Read about why I decided to do a TV “detox,” some of the lessons we learned from it, and where we are now. Plus, get a few tips for successfully conducting your own TV detox!
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This summer, I decided to do something kind of drastic. Something that made me a little nervous, honestly, yet also kind of excited at the same time. Something I knew was going to be hard (and might even make me a little crazy), but would be so good for our family.
I decided to do a TV “detox.”
The rules were simple: no TV at all for an entire week. (That was my initial goal, anyway, but I ended up extending it an extra week.) The only exception was Family Movie Night on Sunday nights.
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And while I had predicted correctly that it would be hard (at times), I was also right about how good it would be for our family.
If you’ve been feeling like your family’s TV habits aren’t what you’d like them to be, you’d like to cut back on screen time, or you simply want to be more intentional about when, what, and how much you watch, read about our experience!
I’ll tell you all about why I chose to take such drastic measures, some of the lessons we learned from it, and where we are now, as well as a few tips for successfully conducting your own TV detox!
Why I Decided We Needed a TV “Detox”
First, you might be wondering why on earth I would even want to go without TV for a week, especially at the start of summer when all three kids would be home all day every day.
And to be honest, part of me wondered whether I really wanted to do it, too.
But I had been feeling convicted. Our TV watching had gotten away from us, and it was showing in some behavior issues and attitudes.
**IMPORTANT NOTE: Before I go any further, however, I want to make something abundantly clear – the following are my personal convictions. Mine. I’m not saying everyone should feel similarly convicted. I certainly do not judge anyone else for their family choices. This is about my heart, my motivations, and what the Holy Spirit was telling me. If anything I’m about to say makes you feel defensive or shamed, I highly encourage you to read this post about mom guilt.
I didn’t like that TV had become my go-to for entertaining my kids. What started as an emergency method for when I was swamped had become the solution I reached for any time I was busy. (Which, as a typical mom, was pretty much all the time!)
I told myself it was okay because I “had” to get stuff done. But when I was honest with myself, I knew I was prioritizing productivity over purposefully raising my kids.
I was also convicted about how quickly I was turning to the TV to make parenting “easier.” It was “easier” to put on a show than guide them toward another activity. It was “easier” to let the TV keep them occupied than respond to all their interruptions. It was “easier” to let them watch another show than deal with their whining and meltdowns.
It was easier. (In the short-run, anyway.) But I knew it would not be advantageous – to us or them – in the long-run.
Plus, always resorting to the “easy” route did not support my parenting vision OR my “Year of Deeper” – the word I chose for my 2022 Word of the Year. It didn’t support my resolve to do hard things. And it didn’t support the family culture I wanted to build.
Those were my reasons for wanting to reduce our TV time. But why the complete elimination?
Based on previous efforts, I decided quitting cold turkey for a bit would be more effective than trying to cut back. I thought it would serve as a “reset” of sorts. Once we got over all the withdrawal symptoms, I figured, we could then set purposeful parameters around what we allowed back in.
And it ended up being everything I’d hoped for and more.
What I Learned from Our TV Detox
As I said, our two-week TV detox ended up being incredibly valuable for our family, in a number of ways. Here are some of the lessons I learned:
I learned I could “handle” my kids better than I thought I could.
So often, I had turned to the TV because I didn’t think I could possibly do what I needed to do with my kids underfoot. Not if I wanted to stay sane, anyway. But going without it for a couple of weeks showed me that I can handle a lot more busyness, chaos, and difficulty than I had previously given myself credit for.
I got better at redirecting them.
At first, it was hard. They wanted to watch TV, and honestly, I wanted to let them. But I learned how to redirect them and guide them toward other activities when they were bored.
And they got better at entertaining themselves.
One of the biggest benefits I noticed from our TV detox was that my kids got SO much better at entertaining themselves! About halfway into the first week, they whined about being bored and wanting to watch TV. But the longer we went without, the less they complained. And pretty soon, they weren’t using that particular “b word” at all, instead quickly and easily finding things to occupy themselves… for better or for worse. 😉
Their creativity flourished.
As a result of having to use their imaginations rather than rely on the TV for entertainment, I saw their creativity grow by leaps and bounds! They made crafts with all kinds of random items, drew pictures and wrote stories, and played outside for literal hours every single day. It made my heart happy to see their minds at work.
They played more – and better! – together.
Without the TV, they turned to each other for amusement and help in whatever “creative” endeavors they were undertaking. Sure, that caused a sharp uptick in the number of squabbles at first, but over time, it actually improved their conflict resolution skills and strengthened their bonds.
I learned how to include them in my work.
When I needed to get stuff done and they wanted my attention, I learned to pull them into whatever I was doing rather than push them away. Again, at first it was hard. Really hard. I wasn’t all that great at doing things with the added “help” of several kids.
But again, over time, I started to get better and better at it. And while I’m still not super great at including them without getting overwhelmed, it’s starting to feel more natural to do my usual tasks with a child… or two… or three… at my side. (Which has the added benefit of teaching and training them in life skills!)
Life After Detox: Where We Are Now?
While my goal was to keep the TV off for one week, I ended up extending it to two because I felt we needed a bit longer to really get the addiction out of our systems. And to tell you the truth, I almost didn’t want to go back to watching any at all because the results had been so positive!
At the same time, however, I think there’s value in teaching kids how to set and stick with boundaries and how to enjoy pleasures in moderation. And that can only be learned with practice. So, we did re-introduce the TV, albeit with new, much shorter, time limits.
That being said, our detox has had some valuable after-effects.
While we have allowed TV again, we’re much more intentional about when and how we use it. Rather than turning it on whenever I feel I “need” it, we have scheduled TV times. Rather than starting the day with TV, we wait until our list of jobs for the day has been completed. And rather than watching whatever they come to first, the kids (and I) are much more selective about what they watch.
I’ve also noticed that now that we aren’t watching nearly as much TV as we had been, when we do watch, it’s special. The kids enjoy/appreciate it more. We do it more as a family.
And while the temptation is always there to give in some days, I know how easy it is to slip back into old habits. I know how easy it is to let one day turn into two then into a regular occurrence. So, I’m trying to stick to our limits no matter how busy life gets or how long my to-do list grows.
That being said, we, of course, give ourselves grace when we need it. We had a couple of days of sickness when vegging in front of the TV was freely allowed. But as soon as health was restored and energy recovered (theirs AND mine!), it was back to business as usual.
A Few Tips for Your Own TV Detox
Interested in doing your own TV detox? Here are a few tips that might help:
- Consider a complete elimination. Quitting cold-turkey for a determined period of time was easier (for us, anyway) than simply trying to “cut back.” As I said above, it acted like a reset button. Plus, I found it easier to have a blanket “no” to the TV for a couple of weeks than answer constant requests for more time.
- Prepare your kids. Tell them ahead of time what you’re going to do and WHY! Consider doing it when schedules are already naturally changing (like we did at the start of summer vacation).
- Have a list of TV alternatives. Come into this challenge armed with ideas of activities for your kids to do. Here’s a list of things to do when they’re bored that might help!
- Hang in there! Surprisingly, it’s not the first couple of days that are the hardest – it’s about 3-4 days in. That’s when they really start to miss it. But if you stay strong and consistent, they’ll eventually stop asking for it. (I added days to our detox as a consequence when the whining got bad. That’s one reason our one week turned into two!)
- Be patient. This detox will likely be as hard for them as it will be for you, so be patient with them. If they’re not used to occupying/entertaining themselves, it’s going to take some time and practice to build those muscles. Help them, guide them, and affirm your confidence in their abilities.
- Be prepared for some shenanigans! The creativity that results from kids finding their own entertainment is awesome… but it can also have “interesting” results sometimes. Prepare yourself!
SHARE WITH US: Have you ever done a “TV detox” like this? Tell us about your experience and share any tips you might have!
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