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Works for Me Wednesday: Weaning off of Television

Today I'm talking TV, both on Works for me Wednesday and Wifey Wednesday! And I need to tell you, one of the best things we ever did as a family was cancel cable.

We did it about twelve years ago, when the children were very young. I used to watch TV non-stop during the day, just to have noise on. I still played with the girls, but the TV was always there.

Then one Thursday night I realized that I was depressed again. And I was always depressed on Thursdays. Tracing it back, I realized it was because I watched ER, which was a very depressing show! And I decided that I didn't need that in my life anymore. So the TV was gone.

And because of that, my children weren't exposed to inappropriate things too early. They know how to play by themselves. They used to make up games. They read a ton.

It isn't that we're total saints. We subscribe to the Canadian version of netflix, so we do watch DVDs. But we're very picky about what we watch, and so we're not watching just anything because it's on, like I used to. You don't even miss TV shows that way, because the good ones come out on DVD a year later anyway. We're catching up on Heroes right now, which is quite good in its first season. But we don't watch TV all night. Just for an hour a few nights a week, after the kids go to bed. And they hardly watch any at all.

I mentioned all of this in a syndicated column recently, and then got into an email conversation with Deanna Grove, who runs The Garden Place in Frankford, near my home. She writes this:

As a side thought, I also don't believe the excuse some people may use that it's cheap entertainment. I wonder what would happen if we challenged parents to try leaving the t.v. off for one whole week? I can guess that a typical family would be wondering around the hallways after supper like lost souls...for a couple of days. But then I think they'd find far more interesting and productive things to do. And, hey, they might actually get around to doing things they've wanted to do for a long time, but never had the time to do it! It may be a little more difficult for teenagers, though, with their peer pressures.

I was thinking about what she said, and it reminded me of meeting Gordon Korman when I was 13. He was 18 at the time, and had several best selling youth novels under his belt. He wrote his first at 13. It was a school project his teacher recommended he expand upon. And since then he's written dozens of novels.

But imagine: being a published author at 13. You can do that when you're not wasting your time on television.

It's hard to quit, I know. I did it. You're sure to get resistance from your family. But I tell you, it was the best decision we ever made. Even if all you do is keep TV for weekends, so that the kids have to save up for it, or only let them watch one show a week, that they pick in advance, that's better. But the problem is that TV isn't only bad for the kids; it's bad for the adults. It keeps us from doing more productive things.

Let me leave you with something else Deanna wrote, as she details her journey to give up television (remember Deanna owns a garden shop):

John and I live in Frankford, and after reading your column on "television watching," I just had to let you know how much we agree with you and what steps we've taken to realize what a waste of time (sorry to be so blunt) watching t.v. is/was.

A few years ago, before moving from Mississauga to Frankford, we questioned the amount of "useful" t.v. we watched and up until then subscribed to many stations. Because we spent from April to October outside (partly because we love being outside and partly because of our business - please help yourself to our website) we didn't even turn on the t.v. during those months at all. So, we "downsized" the channels. We didn't miss the extra channels one bit. Then when we moved here in 2007, our cable options were non-existent and again, we questioned whether we were interested in watching t.v. The answer was an honest "no." So, for 2 years, we haven't watched t.v. Do we miss it? Well, we get all our news whenever we feel like it from the internet, are more in tune with our community, because we have more time to do so, thanks to organizations such as the Quinte West Chamber of Commerce, and occasionally purchase good movies for entertainment in the winter. We have time to read books and be together. The house is actually clean (in the winter), we enjoy cooking and having friends over - in an unstressed manner - and (here's the real kicker) are less annoyed. Yes, "annoyed." We get tons of extra jobs done in the house that we never had time for before and are happier people. Of course, to be fair, we have also changed our lives from living in the big city with 9 to 5 office jobs, to living in the country, and are following our passion - designing and creating gardens. Once in a while we pop round to our friends' house to watch a hockey game and/or doggy-sit. And when we put the t.v. on, can't believe the useless entertainment with commercials inserted every 7 minutes or so intruding on our precious time. So, the answer is a great, big "NO." I doubt we'll ever hook up our t.v. now. We both think that most television programs are useless, uninformative, fake, annoying, loud, an insult to our intelligence, transparent, did I mention annoying, and such a waste of time!

So, in answer to your question in your column "...leave that infernal screen behind, are you with me?..." Our answer is "YES!!!" And now, I'll stop being a hypocrite and get off the "checking my emails" computer, and get outside while the sunshine and birds and fresh air are calling us. These are the important things to us.

And they're important to me, too. So if you've been feeling the urge to cut down on TV, here's a roadmap to help:

1. Post sign-up sheets on the fridge where people can sign up with what TV shows they want to watch that week.

2. Make them earn TV by spending time outside/in active play.

3. Post a list of at least 20 ideas on the fridge of things to do instead of television, so that if anyone says "I'm bored", you can send them to that list.

4. Invest in some fun board games, and start a family games night at least once a week after dinner.

5. Move the TV to the basement, to an out of the way place, so it's not staring at you in the living room all the time.

6. Set up the furniture in the family room so that instead of being oriented towards the television, it's oriented towards playing games.

7. Pray!

Good luck, and may you beat the TV habit, too!

Thanks for visiting! Do stay around a while! I've got a ton of posts on marriage, motherhood, and more!

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At 12:01 PM , Blogger Megan said…

We dropped tv during our second year of marriage, when the new apartment we moved into didn't include it -- so it wasn't really a conscious decision, but we realized quickly that we didn't miss it. For this, I'm really thankful, as my husband grew up in a house that ALWAYS has the tv on, and I think our marriage would have suffered if it hadn't been stripped out of our lives. Now the first piece of advice I give to newlyweds is to not have a tv for the first year -- and then decide whether or not to add it back in. (Of course, I get really excited on those rare opportunities I get to watch HGTV :).


At 12:01 PM , Blogger Adventure Mom Janna said…

I agree I posted that my new year's resolutions were OFF!

Off with the TV, computer (for at least 24hrs)the radio, the cell phone, and negative speech.

How can I ever "Be still and know" if I'm always being entertained?

Anyway, I became a follower today and look forward to more posts like this one.

I just started to read and review The Power of a Praying Parent on my blog today, and I have already been so challenged. One of the tips was to make a personalized list for each of your children, and another was to host a prayer group once or twice a year and pray specifically for children. I'd love to have you visit sometime!


At 12:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I really like the suggestion of having them earn tv privilege by spending time outside in active play. That is definitely one I'm going to implement. Thanks for sharing it. :)



At 1:19 PM , Anonymous Beth said…

I haven't had tv for a couple years now and I see now what a waste of time it is (was). Thankfully, my husband is now on board. He didn't really have much of choice when we were dating b/c I couldn't afford cable at my house, but now he agrees it's much better without it. He gets his news fix with his phone and at work. I have internet access at work and I work primarily on the computer, so the last thing I want to do is look at a screen when I get home. I have noticed two things when I do get an opportunity to watch tv. Well, three really. The first two are oddly contradictory to each other. First of all, no wonder half the nation is ADD considering all the commercials! I think the programs are now 6 mins, and the commercials "breaks" are 24 mins. It drives me batty! Secondly, I've found I can't sit still long enough to watch a program. I'm impatient for it to be over, or I'm jumping up every ten minutes, or looking around.
And thirdly, most everything that is on is crap. It's all celebrity, all gossip, all superficial. Are we really so shallow?


At 3:33 PM , Blogger Val, Mike and Brax said…

i would LOVE LOVE LOVE to get rid of tv totally... we spend like $150 a month on cable (that does include internet tho) and i could SO live without it (not the internet!) but my husband refuses to give up his sports channels. why won't cable companies let you do a la carte??!!!
my 2 year old son is addicted to thomas the train shows, and sometimes we have to detox him by going cold turkey, no tv, for awhile. he is over it w/in a day. however, i am 8 months pregnant right now and i have to admit that tv has been a lifesaver when i just need to sit down and take a break for a minute w/out having him begging me for attention! it's so lazy, i know, but i plan on detoxing w/ NO TV again as soon as i am able to get down on the floor and play w/ him again!
anyway, good post...


At 7:09 PM , Blogger Tessa said…

We haven't ever had cable since we have been married. My husband's family totaly doesn't understand it. (they areblike you were, tv on in the background 24/7). We have 2 stations. One if the weather is bad. We currently have one of two shows that we watch the odd time but it's not something that we HAVE to stop our day for. I have a couple shows that I watch on the internet while folding laundry.

That being said, our big time consumer: computer. We both play an online video game (with internet but also some real life friends) and half and hour turns into 4 hours really quickly! I've been letting our son watch movies while we play. I'm making the public declaration that I will cut down on my play time and not let the TV babysit my son when I do play. I have started to color with him while playing, and read to him etc. It's only half my attention but it's a step up from watching movies all night!


At 7:17 PM , Anonymous Tracy Farr said…

We never really watched a lot of TV to begin with because we could only get one over-the-air analog station, cable didn't come out our way, and I'm too cheap to pay for satellite. And then when the almighty Digital Signal was switched on, we lost our one station.

We don't miss TV a bit. We rent videos if we want to watch something, we do other things, and we fill our lives with much more worthwhile pursuits.

When I tell people we don't watch TV, they ask, "How do you survive?" I usually respond, "How do YOU survive wasting all that time, watching all that garbage."


At 7:22 PM , Blogger living water homeschool said…

Hmmm, I think all things in moderation. We went over a year without tv at all, when we first bought our house three years ago. It was okay, not a horrible experience, but I did miss it. We do have rules in place, no tv or internet before homeschool is done, with after school activities and playdates, there is VERY little time left for television. I do like to watch shows such as 18 Kids and Counting where I can find encouragement as a Christian homeschooling mother. We do have cable, and I don't think we are drones to it, or that my kids are suffering a lack of creativity because of it. As the parent, I get the ulitmate say on what they watch and are exposed to. On the rare days that we don't have plans and it's too cold to go out or in the midst of a snowstorm, I'm especially glad to have an easy form of entertainment. My 10 year old BARELY watches tv at all, and my daughter watches in moderation, but choses to do other things most of the time.


At 8:26 PM , Blogger Kathy said…

My husband (age 26) and I (age 24) gave up the tv in July 2008. We got it back out to watch Tour de France, but put it back away again not long afterwards. Now, we can't handle advertisements! They drive up crazy! We do still watch the tv shows we WANT to watch (without ads!!!), and we have a tv tuner for our computer for the next Tour, but we don't miss tv at all. And hubby used to be addicted when he was younger. It is a time waster!!! Even the amount of tv shows we choose to watch is bordering on the TOO much... so hubby plays computer games at the same time, and I crochet. Workds well:)


At 9:15 PM , Blogger Kelli said…

Thanks for this post Sheila. We do watch tv at night. My husband more so than I, but we do watch it. Mostly family shows or nature shows. We love watching Bear Grills in his attempt to live in the wild. =) National Geographic is good too. I have been so anti-television lately (I have three little ones), but there is some good to it. I can get dinner cooked without someone glued to my leg or asking me to help them with something. I think it's easier for people with older children to ban the tv completely. Those of us with a bunch of little ones just need a 30-minute break once and awhile. My two oldest (4 and 2) watch two 30-minute shows a day. One in the morning so I can get dressed and ready for the day and the other time is when I'm cooking dinner and my infant is taking her nap.

One thing that I would suggest though for those wanting to ban tv is to either stick to movies only, which is what we do for our kids. OR, do it gradually and not cold turkey.

Husband and wife must be on the same page or it'll flop.

Thanks for posting this!


At 9:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I really agree, Shelia. My husband and I don't own a TV any more. We do have netflix, and do watch DVDs together, but it's part of our date nights. I think it's been a great part of our relationship.


At 3:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

We used to have five TV's in our house. We are now down to only one in the family room. Yeah!! I was raised in a home that had tvs on 24/7. Even if no one was in the room the tv was still on. So when I got married I carried that into our new home. I just didn't know any different. But then God. :) He started to show me that the TV was just noise distracting me from being still occasionally. He was sooo right. I used the noise to block out things I didn't want to think about or deal with.

It took time but I broke myself of the addiction. I might watch a show or two at night on HGTV but that's about it. I often find myself sitting there thinking "this really isn't entertaining me what else could I be doing". For a former 24/7 tv junkie that is a huge change! Praise God!

My children fortunately never picked up the addiction. My DH I think is starting to come around but I know he watches a ton of tv still. Please pray for him...he's struggling.

I'm praying come April (when our satellite contract is up) that he will agree it's time to turn the satellite off for good.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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