Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The T.V. Dilemma

It all started with Blue's Clues, a harmless childrens show with the most lovable character named Steve and his dog Blue. The show soon became a favorite of mine and Ameeras when she was about 2 years old. I had always been strongly against tv, but thought to myself, "Blues Clues is great, no harm in this show, besides this is the only show I will let my daughter watch." And so it went this way for quite some time, where everymorning Ameera would plop herself on the rocking chair to watch the regularly scheduled Blues Clues show while her father and I got ready for work. After some time Blues Clues seemed to no longer interest her, and so I would let her watch other programs on Nick Jr. that I felt were suitable for her until one day I realized that Ameera was spending significant amounts of time in front of the T.V. I would come home from work and she from school both of us tired and she would ask in her little voice, "Mama can I please watch tv?" "Ok" I would say. Why not? I mean she had just spent the whole day at school being active, a little tv wouldnt hurt her, plus I had to make dinner and finish some household chores. This would keep her busy and out of my way for a little bit to get things done. Finally, at 6pm I would call her down for dinner. "Ameera, come eat!" and her response, "Mama can eat dinner with my TV?.....I would sigh and walk up with her plate and feed her as she continued to watch her show. Well, this was actually better I would tell myself, becasue she is so focused on the TV that she would eat all of her dinner without a fight.

Ameera is a very picky eater and I always have to struggle with her to eat. After dinner, she would take her bath, I would read her two stories and then she would go to sleep. Everyday went just like this one. I often felt guilty, telling myself that I had to stop letting her watch so much tv and that I had to take the tv out of her room. Initially, her room was a guest room that had a tv mounted into the wall, once we converted the guest room into her room I never took the tv out. I would often call my husband complaining about how much tv ameera was watching.

It then became worse. She would cry in the morning to watch, and cry after school if I didnt let her watch. She would watch lots of cartoon in the morning while we were still asleep. She would watch at night if we were home not doing anything. It came to the point that often times I noticed the TV would be on in her room but she wasnt watching anymore, she would be playing with her toys. I realized that she became accustomed to having the sound of the tv on in her room. So wether she was watching or not, she wanted it on. Although she was only allowed to watch Nick. Jr., I did feel that she displayed some aggressive behavior and had some behavioral issues, but I didnt connect the two together, i just assumed that this was her personality.

Finally, after continuous complaining to my husband about how tv was ruining her life and how i wanted him to take it out he said, "Why dont you stop complaining and do something about it already! Just unplug it or take the cable box out!".............................Dead Silence.........................................................................

How come I had never thought of that? He was right, why didnt i do something about it? Ameera was at school and I slowly crept up to her room and stood in front of the tv. I took a deep breath and walked closer to it.....i suddenly realized that I was actually afraid to take it away from her! I had become dependant on it as much as she was! What would she do without tv? What would I do? I couldnt believe these feelings I was having, they scared me. It was then that I mustered up the courage and ripped the plugs out of the wall, tore out the cable box and hid it upstairs in my attic. OMG! I did it! I had killed the TV! And it felt so good.....for now. What would Ameera say when she got home? What should I tell her?

I picked her up from school a few hours later, of course the question came, "Mama can I watch tv?"...."Uh Oh....." "Um Ameera no you cant watch tv becasue its not working, its broken." And then the crying started. "But mama can we go to the store and buy a new one, I dont want that broken tv?" she sobbed. I calmly explained to her that we were not goin to buy a new one and that she would have to find something else to keep her busy. "But mama what can i do?" she would ask helplessly. "Well,"  I would say, "You can play with your blocks, puzzles, do arts and crafts, listen to your audio books, color, or play with play dough." After a few days she got the hang of it and would go into the beautiful play room I had made for her and busy herself with numerous activites. In the beginning she wanted me to play with her constantly, so I would show her how to build towns out of blocks, and listen to her audio books with her, make some arts and crafts, etc. And then eventually she stopped needing me. I would also put her brother in with her to play.

It has been 1 month since I took away the tv, and I cant believe how easy it was. Another major change I noticed was the change in her behavior. She became less aggressive, more calm, whined and cried less, ate her dinner at the table, asked to go outside more and in general became more pleasant. The mornings have become easier and less of a struggle as have the evenings when its time for bed. I started to ask myself wether her change in behavior resulted from having taken away the tv. So i did some research and find a million articles that discussed how tv leads to behavioral problems and child agression. Here is just one:

Its been amazing to see the things she chooses to do now over watching tv. And one thing I wanted to say is that I am a very proactive parent, and take my kids to the library all the time, check out books all the time, she listens to tons of audio books and does numerous activities at home as well as rides her bike, I take her to the park often, etc....but the tv was her main source of comfort, and she would always opt to watch before doing any of her other activities or she would opt to watch while doing other activites or just wanted it on to hear it. And as much as i felt i was limiting her tv time, it was never enough. I would get busy with my chores and time would pass unknowingly. This was a major problem. And I am happy to finally say that it is a problem no more!

One thing to note is that after I took away her tv, she became very interested in the computer. So she now has become very good at using the computer, and I let her use specific sites such as She is also allowed to play on sites that teach math skills and science skills that I have researched. And I have found numerous excellent sites that are interactive reading sites, so listen to audio books and islamic songs etc. But the good thing is that the computer has become an activity that she can opt to do for a short period of time and its a tool i use for her to learn from.

The message I want to send is that getting rid of the tv is not as scary as it seems. Try it out and you will be amazed at the transformation in your kids inshaallah.

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