Broken TV
Image via Leslie Duss on Flickr

[twitter]The thing about threatening to punish your kids is .. you have to follow through. Saying you will do something and not doing it is a sure fire path to failure as a parent. The kids will see right through your veiled threats and own you.

So, when you say you’re going to take tv away for a week in a fit of rage, frustrated that your kids spent the entire weekend poking each other, not listening, and being belligerent, you’d better pull the screens for the entire week.

That was our house last weekend. That was my threat, and the next week I would be faced with the follow through: no tv for a week. Hours later, as I lay in bed thinking of the week ahead without screens I realized the true meaning of “this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.”

Well, that’s what I thought anyway. I was dreading the bored whines from my boys. I was already anticipating their inability to get along without something to sit and watch and how they would prod and poke each other. I was already trying to find a way to get out of the punishment while still saving face.

And then the magic happened. The boys didn’t poke and prod, they got creative.

The first day they retreated after school to the playroom upstairs and created their own “Kids’ Club” modeled after the activity center they had visited on our February break to Los Cabos. While I was downstairs pecking away at chores, I could hear them chatting away. I asked what Kids Club was, but they muttered something about “the first rule of Kids’ Club ..” 😉

They brought out the colouring books and sat at the kitchen table scribbling away. They built LEGO models and invented new stories and adventures.



Then we brought out books and started reading. Then we played board games. It’s amazing how competitive I Spy Go Fish can be.

One night we brought out the bikes and went for a walk and ride after dinner and played at our favorite park. They went back through their Kiwi Crates and Little Passport archives and reinvented new ways to play.

The biggest challenge of the week was the Professional Day at school where they had to come to my work and spend 3 hours in the control room with me while I was on air. On a regular day, that would have meant headphones and loaded iPads. They’d just sit in a corner and watch movies while I would do my radio show. But this was a Screen Free Week and that meant .. LEGO and colouring books and some goofing off with daddy on the air.

charlie on air xl103

charlie on the floor

Before I knew it, an entire week had gone by. There was no Survivor night. There was no Word Girl before dinner. There was no Daniel Tiger at breakfast. There was no Minecraft. There was random role playing. There was going outside.

And there was a marked change in their behaviour. I had thought there would be poking and bothering because that’s what usually happens when they sit on the couch and fight over who sits where and which show to watch. With no screen to fight over whose app they would play, or whose turn it was to pick the show, they had to look to each other for entertainment. They were both in the boat of no screens together and the only way to get out of the week alive would be to entertain each other.

It was a great experiment. And one that had the whole family spending more time together actually doing things, smiling, laughing, and having fun. Now this week we are back to Survivor nights on the couch, and the boys are Minecrafting, but .. not as much. That week away had them rediscover all the different ways they can entertain themselves at home. No longer are they counting down the seconds until 4p to turn the tv on in the afternoon, or flipping it on first thing in the morning.

We’re not screen free, but we’ve got less screens. And it didn’t hurt a bit.


March 23 – 29 is Unplug and Play Week with Participaction. Make the pledge to #unplugandplay!

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1 Comment

  1. Ken Carfagno March 26, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    Great experiment. It’s funny, but we have seen this phenomenon in reverse. Our kids watch 2 – 3 hours per week and are always finding creative things to do. THEN… we go to Nana and Pop-Pop’s house and we give in a bit to the Zombie box for a weekend. When we get home, the kids are restless and have attitudes. TV is like a drug. Thanks for sharing this, it got me thinking…

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