Obviously, I missed the ‘perfect parent’ pamphlet

Kids
According to some women, I'm talking 'a load of old tripe'. Also my views are 'sanctimonious old bollocks' and 'nonsense'.

Why? Because Flea doesn't watch television.

I should point out these comments aren't directed RIGHT at me – they're about Davina McCall. Who's probably too busy shouting on late night live TV to care much about what we think of her parenting techniques.

Still, I don't get it. When did it become okay to completely slate someone because they happen to parent in a different way to you? Imagine replacing 'doesn't watch TV' with 'doesn't eat wheat' or 'doesn't ride in the car'. Would you still get women saying things like, "Oh, well done for sticking the boot in!" or "I used to think she deserved respect – not any more!"

Way to go, sisters.

When I was pregnant, I read up some research about kids' TV. I looked at children I saw watching television. I saw what went out on kids' TV. I talked about it with Flea's Dad. I discussed it with the woman who was going to be Flea's nanny. And I made a personal choice that I didn't want my child to watch television before the age of three. After that, she had the option of watching one of half a dozen DVDs which are available whenever she chooses, but she has rarely, rarely asked for them. 

It works for us. And I would make the same choice again, in a
heartbeat. But I have never, ever implied that a parent making a
different choice is somehow wrong, or less of a parent. If Flea asks why
someone is watching TV when she wants to play, I just tell her: "All
families do things differently, and some people like to watch
television. That's okay, but it's not what we do in our house."

I could explain all the reasons I don't let Flea watch TV, and all the ways in which it's benefitted her, and why it works so brilliantly. But here's the thing – I don't have to justify my choices, and neither do you. I'd never dream of saying: "How COULD you let little junior watch television, you dreadful, dreadful woman?"

I firmly believe that discussion and listening to different views is a good thing. Attacking other opinions just because they're not your own? Not so much. If I didn't know better, I'd think it was a case of protesting too much – perhaps some women aren't as confident of their choices as they claim?

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

23 Comments

  1. Steve Earl
    11th January 2010 / 5:16 pm

    Spot on.
    Equally, my kids are glued to it but I don’t expect to be bad-mouthed by those who think differently.

  2. Emily
    11th January 2010 / 5:20 pm

    Not a mother yet, but I am very interested in why you made this choice (not asking you to justify it). I am not a big fan of TV for adults or children. It’s something I wonder about in thinking about the decisions I will make for my own children and I would be very interested in your thoughts (or a point in the direction of the article you read, if its still around).

  3. 11th January 2010 / 5:37 pm

    Hope you don’t mind me mentioning my post too – http://bit.ly/7gzo2e – I also agree that it is not up to Mums to criticise other Mums, hopefully oneday we’ll learn the art of backing each other up, so that we can become a force to be reckoned with in the UK.
    You clearly have thought through your decision and that is all that counts. If you have thought through it, then you can find ways to counteract the downsides (there are downsides to both a decision to not watch and a decision to watch TV). It’s those Mums who just jump to self-righteous conclusions (on both sides of the argument), who will be in for a surprise in a few years time when it doesn’t quite work out the way they planned.

  4. Liz (LivingwithKids)
    11th January 2010 / 5:54 pm

    I agree, it’s entirely up to you what you do with your children. We watch a lot of TV and I credit it with a lot but that’s my perogative too. Widening it out though… if I saw a mum allowing her very small child to cross a busy road without holding their hand or even looking at them I would probably say something (oh wait, I already have, you can imagine the mouthful I received) and if I saw an eight-year-old child shirtless in the street on a cold night at 11.30pm I would call social services (oh wait, I already did). So I guess what I’m saying is… I agree other people’s parenting techniques are absolutely none of our business – unless the child is in emotional or physical danger. And that’s all I gotta say about that.

  5. 11th January 2010 / 6:19 pm

    Oh dear. I didn’t let my daughter watch TV until she was 2 and I used Gina Ford when she was a baby, so feeling a little attacked myself just now! I made a conscious effort not to watch TV when CJ was little, now she watches whatever is on CBeebies at 6, and very occasionally (i.e on a couple of days last week when we had cabin fever due to snow) for half an hour in the day. My choice. Don’t mind if others do things differently. State opinions but try not to attack others for their choices – unless, as Liz says, you fear for a child’s safety.

  6. 11th January 2010 / 6:50 pm

    You know who is hardest and most judgey on other mums (not a very good sentence there), but Mums shouldn’t throw stones if they dont want them thrown back. I would never judge someones parenting now that I am a mum. In my post today I said I used to watch supernanny and pity the people on it before we had children. Now I am in the same boat. I look to other mothers for support, advise and guidance not for criticism or even worse to be scorned for my decision.
    I sometimes wish I had the will power and warewithal not to have allowed TV when the mini’s were smaller, but now they are at school and preschool they watch so much less. I believe there are different strokes for different folks. If you and Flea are happy then what is the problem.
    I think celebs are easy bate and you know what if we need a celeb as a role model then it just shows were society is going wrong!

  7. 11th January 2010 / 8:01 pm

    This is what bugs me about a whole lot of parents – they feel free to attack my choices but would recoil in horror if I did the same. Live and let live surely ?

  8. Nikki
    11th January 2010 / 8:03 pm

    I tried so hard to get my daught to watch a little TV when she was little (to give me a well earned break as she teethed extremely early and very painfully) and she wasn’t interested at all pmsl!! She’s now 4.5 and maybe watches an hour a day – Scooby doo mainly – she’s obsessed with him and she pretends to have a dog for hours after, running around the house yapping – she’s got a great imagination and play skills!
    My 3 yr old boy watches about 10 mins before he gets bored and wanders off to play.
    IMHO TV is fine as long as its managed but its up to each parent to set those guidelines. However there are parents who literally use TV to bring up their kids and that’s just lazy. Don’t bother having kids then.

  9. 11th January 2010 / 8:35 pm

    I don’t think the bloggers comments were attacks on mums who don’t let their children watch television, it were more a response to mums who don’t let their children watch television because they perceive TV to be some kind of evil corrupter and by holding themselves up as shining examples make the judgement that you’re some kind of neglectful parent if you use it. Ironically, Davina herself doesn’t seem to have done that, but she is an example of the kind of ‘perfect celeb mum’ that celebrities seem keen to portray themselves as.
    Like you say, everyone has a right to their parenting choices. Your choices were based on your opinions and you haven’t used it as a way to score points over other parents which is great.
    But when television watching becomes another way to put down mums for ‘not being good enough’ (and this does seem to have become the focus of the debate in the media recently), of course it’s going to annoy those parents who permit television viewing in their homes and are already feel berated from all sides about what makes a ‘good’ parent.

  10. 11th January 2010 / 9:28 pm

    I think I owe you an apology, as one of the bloggers who responded to the original posting about Davina’s comments. My frustrated reply, as Josie has suggested, was influenced by the idea that we have “celeb” mums telling us how to be a good parent, not that parents who restrict television are doing anything wrong: it is a personal choice as you say.
    However I think this is a useful reminder to me as a relatively new blogger, to maybe think a little before commenting on a blog and I would have been wise to look at Davina’s own words before rattling off a response in the heat of the moment which can hurt other people.

  11. 11th January 2010 / 9:34 pm

    Don’t worry about the perfect parenting leaflet, I wrote it before I had children and I was drunk too 🙂

  12. 11th January 2010 / 9:52 pm

    Agreed, we spend too much time seeing other people’s choices as a judgement on our own. Some of those comments were really harsh. My kids don’t watch TV but I don’t have additional childcare, cleaners, chefs etc as suggested would be the only way to cope sans goggle box. I do have a messy house though…

  13. 12th January 2010 / 3:30 am

    great post. I do let my boys watch television – sometimes far too much – and you know why? Because I am predominantly lazy. Because it is an easy distraction. Not because it is good for them. Because, as a mother I NEED it and it is good for ME.
    well done you – and Davina and Madonna and any other mothers making this choice. I take my hat off to you…because I did try it when the boys were younger (up to 18 mos old) and then I caved for very very selfish reasons.

  14. 12th January 2010 / 6:26 am

    I’ve always been quite anti-TV and until I married a telly addict when I was 39, I never owned one. I do let the spud watch it because it wouldn’t be fair in our house not to – his Dad has it on a lot and I’m not as anti kids TV as I thought I’d be – clearly it irks me still or I wouldn’t feel the need to tell you! People’s reactions say more about themselves then the person they criticise I think – it’s such a shame they need to attack another parent for what is an entirely personal choice.

  15. Vic
    12th January 2010 / 10:00 am

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It sounds like your approach with Flea has worked for you, and that’s the most important thing. I wish I’d let the boy watch less TV when he was younger so that maybe he’d want to watch less now.

  16. 12th January 2010 / 3:02 pm

    I’ve read both posts now, and it’s made me a bit sad. I’ve learned such a lot from other mothers, and while I don’t agree with a lot of other things, and equally they don’t agree with me, I think it’s a shame we can’t all get along.
    But then I imagine that we should all stand round in a circle Teaching The World To Sing and that won’t happen either.

  17. 12th January 2010 / 6:33 pm

    I left what was intended to be a light-hearted comment on that post. I just read it as having a bit of a dig at a celebrity declaring she doesn’t allow her kids to watch TV, when she no doubt has a lot more help around the house than your average mother.
    I take my hat off to parents – many of whom I seem to know!- who are able to resist the temptation of the telly.
    Mine do watch telly, but I’d rather be able to say they don’t.

  18. 13th January 2010 / 7:26 pm

    There have been a lot of debates/slanging matches recently on various blogs and twitter about other peoples parenting skills/methods and each time i see another one, a little bit of me seems to curl up and die.
    When are we going to stop bickering amongst ourselves about who is the better parent and start treating others with the respect we expect for ourselves?
    As long as the child is happy and healthy, does it matter whether they watch x amount of TV, sleep on a schedule or were breast or bottle fed. Life is too short, and parenting too hard without adding this junk to it as well.
    That is all 🙂

  19. 13th January 2010 / 7:45 pm

    well said – i think its so important to stand up for yourself and not be beaten down by people with louder voices. I felt the same way about blogs talking about prissy princess girls and i only had the confidence to re-address it on my last blog. Your way is your way, and good for you. My girls watch half an hour a day or something I’ve taped (cos i don;t want them watching ads) but i still worry it’s too much – although they LOVE LOVE LOVE Peppa Pig, and I enjoy their enjoyment (and hte peace!). well done you.

  20. 13th January 2010 / 10:26 pm

    Sorry but while I’m here. I am not remotely confident of my parenting choices (as you refer to at the end of your post) and I certainly wouldn’t ever pretend I was. I think I’m a crap mum most of the time. But I love them. That’s all I can do.

  21. Sally
    Author
    14th January 2010 / 1:15 pm

    @Steve Earl – Tsk. Slacker. 😉
    @Emily – for me, I felt that TV encourages young kids to passively absorb information and entertainment, and I wanted Flea to develop the skills she needs to actively seek out and make discoveries, and entertain herself. I’m also, if I’m honest, a little uncomfortable with the commercial agenda of TV, which turns kids into mini-consumers in quite a cynical way – Cbeebies might not have ads but it certainly licenses its characters quite cynically so you can buy the toy, the book, the phone, the ball, the clothing, the food, the bike – it’s not something I’m comfortable with, at all. I want Flea to look beyond superficial branding when making choices about what to wear, play with or buy.
    @Natalie – thanks!
    @Lisa – not at all, it’s a great post. Yes, I think it’s just unfair to criticise a decision someone else has made consciously and thoughtfully, having decided it’s best for them. End of.
    @Liz – Goes without saying, we get to judge those who actively harm young people!
    @Kath – agree 100%
    @MadHouse – Good point. What’s interesting is that Davina didn’t even say her kids don’t watch TV – because she’s a celebrity she was picked on and misrepresented and judged. IT wasn’t the nicest thing I’ve ever seen.
    @Muddling – absolutely!
    @Nikki – I think Flea may be like your kids – TV just isn’t that much fun compared to the other games she can play! I did briefly really regret that when I was moving house and needed to pack up – oh, I’d have loved her to go and sit in front of BBC for an hour or two!
    Posted by: Nikki | 11 January 2010 at 08:03 PM
    @Josie – my point would be that EVEN if I say, “Your son watches TV and I think that’s harmful” the response “Your kid doesn’t watch TV and it’s harmful” just brings us all down to the same level. Why bother?
    @Trish – goodness, no apology needed – it’s all heated debate!
    @Auntiegwen – Well, I don’t have those things either since being a single parent. Not that we had a chef, but we did have a nanny and a cleaner. But I try not to think about it because it just depresses me. Oh, how I miss my cleaner.
    @Kat – My house also messy. It’s the sign of a creative woman, I believe.
    @Nicola – Thanks for the comment – it’s not ‘caving’ it’s just making the choice that was right for you when they were born, then making a different choice when the circumstances changed. That’s just smart.
    @Sparx – Yes, I suspect a big part of my decision is that I’m not a big TV person.
    @Brit – yes, I often say my sister-in-law that I might have made an entirely different choice if I had two babies to entertain. It’s about circumstances, definitely.
    @Vic – Yes, good point – it seems there’s no way to avoid someone criticising you when you’re a parent.
    @TheWomanWhoCan – I hate that song. 😉
    @Solveig – I didn’t worry quite so much about the post, more the tone of the comments – seemed a bit harsh to me!
    @Metropolitan Mum – Keep not watching, it’s the safest way. Also you’ll never have to sit through Big Cook Little Cook
    @Heather – yes, happy and healthy is all we wish for at the end of the day!
    @Mummy Mania – what’s a prissy princess girl!?
    @It’s a Mummy’s Life – I think loving them is the good bit, isn’t it? Thanks for commenting, too.

  22. 14th January 2010 / 10:40 pm

    She’s happy. You’re happy. The end.

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