Take It To The Limit

by sarah on May 13, 2009

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Struggles are part of parenthood.  We all have particular struggles and internal battles.  Unfortunately, something that happens very often is that we parents don’t like to admit our struggles.  Perhaps this is done for self-preservation, and perhaps this is done to avoid making others uncomfortable.  We like to be self-confident, sure, and positive.  But I personally think it can do us a world of good to admit our parenting struggles.  It lets it be known that struggles are universal, and that to have them does not mean we’re bad parents.  We are all just human.

I’m not perfect.  I have doubts.  I have struggles.  They may not be something anybody else is struggling with,  but they are no less troublesome for me.

I have a huge struggle with technological limits and balance.

For example, a large issue for me is the television.  My children are 7 ½ and 4, and they watch no TV.   We own a TV, but we have no cable.  The television has just never been an entertainment option for them.  Which I realize on one hand is admirable.  Instead of watching TV, they read, they play, they pretend.  But am I too strict?  I know it is entirely possible to restrict TV usage without creating couch potatoes;  I have friends who do it successfully.  But I struggle with it.   When does some TV become too much TV?  Would it be horrible to let them watch a movie once or twice a month?   As a result of my admittedly black-and-white, all-or-nothing approach to this, my kids don’t watch any.   Is that just as unhealthy?  Are my kids missing out?  Will they turn to TV as grown-ups because they got so little in their youth?

We don’t have any kind of gaming system: no Wii, no XBOX, no Playstation.  My kids don’t have DS’s.  I feel confident about that choice, but now that my kids are getting older, will they start to notice that they don’t have these things?  Will the systems become the forbidden fruit?   Will my kids be jealous?  I struggle with compromise on this issues.  Are they entirely bad 100% of the time?

We are a computer family and my son, the oldest of my two kids, is allowed 30-45 minutes of computer time on Saturday and Sunday.   Should he be allowed more?  As the world is becoming more and more computer-driven and computer literacy is critical, am I being too stingy with the computer time?

I know there’s a balance.  I can say all I want to that moderation of all things is the key.  But I really struggle with finding that balance.

But I know I’m making some progress: I actually allowed my kids to eat a bit of their Easter candy this year!  I made totally unhealthy muffins a couple of months ago that had absolutely NO wheat germ or flax in them!

Perhaps there’s hope for me yet!

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sarah (35 Posts)

Sarah has been involved with API since 2002. She is the mother of two school-aged kids.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole May 13, 2009 at 7:41 am

As I go down this parenting path one of the things I’m learning is that nothing is forever. There have been times in my children’s lives when they watched TV all day long. There are also long stretches where they watch none at all. Same with candy, computer, other junk food – everything. Balance to me is accepting that life ebbs and flows and that nothing is set in concrete. I don’t think that a period of too much X will ruin anything when balanced with a period of something different 🙂


justine May 13, 2009 at 2:12 pm

We also have forgone the cable and I DO think that the children have benefited from that choice overall. We do make exceptions to watch some shows (on DVD, or on the internet) that we find enjoyable as a family. Our biggest objection is not television necesarily– it is advertising. So, the shows without the commercials is just perfect for us! And we get to choose the time that is best for us to spend that time as a family. And we go thru cycles…we will watch a whole series (our latest was The Secret Life of Plants from BBC) and then take a break for a few weeks or even months. Our viewing is often dictated by the season, we have about 9 months of winter here, so getting out everyday is a bit ambitious!

We struggled with the low-tech thing when it came to gadgets, phones and games, too. We had to decide whether we could try to always use them consciously and thoughtfully…and whether they added or detracted from our goals as a family. Obtaining the latest and greatest technology to simply “have it” or to “not feel left behind” was not of interest to us, and our ultimate goal is always to be a better, stronger, happier family, not to shun things for the sake of being purists! We did finally get a Wii, and only get games that promote physical fitness and that can be played by most members of the family as a group or team.

I do think that moderation and thoughtfulness are the two most useful tools when it comes to any parenting choices we make. It sounds like you are well on your way to finding that balance…it is a journey and one that takes a lifetime of parenting to get a grasp on! We’ll probably never get it “right” but will always be working towards doing the best we can.


Kayris May 14, 2009 at 1:03 pm

We are also a no cable family and people sometimes act like I said we don’t have indoor plumbing. It has worked remarkably well for us. I had said that maybe we would get cable when the kids were older, for the children’s programming, but we’ve been doing fine with PBS and DVDs, and at this point have no plans to ever get cable.


Nancy May 15, 2009 at 6:02 pm

I stumbled on this website in my wanderings. When my kids were small we lived in Vermont in an area where there wasn’t any cable. We did get a few stations and I monitored what shows they could see but we usually made the weekly trip into town to pick up movies. There they picked age appropriate entertainment, that was for the most part healthy in it’s content. They spent lots of time out in nature, running and playing with friends and we had daily craft time and any kid in the neighborhood was welcome. We shopped at the “Re” (recycle) store and they had to use their imagination and creativity in picking out the cheap items they wanted to make. We never had playstation games either, but we put on our own plays and had neighborhood festivals. As they got older and attended school, they were introduced to the computer age and enjoyed it and have excelled. They played computer games with their friends and another aspect of their personality grew. Again, as they grew older, I still monitored from a distance and gave them freedom to discover and understand their world and if intervention was needed it was given. They have to learn to make their own choices before they leave home and will have to rely on the knowledge they have accumulated to this point. I believe it is imperative to love them, especially when they are the biggest pains in the world, share, create,care and laugh. Talk until you are blue in the face and then talk some more. Tell them about your life so they know you as a person not just as a parent. They have to know you are real and have had troubles too, tell them just because you are older it does not mean you know everything, but you can learn together. They are your past, present and future.


Stacy (mama-om) May 20, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Ha! I just got three books from the library — Unplug Your Kids, Four Arguments For the Elimination of Television, and The Plug-in Drug.

I have gone back and forth on the issue… and the amount of watching has ebbed and flowed. Sometimes it was a 20-minute video every day (I first started to use DVDs when my oldest was three and I was trying to work from home) and sometimes it is no videos for weeks, even months.

Lately, my DH shows the kids videos on the computer, and I really don’t like the idea of my youngest watching ANYTHING. (By the way, my kids are almost 6 and 2 1/2). My DH and I go back and forth about this. He always agrees not to show them videos and then my oldest tells me what they watched. Then my DH tells me not to worry, that he doesn’t show them much (maybe 20 minutes a few times a week) but I sort of freak out because I’d like it to be zero, especially for my youngest. Yet, I also dislike arguing with my DH about it and having the same conversation over and over.

One thing that the books provided me with was a sense of how LITTLE my kids watch, compared to the average. I take heart knowing that we walk in the woods every week, go outside in the yard and garden almost daily, draw, paint, write and read, play, etc. But I still, like you, want to find a balance for our family, and even a little feels like too much to me sometimes.


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