Fear of the TV Beast
Freedom, Trust and Letting Go
By Julie Persons
My husband Trevor and I have always wanted our
children to make as many of their own choices as they possibly can.
We have encouraged them to choose their foods and
eating times so that they will learn to listen to their bodies and know
what they need. They both weaned when they were ready and we have always
made sure their options are varied and accessible.
We have always let them decide who they want to
play with (or not), so they will be in touch with how they really feel
We have always let them decide when they are tired and
where they will sleep and how much. This has helped them to be happy,
rested children who know when they need to have quiet time and sleep.
They sleep through the night, holding on to one of us and sleeping the
safe and warm sleep they need.
We have always encouraged them to dress
themselves, regardless of the style, color co-ordination, or season. This
way, they are learning what is comfortable and warm or too cold and what
truly suits them.
We have supported them liking the toys they like,
whether we approve of them or not.
Some of these freedoms have been more challenging
for Trevor and me than others. But we have watched our children thrive
in this environment and have gained confidence in their ability to know
what they want/need; they trust themselves as we are learning to trust
But we have had one issue that
has been challenging, and that’s television. Trevor and I didn’t want
our children to watch television when they were little and our son,
Jesse, never watched any until he was two-and-a-half. After that, he
watched some but only one show at a time and he always had to ask
permission. This didn’t work; he became somewhat greedy about television
and, as a forbidden fruit, it became more and more tempting by the
month. When he was allowed to watch he would beg and beg and beg for
more and I would feel so guilty when I allowed him to do this. It was
About two-and-a-half years ago,
Trevor and I began discussing this. My heart told me that we should let
Jesse decide how much TV he wanted to watch and when (although we would
limit channels to screen out violent and other inappropriate choices.)
However, even though Trevor and I discussed this frequently and at
length, we couldn’t bring ourselves to act.
What if he watched it all day
long? What if he made the (gasp) wrong choice? What if he loved it more
than anything in the world and became a professional TV watcher, growing
sluggish and pale at the screen, vacant and soft? So we decided we just
could not let him watch as much as he wanted.
But Jesse begged and begged and it bothered me deep
in my heart; why was I trusting him to make so many other choices in his
life and he was doing wonderfully and yet I was afraid of this thing,
this TV beast?!
About a year ago we finally
decided to let go of this. We told Jesse it was up to him, he could make
the choice. And he chose TV – truckloads of it, initially. He embraced
it and memorized listings and characters and wanted to tell everyone
about his deep adoration for the tube. People on the street would ask
him about “homeschooling” and he would say, “Oh, it rocks; I watch TV
and tons of it,” and I would blush. Trevor would groan when he saw it on
all day long and try to figure out ways to draw Jesse away from it. This
did not work, so Jesse watched it a great deal for about six months.
Then, just when we were
beginning to wonder if this was a permanent commitment, I decided to
embrace it. I sat with him and we talked about what he loved to watch;
when he went to bed and wanted to discuss dialogue or characters, I
would talk about it with him. At first, I know he thought my embracing
it was strange but after a time he got used to it and stopped giving me
odd looks at I sat with him. I began to realize that it is alright for
him to like what he likes; I love him all the same.
Then his desire to watch TV
began to fade. About two to three months ago, he began his days by not
turning it on. Some days he would even go all day without even thinking
about it. His desire for it waned and he began looking for other things
we could do together and talk about.
Now, he only watches it here and
there and not for long. He has learned that the thing is not as exciting
as the wanting; the power struggle we had over the TV made it so much
more tempting than it needed to be. And he knows he is loved, either
way, so he is free to make the choice he desires.
I have learned something too:
Letting go is the hardest part but the rewards are worth it.
Julie Persons lives on a farm in rural Maine
with her children, husband, and various pets. Her interests include
unschooling, painting, photography, gardening, reading, knitting, and
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