During years of work in the education field, I have found that good routines are great for establishing good habits in kids. If your kids have bad TV habits and they watch for too long or too many unhealthy shows, a good routine can help them stay away from the TV and choose more beneficial activities.
Routines are a good way to give kids a stable atmosphere and make them feel certain in their life. The massive change in routine is one of the reasons kids’ world is so shaken and they tend to watch too much TV when their parents go through a relationship breakdown.
I think a good routine is a great parenting technique not only for overcoming the TV addiction but for many other habits you want to instill in your kids. An established routine encapsulates many of your rules and boundaries. If you are a regular reader in this site, you already know I believe that rules give kids a sense of certainty and define to them the safety limits in the world they live in. Therefore, a routine plays a big part in making your kids feel safe.
How to establish a routine
Kids who grow up with clear and consistent routines (not cruel, not hard, not too many, but clear and consistent) are generally easy to parent, because every time they feel bored or need to make a decision, are very clear about the “right” thing to do.
Here is a list of rules that can make life easy for kids and keep them off junk TV and offer them healthy alternatives:
- Homework first
This routine was and still is a very helpful way for me to make sure the kids are aware of their responsibilities. Watching TV is a privilege and they can start watching only when they have finished doing everything that is more important.
As your kids grow, chores can be added to the list of things that must be completed before privilege time – putting dishes away, folding laundry, helping younger kids with tasks, weeding and so on.
- Meals are social occasions
When we eat, we do our best to eat together and have a conversation. Watching TV is a distraction, so we do not have a TV in the dining room.
I find this rule very important. Every time I go to other people’s houses and see how much they fight over this, it motivates me to keep this rule.
At one of our family meetings, my kids complained I did not allow them to mix dinner and TV. They thought it would be OK to deviate from the routine from time to time, so we agreed that once a week, we would bring dinner to the living room and watch a recorded show together (Australian Idol or So You Think You Can Dance). I agreed to try this new arrangement, but while the older kids (then 17 and 11) were OK with one show a week, the younger (then 5), kept nagging to do it again every evening. She is now 8 years old, but if we watch something together during dinner, the following evening she still tries to convince us to do it again.
- Getting dinner ready together
This is a very good way to keep your kids with you and to keep them busy doing something valuable and bonding, instead of watching TV while Mom or Dad prepares dinner. At our house, this is the routine and it saves us parents from feeling like we are taken for granted and helps our kids do something much more valuable than watching TV.
- Clearing the table and cleaning the kitchen together
This is another routine that keep kids doing something productive and bonding instead of watching TV. You can rotate the different tasks to keep things fair, but “if you eat, you clear” until everything is back in order.
- Getting ready for school before TV
This routine can save you lots of trouble every morning. Brushing teeth, getting dressed and having breakfast (I am sure you know how big the list is) must be done before the TV can be turned on. Do you know how many parents fight with their kids in the morning to get to school on time? Do you know how many of those kids sit in front of the TV waiting for their parents to dress them, brush their hair, make their food and even feed them? The routine of getting ready is essential in any kids’ responsibility development and even a 3-year-old can take some of this responsibility.
- Sleep time
If you stick to this, it will save you lots of arguments with kids. At our house, 8pm is the time to go to bed (most days, our kids get up at 6:30, because Tsoof has rehearsals around 7:15 and 3 times a week, they get home at 5pm). Therefore, every show beyond 8pm is out of the question and if there is something the kids really want to watch, we record it. No show in the world must be seen at the time it is on TV. If you raise kids within a strict sleep routine, they do not form a TV addiction, because they know they can always watch programs later. Sleep is more important than TV. Period.
- Early Sundays
Since Mondays are hard days for kids (and their parents) and because the weekend is always out-of-routine days, we finish everything by 4pm on Sundays and are back home to prepare for Monday. When we go on a trip, we make sure to get home around 4pm. When we are invited to friends’ house, we leave on time. We even try to avoid inviting people for Sunday afternoons, because sometimes, people stay late and we cannot help our kids get ready for bed and school the next day. We also aim to get to bed early on Sundays. We may not go to bed early, but we have a relaxed time together and make sure the uniforms are ready, the bags are ready and even think about what to take for lunch to make the transition easier. Again, when there is a show on Sunday night the kids want to watch, we record it.
Join me next time to the next chapter of TV Diet – Healthy Alternatives – the best ways I have found to keep kids away from the TV by making life interesting and fun.
Happy routine setting,
This post is part of the series TV Diet:
- TV Diet (1): Too Much TV?
- TV Diet (2): Health Concerns
- TV Diet (3): Kids Behaving Badly
- TV Diet (4): Kids’ Outlook on Life
- TV Diet (5): Parent-Child Relationships
- TV Diet (6): Disposable relationships
- TV Diet (7): Learning and Education
- TV Diet (8): How Much TV is Too Much?
- TV Diet (9): Kids’ Personalities
- TV Diet (10): Parents’ Influence
- TV Diet (11): The Right TV diet
- TV Diet (12): Junk TV
- TV Diet (13): Raising Aware Kids
- TV Diet (14): Cutting Junk TV
- TV Diet (15): Routine
- TV Diet (16): Healthy Alternatives
- TV Diet (17): More Healthy Alternatives
- TV Diet (18): Conclusion