When I pulled my son out of public school last year to homeschool him, I noticed some troubling things. He had zero attention span. When I was a kid, I could get out the giant box of Barbies and play for HOURS. My son is 9 now and he can’t do anything for hours, except watch TV. He has a lot of trouble playing with anything for more than 15 minutes. He loses interest and wants to go on to the next thing. When he has a friend over, it’s the same story. They can’t stick to one game or toy. They are like hummingbirds, buzzing around from one thing to the next without ever really engaging with anything. Their brains are fried, quite frankly.
The best reason I can determine for this constant need for stimulation is twofold. First, my kid watches TV and plays video games. My husband doesn’t have a problem with the TV, and it’s so easy to turn it on and let it babysit him. I’m guilty of it too, when I need a break. But it’s lazy parenting, and it’s ruining my kid. Second, at public school they switch really frequently from one activity to the next. They don’t get deeply engaged in any one task. There are also a lot of distractions from other children, so even if they’re interested in the subject, it’s hard to focus.
I can’t take it anymore, to be honest. My kid is annoying as hell. He can’t play by himself very well, and he needs me to provide an outline for his play, to suggest a storyline to imagine, or tell him what toy to play with. He needs to learn to play by himself and to use his imagination, to disappear off into a world of his own creation, like I did when I was a kid. His sister is spending the summer with my mom, so this is a perfect opportunity for him to learn to entertain himself. With that goal in mind, I shut off the TV and the video games indefinitely.
Much to my surprise, my husband agreed to shut the TV off too. He loves TV. It’s how he unwinds after a long day at his very stressful job. He doesn’t even really watch it. He just likes the background noise, which drives me crazy.
We haven’t turned the TV or the Playstation on all week, and it has been GLORIOUS. Usually while I eat my lunch, I turn on YouTube and watch something about the outdoors. This week, I’ve eaten my lunch with my son and then we’ve spent time together, instead of me zoning out in front of YouTube.
In the evenings, we’ve sat on the back porch and enjoyed the surprisingly cooler weather in Georgia. It’s usually blazing hot by this point in June, but this week it’s been in the 70’s and 80’s. We watched the birds around our feeder and laughed at a chipmunk who lives in our backyard. My husband took a walk with me and our dog, and we’ve talked to each other more deeply about our day than we normally do. This comes as no surprise to me. I’ve been anti-TV for years, but this is the first time I’ve gotten my husband on board with turning it off. I hope he notices how peaceful our house it without it. We can throw it out for all I care.
I have no intention of letting my son get back on the Playstation or the TV anytime soon. We are frying our kids’ brains with this stuff. There’s all kinds of research out there about how bad it is for our kids, and yet we still buy it and have it in our houses. The other kids are all doing it, so we feel bad not letting our kid participate. Well, not me! That’s one of the beauties of homeschooling. My kid doesn’t hear about all the video games at school because he doesn’t go, and most of the homeschool families we hang out with aren’t into TV.
Since we’ve turned it off, my son has been forced to come up with way to entertain himself. He played with the electrical circuit kit we got for Christmas, followed the directions, and eventually made his own circuit. We worked puzzles, planted flowers and, most impressively of all, he made a comic book stand and sold two of his comics to the neighbors. He drew the comics, made a sign, asked to use the laundry basket, and sat outside for about an hour until he sold out. He sold two comics and made $2. I asked him if he felt a sense of accomplishment, and he said he did. I asked if he ever got that same feeling from playing video games and, of course, he said no.
I am determined to raise a kid with an imagination, not an addled brain. I hope we never turn the TV back on!