"I banned my daughter from watching TV for a week and it was not a complete disaster."

“I’ve had it. Had it. HAD IT. It’s the same thing every night. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s not hard. It really isn’t. You need to brush your teeth, wash your face, wee, get into your pyjamas and got to bed. GO. TO. BED. But no, we fight about it every night. Every night. For five years now. I’ve asked nicely. And not so nicely. Nothing has worked. Not even the laminated night time routine poster I created for you which is stuck on the fridge. But now, I’m done. No more Mrs Nice-Guy. You’ve pushed me too far. No more TV. For a week.”

I slammed shut the door firmly to drive home the point.

Last Friday, I finally lost it. The routine night time fight about the night time routine finally got to me, and so for the first time I decided to punish my daughter for her lack of cooperation. A total TV ban. For a week.

As I closed the door and walked toward the kitchen, I realised I had to follow through. Announcing such a precise punishment, I could not afford to backslide. No TV for a week. We’d never done it.

Announcing such a precise punishment, I could not afford to backslide.

The next morning was a Saturday and the usual ritual is my seven-year-old watches morning cartoons while I potter around the kitchen, make the beds, check my phone, start the laundry and sort out the twins with food and clean clothes. But instead I left all that to be sorted by my husband while I took my daughter to the farmers market. At the coffee cart I reiterated the seriousness of my ‘no TV’ declaration. She took it in her stride over hot chocolate.

With the TV off, we were free to have a beautiful day together. My husband headed off to spend some time with his parents, taking one baby. I was left with the other and the three of us took the dog to the park and made moussaka from scratch. In the afternoon, we sat by the CD player and we listened to all my favourite music from when I was a teenager – ABBA, Madonna, the Beastie Boys and Nina Simone. We curled up on the couch and I started reading the first Harry Potter to her out loud. By dinner time we were up to Harry’s first match of Quidditch. There was no pleading for the TV and no tantrums at bedtime (albeit there was a little sulk when I said we needed to close the book and go to sleep).

This no TV malarkey was a gift. Quality time! Memories created for a lifetime!

Andrew Daddo, co-host of This Glorious Mess, has strict TV rules. Listen to the podcast.

Sunday morning, I was still in bed when my daughter ran to me with Harry Potter in her hot little hands. We languished under the covers together, drank banana smoothies and I read chapter after chapter. It was glorious.


In the kitchen, my husband suffered. He was making banana smoothies, in between changing and feeding the babies, sorting the kitchen, answering phone calls, feeding the dog. He kept getting grumpier. Quality time without TV for us meant more work for him. Normally, he and I would be working as a team at child wrangling and chores, while Sofia sat with the iPad or watched a DVD.

Around lunchtime, there was a tense fight between Mum and Dad. Harry Potter was closed.

The rest of the week without TV was a lot easier. Less long and lovely sessions on the couch reading and chatting. A little less Harry Potter. More ‘please read to yourself for the next 20 minutes while I empty the dishwasher’. Then the requests for TV would come. We pushed through. Why don’t you do some drawing? Call your grandmother? Listen to some music? Most of the time it worked.

My daughter ran to me with Harry Potter in her hot little hands.

People describe TV as a babysitter. It isn’t. I don’t plonk the kids in front of In The Night Garden and head off with friends for dinner and a movie.

But it is a great distraction, a device to calm children down, keep them still and out of trouble for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour, longer sometimes so you can cook dinner, make a phone call or pee in peace and quiet. A lot of the time it makes life that much more manageable. But it’s a deal with the devil in so many ways, especially if you use it too much and without much thought.

I posted a bit on Facebook about our week without TV, images of my daughter playing with her sisters, something she did more of because the TV was off. Practicing on her drums, something she had just started doing this week. Friends of mine were inspired to do the same and told me stories similar to mine. It was great when it worked but required changing habits and greater effort on everyone’s behalf and could lead to friction and fighting between parents.

At the end of the week without TV, we were changed as a family. We’d become obsessed with Harry Potter (we are onto the second book now). I am less likely to turn on the TV for no reason. We try to talk about what is on and why we want to watch it. TV is no longer banned but our TV free week has helped us become more conscious about how we use it.

There has been one unintended consequence however.

My daughter is now obsessed with watching clips of Harry Potter movies on YouTube.

Have you ever banned TV at your house? How did it go?