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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Getting The Box Out Of The House

Written by  Sherri Mandell

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I came home from work one afternoon to find my 12-year-old son chipping away at our full-frost freezer which was so overloaded with ice that we couldn't fit another package of anything in it. My son was going at the ice with gusto, banging with an assortment of implements -- a screwdriver, a can opener and a corkscrew. He was happy. The floor was a mess, there was ice and water everywhere, but for the first time in weeks, there was room in the freezer.

Another day I found my eight-year-old washing windows with the window cleaner. Every window and mirror in the house.

My four-year-old loves to do dishes.

What is the secret of my kids' industry and initiative?

TV.

We don't have one.

We don't have a video either.

TV-less Kids = Creative Kids

My kids are forced to create their own entertainment. Now you may not think that cleaning windows and mirrors or defrosting a refrigerator are entertaining, but my kids do.

My kids also make bracelets from glue they've dried and rolled on their hands. They make necklaces from cereal. They bake brownies, put on plays, play darts, punch a punching bag, ride their bikes, fight and argue like other kids, peel carrots, scramble eggs, and write on themselves.

I don't have to try to inspire their creativity anymore. They come up with these activities by themselves.

What my kids don't do: recount the plot of TV shows, put posters of their favorite TV stars on the walls of their bedrooms, idolize move stars.

It's not that we're Puritans. We're not trying to isolate them from the world. We read newspapers and have magazines in the house; we even have a computer. But we have found that the best way to allow them to be kids is to get the box out of the house.

Now, many of you are saying to yourselves: But I monitor their TV.

Good for you. I couldn't. I found the TV too alluring, too irresistible. And not being good at setting limits in the first place, I don't want something else I have to monitor.

The box made them want to shop, grow up, be a smart ass, be a wise guy, make fun of things. Dress in cool clothes, be violent, have sex.

The kids still manage to see their share of TV at other people's houses.

Now when I walk into a house and see the kids in front of the TV, it looks to me like the kids are on heroin. They are transfixed, quiet, drugged, lolled out on the couch.

My household, on the other hand, is usually noisy, wild and chaotic.

I must admit. TV is a temptation.

But I don't want to fill my kids with the garbage in it.

And if I don't have anything to say to the guys at work when they discuss last night's TV show, well...I can just wink and say I was doing something more exciting...

Last modified on Sunday, 29 May 2011 07:43
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Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell has a Master's degree in Creative Writing and has taught writing at the University of Maryland and Penn State University. She is the author of the book Writers of the Holocaust. She has written articles for the Washington Post. She is married with four children

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We Crawled Out of the Box:
The Twelve Steps to Ending TV Addiction

By Sara Eisen

In Good Housekeeping late last year, Peggy Noonan wrote an article bemoaning the level of TV addiction in our nation. She found herself, however, unable to pull the plug -- mostly because she couldn't stand the thought of missing her favorite shows. She requested a 12-step program to help her -- and other families pull the plug.

Peggy, here it is.

  1. We admitted that we were powerless over our lifeless potato bodies when faced with a choice between watching people do things -- or actually doing them ourselves.

  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than Regis Philbin could restore us to sanity.

  3. Made a decision to turn the remote control over to the care of our spouse, who is thrilled.

  4. Made a searching and fearless trip to the scale after consuming a pint of cookies and cream in front of The Practice.

  5. Admitted to our dog, to ourselves and to our children that we watched Jerry Springer when no one was home.

  6. Were entirely ready to have our spouse cancel cable.

  7. Humbly asked him/her not to, though, you know, for the Discovery channel. (Request refused.)

  8. Made a list of all books we had not read, and became willing to not see the made-for-TV versions of those we had.

  9. Read those books, except when to do so would be even more insulting to our intelligence than TV.

  10. Continued to consume a pint of cookies and cream, though admittedly while reading a book.

  11. Sought through meditation to improve our contact with Dylan McDermott. (We missed him, OK?)

  12. Having read a few books as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to our children, but they were watching TV.
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