When I wasn’t a Mom and saw parents feeding their child while showing some cartoons or videos on the mobile phone to them, I would immediately nudge my husband and say, “Did you see what’s going on there? That’s so sad and bad to look at! I’m telling you, our child would never be dependent on videos to have food.” And, I would make a very ‘I’m-so-proud-and-confident-that-I-won’t-be-a-mom-of-that-kind’ face to my husband!
Then, I became a Mom. For about a year, everything went fine. My son didn’t know what a TV really meant and he ate all his food- enjoying the birds, airplanes, kids playing in the garden and so on.
By the time he was about a year and three months old, he started getting attracted to the sounds, music, fast moving pictures etc. that the TV served him. With 6 adults in the house watching something or the other on TV all the time, it was impossible for me to keep him ‘totally’ away from TV, and, unfortunately, I gave in.
But, I tried my best to be a good mom, and exposed him to only nursery rhymes on the TV, thanks to Active Fun Learn! Three months passed and things changed. The moment he would see the food plate in my hand, he’d pull the corner of my t-shirt, take me to the TV room and point towards the TV to express his interest in watching TV while I fed him. Though initially he wasn’t the type who wouldn’t have food till you don’t switch on the TV; but he soon became one…
And there it was! I too became one of those Moms in the rat race who fed their kids while making them watch Nursery rhymes on TV. And, honestly speaking: “I couldn’t help!” I tried my best to give him controlled exposure by letting him watch only nursery rhymes on Active Fun Learn or the Baby TV, but yes, he was watching TV almost every meal while having food.
Not just TV, he also started developing a liking for the games and movies that his Dad played on the iPad. Soon, the attraction towards mobile phones also poured in. Just like all other kids of his age, he too figured out unlocking the phone, opening the image files and even playing kid videos on YouTube.
At times, I’d feel it’s getting over the top and I would just literally ‘fight’ with him to not switch on the TV while he ate, snatch away the iPad from his Dad when I saw my little one peeping into it to play games and switch off the Wi-fi when I saw him enjoying YouTube videos all by himself. Things would be sober for a few hours or days, but unknowingly the TV-iPad-Phone monster would slip in somehow and he would be back to the evil habit of sticking to the screens all the time.
This on and off game went on for a year and just about a month back, I felt that I had to put my foot down and do something about it. I couldn’t tolerate his watching TV for over two hours in a day, watching cartoon videos on my phone or playing games (so what if educational) on the iPad!
I thought, thought and thought.
It was impossible to remove the culprit i.e., the TV, the iPad or the phone from the house. Totally impossible!
What could I do then?
One night, while I was preparing the bed, I saw my son, sneaked up into one corner of the room, watching a nursery rhyme on my phone in the dark and my bulb lit up! I acted (read: over-acted) as if I am experiencing a severe pain in my hand and sat on the bed lifelessly.
My son immediately came up to me and asked me, “मम्मा! तुमको क्या हो गया?“[Mumma, what happened to you?]
I said, “Because you’re watching so many videos on the phone, I’m falling ill! Now I’ll have to go to the doctor and he’ll ask me to go to the jungle and pluck out three strands of hair from the dangerous lion’s body!” (Yes, I did say that! :D)
My son, highly confused, immediately held my hand worriedly and said, “मम्मा, तुमको जाना पड़ेगा? जंगल जाना पड़ेगा? तुमको दुःख हो जायेगा? Dangerous lion से?” [Mumma, you’ll have to go to the jungle? You’ll get hurt by the dangerous lion?]
I, made a crying face and answered, “Yes shona! Please put away the mobile and don’t watch videos or Baby TV from now on. Or else I’ll have to head to the jungle!”
Voila! The trick worked! I also gave him a mantra (I don’t know how much of it he understood) which said, “No TV! No iPad! No Phone!” He put away the phone and immediately ran to his Dad to tell him that I was unwell and I might have to go to the jungle if he watched videos or the TV. He also ran to everybody in the house and narrated this incident to them and repeated the ‘No TV! No iPad! No Phone!’ mantra to them!
That was ‘the’ day and till today, (it’s been over a month now) and my son has stopped harassing me to put on the TV or videos on YouTube or to let him play games on the iPad!
He eats food with all of us at the dining table and if his Dad uses the iPad he warns him saying, “पापा, तुम iPad करोगे तो मम्मा को जंगल जाना पड़ेगा!” [Papa, if you use the iPad, Mumma will have to go to the jungle!] Also, when I use my phone he tells me, “मम्मा, तुम वीडियो देखोगी तो तुमको ही जंगल जाना पड़ेगा!” [Mumma, if you watch videos, you’ll yourself have to go to the jungle!]
To some of you reading this, it might sound funny or stupid or useless even! But, trust me ladies, this trick did work for me. I agree that I used fear appeal to get things right but I believe that I used it in the correct quantity and the result I derived out of it was superb and great and mind-blowing! So, I definitely don’t regret scaring my son about his mom going to the jungle to see the lion!
But, yes, new problems did emerge! ‘Sweet’ problems though! You know which ones? These ones:
- My in laws now can’t watch TV without getting threatened about their daughter-in-law going to the jungle!
- My husband can’t play games or watch movies on the iPad.
- I can no longer leave him watching Baby TV or watching nursery rhymes on the phone for hours and finish off my important chores.
- I can’t Skype with my parents on the iPad.
- I can’t use my phone (in my son’s presence) to check my mails, messages or to watch videos.
- My son creates havoc in the house for more hours in a day now.
My son’s freer and more attention hungry now as he doesn’t have the good old TV or phone to babysit him. But, this has been a boon in disguise for me. Earlier, after coming back from school, he would finish his pre-lunch snack in front of the TV, but now, he does that while playing with me. I spend about 1.5 hours with only him and it is the best of the Mumma-Son time of the day! Even I myself didn’t know that playing with my child without having the TV going on in front of us or without my mobile phone by my side, beeping every two minutes with a message – would be so relaxing and rewarding! In the evenings, instead of the TV accompanying him for dinner, his Dad does and he more than lovingly spends time with him chatting, playing, making faces and doing all sorts of fun things!
Also, it’s not that I don’t expose him to the TV at all. Yes, he hasn’t used the iPad or my phone for weeks now, but there are days when he watches TV for a while too. But, he watches it only as a source of entertainment and no more as a habit.
I’m really happy with the way things are now. I don’t really know how tough or easy things would grow with respect to screen time, as my son grows up! But, I hope and believe that, then I would again succeed at devising a new mantra to keep him away from the screens!