I guess the title pretty much sums up everything related to this post. First of all, let me make a few things clear. Going screen free was a tremendous blessing for our family. I am not saying all families should go screen free with their children or feel guilt over allowing their children to watch television. There are many benefits to using television carefully and wisely with your children from time to time. I'm not saying television is bad for children or that all families should get wild and crazy and join us on our crazy decision to eliminate television. This was a deeply personal decision for our family that involved the conviction of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We felt led to do this and by His power, we were able to accomplish it. We certainly do not judge others who watch TV or allow their children to do so. Also, please note the screen free title applies only to the little people in our house. Chris and I still watch a show or two each night before bed. Please do not view this post as some lame attempt on my part to appear righteous or holy. We are certainly NOT those things. We are also not down on the television or those who watch it. We simply followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit in our lives and He blessed us for our obedience.
This spring Chris and I saw some pretty dramatic behavior from all of our children related to the television. We never allowed our kids to watch much; generally one thirty minute program or DVD per day with some occasional additional times to watch ball games or movies as a family. Late in the spring I'd gotten a little lazy with Jacob and started allowing him to watch a bit of TV again when he got up from his quiet time while the babies finished their naps. It started out pretty harmlessly, but as I continued to allow it, I noticed he started to get seriously addicted. He was constantly begging for more TV, it was never enough when I would ask him to turn it off, and heaven forbid if for some reason we just didn't make it to the TV that day. It took me a while to piece all of it together, but many of our most intense arguments were related to the television. One day I was praying about my relationship with Jacob and it hit me. There were two areas of sin that required addressing: 1.) My child had made the television an idol in his life and 2.) I had allowed him to create this idol in order to feed my own selfish desire for more "me" time (usually surfing the internet or some other time-wasting activity). Once I clearly saw the sin and all that was happening, the decision for us was simple. We needed to turn off the TV. This was a big commitment on our part as I'd grown accustomed to that bit of time to do housework with no one underfoot, or do other things. I also KNEW Jacob was going to resist and things would be ugly.
Chris and I discussed it and made the commitment to turn it off for the month of June. We were not turning it off altogether, but simply removing all the daily/scheduled times we watched it. We would still have freedom to watch a baseball game together one evening or have a movie on a rainy day. I would have freedom to choose if we could watch, but it would not be a regular, daily activity anymore. We sat Jacob down and told him why we'd made this decision and told him that starting on June 1st, the television would go from our routine. We gave him about a one week warning.
June 1st rolled around and again, I was certain it was going to be ugly with begging and complaining and that I'd have no idea how to fill the time I'd grown accustomed to throughout the day without the kids needing constant attention. It became very clear to me that I was definitely following God's leading when June 1st rolled around and there was no mention of the TV from any of the kids. A week went by. No mention of the TV. Another week went by, still no mention. It was easy. We were being intentional about our time together. By the time July rolled around we'd gotten so used to being without it, it was a no brainer for us to continue on without. Now August is here and we still have not put it back on.
Am I saying from June 1st until now that our kids have not watched a single program on TV? NO! We've watched Reds baseball games together and had some occasions where we've treated the kids to one of their old "familiar" programs (usually after long, exhausting days of play). God was so good to us to prompt us to do this and redeem the time we were wasting. The other day Jacob said, "Mommy, why don't we ever watch the TV anymore?" I told him, "Remember, we'd made an idol of it and we decided it was a waste of our time. Aren't we having so much fun together without it?" He responded, "Oh, yeah. We DO have a lot of fun!"
One of the best things I've seen is the imaginations of my kids explode! No one is guiding their play or telling them what to think or do. They have become quite the trio this summer and have built many a "pillow house," gone on "carriage rides," played race, created airports and bus stops, played water outside, gone on walks to collect "treasures" from around the neighborhood. We could have done all of this with the television on, but when we were watching, I noticed much of their play was driven by something one of the characters had done in the latest show they watched (not in a bad way...we always chose quality programs to watch,), but now I see them thinking of what THEY want to play or do, be or create. I love it. I love being free from it. I love being able to gift them with a program as a special treat, not an expected part of their day. I love that now when I put on a program, Joshua rapidly gets bored and comes to find me to read him a book instead.
Again, I say all this not to proclaim how mighty we are, or that all parents need to implement this strategy in their home. I'm saying God directed us, our family, to do this and He was faithful to show us it was a wise decision for the functioning of our home. We are thankful we tried it. We are thankful He was so faithful to redeem all that time. We are thankful He made it easy (He certainly did not have to do that!). We are thrilled to see our children blossom in new ways and for strained relationship to begin healing. We will prayerfully continue to consider the role of the television in our home and continue to be open to His leading and prompting. So yes, for us, going screen free this summer was the best decision ever. What challenges did you and your family tackle this summer?