Wednesday

TV Addiction...

Received Wednesday, March 12, 2008-Perspective & Opinion
Hey all,
I am a nanny who has a question. I just started with a new family at the beginning of January. The little boy is 4, and sweet as can be. My boss is a single mother who works extremely hard. It is obvious that her son is her world and is loved very much by her. I am a mid 20's college student, and so am part time (average 25 hours a week) after school.

The problem is, I can't for the life of me, get this kid away from the television. I have cared for two other families very long term in the past and neither allowed much TV in the home.

As a single mom who works very hard, it makes sense to me that she would have turned to the TV more often than she would have liked.

For the past 2.5 months I have been trying very hard to get my kid away from the television without a fuss. There's NOTHING he wants more than to watch TV.

We've gone to the dinosaur and art museums, had play dates with other kids, gone to the park, coffee shops, bakeries, movies, mall, played outside, etc.
I pride myself on being a good, creative nanny, who turns everything into a fun learning experience for the child, but it has been exceedingly difficult this time around.

He finds a lot of comfort in the TV as he is very attached to his mother... It's a way, in his mind, for him to stop missing mom.

I feel like I would really be doing him a disservice by giving into his TV habit, so have tried to set guidelines. The current rule is, after school, TV is off for half an hour, then may be turned on until dinner, off at dinner and on again when mom comes home if she chooses to allow it.

This still allows at least an hour and a half of TV time while in my care, which I absolutely don't like.

Any ideas of shortening the time even more? I want to foster his love for books, which he hasn't found yet, as well as words, art and letters, which are also relatively lost on him.

His mom is all for my less-TV approach, also. The kid, however is NOT.

I've thought about removing him from the house even MORE, and maybe spending even more time in book stores and libraries....but at such a young age, I see the importance of being at home. He's in school full time, 5 days a week, and day care for an hour after until I pick him up.

Ideas?

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi...first time commenting here, but long-time reader. Maybe you could casually talk to the child about what he loves so much about the shows that he watches and try to find a way to connect that to a similar book or activity. Also - maybe do a dress up/create your own "tv show" kind of activity where he can actively act-out his own characters and "storyline". Maybe another fun field trip would be to go to a children's theatre performance of some sort.

Good luck and its really nice to see that you care enough about this child and his family to work to have a positive impact on his life!

One Blessed Nanny said...

One-talk to the mom. Give her your sympathy, but then tell her you think it's a good idea to wean him from so much tv while he's in your care. If mom is on board with you, then I'd set up ground rules. I actually had a similar situation when I went to work with some girls in a small midwestern town who's previous babysitter (not nanny) allowed her to watch tv all day. I gave her the scenarios in which she could watch-if she wasn't feeling well or if the weather was too nasty to get out. I set up weekly routines, like Zoo on Free Thursdays, Children's Museum on Free Mondays (very simple modest middle class family with meager means), Duck pond/picnic lunch Wednesdays, Faerie walks on Friday through the local preserve, and playdate Tuesdays which would sometimes take us to the Library to read stories. Once she knew that we had plans that day, she wasn't so obsessed with the tv and actually learned to look forward to our outings after a week of routine. My last suggestion would be to let him pick one show a day he can watch. If they have a tivo/dvr, do that so you can cut out the commercials.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

wow. both great posts!

personally, i'd unplug it and tell him it's broken. gotta do it cold turkey. and get the kid out of the house for some structured activity.

you're doing as best you can nanny, keep it up!

Sue Doe-Nim said...

Break the TV.

Not really break it but maybe loosen up the cable in the back and let it live for a few days.

Our libraries have story time after school where grandparents read to them. Maybe it's time for scheduled sports?

If you must have the TV on what about putting it on the Food network and then making dinner right along with them? There's at least some practical skills and some math in there.

Anonymous said...

Just my two cents, but I think you are right, the kid must be psychologically attached to the TV and you are handling it correctly in not going cold turkey. I think you should give him and yourself some time, and plan on cutting down on TV hours by small increments, maybe implement a reward system?
Give him a lot of positive reinforcement during the time you are sneaking up on his regular TV time.
By the way you sound like a wonderful nanny!

Anonymous said...

At first I thought you meant he watched tv all day. Maybe, on weekends he does. But you did mention hes in school full-time. So hes not watching tv there. And then hes in an afterschool program (daycare) for an hour. So probably no tv there as well.

I mean how much tv is he really watching?
Two or three hours?

I would worry if he was watching it all weekend. Which he probably is.

Anonymous said...

opps I meant their

oh eliot said...

Break the tv is right.
The tv should only get msnbc or cnn and the weather channel. mom needs to take a break from tv too.

Anonymous said...

First commenter,
I LOVED how you started your comment. Was that supposed to be funny? It was.

Anonymous said...

Clarification from the poster:

From what I GATHER...he's watching about 1.5 to 2 hours a day in addition to what he watches when I am there. I'm not sure about the weekend. I would assume a bit more, but he also does fun stuff on the weekends.

I remember when I was young I watched an hour or so a day. Sometimes less, sometimes more. If i did watch TV it was a family show with everyone. I always wanted to play in my room or outside with my friends, though. So that's where I'm coming from.

Anonymous said...

Even 2 hours is too much for such a little guy. I loved the idea the poster above had about making his days too full of fun activities to think about television. This will be tiring, but you can follow up your outings with some sit down reading time.
I read to my kids all the time. They come to really love it, and when you get into books where you read chapters at a time they are always eager to hear the next installment. I kid you not, my kids would turn OFF the television or video games and come stampeding down the stairs when I would call out, "Who wants to read?" And the best part is they now love to read on their own.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like watching t.v. is a comfort to this child who's been allowed to make it a habit. Please be sensitive and go slowly in retraining him to find satisfaction in more creative, interactive activities with you.
I am nanny for a family whose children CRAVE t.v. when mom & dad are home because it's a distraction from the chaos the parents create, and THEIR demanding attention toward thier children . It's a coping mechanism for my charges, but that does not mean I haven't been successful in negotiating "earned t.v. privelege...homework first, art project first, some time playing outdoors first. Parents are quite inconsistent in enforcing this, eventhough they are on board with it in theory, because some days they just don't care to spend ANY time interacting with their kids. If parents are not in the mood to interact, they give in to the kid's request for television. I think the t.v. programs the kids want to watch offer a precictable routine. I try to remain consistent by encouraging them to do something else first...unless I'm over-ridden by parently whim.
Having been a single parent myself, I understand how easy it can be to let t.v. take up the slack sometimes. Just take it slow, and make other alternatives more appealing. Be sure to show your own enthusiasm about the activities you'd like to be doing with this child.

Anonymous said...

Is it too late in the day to go straight to the playground, or schedule a playdate when you pick him up? I would try to plan things like that, so that TV won't be an option until after dinner.

Anonymous said...

maybe the kid is just plain TIRED by that time of day...? How about story-time and a cuddle in his favorite chair?

Anonymous said...

Just go cold turkey on the tv and don't let him watch it at all when you are present. It can be a very matter of fact thing that he just has to learn to accept - when nanny is here, the tv stays off. Pretty soon, he will stop asking for it completely when you are there.

fox in socks said...

I agree with a lot of comments here such as that the tv has become a comfort to him to help him miss his mom less, and that it shouldn't be taken away cold turkey. THere were a lot of good suggestions about what to do. I like the idea of letting him pick a certain show, or something like that.

I really think this child is extremely tired. That is part of it. His schedule sounds extremely full! Full days of school, and even more, at his age! And his mom is not even around after his very long days. This is extremely draining on a young child. He probably needs to nap, but with his schedule he doesn't nap. The zoning out in front of the tv probably helps him compensate for having such a tremendous schedule and for the lack of his mom being there.

I hope you continue to be very understanding about his desires to watch tv a lot and help him move past it.

I think he would really benefit from some close snuggling time, restful coloring & snuggling together on the couch, or restful snuggles doing some other activity besides tv.

Physical closeness and touch can do wonders to help comfort children and help them grow and move ahead. Thank you so much for your concern for this child. It is so nice that you care and put so much effort into taking care of him and helping him reduce his "security blanket" tv watching.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I agree about the zoning...lord knows I need it when I get home from a long day! My 4 year old also likes to zone with a program when he first gets home, then we turn it off and eat. I don't know what this little guy is like but I'm sort of an introvert and being "stimulated" all the time can drive me bonkers. Anyway good luck, it sounds like you really care...

anonymous 1 said...

How bad is television? We don't know. I would suggest that you let the child watch only boring, educational shows. Give him the choice of that or exciting fun things to do. It won't be hard to do now that Spring is here. Mom needs to kick some $ your way to buy some bats and balls before she has a tubby coach potato on your hands. That isn't healthy. And most moms will want their kid's healthy.

Anonymous said...

fox in socks - love the name!

lindalou said...

it sounds like the little guy is tired after being at school all day and needs some down time, which is understandable. that being said, the tv has just become a bad habit. i'd talk to the mom and see if it was okay with her to just have a *no tv until mom is home* rule. i would do it cold turkey. try replacing it with a comforting, relaxing activity like reading books in a rocking chair, art or sensory time,simple board or card games, or even playtime in a warm bath. they say it take about 3 wweks for new things to become habit.

cali mom said...

Jumping ahead cause I have to get ready to go out, but maybe you could substitute TV (if it's just regular TV w/commercials and all) for Sesame Street movies. That way if he's watching for an hour or more at a time at least he'll be watching something pretty much guaranteed to help him learn. Sorry if this was suggested already, I have some catching up to do!

maggie said...

My child watches zero television. Zero. Granted, she is only 1.8 but as a parent, I make sure not to have the television on when she is awake. She has no clue what the television does. If you want to teach your children good habbits, you must start at the beginning.

Anonymous said...

There are some shows that are good for kids to watch especially the educational ones.
I have some old Barney tapes that I put on the the littlestone and he is only 11 months. When he is cranky or out of sorts I out one of those in for him and he loves it. I would never let a kid watch TV all day but a little movie or Barney cannot hurt them.

Anonymous said...

When I started working for my current family 7 months ago I was told they didnt want him exposed to television. But I KNOW that when they are with them the television is always on. I just hope this doesnt become a problem when he gets older (he's only 10 months now). As it is, he crawls over towards the television and tries to push the buttons on it, and then gets mad when it doesnt turn on and he can't watch it. I usually close the doors to the armoire so he can't see the television, I just see this causing problems later on.

Anonymous said...

One idea I don't think anyone suggested is to capitalize on his interest in TV shows and incorporate other activities that draw on the characters he knows - Bob the Builder books or plastic tools, Dora coloring pages (you can find lots free online), and the like.

On a different note ... I started nannying for a family where the kids watched a lot of TV. I decided they were going to watch a lot less (parents were more or less ambivalent), substituting a lot of interactive imaginative play, etc. Unfortunately, I outdid myself in this respect ... there came rainy days or days when I was really tired and could have used a half hour sitting on the couch, but the kids wouldn't hear of it!

Anonymous said...

MY son taught himself to read at age 3-4 after watching his favorite educational video (Lowly Worm's Alphabet...try it)
Sesame Street also teaches so many good things.

Anonymous said...

My son started reading at age 3 also. Why? Because I'm hearing impaired and we use the captions on the T.V.
He easily equated the words coming out of someones mouth with the words in the captions.
He'd walk right up to the T.V. and using his finger, point to the words and read them!
It was awesome!

Anonymous said...

First it depends upon what they are watching. My children liked TV too, and if had their choice would watch cartoons. BUT I put on Sesame Street, Thomas, Reading Rainbow etc and while they grumbled, they sat and LEARNED. My son knew the alphabet by 2 [courtesy of Big Bird], and my now 23 year old daughter still can sing and dance the Reading Rainbow song. Even today they grumble but will watch the History Channel and such.
When on vacation they moaned when I made them go to museums, but were amazed when a 'subject' came up and school and they could say-hey I have been there/saw that/etc and could contribute to class.
I am not saying TV nonstop is better than being outdoors or other activities, but TV can be a great learning tool IF they watch the correct shows.

Anonymous said...

Go to the fuse box and shut that fuse OFF! Tell him there must be something wrong with it. Guess we'll have to go outside and ride our bikes until I can get it fixed!

Anonymous said...

We had this problem with our daughter. The real issue was that because of the TV she wasn't spending enough time with us. And watching made her crazy. I put the TV in the closet while she was at school one day and told her it was broken. She barely noticed! After a few weeks, I brought the TV back, but now it is strictly off-limits on week nights. This system works perfectly for us. We both work full time, so being able to spend the entire evening interacting as a family on school nights is very important to us.

Anonymous said...

As a stay at home mom of three, I would say he is just tired and overstimulated. Have a story and quiet time after he gets home. Not necessarily a nap just relaxing with a book or favorite toy. Maybe an action figure from one of his favorite shows. Then he could play imaginary scenarios from the program. And get more into that than watching the actual tv.

Waycross48 said...

I gave a lot of thought to this one. This is way too much TV time for a 4 year old. Try a reward system. If he "reads" a book with you (or whatever activity you choose) then he can watch 15MINUTES of TV. Make him choose his very favorite TV show - only ONE - and you watch it with him. Then talk about what you watched. But, that's all the TV he can watch. He's learned to soothe himself by mindlessly watching TV. Do whatever you have to to limit his TV time. It's good his mother is cooperative. For 15 mins. more TV - a board game or outdoor activity. But no more than what adds up to his favorite show and he has to work for that time. My grandchildren love to paint, color, play ball, etc. Then, if he does well with the routine, have a special "movie" nite - popcorn, hotdogs, the works.But only is he earns it. BUT - REMEMBER, if he's in school all day and in day care - maybe the child is just tired!!! He needs to unwind just like we do. Ease into other activities but you're on the right track.

cali mom said...

Now that I've caught up...I say that going cold turkey or lying about the TV being "broken" are not the best options and should be the LAST resort options. Just cut out the commercial programs and have him watch only educational stuff, AND entice his interest with other activities while accomodating his need for some mental downtime.

Also, if you haven't been with them that long, could this be just a phase? My son would go through phases where he wanted to watch a favorite movie several times in one day until we needed to limit it, and then he'd usually find something else to do pretty easily. Then he went for MONTHS with no interest whatsoever in watching ANYTHING. Even if we borrowed movies from the library or got a new one he wouldn't want to watch for more than 5 minutes at most, and that was fine, though there were a few times when I could have more easily gotten something done if I *could* have had him stay interested in a movie for 20 minutes, but it was never anything to complain about!

I agree that educational stuff CAN really be good when properly used, and we don't watch TV at all just because we haven't had cable since he was born, (no time, no money!) which means we only get 1 TV channel and we just never bother to try and watch.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear Lord. The adults decide less TV. Turn it off and let the kid bitch and moan about it for a couple of days.

Upstate Mom said...

I wouldn't make tv time a reward, because it still reinforces that tv is "cool". A sticker for turning off the tv after 30 minutes of an education show, without a fuss, can lead to many stickers. Many stickers can then be an afternoon out at an activity that may cost money, such as a merry go round ride at the mall, a small LEGO kit (they are 4.99) or something that isn't food or more tv/movie. I also agree with getting books/coloring books, aquadoodle, whatever that has the characters he likes but is without batteries or electricity (not a leapfrog, for example). Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Discuss with the Mom (out of ear-shot from the child) about having a no TV while you are there rule. Tell her you feel that shes paying you good money to interact with her child, not plop him in front of the TV. If Mom agrees the two of you together should tell the child about the new rule. It may be a difficult adjustment at first, but as long as you and Mom are on the same page, he'll come around.

NannyIL said...

You just have to keep looking until you find something he loves as much as he loves TV. The little boy I take care of loves TV as well, but he also loves to make a mess! When I'm trying to get him to do something other than watch TV, I let him paint, play in water, or just set out a bunch of different art supplies and let him have at it. It will get messy, but I think kids should be allowed to make a mess every now and then!

Anonymous said...

Let the little guy watch TV. I have stock options to exercise.

Anonymous said...

Def. pull the cable out as they know how the power outlet plug works but they don't usually catch onto the cable thing. Then keep distracting him with reading books or start playing with toys and slowly engage, hello, you're much bigger than him, get control of the situation.

Anonymous said...

12:20
Excellent post.

11:23
You shouldn't have had kids. I hope you have a nanny!