Thursday, 22 October 2009

I will NOT relent!

I'm sick of people judging me for my parenting when it comes to being strict about TV time (and sugar intake, but that's another matter entirely).

I know most kids have more TV time than mine, and so long as the parents of those kids are happy with it, great. I'm happy to be quizzed when it comes to the way I do things as, like anything, people are interested in learning, whether just for their own curiosity or in case they might want to take anything on board.

But I don't expect my 7 year-old's teacher to open her eyes wide and say 'Really?' when I suggest he rarely watches TV. Let alone to add that I will relent as he grows older and makes more demands about preferences. Because she has kids, and she did.

Firstly, being a TV-Nazi isn't something I 'fell into' one day when I just couldn't be bothered, but something I struggled to maintain for years because it's something I feel strongly about and something which was damn hard to persist with. Secondly, said 7yo is already more demanding than his two siblings combined with their father, so I can't imagine caving in. After 7 years, I'm past the hard bit. Saying 'no' comes much more easily now.

This morning I dropped in to see 7yo's teacher. During this term, Show & Tell has a different theme for each week. In general, I think this is great. But this week's theme is 'Favourite TV show or movie.' This happened last year too, and I remember feeling conscious about what he might choose.

By then, he'd really only watched Play School, Hi-5, the Wiggles and Bob the Builder, and I had concerns about the social implications of him declaring his love for any of these publicly (although I may have steered him towards Bob after noticing several of his peers had Bob school bags). In the end, he chose Spiderman, after remembering a ten minute 'movie' he'd seen once a few months earlier. Fine.

By now, he watches even less TV than he did in the past. In fact, almost-4yo daughter watches the most out of all three kids, with a maximum of three hours per week. Yes, WEEK. One hour on Tuesday, one on Wednesday and one at the weekend. If we're home. She predictably chooses either two episodes of Play School or one PS and one Hi-5.

Actually, 7yo quite possibly watches less than one hour of actual TV each month, given he chooses to use his limited time to play a Wii game instead. And for him, it's usually only 1 hour a week, after school on Friday. I used to let him play on Thursday too, but wasn't impressed with the display when his time was up (that lasted beyond bedtime). You can probably guess there are no violent games in our house, which means he chooses one of two sport games or a children's one where you wander a school yard and collect stickers for competing in different (sporty) activities.

Over breakfast, I talked to him about his Show & Tell and responded to his blank expression by suggesting he talk about Wii Sport. This wasn't going to get him laughed at, and is more true to who he is anyway. I figured I'd let his teacher know, so she didn't try to stop him and ask him to choose an actual TV program. Show & Tell is, after all, about kids developing confidence.

So I opened with a reminder that today is his S&T day and saying he hardly watches any TV, and her response was the wide-eyed 'Really?' I think she followed with a few 'Not even...?'s but I hadn't quite recovered enough to listen properly. It took a few efforts to proudly announce that he's never seen a movie at the cinema, although I'm not sure if I mentioned it to help with context or to see if she could be more... let's say... shocked.

After she blinked, her head swayed back and forth a few times as she advised I would relent, which she repeated as I left. As a trained teacher myself, I'm pretty sure it's not a good idea to make parents feel inadequate for trying to limit their kids' TV habits, or anything in fact, that is purely parental choice related to a family's values. Society does a good enough job of that already.

It's bloody hard to make tough parenting decisions and to stick with them against the grain of society (hmmm, a topic I could go on about...). You'd think you'd have the support of teachers.

I wonder if she'd have said anything dsifferent if she knew I was more inclined to get stricter the more demanding he became rather than to give in.

Of course, none of this will apply this weekend, as the kids go to Nana's while Bryden and I head off to my cousin's wedding.


Lisa said...

Hi Tiggy,
I find it more than a little shocking that a primary school teacher reacted in such a way. Please tell me she didn't say all that in front him (or any other kid for that matter!)?

Tiggy Johnson said...

Mine was definitely out of earshot, and I'm pretty sure no kids heard.

Penni said...

My kids watch tv and play games on the Internet (French sites Boowa and Kwala and Poisson Rouge mostly) and there have been phases where it's been more than I've been comfortable with. So I really admire the consistency and effort you've put into this particular parenting plan.

Our tv is the size of a computer (in fact Martin's monitor is slightly bigger than our television). That raises a lot of eyebrows from visitors. When we bought it we asked for the smallest tv they had, the guy said no one had ever asked for that before!

Penni said...

Also, everyone in his family always asks us 'did you see blah blah blah on tv last night...?' even though they know we haven't watched tellie for 6 years. It's very odd.

Chris Flynn said...

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a report in September claiming kids between 8 and 18 are exposed to an average of 6 hours 21 minutes of media per day (including TV, film, radio and games), so you're doing pretty well there Tiggy. Unforgivable reaction from a teacher.

Tiggy Johnson said...

Penni, I'll bet that sales guy still tells the story like you're the crazy parents that came in wanting a small TV. hehe.

Chris, I wonder if that's the research I heard a snippet of on the radio this afternoon? I think if I add the radio in the car even, or CDs, the kids' exposure still might's add to that on a weekly basis, forget the day.

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful support. How it should be!

Leonie said...

If she caved to the demands of her own children what is she like with a classroom full of demanding grade oners???? MAkes me wonder who is in control of her classroom. Stick to your guns, you know what works for you and yours, she obviously doesn't!

Tony Tulloch said...

Tiggy, you stick to your guns. I think the teacher was unprofessional in her attitude and you should not feel guilty in response.

Our kids have watched very little television throughout their lives (possibly less than 30 minutes free to air per week). We preferred to use videos/DVDs that we had more control over. We watch the box as a family and still only watch an average of 5-8 hours a week (including a Saturday night movie).

Both kids have access to Playstation and handheld electronic games, but by preference they read, draw, or complete craft activities.

Please do NOT relent.