Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Funnies

I was reminded of this one recently. It is so funny (especially to a proofreader) . . . and R-rated, I have to warn you.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

100 Things I Want My Children to Know--Part 2

In case you missed it, part 1 of this post is here.

11) A nice meal served on nice dishes is an affordable luxury. Don't save it only for special occasions.

12) Assume that others have good motives until proven otherwise. That means you should find out all the information and approach people kindly even if you're feeling hurt. Most of the time people don't mean to hurt you.

13) Being organized will help you have time for what you want to do.

14) What it's like to have good friends who know your flaws and love you anyway.

15) The feeling of escaping into a good book and completely shutting out the world in the process.

16) Some of what you're good at and

17) Some things you are bad at (which can only be discovered by trying and failing).

18) What it's like to climb so high in a tree that people can't see you from the ground (but don't do this when I'm around--now that I'm a grown-up it scares me to death).

19) How to camp where there are no bathrooms. You don't have to love it, but it's useful to know how to do it.

20) Whatever you are facing, good or bad, start and end every day with prayer. Even if you can't find words, pray in your soul.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Couch Potatoes

When I was a kid, I watched quite a bit of TV. I don't remember there being limits on how much I watched, although probably I didn't watch much until the age of 4. When I was in second grade my mom worked many afternoons, so my sister and I would watch HeMan and other mindless cartoons for several hours every day after school.

Now that I look back on it, I cringe at some of the shows I watched. Why in the world was I allowed to watch Three's Company and Moonlighting? I have no idea. Maybe my mom didn't realize what I was watching. Maybe the innuendo went over my head.

There was one time when I said a bad word I had picked up from What's Happening, and I got my mouth washed out with soap and was disallowed from watching that show (why did I watch it in the first place? I can't imagine).

Fast-forward to when I became a parent. When my oldest was a baby, we would put her in her bouncy seat with her back to the TV, and she would crane her neck to watch anyway. When she was about three I told my husband we needed to be careful what we watched with her in the room, and he dismissed my comment until she identified some of the characters on The Simpsons. At that point we stopped watching adult shows with her in the room.

I remember reading articles about the effects of TV on children, and I figured that if she watched one hour a day or less, that would probably be fine. I would get a break, it wouldn't do too much damage, and all would be well. Except she could not understand the "one hour/two shows" rule. Every day she would ask multiple times to turn on the TV or to watch a particular show. So I quit cold turkey. I completely turned the TV off (during her waking hours) for an entire week. And magically, she quit asking to watch it. When I let her watch one video, she would start asking all the time again.

So I turned the TV off and kept it off, and I've never regretted it. Now that my kids are older, they watch movies now and then, or occasionally they'll spend part of a Saturday watching Man vs. Wild or something like that. There was an era when they watched Ultimate Fighting Champion with my husband--until one of them identified a fighter by name, and he decided they had seen too much of it. Football and baseball are often on during the weekends.

But most of the time our kids don't watch TV. Here's what I've learned from that...

1) Preschoolers who don't watch Sesame Street may not know their letters as early as kids who do, but they don't whine about watching TV and they end up being good, early readers anyway. Reading to them is much better for their intellectual development than letting them watch "educational" programming.

2) Not having children's programming on helps kids be content with what they have. Our kids don't see commercials, so they don't know what they're missing. They may be behind the curve on the latest fads as a result, but I don't think that's such a bad thing. My oldest daughter recently told me, "I don't really care about the latest fads because I usually can't keep up with them anyway." That attitude has probably helped our bottom line, and hasn't hindered her socially that I can tell.

3) Kids who don't have TV as an option play better. I remember one new babysitter marveling at how well our kids play. She said other kids she babysits can't think of anything to do except play video games, but ours could find interesting ways to entertain themselves. I think it's good for kids to be bored now and then. It forces them to be creative and to be comfortable being alone with their thoughts.

4) Kids who don't watch TV will probably be catatonic when the TV is on. They will stare at it mesmerized, rather than having it on in the background while they do other things. Is this a bad thing? Maybe. It means they aren't multitasking, which is a skill they will need at some point. But it also means they live in the moment.

5) There really isn't that much good on TV for kids over the age of 6. The shows aimed at that age-group encourage the girls to grow up too fast, thinking about boys and fashion when they wouldn't otherwise--or encourage violence in the boys. Some of the adult reality shows are good, but they are interspersed with language or innuendo I don't want my kids picking up on. And don't get me started on the commercials during daytime/primetime!

6) Watching TV can cause kids to expect to be constantly entertained. If they get used to constant input, they can't stand silence. It's a well-proven fact that TV exacerbates ADD, and I think it can lead to temporary ADD-like symptoms in kids who don't have true ADD. I want my kids to be able to look people in the eye and talk to them, to focus on slower-paced things, and to find their own entertainment rather than expecting it to be spoon fed to them. It seems like TV watching creates obstacles to these facets of development.

Now, please don't misunderstand me. This is not a guilt trip to tell you that your child should not watch any more TV, or that you're a lazy mom if you resort to the TV more than you'd like. I turned out fine with lots of (inappropriate) TV time. I got good grades, wasn't materialistic, and had good values. I don't think all TV is evil, and I watch plenty of it myself. Our no-TV policy started because I wanted to take care of the whining, and then it worked so well that I stuck with it. And I also understand that especially with little kids, it's a welcome break to turn on a show.

But--if you are so tired of the "can I watch a show?" question that you want to scream, turn of the TV for a while and see how it goes. If you are tired of being called in to watch a commercial for some new toy they "really, really want," turn off the TV for a while and see how it goes. If you notice that your kids are often bored and can't find anything to do, turn off the TV for a while and see how it goes. You may find that you really like the silence!

Be encouraged that if I could make it without TV when I had a 3-year-old and a newborn during a cold Illinois winter when I didn't want to leave our 1000-square foot house, you can do it too. In fact, I've had eight long winters with toddlers and infants and no (daytime) TV. Turning off the TV does not mean you have to take your kids out more or constantly entertain your toddler. You are not replacing TV time with mom-directed entertainment; you are replacing it with self-directed play. Don't worry; they'll figure out how to entertain themselves without TV after about a week of you telling them, "go find something to do . . . " You and they can live and even thrive without daily television!

Will my kids or your kids turn out better if they don't watch as much TV? Maybe, or maybe not. It certainly doesn't guarantee anything. And it doesn't make me a better mom or a better Christian to limit my children's TV input. But I figure it can't hurt, and it may help, and in the meantime I find my children are more pleasant to be around when they don't watch very much TV--for all of the reasons listed above.

Your turn: where have you come down on the TV/ no-TV issue?