Ava, My Favourite Family, Thea

What happened when we turned off the TV for a week

A few weeks ago, on a Saturday morning, Ava threw a tantrum because I dared to turn the TV off. It’s not pretty, but I filmed her, partly because it was quite funny, and also because she hadn’t ever really behaved this way before, for such a prolonged time. It’s no where near as bad as some of those tantrums you see on YouTube, but for me, it was a bit of a shock. This is a cut down version. And sorry about the aspect ratio.

I left her to it, but then turned around to see her in such a rage, that she was hitting the TV with the remote control.

Well, I couldn’t just ignore that. So I marched her upstairs to her room to cool off for four minutes. She kept coming downstairs so I added two minutes. This eventually worked, and when I explained there would be no more TV for the rest of the day, she looked annoyed but I think she understood.

This got me thinking about how much we rely on TV to entertain the girls. And I felt pretty ashamed of myself. It’s not their fault that they love TV so much, we have conditioned them into it.

I am a self-confessed telly addict so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the girls would be too. My dad used to get infuriated with us when we were so engrossed in watching TV that we were ignoring whatever he was asking us – he used to say “That thing’s a DRUG!” and I now know how annoying it is!

I waste so much time half watching TV and half emailing, texting and Facebooking, that I get cross with myself after yet another wasted evening when I could have been doing something constructive. I really don’t want the girls to turn out like that.

Am I a lazy parent? Or just knackered? Probably a bit of both.

I try and do one energetic or creative activity a day, but sometimes Ryan comes home and asks what we’ve been up to and the answer is pretty extensive when you see it written out: applying suncream, dressing children, Pre-school drop off, Pre-school collection, a load of washing, hoovering, wiping up sticky hands and faces, (and door handles when I’m not fast enough) changing nappies, picking up countless crusts and other discarded food, wiping noses, mopping up several spilt drinks, checking for nits, (which in itself takes ages due to the sheer amount of hair involved!) answering a hundred questions about death, administering medicinal kisses and plasters, making and forgetting about five cups of tea, often another load of washing, matching up little pink socks, sorting washing into four piles and putting away, fishing a toilet roll tube from the toilet, (hopefully) cooking a meal, some kind of baking/colouring/sticking and most importantly, keeping the children alive! Most of the above whilst being strangled or rugby tackled by Thea. I’m not complaining, I wouldn’t have it any other way… well, a ‘mute’ button would be nice sometimes! (I thought it would be easier now that Thea can talk. Turns out it’s just noisier!) So sometimes, after hours and hours of unrelenting demands, I just need a break, and TV really is a lifesaver.

With some trepidation, I decided to extend the TV ban for a week, and include myself in it, and see what happened. I didn’t make Ryan give up TV, but he was quite happy to go along with it – he hates me having the soaps on, especially as he knows I don’t even like them that much (Neighbours excepted, of course.)

My only rule is that if we’re at someone else’s house and they have the TV on, it’s fine for the girls to watch. It would be pretty rude to dictate to our friends. I did wonder if I’d find myself inviting myself over to friends’ houses, so I could watch TV!

Over the week I tell a few mummy friends what we’re doing and they look at me with a mix of horror, pity and confusion – why would I put myself through it?

Their main question is “How on earth are you going to make any food?” And that is where I knew I’d come unstuck if I didn’t plan easy dinners that required minimum attention from me.

Here is my ‘diary’ of the week:

Day 1. Saturday:

The day of the tantrum. After we get over ‘remote control gate’ we have to go out anyway, so the lack of TV isn’t really an issue. When we get in, both girls ask for it but I say no and explain why. Ava understands, but poor Thea is a bit confused.

Times Ava and Thea ask for the TV: A gazillion. Mostly during Ava’s tantrum.

Day 2. Sunday:

I get up with the kids to try and give Ryan a lie in. We go into the living room and start to get toys out. They’d like porridge for breakfast and I go and make it. When I call them, they come into the kitchen straight away. Normally, I’d have automatically put CBeebies on to keep them entertained whilst I left the room. And normally at least one of them would stay glued to the screen until I pretty much drag them away.

Things continue well after breakfast, as we play with the Duplo together.

Ava and her Duplo

Ava and her Duplo

I hang out some washing and tidy up the kitchen, and they are still playing nicely. They have both asked for Peter Rabbit but don’t seem too upset when I say no – maybe they’re just in the habit of asking.

But then the squabbling starts. Everything Thea picks up is immediately snatched by Ava. And she’s doing it on purpose and laughing at Thea’s cross cries each time.

Ryan comes downstairs and he plays with them whilst I get dressed. I can hear the arguing continuing, but when I get out of the shower, it’s stopped. Ava had taken herself off to her own room. Much to everyone’s relief.

We go for lunch at some friends’ house and the kids play well together. I go for an easy option for dinner, so I could play with them instead of putting TV on to help occupy them whilst I cooked.

I’m in bed by nine, after finishing a couple of jobs that I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I do forget to Series Link the new Poldark though, as I haven’t been reminded by the adverts. Rats.

Times Ava and Thea ask for the TV: 7

Day 3. Monday:

We have Pre-school and toddler group in the morning. We’re having Ava and Thea’s friends round to play tomorrow afternoon in honour of Thea’s second birthday so we need to make cakes. After lunch I tidy up the kitchen, throwing the inevitable pile of crusts out to the birds. Then we play with the Duplo for a bit until Thea starts whining, indicating she needs a nap. She drops off after begging for Peter ‘Raddit‘ and Button Moon.

I dash down to get our the cooking stuff and we hurriedly make buns for butterfly cakes. I push my luck and embark on some spinach muffins. By some miracle, Thea stays asleep until they were in the oven. They weren’t very nice, but nevermind.

We invent a game where Ava is a dog, pinching Thea’s too-big play shoes off her feet and ‘burying’ then under the table, then coming back on hands and knees with it in her mouth. Then we have to say ‘good doggie’ and throw her an imaginary dog biscuit which she catches in her mouth. They both roar with laughter. This game lasts for about half an hour!

Thea's play shoes, with new teeth marks from Ava

Thea’s play shoes, with new teeth marks from Ava

I decide to make baked potatoes and vegetable sticks for tea as it doesn’t take much time to cook. My sister Debbie comes round for tea, so whilst the baked potatoes crisp up, we decorate the butterfly cakes. The girls are in their element. It reminds me how we should do more stuff like this.

Guess which is Thea's?

The finished cakes -guess which is Thea’s?

After bath time and bed I’m dying to sit down and watch TV but manage to resist. I do feel a bit lost though!

Times Thea asks for TV: 7
Times Ava asks for TV: 1

Day 4. Tuesday:

I spend most of the morning cleaning and tidying up the house. Poor Thea’s a bit bored as I flit about trying to play with her and get the vacuuming done simultaneously. Eventually she looks tired so I put her down for a nap until it’s time to pick Ava up from Pre-school.

Our friends come round in the afternoon so I don’t have any trouble entertaining them, as they dig up bulbs in the garden together, and make mud pies. Then it’s time to make dinner. I had planned on spaghetti bolognese with Quorn and pasta sauce but I hadn’t checked to see if I had any sauce. I don’t, so have to make it, which takes longer than planned. It’s indescribably stressful trying to cook with two excitable, hungry and tired kids running around your legs, especially on a stove top. And even more so when the two year old drags over a stool so she can climb up and see “What you doin?” Argh!

I keep my cool (for once) and then Ryan comes home, and takes the girls into the other room.  “I miss the TV.” he says, as he’s ridden around the room.

Ryan, the human climbing frame/horsey

Ryan, the human climbing frame/horsey

Ryan slightly cheats this evening, giving Ava a game on his phone, so I can finish cooking in peace, while he reads to Thea.

Day 5. Wednesday:

The girls are at Pre-school and nursery and I have a busy day with several meetings, so no time to miss the TV. The girls ask for it when they come in but I think they are getting used to me saying “no”.

After dinner Ryan and I sit and read. He posted this on a Facebook:

“After Ava’s tantrum we are four days into a week of family TV ban. It’s bliss. Relaxed on the sofa with no distractions, reading. I might fake the next tantrum!”

Times Thea asks for TV: 1
Times Ava asks for TV: 1

Day 6. Thursday:

I’m working from home today, so too busy to watch TV, and the girls are at nursery and Pre-school. Ryan brings them home at about 5.30 and Thea asks for Peter Rabbit. But only twice. Ava doesn’t ask at all. We run the bath and they’re ready for bed at 6. This is very rare, but on the odd occasion this has happened before, we’d go down and watch some of the bedtime hour on CBeebies. So we have a marathon book reading session instead. I ask Ava what she prefers, watching TV or reading loads of books, and straight away, she says loads of books. So that made us feel brilliant, and slightly guilty that we don’t read more to them every day. We normally read three before bed, but this is what we get through tonight:
Kids' books

After they’re in bed, I make dinner, and we sit down, still a bit lost, not having the TV on.

Times Thea asks for TV: 2
Times Ava asks for TV: 0

Day 7. Friday:

Phew, the last day! And it’s Red Nose Day. I keep seeing Facebook posts about how brilliant Dermot O’Leery is doing at his dance-a-thon. I love Dermot, so this is killing me! Ava’s at Pre-school, so I go to Wolverton to pick up a delivery and have a mooch round the vintage shops with my sister, mum and niece. Thea falls asleep on the way home so I’m so tempted to put Dermot on for a minute. But I resist.

I don’t get anything done this afternoon, as Thea needs constant attention. She keeps asking for Peter Rabbit but I manage to keep strong – pesto and pasta for dinner then! She tries to take matters into her own hands:

Even though we haven’t quite done a week, we put the TV on after the girls are in bed, so we can see Dermot finishing his dance marathon (what a hero) and because it’s the weekend. Also, if you don’t watch Comic Relief, it’s practically a crime!

Times Thea asks for TV: 3
Times Ava asks for TV: 0

Ryan asks what we’ve achieved. He says I’ve been angrier. That’s no good! Especially as it indicates that I am normally angry! The stress has obviously got to me more than I thought.

I think the girls have gone to bed better though, although Thea is still waking up several times in the night. Ava soon got used to not watching TV but Thea was more attached, still asking for it several times a day. But as Ava is four, she can entertain herself and do many more things than two year old Thea can. And I think it’s not just the TV that Thea loves, it’s the cuddles that often come with it. She would quite happily be carried around by me all day I think; she just loves her hugs!

We’ve certainly spent more time playing and reading together, which can only be a good thing. The girls have also played more together, without me, and it’s so delicious to hear their funny conversations. And it’s nice to have some peace and quiet (even if it is punctuated by squabbling on a regular basis) and no Mr Tumble in the background is a definite win! Really, I think it’s just a habit, and habits can be broken, apparently.

So what’s next? I can’t feed us pasta and pesto, or baked potatoes for the rest of our lives (though that’s pretty much what I lived on at university!). One of my very wise mummy friends lets her girls have ‘screen time’ per day. Her girls are older so that includes iPad/computers as well as TV. So I think that’s what we’ll do too. I couldn’t and wouldn’t live without TV – I’m not a maniac! But we could certainly do with cutting down…

It’s been a few weeks now and I have been limiting the TV. My new rule is that the TV only goes on in the afternoon, and I try and keep pushing that as late as possible, so it’s mainly when I’m trying to cook. But I (like all parents) do have countless other things to do, so sometimes I do have to put it on earlier, so that I can get stuff done without having to stretch round Thea’s body or drag her around when she’s attached to my foot!

It’s been pretty hard over the Easter holidays, when Ava hasn’t been at Pre-school. Ryan had the second week off so we went out on some lovely day trips, and we’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the garden – thank goodness it’s been such lovely weather!

The girls have definitely been playing more and staring-like-zombies less. They’ve been fighting more too, including wrestling. But I guess that’s par for the course! I haven’t gone as far as setting limits, as they can’t tell the time yet, and it seems to be Thea who is most attached, so she certainly wouldn’t understand, but I think that is something I will bring in, in the future.

Have you set TV limits for your kids? I’d love to hear your ideas and advice!

Let's Talk Mommy


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  4. mumsnetkent

    20th October 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Very interesting – will try this too. When we’re on holiday there often isn’t a TV/or the *right* stations and my eldest is fine with that but at home he is used to watching TV a fair bit when we wants to.

    With starting school we decided no TV before breakfast so we can eat together, then get dressed and ready. If there’s time he can then watch a cartoon. This did make before school less stressful!

    1. Becky Pink

      20th October 2015 at 8:52 pm

      I’m glad that has helped mornings to be less stressful! We never have TV on before school as I am ALWAYS running late, so we’d never have time! I wish I were more organised. xx

  5. Mummy in Training (@mrskxxxx)

    20th October 2015 at 1:58 pm

    What a great experiment. I do use tv for my toddler when I desperately need to do something but I do find he wanders off to play after 10 or so minutes of watching it. I am a telly addict too so I have to be careful how much it is on.

    1. Becky Pink

      20th October 2015 at 8:50 pm

      I find it’s really hard to be strict about it when I love it myself! xx

  6. Claire Ridewood (@thefrfamily)

    4th September 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Thankyou so much for lining up with #busydoinglife hope you can join me again tomorrow?!

    1. Becky Pink

      4th September 2015 at 6:34 pm

      Thank you for hosting and yes I have lots of posts I can link up! X

  7. Claire Ridewood (@thefrfamily)

    4th September 2015 at 6:16 pm

    I did this when my eldest was 4… after 6 weeks of not having it on we sold it and had no TV for 6 years. We have one now and this summer they have become a little to keen to watch it so thankyou for sharing this post… you have inspired me to unplug again and find the fun in our days once more!

    1. Becky Pink

      4th September 2015 at 6:34 pm

      WOW six years with no TV, that is incredible! That must have taken some getting used to, great work! Becky x

  8. Carol

    31st August 2015 at 11:37 pm

    Just reading around the Busy Doing Life linky. I admit we do use TV as a babysitter quite often. But I am quite good at keeping it off most of the time and am not a huge TV fan myself. It’s interesting how they can rely on it so much x

  9. Jenny Eaves

    30th August 2015 at 7:19 am

    Sounds like a great experiment! After my second was born my first watched a lot of TV, when I realised how much I cut it right back, and you’re right it’s just a habit. It’s had sometimes as it means I can’t sit and relax for a bit, instead we play tiger or they play on their own, sometimes there are arguments and and sometimes they are happy together. We allow tv first thing in the morning when my 4 year old gets up with daddy, so daddy can get ready for work. It goes off when the littlest comes downstairs. I also let my 4 year old watch something on the Ipad when I put his brother down for a nap. It’s not much, but they seem happy enough without it and don’t ask for it all the time anymore! 🙂 xx

    1. Becky Pink

      30th August 2015 at 9:00 am

      That sounds like a really good balance, it’s especially tough with an older child when you have a newborn as they need so much attention! Xx

  10. Nige higgins

    29th August 2015 at 4:28 pm

    I have to admit we are lazy in our house the TV is always on so great idea not it would work in our house great post

    1. Becky Pink

      29th August 2015 at 4:48 pm

      Ha ha I don’t think it’s lazy, whatever works for you!

  11. pinkpearbear

    29th August 2015 at 3:14 pm

    This feels really relevant to me at the moment. The TV seems to be continuously blaring in the kitchen & it drives me demented. It has got worse the longer the holidays have gone on for. The kids are terrible for squabbling at the best of times. It is so hard to get anything done without it but I think we will take inspiration from you & ditch it for a week!! We’re terrible for sitting like exhausted zombies zoning out to the tv, usually on laptop, phone or tablet too! Great post! #busydoinglife

    1. Becky Pink

      29th August 2015 at 4:52 pm

      Give it a try, you might enjoy it! But the kids might not quite as much… Thanks for your comment xx

  12. Sara Handy Herbs

    29th August 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Wow! Well done you! I can imagine how difficult it must have been to stick with it! I agree with you that television does seem to take over our lives and consequently other things suffer. I think it is helpful to set limits depending on age etc for a whole variety of reasons. Thanks for sharing #busydoinglife

    1. Becky Pink

      29th August 2015 at 12:55 pm

      I have to admit we have slipped a bit over the summer holidays!!

  13. Jenny @ Let's Talk Mommy

    26th August 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I always just followed what my momma did for us. If it’s a weekday we get thirty minutes and if its vacation or weekends we can watch a movie or a few episodes in the morning in our pjs other than that I try to restrict it. Sometimes I allow a movie before dinner but I noticed if i don’t have any tv on after dinner before bed they go to bed faster and easier with no refusals. This is just a guestimate but i don’t want them to ever be screaming, crying and begging for tv like my friend’s kids do all the time to no end. Good luck with your tv restrictions. lol Once they get used to it its second nature. Thanks for linking to Share With Me I hope to see you again soon #sharewithme

    1. Becky Pink

      29th August 2015 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks Jenny, it’s such a temptation and we have been slipping a bit over the summer as I have to do jobs they can’t help with some times! But I think it’s definitely better for them when they don’t watch as much so I will be stricter once we are back in our regular routine! Becky x

  14. Sarah Howe (@RunJumpScrap)

    10th July 2015 at 8:32 pm

    Good for you hun this is great idea and really fascinating! I let me girlie watch telly but only morning and night if I can. Tonight we didn’t let her as the weather so nice and she was fine. I can be so helpful when you need to cook/do jobs but having that break and family time is great! Really interesting and thanks so much for linking up to #bestandworst and see you soon xx

    1. Becky Pink

      11th July 2015 at 9:09 am

      Love the summer where they want to be outside so much they don’t even remember the TV exists!! Xx

  15. allpastmidnight

    9th July 2015 at 5:39 pm

    Really enjoyed reading that. It was a very interesting read, and really made me think about how much I put use the TV to distract my kids when I need to get something done. In my daughter’s case, she’s got a fairly short attention span anyway. But honestly, I could never get rid of it completely; I’d miss it too much

    1. Becky Pink

      9th July 2015 at 6:13 pm

      Thank you, yes it did take some getting used to!! I missed it almost as much as the girls! X

  16. MummyTravels

    8th July 2015 at 1:21 pm

    This is so interesting to read – I do try to limit my daughter’s screen time (she’s two, almost three) although it has been creeping up over the past year. For now, we try to limit it to breakfast time as it is easier getting the food together and gives me a gentler start to the day, and occasionally at teatime if she’s at home rather than nursery – if we do watch a film, she’ll usually get bored part-way through and want to turn it off anyway (eg on a plane when I don’t restrict it) so I know she wouldn’t watch 24/7. I don’t think I’d want to say no TV ever, but I definitely don’t want it taking over, so for now we’re just trying to keep the balance. #bestandworst

    1. Becky Pink

      8th July 2015 at 1:26 pm

      I totally agree it’s about balance- it can be a real lift saver especially on rainy days! Since writing this I am trying to be more mindful of only turning it on at certain times and to watch something in particular – not just have it on out of habit. Seems to be working well for us at the moment, but we have the 6 weeks summer holiday coming up so it may all change then!! X

  17. Michelle Murray

    27th May 2015 at 6:08 am

    I am not a huge TV fan but I think its mainly because I am always busy on my iPad or laptop. I think its great that you banned the TV for a week and I know how I felt when I limited my iPad time. I played more and we had lots of fun. great post and thanks fro linking up #ToddlersAndTeens

    1. Becky Pink

      27th May 2015 at 7:42 am

      Thanks Michelle, I’m glad you enjoyed it. We are still limiting TV time and it’s going ok! X

  18. Jeremy@thirstydaddy

    21st May 2015 at 2:35 pm

    good for you for sticking to it for the whole week. Unfortunately I don’t think we would make it

  19. Kylie

    23rd April 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Hi Becky,found this really interesting to read as I tend to put TV on for Betty so much more now that little Winnie is here. It is yet another thing I feel incredibly guilty about but I do it when I need it to get things done,to feed Winnie & to get Winnie down for her naps as I don’t like leaving her to cry it out. I know that with the TV on,Betty is ‘safe’. I am very lucky that Betty will turn it off when asked to (for now anyway). With the TV on Betty does have some quiet time which I think is so important for a 3 year old who doesn’t nap anymore. I think CBeebies is very educational too. I think,with most things in life,there needs to be a happy balance & if having a bit of ‘screen time’ everyday is needed to keep us all happy then there is no harm in it at all.
    Love your blog xxx

    1. Becky Pink

      23rd April 2015 at 9:41 pm

      Thanks Kylie, I think you’re right- I rely on TV far more now I have two than I did when I only had Ava, maybe that’s also why Thea is so attached. And totally agree that CBeebies is educational, I think it just drives us parents a bit bonkers! I also think that when we are there watching it with then, it can be more interactive especially when we have cuddles.

    2. Becky Pink

      23rd April 2015 at 9:43 pm

      Oops that sent a bit too soon! I hope everything is good with you guys, it’s great being a mum to two girls isn’t it, though I do get tired of hoovering up glitter! Xxx

  20. Dad

    20th April 2015 at 9:30 am

    Dear Becky, What a triumph! The tantrum was awful. You didn’t do that, but I had forgotten my comment about TV being a drug. You all seem to have benefitted from your scientific experiment, and I hope you find a happy medium (not Madam Arkarti!). I have some TV drug tendency, particularly watching BBC and ITV news twice a day, to contrast and compare.. You’ll be pleased to note that I’ve broken my dependency on the Archers, as their story line had become even more miserable and unbelievable than East Enders. I’ve gained 75 minutes a week and relief for my family. Keep up the good work. Love, Dad

    1. Becky Pink

      20th April 2015 at 8:52 pm

      Ah I wondered why you watch so much news, I hadn’t realised it was to compare but what a good idea! I hope The Archers notice your protest 🙂

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