Children’s television exposure must be limited
Question: I am concerned about the impact of television in our home. How can we control it without resorting to dictatorial rules and regulations?
Dobson: It seems that we have three objectives as parents. First, we want to monitor the quality of the programs our children watch. Second, we want to regulate the quantity of television they see. Even good programs may have an undesirable influence on the rest of children’s activities if they spend too much time watching them. Third, we should include the entire family in establishing a TV policy.
I read about a system recently that is very effective in accomplishing all three of these purposes. First, it was suggested that parents sit down with the children and agree upon a list of approved programs that are appropriate for each age level. Then type that list (or at least write it clearly) and enclose it in clear plastic so it can be referred to throughout the week.
Second, either purchase or make a roll of tickets. Issue each child 10 tickets per week, and let him or her use them to “buy” the privilege of watching the programs on the approved list. When the tickets are gone, television viewing is over for that week. This teaches a child to be discriminating about what is watched. A maximum of 10 hours of viewing per week might be an appropriate place to start, compared with the national average of 40 to 50 hours per week. That’s far too much, especially for an elementary school child.
This system can be modified to fit individual home situations or circumstances. If there’s a special program that all the children want to see, such as a feature broadcast or a holiday program during Christmas or Thanksgiving, you can issue more tickets. You might also give extra tickets as rewards for achievement or some other laudable behavior.
The real test will occur when parents reveal whether or not they have the courage to put themselves on that limited system, too. We often need the same regulations in our viewing habits!
My 3year-old can be counted on to behave like a brat whenever we are in the mall or in a restaurant. He seems to know I will not punish him there in front of other people. How should I handle this tactic?
Dobson: Let me answer you with an illustration from nature. I’m told that a raccoon can usually kill a dog if he gets him in a lake or river. He will simply pull the hound underwater until he drowns. Most other predatory animals prefer to do battle on the turf of their own choosing.
So do children. If they’re going to pick a fight with Mom or Dad, they’d rather stage it in a public place, such as a supermarket or in the church foyer. They are smart enough to know that they are “safer” in front of other people. They will grab candy or speak in disrespectful ways that would never be attempted at home.
Again, the most successful military generals are those who surprise the enemy in a terrain advantageous to their troops. Public facilities represent the “high ground” for a rambunctious preschooler.
You may be one of the parents who have fallen into the trap of creating “sanctuaries” in which the old rules aren’t enforced. It is a certainty that your strong-willed son or daughter will notice those safe zones and behave offensively and disrespectfully when there. There is something within the tougher child that almost forces him to “test the limits” in situations where the resolve of adults is in question.
Therefore, I recommend that you lay out the ground rules before you enter those public arenas, making it clear that the same rules will apply. Then if he misbehaves, respond as you would have done at home. His public behavior will improve dramatically.