One thing is for sure, this strategy of removing television has made it extra difficult to avoid comparing the intelligence of other kids to my own. There’s an inherent danger with plotting your child’s literacy on a grid against her peers because it’s quite easy to cross the line into jealousy if she doesn’t excel or gloating if she does.
That being said, I’m writing this to compare my children to themselves. We often highlight the achievements of our children and leave their faults unspoken, and the reason probably comes down to the fact that we want to take responsibility for their successes and not for their failures. Ultimately, both the best and worst traits of our children are likely a reflection of our own assets and liabilities as parents, and we might as well come to grips with our influences so that we can do our best to adjust.
In the past two weeks, my kids have only been offered two hours of television per weekend. Some people do zero TV and see results, some people do more TV and see results, we are doing a strict TV diet, which has been working for our family.
Sasha (age 5) has shown the most improvement in her literacy. She went from being illiterate two weeks ago to reading the entirety of “Hop On Pop” over Skype to her grandma a few days ago.
Juliet (age 2.5) has had a tougher time learning her letters, but she’s made a ton of progress from her previous alphabet ignorance. The first letters she learned were J-O-B-S (if only Obama could assimilate those letters); we’ve also been seeing success with T-H-X. Recently, she’s stumbled on the vowels A & E, confusing the two even when we’ve just worked on one or the other. We haven’t even tried most of the others.
What I’ve realized is that I need to let Juliet learn at her own pace. The average child begins learning and understanding alphabet letters around age 3 or in pre-school. There’s this idea that many parents have in their heads that literacy MUST come early, that precocious literacy will predict future success, and that it’s fair to compare our children to outliers like Mozart and other geniuses. Really now, we can hammer our kids brains like a sculptor does a bronze statue, or we can nurture them at a fair and reasonable pace like a gardener and his plants. Both tactics will get results, but one will make your kid a lot happier (perhaps healthier).
One other thing, the moderate success we’ve had in literacy is merely because I’ve reshuffled my priorities and started focusing on educating them. Turning off the television was not a magical panacea that fixed everything, nor did it create shock waves of resentment and confusion.
Banning TV is not something that I recommend for everyone. I’m one of those people that needs to give 100% commitment to a project because when I leave myself a loophole, I sometimes lack the self-discipline to see it through.
Sasha and Juliet, by the way, have not missed it. Other than the occasional request to watch Scooby Doo, they have not even shown visible signs of missing the TV in our family room. The cable guy came and pulled the plug, but we’re still breathing. We’ve just been spending more time making pillow forts, cardboard clubhouses, and playing board games. Life could be worse.