I can't believe I did it!

picture by Flickr user (A3R) angelrravelor (A3R)
picture by Flickr user (A3R) angelrravelor (A3R)

Last week, I took a big step in my parenting life… after years of saying I could never do it, I unplugged the TV.

I said I could never do it, even though I admired all the parents who had – or who had even completely gotten rid of their TV.  I could never do it because I liked to watch TV too much. I have my shows… and we are a huge football family around here.  If we got rid of the TV, we would be taking away something that can bring some enjoyment to our family, if used correctly.

The thing is, I wasn’t using the TV correctly. I was abusing it – over-using it.  Even though I set limits on myself, those limits were being broken almost daily – and I would make excuses for the times I turned on the TV.  “Oh, it’s OK this time – I just need to clean up the kitchen and start dinner… take a shower… write a blog post…” But those “rare” moments turned into daily occurrences, and I would take advantage.  “Well, while the TV’s on, I’ll just check email… read my blogs… play on Facebook…”

I had prayed about unplugging the TV a couple of months ago – and I did nothing about it.  I just fell back into our old routine, not obeying the Holy Spirit’s voice speaking into my heart.  But then we went to our parenting class last week, and watching TV was mentioned.  It wasn’t even the topic of the class – it was more like a side point.  But what was said spoke straight to me.

TV-watching usurps the parents’ right to teach our children ourselves. Though there is no research to back it up, it makes sense that for every hour of TV our kids watch, it could take 5 to 6 hours of constant parental guidance and attention to balance off the one hour of TV.

TV shows and movies have everything we don’t have – big budgets, flashy characters, and fascinating story lines. We only have our own little selves to teach with and entertain our kids.  It’s a losing battle when you think about the manpower (and money) behind the shows.  Even Christian shows (we love our VeggieTales around here!) still may not teach your children what you want them to learn: I think Elias learned some about whining and lying from Christian shows and movies – they were the examples that were being used to correct the characters, but he was still exposed to that behavior before I would’ve preferred it.

We do have things on our side, though.  We have our love and concern for our children, we have one-on-one time with them, and we have the Lord. These factors can overcome all the negatives about TV – again, if they are applied correctly.

After our parenting class, I decided to even the playing field and actually go ahead with unplugging the TV.  I unplugged it rather than just not turning it on because my flesh is weak – I know how easily I cave in to doing it “the easy way.” Once the kids got under my skin long enough, I would reach for that remote rather than hitting my knees in prayer… so I took that option away from me.

And what happened?  No whining, no crying, no tantrums, no fits.  A nice quiet day, occasionally punctuated by Elias’s request for a show… which I answered with a simple, “No, no TV today, buddy.”  And there were really no questions even asked about it.  Frankly, I was shocked.  This kid who used to bug me to distraction about watching a show (or 2… or 3…) took my simple, determined “No” in stride and moved on.

The days that followed have seen more playing and laughing and creativity in our house than ever before. And I’ve even gotten things done without the TV – I sorted and organized all of the children’s clothes in the house, got some sewing done, cooked meals, cleaned a bit – all while the boys were awake!

This is not to say there has not been any TV watching going on around here.  I plugged the TV in this morning because we are having a sick-with-fever day – we watched a movie together, cuddled on the couch with our juice cups and blankies.  There is room for grace, right?  Right.  No feelings of guilt about the movie, because the past 7 days have not been filled with TV as well.

It has only been a week, but I now have this week under my belt – the knowledge that I can do it – that it can be done! I’m excited about what this means for my kids and my household in the future… and being the ones truly impressing our children has both Josh and me excited.

Does anyone have any experiences like mine?  Any struggles with the TV that you want to share?  I was hesitant to write this – first, because the struggles I was having with the TV truly were excessive, and second, my solution feels kind of extreme, even to me.  But if this is something you struggle with, please know that I have been there – and you have my prayers.



  1. Awesome, Leigh! I saw you post this on facebook and was hoping you’d post about it.

    My initial response is: I COULD NEVER DO IT. (Hello, SYTYCD!) But man oh man, I do respect it. I really really love the point about how much it takes to balance off that 1 hour of tv. Interesting thought.

    And yes, TV has introduced things that I didn’t want her to know yet. Even Christian shows.

    I used to let Lydia watch 2 half hour shows during breakfast. It gave me a chance to wake up, blog, etc. Since Asa has been eating in the highchair, we haven’t been watching TV. And I enjoy our mornings so much more! Not saying I’m necessarily MORE productive but they just FEEL nicer.

    I still try to limit Lydia to two 1/2 shows a day but I will say MANY days we do not watch at all. And I never watch regular TV in front of the kids. We watched football together one day and she thought it was a special event b/c we were all gathered around the TV together! 🙂

    Anyway, WTG, Leigh! I am in awe of you!

  2. Way to go! I could have written everything you said about our struggles with TV (or should I say, with *my* flesh!) The sneaking off to play on the computer, the turning it on just to get one thing done and leaving it on for three shows… we were there (and sometimes still are). We got rid of cable right around when our last baby was born in February of this year. I pleaded with my husband to wait until we had “settled in” with the new baby, but he knew I was just making excuses.
    That limited us to PBS, and we lost that with the digital changeover, so now we are DVD only. We have at least two days a week that are completely TV free, often more like four or five. On days when we do watch, it is one DVD only (but on a bad day it might be Mary Poppins, which is *crazy* long!) A day at grandmom’s house can be Noggin all day if I let it, so the struggle still rages on.
    I, like you, have seen incredible strides in my girls’ creativity and ability to focus on a project. They entertain themselves so much better, and we have less whininess too.
    Another thing I didn’t like about TV was that I was using it as a sort of sedative to calm a difficult situation. If the girls were getting on each other’s nerves or I wanted to get out of the house without them leaving it looking like a tornado had hit, I’d just plunk them on the sofa in front of a show(okay… still do sometimes, but at least I’m aware of it now.) I realize now how many opportunities I’m missing to deal with the heart issues behind their behavior when I do this!
    Hubby and I still watch one show together a few nights a week after the girls are in bed, and to be honest, as much as I enjoy “vegging” I know we would be better off without it. I have long felt that we will someday be a TV-free home, but for us it’s been a more gradual weaning process. The Lord is so gracious and patient with us, isn’t He?
    .-= Jodi´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: Sharing Secrets… And Keeping Them =-.

  3. Wow, we just decided to do this (again) as a family last night. So really great confirmation for me. We’ve gone without cable quite a lot, we’ve given TVs away and VCRs, etc. Well, we’ve had cable for 6 months and it’s taken over! My husband was reluctant to let go because he loves to watch football too, but Holy Spirit finally won out! This time we’ll be selling and giving away a big flatscreen TV, Wii (and games), XBox (and games), DVD player and lots of movies, and another TV. We’re only keeping a small TV/VCR combo with preschool videos for my 2 youngest in case I need them to be distracted some days while I homeschool the other 5. 😉 No more cable, no more DVD rentals. We’ve decide to dedicate our time and devotion to God, our family, and music, art, and dance for the creative ministry we’ve been called to. Bravo!
    .-= Dixiemom7´s last blog ..What Did I Get Myself Into? =-.

  4. Good for you!

    We turned off our satellite a year ago because Hubby is in grad school and our budget is very, very tight. It was a tough decision because we love football too and it was the middle of football season. However, we can still watch football games via the internet and catch a fave show (LOST!) online as well. This has really helped us spend more time as a family. It’s been great!

    i do allow Ladybug to watch movies and I know that i have to be careful about how much time is in front of the tv though. And I found the same thing. On days when there is less electronic entertainment, there is more laughter, and fun, and giggles.
    .-= Heather @ Not a DIY Life´s last blog ..Halloween Reflections =-.

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