The way I went about radically reducing TV for Miss K was to cut it out of our daily rhythm immediately rather than attempting to reduce it gradually. Sometimes I find it helpful to have self-made 'rules' to motivate myself to parent the way that I want to. I knew that this would be the only way I could make a positive change for the sake of Miss K's independent play at this point in her life. So, once I had decided that Miss K would be TV- free six days a week, it started right at that moment. There was no putting it on hold, the TV was off and that was that. And there was absolutely no bending that rule for me. Even if Miss K was unwell or there were some other stresses, TV was simply not an option.
TV was a habit for Miss K and a crutch for me. The first week was challenging but it did get easier day by day. Miss K was just three years old at the time, but I think, in many ways, her relatively young age was actually a blessing. She asked several times during those first days to be allowed to watch TV, but she didn't actually pester me as much as I thought she might. I simply explained that we weren't watching TV everyday anymore and stated it in quite a factual, no-nonsense tone of voice. To begin with, I would re-direct her and distract her so she would forget about TV as an option of 'something to do'. The 'TV-detox' probably took about three weeks.
I knew that once I had turned off the TV, she would need some help in learning how to play independently. I knew this would be a gradual transition, it wasn't going to happen over-night. I wanted to make myself emotionally available to her at all times, if she needed a cuddle, we would make time for cuddles, if she wanted to talk to me while I was doing a job, she could chatter away and I would happily talk with her. I just wasn't going to be her constant playmate anymore. I wasn't going to play the role of entertainer to my child all day. I know not every parent would agree, some people think that it is part of the role as a full-time mother to entertain the children, but this isn't the way I wanted to parent. I wanted Miss K to have some sort of self-reliance and, more pressingly for me, to be able to be access her imagination and ability to play/create. I wanted to take a step back so she could be in charge of her play, in charge of how she chooses to spend her own time, without the constant input from adults. I thought this was crucial for her development.
For more on radically reducing TV please see:
Radically reduced screen time.
Why I chose to radically reduce TV for our children.
To see how I encouraged Miss K to play independently, please pop back here next week.