My 6-year-old son Cash and I have always fought fiercely about TV and video games until recently. He would wake up in the morning wanting to watch TV -- or worse, he'd wake me up in the wee hours of the morning to ask if he could get up yet to watch television or get on the computer -- and then he'd beg and whine all day for more. I don't mind him watching some TV every day (although I am pleased when we get through a day with no TV), but once he starts, he has a hard time shutting it off. I knew we had a problem when he yelled, "SCORE!" after hitting my mom with a flying remote control for shutting off his favorite movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, before he finished all the extra features.
So I took a new tack after a friend pointed out that we all enjoy a little TV downtime after a hard day. I don't watch much TV other than The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but when I am especially wiped, I'll admit that I like to tune into Desperate Housewives (of course, come on, I write a parenting blog called Milkshakes and Margaritas!) or Weeds. Because we do tend to do a lot of activities every day, I decided to schedule daily "downtime" for Cash. Now he knows that television is allowed only during that scheduled period -- usually at around 5 p.m., which has the added bonus of giving me time to make dinner and a good reason to shut it off when it is time to sit down to eat. If he asks for it in the morning or any other time, I shrug and say, "Sorry love, you know you don't get TV or computer until your 'downtime.'" Amazingly, it has worked! He has accepted it! He's even stopped trying to get his downtime in the morning. I told him that he only gets the break after he's actually earned it by getting outside or at least doing something. Sleeping does not qualify!
And now when downtime hits, he really embraces it. He has taken to watching TV with his shirt off -- like his daddy apparently does as watches sports when I'm not home. I half expect to see Cash with a beer and his hand under the waistband of his pants Al Bundy style.
The system isn't perfect. This morning, when he headed toward the computer in the office and I warned, "Cash, don't get on the computer," he turned to me and repeated me in a mocking falsetto, "Cash, don't get on the computer, Cash, don't get on the computer." I was so shocked that I felt like Homer Simpson: "Why you little......!!!" and had to hold back from chasing him down.
But despite that cheeky response, the new routine has worked well. And he's even learning to tell time because I make him study the clock every time he asks me how long he has until his "downtime."
I know I'm not alone in the TV battles so if you have other TV solutions, share them with us!