How to Cut Out TV Time Without Tantrums

Updated on July 21, 2010
A.D. asks from Washington, DC
17 answers

Alright so before I get a bunch of negative mommy-bashing comments: i AM aware that the academy of pediatrics suggests children under 2 watch NO television, and children above that age watch less than an hour a day.

My boy is 19 months old and watches TV while he eats breakfast and lunch. We go out every single day for hours and hours, but when he's home he usually asks to watch various shows on Nick Jr. and gets pretty upset when i refuse to turn it on. Partially, I blame my husband: he turns the TV on the second he gets home from work and looks at that as "their" time together (watching cartoons while having a snack and cuddling on the couch while i make dinner or catch up on cleaning). I'm 8 months pregnant, and honestly i enjoy the "down time" that it gives me, but I just wish he could play independently another way so i can rest after our rowdy outdoor adventures every morning and afternoon. He is extremely bright, he says 300+ words and speaks in complete sentences already, he loves books and we read 10 books a day together on average.He also loves to run and play outside (like i previously stated) but it's averaging 99 degrees this summer, and I can only handle that heat for so long each day. Has anyone else successfully "weaned" their child off of nick jr., without being an absolute tyrant about it? I understand that I am the parent and cutting it out cold turkey would be the best way---but i do not believe that he is being a bad kid, and i do believe that i am responsible for these bad habits so i need to fix it in a way that's easy on him. Any suggestions or advice would be great, thanks mamas!

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So What Happened?

These responses are all great! Thanks mamas! I had an epiphany yesterday after I got a few replies that I let other's opinions get to me too much. My sister (who is also my next door neighbor, best friend, and I love her to death!) has 2 kids, a daughter who is my son's age and a 6 year old. She can be very vocal about how awesome of a mother/person she is, and one way of doing this is putting down other people's parenting styles. She would always kind of "tease" my son and I about how he likes to chill in front of the TV and how he gets kind of cranky when he's around her kids too much. My husband and I realized one important thing: our boy is just like us!! We are both pretty introverted and need our "me time". Cooper is the same way, and I love it about him. He doesn't zone out in front of the TV at all, he's always playing with his toys, coloring, doing puzzles, reading books while the tv is on. You guys really are fantastic, I didn't get the judgmental comments like I thought i would! Glad to know there are other moms like me out there :)

Featured Answers



answers from Johnstown on

Yep, tell him the TV's broken and that he'll have to play with blocks til it get fixed :) Still works on my 5 yr olds :)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I tell my daughter "TV is taking a nap. Sorry, but we can't watch it. What else would you like to do?"

3 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Myrtle Beach on

I am confused, if all he watches is Nick Jr, where is the harm? My daughter watches that channel, and sometimes playhouse disney! My daughter has learned (and know what they mean) several spanish words from the shows, learned lots of songs, and even recognizing some letters/numbers! I would say as long you don't have an adult show what is the big deal?! My daughter does NOT sit in front of the tv all day, but we do have tv time! I grew up with tv, so did my husband, and we are just fine!
Good Luck! And congrats on your pregnancy!!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Can you buy him a little preschool type table and put it in your house? You can leave out play-doh, art supplies, tape, colored yarn, large beads to string, dry pasta, glue sticks, paper plates, finger paints, glitter glue, construction paper, etc. If it's out, he may choose to play with all that rather then watch T.V. Also a sink full of water, bubbles and tupper ware never gets old =-)

By the way, I think it's awesome that Dad cuddles with your son even if it is kicking back watching T.V.

I also ditto what Cheryl M. said below.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Cloud on

You could just get rid of cable........ We have ONE tv but we never bought the converter box and don't purchase any cable/etc. So the only "tv" that my kids get to watch are dvds. So we go to the library from time to time and I check out appropriate movies for them! I really do like the nickjr programming and can get those shows AT THE LIBRARY! That way it is easier to limit how much he watches as it can be one movie or just don't visit the library for awhile if you think he's watching too much.

That way when you tell him the tv doesn't work, you won't be lying!

Have other stuff available besides just toys too. Have puzzles, play doh, paper and markers, felt board and pieces, white board and markers, etc.

Our kids are 5 and 3 and they have been playing by themselves for years already. They get to watch tv in the morning before breakfast and that is usually it. They will play for hours off by themselves. A lot of times together now that they are a little older but it used to be by themselves. (And we usually spend 2 to 6 hours a day MINIMUM outside during the summer too! We live on a farm so we have a huge yard with lots of stuff to do.)

And you should sit down with your husband and get him on the same page as you. Or come up with a compromise that you are both happy with. Our kids LOVE their daddy time at night when he comes in from night milking. They go play in the toy room together often. It is very important for them to have that special time with him and watching tv isn't a very good bonding "activity." They really can't TALK and communicate during that........

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

My DD turned 2 in April and we keep the tv on all day. We always have it on Nick jr. Just as background noise (we live in an apt.). She maybe really watches a total of 2-2 1/2 hours a day. I'm a sahm and I need the time to get housework done. She is very smart. Knows all of her colors, most of the letters, and can almost count to 20. We read books all the time about different things. We play outside and take walks everyday. I think the learning shows she watches help her learn by her being able to see and hear again the things I teach her. I think it helps me be a better parent sometimes too. We sing the clean up song from one of the shows when we clean up her toys. I also sing the "Keep Trying" song from Yo Gaba Gaba when she gets frustrated. I am not creative enough to come up with the songs myself so I use the songs from the shows we watch. If this makes me a bad parent then so be it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

If he only watches it at meal times, that is not much.

Just show his age range shows. Or put on learning videos for him.
As an alternative.

Try getting him some puzzles or just play-doh and crayons that he can do himself.
And yes, you are pregnant and need some moments of him just doing something else so you can veg or rest.... while he eats.

He doesn't seem to watch a lot of tv., to me.
And YOU choose what he watches. Not him.

I simply tell my kids NO to some shows and just tell them it is not good for them or it is for OLDER kids. NOT them.
That's it. They understand. And, they ask me, first, if they can watch something. That is the rule and the routine and they know it. Because... it is a 'habit' that has always been in place.

You do do a lot of things with him already... so that's fine. Watching a show on tv while he is having lunch or breakfast, is to me, no biggie.

Then, if you allow him NO t.v..... then, what about you or your Husband? He WILL realize... the disparity in this.

all the best,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I will be the last to judge you for letting your toddler watch television. My kids watch Sprout, Nick Jr., Discovery Kids and Playhouse Disney. They are active and quite smart and often the television is background noise for whatever they're playing inside. Both of them (4 years and 20 months) play independently.

I see NO reason why you can't click it on and cuddle and chill with him after your many adventures. If it was interfering with his learning, language building or being active I'd be the first to say that it's time to turn it off.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boise on

I think that cold turkey would be the easiest on him. In our house we don't have the tv on when the kids are up. Never while my son is up (2 yo), but sometimes we will watch a show while I breastfeed, but the moment my daughter is up and looking around, it is off, or I go to the other room (she is 10 weeks). While it is nice to have the down time, you may need to make it an interactive time to begin with. Try reading a book (you can still cuddle while reading), or playing with him. As he learns how to do this, he will get more independent with it to give you the down time. It also makes the time together so much better and more involved.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

There is no way I would judge you because I LOVE TV and think it can be educational and just fun down time.... as long as you don't over do it. Honestly, my kids watched more than "recommended." I ADMIT IT! If you are monitoring (I think you are safe with Nick Jr) and that's not the only thing they do then I say go for it.

If you want to wean your child off consider taping the shows in intervals you will allow. Then just play the tape. That way the show is off and you didn't "turn it off." A little tricky, but just to get him used to less might be easier. Then later set the timer on the clock. "You can watch tv for 1 hour. When the timer goes off then it will be time to find something else to do." Have something fun planned and allow yourself to catnap on the sofa while he learns from Nick. If he does throw a tantrum you might try telling him if he is a good boy he can watch another hour after dinner. If he throws the tantrum then stay true to your word and don't let the t.v. back on.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

It's hard, but I've done it (several times as needed) cold turkey. It will be a very rough day or two, but then my son DID learn to play and entertain himself with other ways. He always is more pleasant to be around when he HASN'T been in front of the screen (either tv or computer games) and he's 8 now. I dont remember doing this with a toddler though. And your husband will have to be on board too, I think. Otherwise that little bit whets their appetite for more and you're sucked back into using the boob tube.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I have older boys (16,12, &8) but two summers ago the tv thing was out of control. So I put a sign on the tv that said no tv. The kids were a little put out but I didn't argue with them. I let the sign do the talking. Even the neighborhood kids know there was no tv if the sign was up. I didn't leave the sign up all day, just long enough for the kids to play a board game or do some reading or something else. Just a suggestion. And I think it's fine that he and Dad have cuddle time after work.
Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I am thinking his resistance to turning off the TV is more about not wanting his routine changed than about 'needing' TV. Maybe if you slowly changed up the routine to decrease the tv amounts? When he asks for TV, say 'sure, how about one show and then we can play (fill in blank with fun thing like coloring, painting, play doh). I can tell you, I have three kids (6 yr, 3 yr & 8 mo). My oldest and youngest 'zone' on tv, the middle one could not care less....I did nothing different in terms of exposure time, etc....I think some kids just like to have TV as their 'down' time (some husbands too, mine is like yours). I can also tell you that my 6yr old is just now getting better at playing on is own, while my 3yr old has always played well on his own....again, I think it's more a personality thing than a 'being taught to play' thing. One great thing about the fact that he likes TV, you can use it as a reward for things in the future like potty training, etc.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Personally, my son was SO active that the hour on the TV and hour on the 'puter were the ONLY times I got a break.

Like yours, we were physically busy busy busy most of the day, and mentally busy the "rest" of the day (reading -god, kiddo was reading fluently by himself at 3, and doing math by 4-, imaginative play, art, science, music, you name it.) His time on the computer were mentally active for him, and he learned sooooo much from his TV that very very rarely was that even "tune out" time for him. Mostly he was just soaking up the info like a sponge. What WASN'T educational tv -and a lot if not most was- got almost immediately sucked into his imaginative play.)

So I'm definitely the minority, I'm sure... but I have always found TV & 'puters to be a STELLAR tool.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Well are you asking about the tantrum you think you'll get from your son or the tantrum you think you'll get from your husband? lol.
Seriously, I'm an adult and this year I was a full-time WM and went back to grad school. I had to limit MY OWN tv watching and I was a bit cranky at having to miss Private Practice (I couldn't cut out Grey's Anatomy though!!!!!!!!).

There isn't going to be any way to avoid him being angry that you took something away that he enjoys and since he doesn't have the advanced verbal skills to calmly say "mother, I enjoyed watching my televisions shows each day and now I am feeling deprived. Could we negotiate?" What you get, instead is a tantrum.

Whatever you do, you have to think about it beforehand, figure out what you are going to do to establish a new routine for him and then stick with it relentlessly.
As you know (both toddlers & husbands) are notoriously headstrong and will take any sign of weakness or giving-in as their new threshold or baseline for how long their fit has to last until you give in to their demands.

So, bottom line..... TV is not going to hurt your son, as long as it is supplemented with other things and you aren't letting him watch stuff that is inappropriate. (I know - a gazillion moms will disagree). However, if you decide to go cold turkey make it non-emotional for you REGARDLESS of how emotional he gets. Firmly say "we are going to do arts and crafts now" or whatever you decide will occupy the time that he used to spend watching tv. You may have to say it 5 or 6 times before he gets the idea that you are not going to turn the tv back on.

Some kids can't play independently until after 3 (or never). Some can. If he isn't playing independently right now, you need to be careful that you don't start a routine that involves him spending increased time with you and dad right now that will get pulled away in 2 months when the baby comes. That will just up the resentfullness on the little guys part!!!!!

Good luck.



answers from Norfolk on

We pretty much gave up tv about 7 months ago. We do not have cable or satellite but do have a converter box so when my son watched tv it was either a dvd or pbs (which I have no problem with). I do not think tv is evil and agree with the other moms that is can actually provide great downtime and be educational. My issue is I am an all or nothing chick - I have a real hard time limiting the tv time. I found that if the tv was on and I turned it off it was an argument and then he would turn it back on when I was not looking and it was just very frustrating. My son is now 3 and my other is 2. It is also quite frustrating because my two year old will not leave the tv alone if it is on - he keeps changing the channel and adjusting the volume. So to alleviate all this I just said no tv - occasionally we will watch a video or show but now that I have cut it out when they do ever watch tv it is a treat. My two were never ones to really sit down and watch the shows anyway. Yes there are absolutely days that I would love to turn the boob tube on and just let them watch it but I feel they play much better without the tv. I think my husband missing snuggling up with them and watching tv in the evenings sometimes but we have really adjusted our schedule so that there is not really time in the evening. We eat dinner, bath, and then we read books from the library or if early we play for a little while. I hope some of this may have helped.



answers from Washington DC on

you don't have to turn it off if you don't turn it on. maybe pick a meal, lunch or breakfast and try eating together instead of having the tv on. then you can keep some tv but not all. it won't take long for that to become the new routine.

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