Looking back before I found RIE we used toddler screen time all wrong… You name it we did it. We used it to pass the time when my husband or I were exhausted and just needed a break, as a way to sneak out of the house without a meltdown, as way to distract my daughter to put her in a car seat if she didn’t want to go or any other task she wasn’t in the mood for. My daughter was so obsessed with the show Peppa Pig one of her first two word sentences was “watch pig”. I’m slightly embarrassed about that now because I thought that was just “normal.”
We decided to eliminate my daughter’s screen time habit after having a guest over one evening and my daughter could not stop obsessing over Peppa Pig “watch pig, watch pig” she said over and OVER again. She FINALLY did stop after a huge meltdown. Yes it was slightly embarrassing for me but I knew my daughter was not feeling comfortable having to melt down about a show she wanted to watch. I told my husband later that evening that we needed to eliminate screen time cold turkey. Our decision to do so was based off what seemed to be obsessive behavior over the screen and we knew we did not want her to have that kind of relationship with any device. Now we are about a month in from no screen time and I have seen such change in my daughter’s behavior. She is more calm, seeks out playing/reading more than ever and the meltdowns due to wanting to watch are slim to none. Here are the three tips to eliminate screen time that really helped us.
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Three Tips for Eliminating Screen Time
- Confidence: When TV is asked by your son/daughter, clearly and confidently reply that you understand his/her request but we are not watching TV anymore it is not good for us. It’s important to be confident in your delivery on this message and when your toddler asks again you confidently reply with a similar response. I found this quote from Janet Lansbury that was really helpful to frame my mindset when delivering this message “If we come from a place of confidence in our decision, our child will probably still object strongly for a bit, but underneath that there will be a lot of relief. Mommy’s got my back. She took charge. And even, she cared enough to do something that was very hard for her. She’s my confident leader.”
- Respectful Acknowledgment: After observing your child after you deliver the message that he will not be able to watch TV or any other device, simply acknowledge how he is reacting without placing any judgement on him. Stating something like this “I see you are very upset about not being able to watch TV” no more explanation is needed at this point as he is needing to process what is going on, in his own time. It was also important for me to come from a place of respect while acknowledging my daughter’s frustration, this comes out in your tone and the way you deliver the message. Looking back, I really felt my daughter thought I understood her and what she was going through.
- Offer to “Play” his favorite show vs watch: This was a big one for us and I have to to give credit to my husband for thinking of this. In our case, my daughter was obsessed with watching Peppa so instead of watching we would offer for her to PLAY with Peppa. We have a little set of Peppa Pig like this ONE. When my daughter asks to watch we follow tips one and two and if available, ask her if she would like to play with Peppa instead. About 99% of the time she agree to play Peppa as an alternative.
I will say that the first two weeks of eliminating screen time was tough and yes there were some days where we just wanted give in. What helped me was to think that this season of life will soon pass and what is really important is that we just get through it. This is also not to say that we eventually won’t re-introduce screen time with her when we feel she is ready. It’s just in our home we felt it was necessary for her emotional health to not watch any screens during this time in her life.