Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Why I let my daughter watch TV

Yesterday I had what I like to call in my head a MEP (Minimal Effort Parenting) Day. Yes, I use acronyms in my own head. Yes, I know that's weird. But anyway, back to the point. I woke up with a stinking cold, as did Eleanor. I was shattered, and Eleanor was having meltdowns over everything imaginable. So I stuck CBeebies on.

I'm not really comfortable with doing this. I know that a number of studies have shown that any TV viewing AT ALL in the early years can have a detrimental effect on a child's health and development in later years. If you don't believe me, do a quick internet search – there are far too many links for me to reference here. We can tell ourselves that these shows are designed for toddlers, that they are educational, etc. But ultimately even educational toddler TV is not good for our children.

So why do I let Eleanor watch TV?

Well, when I first heard about the negative effects of TV viewing, about a year ago, I tried to stop. For a couple of weeks she watched no TV. None at all.

Guess what happened?

Yes, any parent reading this will guess the answer: I got tired. And ratty. I couldn't muster up any enthusiasm about playing with Eleanor, I got snappy with her and I felt generally overwhelmed. I started to feel like a terrible mother.

I'm sure there are mothers out there who are able to entertain their little ones all day, enthusiastically and without getting strung out, but I am not one of them. So I decided I needed to find a happy medium. I made a rule that Eleanor should not watch more than an hour of TV a day. That way I could try and keep her active and engaged in play for most of her waking hours, but if I needed a 10 minute break here and there I could let the good ol' gogglebox entertain her for a bit.

I've managed to stick to the one hour rule most of the time ever since. In fact, most days it's considerably less than an hour, and some days she doesn't watch TV at all. This makes me feel slightly better for the days like yesterday, when I'm so exhausted I let her watch far more than an hour!

I'm also very careful about when she watches TV. Even on a MEP Day, I turn the TV off at around teatime and it doesn't go back on. I refuse to let TV become part of her bedtime routine – mainly because she already resists sleep by talking about Raa Raa the blimmin' Noisy Lion after lights out! Most days, I restrict TV viewing to mornings only – and we're busy most mornings so that helps me keep to the one hour rule.

Ultimately, I've had to accept that no mother can be perfect, least of all me. We've all got to have one area where we let things slide a little. Besides, Eleanor is developing well anyway – her verbal ability amazes me, she's very active and her concentration span is slowly improving. If she was lagging behind I might consider another all-out ban, but really, I think she's doing just fine.

Is this parenting against the grain? Not even a little bit. But I'd rather go with the flow a little on this one thing, than end up as an irritable zombie mum who's no fun for anyone to be around, least of all my daughter!

What are your rules about TV? Have you managed to steer clear of it? I'd be interested to hear your comments!

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