Thoughts about television and our (near) decade without it | Part One

Before my husband and I were married, someone gave us the advice to not own a television for the first year of marriage. I don't remember who gave us the advice but I'm glad we followed it. One year turned into two and two into three. And then, somewhere along the line of our fourth year of marriage, a friend handed off an old television to us. It was a welcome distraction that year. My husband was loaded down with work and fourth-year seminary classes and I was pregnant, sick, and tired. I worked two jobs that kept me happy yet busy and by the end of each day, I'd come home to an empty home, with my husband still at work, and I'd watch whatever was on until he came home or I fell asleep, whichever of those options came first. At the end of that year, as we were packing up all of our belongings for our move to Oregon, we decided the television had to go. It's a decision that neither of us has ever really regretted.

And so, for nearly the last decade, we've lived free of a television in our home.  But I'd be lying not to admit I wouldn't be clothed and in my right mind without the help of Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder, and Postman Pat. (I do play the piano by ear but there is a very good reason why I can play all of the theme songs for my boys upon request. Ahem.) Even though we don't own an actual television, we own plenty of paraphernalia that serves the same purpose minus commercials which, in my opinion, are perhaps some of the most harmful parts of television. 

Recently, though, things started spiraling and I knew something needed to change. What had began as a little Fireman Sam here and a little Postman Pat there during the afternoons for Graeme (while Job and Wren were napping) had become a full fledged, all consuming lifestyle for Graeme. As in, he would hurry me in putting Job down for a nap and proudly announce-- now it's the time we watch something! And it didn't stop there. In the mornings, I would crawl up the stairs, weary from the newborn stage, and give in at the drop of a hat if the boys asked to watch a show while eating breakfast. All of this wasn't an every day occurrence but I could feel things slipping farther and farther away from what I knew I wanted for my children. 

Complete viewing abandon seemed impossible and out of reach. But after reading this article, my hope grew substantially. And after talking things over with my husband, we agreed to try it with the addendum of keeping our weekly family movie night. I expected this change to be very difficult. Not so much for the boys but for myself! (How in the world would I be able to take a shower? Or take a nap? I kid, I kid, No, actually, no I'm not.) But it surprised me in that it was quite easy. And not only that, but the rewards have been so much greater than just that of an easy transition. 

Two major changes have taken place in our household and they are so profound that I wanted to take the time to write this entire blog post over them. First, I noticed that my boys began playing together on a more agreeable level. I feel that my boys are pretty good friends to each other but I've noticed that the bickering has slowed down considerably. Of course we still have our problems. Just today I made my boys hug each other until they were giggling and snorting because I had caught them playing tug of war (the push down kind!) with a toy. But on the whole, the whole being key words, I've seen such an improvement in this area. 

Second, I have seen a dramatic improvement in their creative play, their imaginations, their vocabulary. Graeme's drawing skills have all of the sudden taken off. My guess is that their vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds because we are reading even more than before. Also, they are talking to each other, pretending, imagining, and drawing more than ever. 

This change has been a welcomed breath of fresh air. We began this metamorphosis a little over a month ago and I am more determined than ever to keep this change in place. And I'm doubly committed to keeping our home free from a 'big box' telly. I'm writing this out for my own encouragement, a note-to-self sort of thing. But I also wanted to write these words for those who desire this change but are dreading the process. I'm here to tell you-- if I can do it anyone can. I promise you.

Currently, I am working on scheduling out one activity to work on with Graeme each afternoon, whether it's baking, folding laundry, writing thank you notes, or an art project. And aside from that, he has been soaking up the quiet time to play on his own, making up elaborate stories about his Lego figurines, and on and on. I'm not much for the idea of resolutions but I do like the idea of forming new habits. And this particular habit is one I'm very thankful to be forming.

For those of you who are already on this pathway, I'd love to hear your encouraging words, your favorite outcomes of this choice, and anything else you'd like to add. Here's to keeping on!

p.s. Don't forget to read the article that I linked to above. It will light your fire and encourage you.


  1. It takes courage and discipline to be this intentional with your parenting -- I'm proud of you, and thankful for the good that will come from it for your family!

    1. Mom,

      I've been really encouraged with this change. I truly didn't expect it to yield so much good so quickly. Almost every day I catch myself thinking, "man, the boys are playing so well together" or have to take a double take as the house is all of the sudden quiet and I look over to make sure Job isn't coloring on the new sectional and instead they are both sitting reading a book! I'm liking this : )

  2. Such a good post, Sarah! I wish I had started that when our kids were really young...we lived for our Barney hour and knew all the Little People videos by heart. So funny to think about that time because a lot of the time I was so tired I would just sit and watch with them :) :) (or take a shower)

    We are on a good track as far as TV, now. Mostly football and the occasional Shark Tank. (I agree about commercials...p*rn and greed) ...

    But, we are struggling with the video games. We used to do this: none on Mon-Thurs and then 2 hours on fri, 2 hours on Sat, one hour on Sunday. I know that sounds like a huge amount to some and practically nothing for others. When we had this plan monday through Thursday was so nice and they read, played, got creative. And then got catch up on their games on the weekend, but I felt like they should get creative on the weekends too!!!! So, we are changing it up they earn a few hours of video games by playing games with each other or exercise. I know that's probably not the right thing (my brain explodes trying to do the right thing and not mess up our kids! :) But praying for God's guidance and wisdom for each minute...because goodness knows, foolishness is truly bound up in the heart of my children :) :) as I've been told ;-)

    1. Sara,

      I totally relate about sitting and watching Barney because you're too tired to do anything else. Except, I guess mine was Fireman Sam! But your comment was so good for me to read and think through. I forget that each stage of their childhood will require thinking through in this area. I think you nailed it, though, when you said that you're praying through things and asking for wisdom for each minute. Man, I need to do that too. Love you.

      p.s. I was reading something on A Beautiful Mess' blog today and totally thought of you. Elsie said something about her style being "art teacher style" -- bright and fun-- and I thought, "that's Sara!!!" : )

  3. This is encouraging Sarah, thanks for sharing. We read a similar article around Christmas about "unplugging" after noticing the highlight of our children's days and weeks being "electronic time". If it was not time, when could they have it again, for how long, could they play this or watch that…

    We already had a time limit for computer/games being 1 hour a day, 3 hours on weekends (we only have Netflix and an antenna for local channels, the TV wasn't so much the problem). Before we knew it, the computer/games began to be all they could talk and think about.

    We read the article, shared it with the kids, warned it may be painful, but would get better. And then we stayed firm! It was tough for a couple days. Then, we noticed the same wonderful things you mentioned. Their imaginations came back, the toys and crafts were brought out (I was quickly working on my own issues when they messes were back- ha)! They were talking and playing together again!

    Since I homeschool and they are 7 and 9 and their dad and I have always enjoyed using the computers as tools for media work (usually only after bedtime), so we realize being unplugged isn't a permanent solution. But when we introduce the time again it will be come back s-l-o-w and more intentional and occasionally do another detox :) We want them to grow to self-regulate, but it is amazing how addicting it can be for them! Like the comment from sara, we too pray for God's guidance daily! - Cory

    1. Cory,

      This was so neat to hear your take and your story through this same transition. Good for you guys! You've encouraged me! And, I was thinking, in addition to the benefits you mentioned, I truly think my kiddos are even sleeping better! Amazing! : ) Kiss that baby E for me!

    2. oh, and, p.s. your first paragraph? YES. Exactly!

  4. Good good for you!! A couple of the benefits you will reap now are more imaginative play and peace in your home, but the fruit you will reap later will be the sweetest: relationship! I can't even begin to tell you how sweet it is to watch my kids grow together in love. You are giving them such a gift, Sarah. And don't worry about the squabbles. We still have plenty of those, but giving them opportunities to work through conflicts is priceless. Their spouses will thank you someday. ;)

    1. Jenny,

      I love that you pointed the aspect of relationship out. I hadn't really thought about that but that is something that I would love to add to the list of benefits I'm already seeing. Now if I can just be diligent after the kiddos go to bed in doing laundry and dishes so that I HAVE the time during the day to work on my relationships to them! I really do need to remember that laundry and dishes can wait. My children are growing up way too quickly! : (


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