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The minute my husband gets home from work, he's lying on the sofa flipping channels. He likes to watch violent action movies, and refuses to believe this will affect our 11-month-old. We argue about him watching TV while she's awake -- his idea of looking after and playing with her is letting her roam around the room while he lies there. How can I convince him how damaging this is?


Jim Taylor, Ph.D. Replied: I can see how frustrating this situation must be. I think the most you can do is present him with the evidence of how harmful early TV watching can be. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended NO screen time for children under two years old. I would do a search on television exposure and children and you'll get a lot more information.
Posted On 2010-06-10 12:10:34
Janet Whalley Replied: This is a challenging situation. You are right that it is not a good idea to expose your child to violent TV programs as children imitate what they see and hear, even if it's only seen on TV. In addition, using the TV as a babysitter can be harmful because even though the child appears to be sitting passively, her muscles are tense and her mind is actively concentrating. According to the pediatrician, Dr. T Berry Brazelton, this combination of inactivity and tension is psychologically demanding - so much so that a child often emotionally disintegrates when the TV is turned off.

The challenging part for you comes when you feel the need to tell your husband how to parent. It's much easier for you to make changes in your own behavior than it is to change his behavior. I have a few suggestions based on my experience working with new parents as a nurse, birth educator and as a mother and grandmother.

1. Talk with your husband about being a parent. Share your views about your role and listen to his ideas about his role. Find out what you agree on and discover the areas that you need to work on.

2. Your husband may not know much about being a parent. Help him learn what other fathers do and find things he can do with your daughter. Look for resources to help you both learn about child development and about parenthood and taking care of children. Books are often helpful, but many parents learn more when they talk with other parents and baby and child experts. In many communities, there are parent-child coops where you can go to preschool-like classes with your daughter and you can find out how to help your child learn and develop normally. I know in our area, there are evening or weekend for fathers and their young children.

3. Even though you may want a break from parenting when your husband comes home from work, it might be helpful to give him a little time on his own to make the transition. You two can talk about how much time seems reasonable for him to do whatever he wants to do before he starts parenting. If he wants to spend some of his time watching TV, talk about where you can take your daughter so she is not exposed to the TV. Sometimes if you give him some time alone, he will be more receptive to letting you have some time to do what you want (or need) to do.

Parenting is challenging, but it is also very rewarding. Working together with your spouse is important and helps make your jobs as parents much easier. Talking with each other and listening to each other are critical. Good luck with this hurdle and the many other challenges to follow. Parenting may not be easy, but it is one of the most important things that we do in our lives.
Posted On 2010-06-07 18:20:15
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