Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Big Experiment

Today is Day 3 of our week-long experiment. What experiment, you ask? Something "creative" from the kitchen? (my mom performed quite a few of these as I was growing up). No, no - nothing as risky as that. We have decided to ban TV and computer from our home for a week. But don't get too freaked out - we're total hypocrites and firmly believe in the double-standard: the ban applies only to the kids. Mostly Nicholas. Obviously, *I* am still using the computer since I'm posting on my blog (as I hide from my own son so as to not taunt him or rub his nose in it needlessly), and Mr. Chick and I watch some TV in the evenings after the kids are in bed (if Lauren would ever STAY in bed, that is). And there is one exception to this experiment as far as Nicholas is concerned: if there is a special Christmas program on he may watch it. Like last night, for example, he was allowed to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, because, well, those are just classics of the season and I'm not cruel.

Why the experiment? Other than knowing in my logical brain that too much TV and media in general is not the greatest thing for young kids? Lately it seems like watching cartoons/videos or playing on the computer are the ONLY activities Nicholas wants to do. They are the first things he asks for. And he has plenty of other toys to play with, and keeps telling me of all the new toys he wants for Christmas (thank you, Madison Ave., for marketing so aggressively to my child), yet hardly ever plays with them. That is just so uncool. And lately, if I'm being honest, his behavior has deteriorated and been a lot more challenging to deal with. There are many days when I might still fiercely love my son but not like him very much. And that's not a good feeling. I want to remedy that. It has seemed that when he gets too much TV time or computer time he gets all spun up and becomes harder to manage. He loses it in the blink of an eye. He becomes more argumentative. I think he's over-stimulated. And so, we pulled those elements out of his life to see if there is any difference in his behavior. And so far, it does seem to be helping.

We told him that there would be no TV or playing on the computer for a week, except for any special Christmas shows. He's cool with that. We told him if he could do this for a whole week he would get to pick out a special video to watch. This is the carrot we're dangling, and he's buying it. He's excited to pick out a video just for him. Enforcing these rules hasn't been too hard on me, and I expected it to be worse. I find that *I* suggest a video or something right around the tough dinner hours so I can get some peace in order to make dinner or just get a breather. I thought it would be rougher not having that crutch to lean on. But I'm finding, to my surprise and pleasure, that I'm enjoying the quiet. There is more music on instead of the jabbering television. And the best outcome so far? The kids are playing together! They have no other choice but to engage with each other. Yes, there are spats and accusations (Mom! Lauren hit me with that toy! Put her in the naughty corner!), but we had that before this experiment started. This is nothing new. There is just a little more of it because they're both not plugged in to a show or something. I can live with that. Today is really the first morning where the kids have not been allowed to watch morning cartoons. The house is eerily quiet. The other mornings we've had someplace to be first thing, so no TV wasn't a big deal. It's a bigger deal this morning - cartoons during breakfast time are the norm. But they're rolling with it. They're dressed earlier. They're fed earlier. They've made big messes earlier. But the damn TV has NOT been turned on. Nicholas has already asked to play on the computer, but as soon as I reminded him that there was no computer this week he stood straighter and brightly said, "oh yeah! I almost forgot. I get to pick out my own video from the store if I don't play on the computer!" and rushed out of the room like he feared the lure of the almighty Dell might be too strong for him.

We'll see how this weeks plays out. So far, so good. If it works well we might start trying to make this the norm. Allow the kids a special show here and there (Saturday morning cartoons, for example), and severely limit Nicholas's time on the computer. I think we all may be better off for it.

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