Dr Richard C. Woolfson
At times, it must seem as if your six-year-old is glued to the television screen. If she isn’t rushing home from school to watch the latest edition of his favourite cartoon, then she’ll probably be switching on her computer to play yet another mindless game. You may reach the stage where you have to announce: “No more TV activities at home.”
Of course, your child will be outraged by such a suggestion. After all, playground discussions often centre on the previous night’s television programmes, and she’ll worry that she’ll be left out of these discussions. Not only that, she may be so used to switching on the goggle box that she may struggle to think of things to do instead. Instant access to television means that this generation of children doesn’t have to plan how to use its leisure time – kids know that if they just sit and stare, something will eventually come along that grabs their attention.
So stick to your plans for no TV activities, despite her protests and annoyance at your strategy. She can only benefit from having to think for himself. With your help, your child will be able to fill her hours with useful, stimulating activities that don’t involve the electronic baby-sitter.
Since coping with a ban on television will be a challenge for your five-year-old, use two techniques to start the ball rolling. Firstly, give her advanced warning that, say, the set will stay switched off starting one week from today. She’ll probably not believe you, then try to persuade you to abandon the idea, and then use moody behaviour to dissuade you – but at least the notice of your intention allows her to get used to the concept. Secondly, tell her that this is for a trial period of, say, two weeks. After that, you’ll decide whether to continue with the blanket ban on television or to return to the previous arrangement. Working cooperatively with her in this way is more likely to get her on board with the trial period.
The next stage is to plan with your child how she’ll spend the free time that she normally uses for television viewing. Work out the possibilities together. For instance, there is reading, homework, listening to music, playing music, walking in the park, swimming, sports, board games, construction toys, arts and crafts, leisure classes and just talking to one another. She can also arrange similar activities with his friends. Once she puts her mind to it, she’ll realise that there are a lot more non-TV opportunities than she initially assumed.
Suggest to her that she plan what to do after coming home from school each day, and chat about it with her each morning. Draw up a daily list of alternative activities and encourage her to stick to them. Of course, she is more likely to adhere to her plan if you do the same – in other words, the most effective method is to make sure that the ban on TV activities for a fortnight applies to the whole family, not just your six-year-old! At bedtime each day, talk about her non-TV schedule that evening. Identify what she liked and disliked, and what she has decided to do tomorrow.
The two-week trial will almost certainly pass very quickly, especially once the first few days are over. Give you and your child a pat on the back for sticking to your agreement, and then decide what to do next. You never know – the experience might be so successful that your child opts for the non-TV trial period to be extended. It’s certainly worth a try.