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No TV: Breaking the Television Habit
By Armin Brott

Dear Mr. Dad: Help! My kids are hopeless television addicts. All they want to do is sit in front of the tube-even on the most gorgeous days. What can I do to break this habit?

A: Nothing can drive harried parents crazier faster than seeing their children sprawled out in front of the TV on a beautiful, sunny day. After spending the day cooped up in the office, it seems incomprehensible to most adults that the kids could be inside, watching television on a day when they could be outside doing pretty much anything else. Even sitting under a tree and daydreaming would be better.

But as we know, television is almost hypnotic in its ability to capture the attention of young viewers.

A few weeks ago, one of my own children participated in a program at school to not watch television for a whole week. I could see the fear in her eyes, but I was thrilled. Fortunately, the challenge came during a week when I could spend a little less time working than usual, so I was eager to do my part.

As part of the challenge, my daughter had to come up with a list of 20 things to do instead of watch TV, playing video games, or another else that involves sitting in front of a tube doing nothing.

Here are just a few of the suggestions that she and the other kids in her class came up with as alternatives to television:

* Build a model. When was the last time you built a model? Have you ever done it? It's a great parent-child activity that can be stretched out over several evenings.
* Work on puzzles. This is something kids of all ages can enjoy. I heard from one dad that he and his son went out and bought a 2,000 piece Star Wars puzzle and spent the entire weekend putting it together. When they were done, they took it apart and donated it to a local children's hospital.
* Fly kites.
* Play board games.
* Play cards.
* Get caught up on all that piano practice.
* Play chess. Everyone should learn how to play at some point in their live.
* Go canoeing.
* Go on a hike.
* Ride bikes.
* Walk up to the neighborhood store for an ice cream.
* Make a movie of your own. Two boys in the neighborhood did this. One wrote the own script, the other created a sound stage in the garage. Okay, so this technically violated the "no TV" rule, but it seemed like a worthwhile exception.
* Read books. Read a few more.
* Draw a picture or color.
* Visit the library.

Of course very few of the kids did everything on their list, but the amazing thing was that except for the first day, there were absolutely no complaints about missing all that television. We're thinking of trying if for two weeks next time.


A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the author of The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, Father for Life, The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be; A Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years, Throwaway Dads, and The Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a Partner. He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. Armin serves on the board of advisors of the Men's Health Network in Washington, DC. He also hosts "Positive Parenting", a nationally distributed, weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com.

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