“Until your weekly school report comes home without checkmarks under the ‘talking out of turn’ category, you will not be allowed to watch TV,” I recently told my seven-year-old. Then I thought about it: Was that really possible? Could I keep my word indefinitely, until she kept up her end of the bargain? Was I the kind of parent who says what I mean and has the strength to follow through?
Life with a kid without TV.
After 14 days with our TV turned off, Antonia’s weekly report came home not only without a checkmark, but also with a colorful sticker that said, “Super!” She was so proud of herself that she took it out of her backpack to show me as soon as I arrived at school to pick her up.
I honestly couldn’t believe it. Not that she could get a “super” sticker, but that I didn’t cave after a couple days and let her watch TV. Instead of TV as a distraction, we had more interaction with each other. We had conversations over dinner about Halloween costumes and stink bugs; she helped me do laundry (and seemed excited about it!); we read more books together, and eliminated any struggle at bedtime because there was no, “Pleeeeease! Just let me watch 10 more minutes of Austin & Ally!”
I liked it without the TV on.
As I write this, we are in our third week “sans television” and it is still going well. In fact, I don’t even think my seven-year-old misses watching it.
This little experiment of mine made me wonder about other parents. Are you strong enough to keep your word? Does “no” mean “no” in your house, or does it mean, “maybe” or even worse, and eventual “yes”? I am guilty of all of the above. At times, I have said “no” to Antonia and then felt bad and changed my mind, allowing her to do what she originally asked. But, I think that just makes me a wishy-washy parent. I want to be the type of parent whom my daughter can believe in – no matter what. I want to be the constant in her life; the person that means what I say and follows through every time.
This isn’t to say I don’t want to be flexible, because I do and I am, but sometimes to a fault. I have learned in all of this that it is hard to be a parent who keeps my word. It’s hard to teach your kids that there are decisions and consequences. But, isn’t that one of the most important gifts we can give our children? The ability to think about the outcome of our own actions? (I imagine if every parent were successful at teaching his or her kids this very principle, not a single person would be in jail right now. Think about it.)
I pose this challenge to you, my fellow parents: What will you do this week to show your children that you are a person of your word; that you are someone your child can count on no matter what? You can do it. I see a “super” sticker in your future.