Who wants to admit that their children are borderline addicted to media?
But I have this friend. Let’s call her….umm. Betty.
And she has three, um, girls. Greta, Eden and Lucy. And I, oops I mean Betty, felt as if her girls were growing much to fond of the TV screen.
OK OK it’s me. I confess!
I made Betty up.
I admit it. Media was becoming more of a rule than an exception around my home.
And it crept in slowly. Once upon a time we had strict screen time rules. Our pediatrician recommended two hours or less so we held fast to two hours or less.
For a long time, anyway.
But as time progressed, this mama got lazy. The screen seemed a little easier than crafts, puzzles, reading books or cleaning up the trail of grass and mud brought in from outside.
My laziness was molding their hearts to bend towards the screen.
The evidence was clear…
- The boys woke up in the mornings and turned on the TV.
- It stayed on during breakfast and as they dressed for school.
- The boys came home from school and turned the TV on again.
- When the TV turned off, they would ask to play Wii.
- We went to dinner and they fought over who played games on our phones.
- Before bed they asked to watch a little show.
Now granted, we were still very strict about what they watched, but the “how much” had gone lax. I would be embarrassed to say how much they actually watched some days.
There was a startling paradox before me, as well. In my mind I thought, Oh, they are so rowdy. Maybe if I could get them settled down and watch a thirty minute show they would calm down. But after the thirty minutes was over, they would become what they had just watched. If it was Power Rangers, they were at war as Samurais. If it was a classic Tom and Jerry, suddenly they were playing Cat and Mouse. The “down time” I thought would be restful for our home created extra chaos. It honestly took me a while to see this one.
And then the Wii. Oh the Wii. The games they played were completely age appropriate, but as soon as the power “ON” would chime, there was an outcry of “I want to play” and “No, you went first last time!”
And then little Luke, who is too young to play, but old enough to want to, would melt into puddles, wanting so badly to eat of the forbidden fruit.
Round and round and round we went.
Keep my commands and you will live, guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Proverbs 7:2
My mentor said one time that “our bodies begin to crave what we feed it. Both physically and spiritually.” My boys had started to crave the beloved screen too much. Arguably making it the biggest idol of their little hearts. The apple of their eye.
Overtime, the Holy Spirit made it very clear to me. Giving them a clear explanation of why…It was time to shut it down. Completely and cold turkey.
They might die, I thought.
I sat them down one Sunday morning. The conversation went something like this…
“Boys, mommy owes you an apology. I have not done a very good job of guarding your hearts and monitoring your time when it comes to TV and video games. The suggested time to watch TV is only two hours a day, and mommy had not been watching your time well. Also, I see a trend that the TV creates an element of chaos in our house. We want the peace of Christ to rule our hearts. Not chaos. We want to make lots of room for God’s peace and his love in our home. The TV takes up a lot of our mental space. We are thinking about it and watching it way too much. Mommy and Daddy have decided that for the next week, we will not turn it on at all. Let’s see how we do, and maybe next Saturday and Sunday we can have a little screen time.”
They sat with big eyes. Staring at me.
“At the store tomorrow, I plan to buy a few extra things we can do when we tire of playing outside or reading. Maybe a few crafts, chalk and some new paint. Sound good?”
Ethan: “Can we get some of those really big Popsicle sticks?”
Grant: “Yeah, and some new colored pencils?
With their attention off of the big bombshell I had just dropped, they ran upstairs and played.
Well, that was uneventful. I seriously thought I might have to peel them off the floor.
That afternoon, Brent and I sat down and came up with a system. You remember our Token Boards?
Here is what we came up with:
Each boy gets five tokens on Monday. Each one representing one hour of screen to be used on Saturday and Sunday. Total media possible: Five Hours.
- If they ask to watch TV, they pull a token.
- If they complain about not watching TV, they pull a token.
- I also use these tokens for discipline issues, too. Hit your brother? Pull a token. Disrespectful to mom or dad, pull a token….
On Saturday morning, I hand them a punch card. (Don’t laugh at my lack of creativity here…)
You gotta love my smiley face.
If they lost tokens throughout the week, I went ahead and punched that time off.
And then I let them choose how they use their screen time.
I will say that the first Saturday, I felt like I had media vultures all over me at 6am. But after that initial weekend, it hasn’t been so bad.
And they are MOTIVATED by the token system because they want so badly to have it back.
The results, though. Mmm. I can not tell you how much more PEACEFUL it is around here. They play together much better. They talk to each other more. I have seen such fresh creativity in them. We have been to the library every week checking out ten to fifteen books at a time. All of which they read.
They play out back most of the afternoon. And yes, there is grass and mud, but I have bit the bullet on it. I need to let go of my “clean-freakness”.
The hardest part is for Lukey who is three and doesn’t fully understand. At first he cried a lot for his little shows. But he is getting better.
And there are still fights and Samurai wars, but I wouldn’t expect any different.
I am not, by any means, saying that TV is the devil. It’s not. But for US, it was becoming an idol and creating an element of crazy that we did not need.
There is enough crazy without it. Geez.
Let him seek peace and pursue it. 1 Peter 3:11b
The Lord has blessed my obedience and our pursuit of a little more peace around here.
This Betty is one thankful little mama.