Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why We Don't Have a TV in the Home

For the past 9 years, my household has been without a TV. My wife and I made the decision to toss the TV the moment we discovered that we were to be parents. Even though my parents think we're nuts, I am glad we made the decision.

There were many reasons behind our decision, one of which was certainly limiting the exposure of our children to the trash that gets broadcast these days. But that reason wasn't the main reason. The most important reason for our decision was really to help us, me and my wife, to be more present to our children.

As my wife and I know all too well (partly because we are constantly reminded of this by well-meaning relatives), TV does have some wonderful and educational programming. We also know that it wouldn't have been all that difficult to monitor how much TV our children would watch and what programs they would be permitted to see. So, we don't view the TV and TV programming, in and of themselves, as some kind of "evil" that will damage the social, emotional, and even physical well-being of our children. And we don't prohibit our children from watching the TV when we visit relatives (or when they visit their friends) where the TV is a part of that experience.

My wife and I, knowing ourselves and imagining how tiring it would be to have to give attention to our children when they required it and not just when we wanted to give it, saw the TV as a very easy and convenient parent substitute. In other words, we could see ourselves relying on the TV to quiet an upset child, to keep the children pacified while we tended to our own tasks, to short-circuit a brewing squabble between the children, to use as a tool of "rewards and punishments" for good or bad behavior, etc. All of this, it seemed to us, was a kind of abdication of parental responsibility. Sure, sometimes it would have provided us with a needed respite from the challenges of parenting in the wake of over-stressful days. Sure, sometimes it would have forged peace and order out of chaos and disorder. Sure, it would have even created more moments for the intimacies of marriage in the sense of my wife and I perhaps having more time for paying closer attention to each other and sharing more frequently with each other our joys and frustrations. But the flip side of these benefits comes the temptation for a weary or harried or undisciplined parent to not make that extra effort to be present to his or her children even though he or she may be tired, frustrated, or frazzled. And as the practice of relying on the TV for "crisis" moments becomes more habitual, the temptation to rely on the TV as a matter of course or out of pure convenience grows.

This is not to say that other things, such as the computer or the portable DVD player, can't take the place of the TV. But surely the TV is the "elephant in the room" when it comes to such things; and, besides, what's the harm in eliminating anything that can be a convenient substitute for parenting? Maybe a household without a TV and a computer and a portable DVD player is ideal; but certainly a house without a TV, but with a computer or a portable DVD player, is arguably better than a household with all three!

After 9 years without a TV, I can tell you that my kids don't miss it or even whine about not having one. To them, our house has always been a place without a TV. It's really a non-issue for them. As for me and my wife, we feel rather liberated. 10 years ago, I'd say we had a bit of TV addiction. Now, my wife and I also don't think of TV at all when we're in the house. You know that urge to turn on the TV once you arrive home from work? Not present at all in my life anymore. You know the alignment of a home's furnishings in the living room that all point towards the TV? Not so in my house. The sofa, the lounge chair, the coffee table, the chairs, etc., in our house are all focused around the communal space -- where the children play with their blocks or where they put on their plays or where they perform their dance recitals. Bedroom furniture and layout? Same thing.

It's been great on so many levels. And I'm sure my wife and I would agree that we're better parents for it.


Sunniemom said...

Ditto- we have a tv but it is not 'connected'- we use it with our DVD player for educational purposes. For example, my dd is learning to crochet, and my ds is learning magic tricks.

But we also know how enjoyable it is to sit and talk, read, play games, and just spend time together as a family. Our kids often say that even though they like going to friends' houses or to activities, their favorite place is home.

Isn't it funny how many folks can't imagine how you function without a television?

Huck said...

Isn't it funny how many folks can't imagine how you function without a television?

sunniemom - Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. Yes, upon reflection it is interesting how so many cannot imagine a home without a TV in it. I have to admit that I was probably one of them 10 years ago; but having kids changed that for me. And I think I'm the better for it.

I remember the first six months without a TV and it really was like I was going through withdrawals. I'm convinced that TV addiction is a real phenomenon, with mental and perhaps even physical manifestations; and how it numbs the brain is as real as any other kind of drug that I can imagine.

Again, thanks for visiting my blog.

Drive-By Blogger said...

Holy crapola Huckalola! I have a 70' HD Sony, a 60' HD sony, a DirecTv HR20 Hi Def Recorder/receiver and an DirecTV H20 HD Receiver.

Got me a Denon 2807 Dolby Digital Surround Sound Receiver and Aperion speakers including a 12 in SW.

Shit, how can you live with Hi Def TV?

And with that big ass 60 incher in the bedroom, I get a bit of reprieve (if you know what I mean Hucky).

You know, DirecTV has like 40 Spanish stations now including HBO Latino.

Check it out my amigo. ¡La alta definición mece a mi hombre! Hasta la vista Baby!

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Huck said...

drive-by blogger - Now why would I ever need TV when there's always you to provide me with unparalleled and top quality entertainment!?!