eliminate it completely. Give yourselves about a week with no TV to remind yourselves that you can get along without it. Again, if this sounds like a daunting task, that’s all the more reason to eliminate TV.

Here are some ideas for eliminating TV from your routine:

  • Take TV time out of your written schedule.
  • Encourage independent play. Replace TV time with an extra session of room time.
  • Pull out some toys that have been in storage.
  • Hit up a garage sale for new toys (novelty is the key here).
  • Get some new books from the library.
  • Get some audio books from the library.
  • Take any DVDs out of the car (if you have a DVD player in the car).
  • Sit down with your child and encourage the kind of play you’d like to see more of. (Imaginative play is ideal for kids ages three or four.)

Whatever you do, don’t replace your TV with another electronic device. Eliminating TV while adding in computer or iPad time doesn’t cut it.

And don’t fall for the idea that TV is educational. The most “educational” TV is not as educational as you sitting down on the floor playing or reading a book. And by all means, if your child has a TV in their room, take it out!

While eliminating TV is simply good for their brains, it’s also good for their bodies. Eliminating or reducing TV time can improve the child’s diet, decrease the risk of obesity, reduce the exposure to violent content (which does affect behavior) and improve sleep quantity and quality. Reducing TV is healthy!

The AAP suggests, “In today’s ‘achievement culture,’ the best thing you can do for your young child is to give her a chance to have unstructured play—both with you and independently. Children need this in order to figure out how the world works.”

Still not convinced? Read this from the AAP.

What I’m Reading, “A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children,” Asynchronous Development

One concept that isn’t commonly understood among parents is that most gifted children excel in one or two areas, not all. A child may excel in reading, but do poorly in math. Or they may be a whiz with puzzles but show average ability in verbal development. In fact, because asynchronous development is so prominent among gifted children, many professionals believe it (rather than potential or ability) to be the defining characteristic of giftedness.

This certainly applies to William, which is why I didn’t think he was gifted before I understood the concept. I thought gifted children excelled in every subject. William is a master speller, but would be happy never to do math again (though he’s still working above grade level). He reads three or four grade levels ahead, but his comprehension or spoken verbal skills wouldn’t be considered advanced. Even on a physical level, he is amazing on his bike, but has difficulty catching a ball.

It’s important to understand asynchronous development when considering our children’s education:

“The more highly gifted the child, the more out of sync she is likely to be within herself, with wide differences between areas of strength and areas of relative weakness…. The wide span of abilities and skills has major implications for this child’s curriculum and grade placement. This type of asynchronous child, even though gifted, often needs an individualized educational plan,” (A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, p. 7).

So if your child struggles with a particular subject, don’t assume that he’s not gifted. Look to the subjects he does excel in and see if he performs above average compared to his peers.

It’s easier to do it for them


Have you ever fallen into the trap of doing things for your child simply because it’s easier? I know I have. But what are the effects of doing so? What are we teaching our children?

This issue came to a head for me recently. I tend to help Lucas with his shoes and coat simply because it’s easier and faster, particularly when we’re rushing off to school. Well, at school, they have been teaching him to do this for himself. One day, his teacher told me that he was very proud of himself after putting on his coat and shoes himself, but he quickly said, “Don’t tell my mom.”

The little stinker didn’t want me to know that he was able to put his coat and shoes on by himself! He wanted me to keep doing it for him!

The whole scenario made me laugh, but it also made me aware of what can happen by not requiring my children to do for themselves. There is a reason parents require their children to do chores. We want to teach them to take care of themselves, their things, and to help others.

Doing things for them is particularly problematic when we have instructed them to complete a task and then do it for them. We completely undermine our authority when we tell them to pick up their toys and then do it for them.

After describing a scenario where a child ignores his parents’ instruction to put away his clothes, the Ezzos say:

“Unfortunately, the parents themselves often encourage this behavior. Rather than dealing with the child’s disobedience, Mom gives up by folding and putting away the clothes for him. The reason for her actions is simple. Doing the task herself is much easier and faster than getting her child to do it. This decision also avoids conflict. The problem with her action is that it reinforces he child’s disobedience and teaches the child that if he waits long enough, someone else will do it for him!” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 129).

And ultimately, we want them to develop self-initiative to clean up after themselves.

“Prompted initiative is very good; self-generated is better and should be the goal to which every parent strives,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 129).

While we may need to prompt our kids to perform certain tasks, especially when they’re little, our goal should be to develop in them the initiative to perform chores and serve others without prompt from anyone.

You can imagine that there’s a wide gap between a child who needs a bribe to obey (as discussed in Monday’s post) and a child who takes initiative themselves to take care of themselves and their things. Imagine not even having to request that the child perform these tasks. It takes obedience out of the equation!