I was reading, and oh boy, empathising, with Stressy Mummy today and her Big Ban Theory. This post rang true in so many ways and sparked me to put fingers to keyboard because we’ve been in the same boat and I’ve been meaning to blog about it for a couple of weeks.
It’s the great screen time debate – the one that I suspect becomes more apparent as the nights draw in, the weekends become wetter, the snot bringing bugs take over the schools and the onslaught of adverts becomes even greater.
The Sealion Keeper would happily watch TV all day, possibly with a spattering of laptop in the mix too. Neither of them have DS’s, Leapsters or any handheld tech, they are allowed to use the desktop, my laptop (with permission – usually for homework) and watch the TV. We only have Freeview, we don’t have any other channels. It’s just not been our thing and our physios
demand advise us to keep as active as possible. It’s always been a hard one to call – any child is tired after school and needs/wants to crash out – the team from GOSH want me to be doing extra ‘fiddly fingers’ activities with them or getting them doing more physical activities. It generally results in a boom and bust cycle – work like mad things, end up ill, get better, repeat. We’re still working on getting that balance right.
The Cheetah Keeper loves his tech. He would happily play online for hours – mainly the games on CBBC and CBeebies but he also loves Teach Your Monster to Read and the maths sites that his sister has discovered at school. Oh, and the Zoo websites – but you’d probably guessed that already. I was also acutely aware that having limited his sister’s time on the computer when she was in Year 1, only to be pulled up at parents evening about her lack of ICT skills that I didn’t want to be in that position again.
His behaviour this autumn has been hard work. It’s been easier to let him have some time on the computer so that we can get ‘stuff’ done. Whilst his sister is happy to leap around her bedroom to whatever is on the radio or read her Olympic factfiles for the zillionth time, he (like his father) wants to achieve something – and getting to the next level on a game was providing that hit.
To make things ‘fair’ we were letting his sister have a little more TV time and factoring in our Friday “tea in front of the telly” treats – except they were becoming more than just on Fridays because I couldn’t deal with the fallout. It wasn’t good. We’d tried limiting time, rewarding good behaviour, stickers – our normal stash in our box of parenting tricks. They didn’t really work. The Cheetah Keeper was waking up way too early, the tiredness was affecting school, home and his temperament – and yet screen time seemed to calm him down – or at least give us some respite.
I had already started changing his diet – an increase in carbs towards the end of the day and the introduction, a couple of nights a week of fortified chocolate milk to try and up his iron levels. It was beginning to work but not well enough.
So we too, implemented the outright ban with a proper home-cooked dinner at 5pm. Spellings and other school jobs are done before school, not at bedtime and we read together whilst his sister is at her touch typing lesson before school. I’m exhausted but it’s working so well.
I have a different boy – the cuddly, funny, biddable, lego playing, colouring in (a new found delight), car racing, engineering, doodling and cooking one I used to have. It’s brilliant. He’s sleeping better, eating better, behaving phenomenally better and is doing better at school. His sister is finding it harder but we have some serious Christmas crafting planned and she’s suggested that we do her homework after school tomorrow before Brownies. Before she’d have been planning her viewing to the last minute to coordinate her uniform change between programmes.
They’re allowed to watch an hour or two of TV on Saturday and Sunday mornings – it’s now a treat (rather than an expected right) and it means we can get a little lie-in. We all snuggled up on the sofa to watch the last Grand Prix of the season last Sunday and it was fab – mainly because the Cheetah Keeper’s commentary beats anything the BBC can do.
They’ve asked to watch Octonauts a couple of evenings and I’m not adverse to 5 minutes of Newsround or the odd Blue Peter here and there. The Sealion Keeper can use the computer for her homework (how else am I expected to find out how tall Guy Fawkes was, the length of the M1 or Chris Hoy’s birthday?) and the Cheetah Keeper is allowed to play on the phonics site occasionally but they’re not asking to now. 2 weeks in and it seems to be working.
Instead we’ve made soup for Mammasaurus, got the hama beads out, improved the spelling test results significantly, increased the piano practice, rediscovered the joys of colouring and doodling books, finished another 2 Brownie badges and, in a moment of complete insanity, even got the Moon Sand out (section me now) – that’s just the tip of the stuff we’ve done.
They’re eating better, going to bed earlier, sleeping later and doing better at school. It’s not easy but I wish we’d done it earlier.
How does screen time work in your house? Would you reintroduce it if you were in my position?