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Sunday, October 6, 2013

The TV Standoff

About a month ago, Janey started turning off the TV any time something was on that she didn't want to see any more.  This would be fine, but she then turns it back on, turns it off, turns it on, all in rapid succession.  This isn't great for the TV, and is also pretty annoying, and it doesn't make her happy either---it sends her into a fury.  So we made a rule.  If the TV gets turned off, we unplug it.  No more TV for a while.  We are very consistent about it, and very firm.'d think that the problem would be quickly solved.  You'd think wrong.

Janey likes TV and videos a lot, sort of.  It's more like a love/hate relationship.  She likes certain shows VERY much, like Kipper.  However, after watching any show much, there are certain parts she likes and certain parts that scare her, or just bug her.  She used to get to those parts, and then ask us to watch something else, but I guess the turning off of the TV was a more direct way to handle the problem.  So we made our stand.  Basically, all it has done is stopped any TV  watching from happening.  If the TV is on, Janey pretty much immediately turns it off, we unplug it, she screams, and then eventually stops asking for it for a bit, then asks again, and after it's been a while, like two or three hours, we go over the rules again, put something else on, and she turns it right off.

I've always wanted to be the kind of mother with kids that just don't watch TV, but over the years, I've realized that I really don't care that much.  I think kids self-regulate, as long as you don't let it be all there is to do.  William watched a ton of TV when he was younger.  As he got older, homework and guitar took over his life, and he watched very little.  When he did, it was a history show.  Freddy never watched much TV.  He and I get into a few shows together---we were big Breaking Bad fans--and we love watching them, but TV was never his thing.  Janey liked TV more from the start.  I think a lot of kids with autism do, and I think they learn a lot from it, especially videos, which are always the same and which can teach in a way she relates to.  She isn't TV obsessed, but to be honest, there isn't a lot else that she enjoys as an indoor activity. She doesn't like to be read to, she doesn't know how to draw, she has next to no interest in toys.  We listen to and sing a lot of music, and I try very hard to engage her in other things, but TV has always been a big part of her life, and I've come to the point where I don't feel like I have to apologize for that.

And now, if we keep standing our ground on the TV turning off, there isn't any more TV.  Even if we don't, the TV is going to break from constant off and on, and we aren't in a great position right now to get a new one.  What do we do?  This reminds me of the taking clothes off outdoors standoff.  Janey can't take off her clothes outside---we are firm on that.  If she does, we bring her straight inside, which she hates.  She loves being outside.  But for a while this summer, she constantly took off her clothes almost the minute she got outside.  I don't think she really got it.  But we couldn't really compromise.  I think it was more that she got out of the habit finally than she accepted the limit, as she still occasionally does take off her clothes, and we go inside.

These stand-offs are another example of how "normal" parenting techniques just don't work with Janey, much of the time.  She doesn't really seem to get consequences. She has no desire to please us.  She isn't very good at thinking out how her actions will play out.  And so, although she very much wants her Kipper or Sing-A-Longs or Yo Gabba Gabba or whatever, she can't seem to figure out what she needs to do to still be able to watch them, just as she doesn't seem to get why taking off her clothes leads to an end of outside time.  Common sense would say that if we stand firm long enough, it will work, but common sense is not always right.  Even I am starting to miss Kipper the Dog.


Unknown said...

I remember when I did foster care I had to be careful that “his” punishment didn’t punish the whole family! And this is hard to think through sometimes. TV was an issue for us once too. He loved it dearly but once when he wouldn’t take a shower on regular bases, I deleted all the channels but the weather channel. He announced the next day that my TV was broken. Once I explained why he went up the stairs to shower, two steps at a time. But I find when caring for Reagan it take like 100 times for her to begin to understand that her actions had consequences. And it seems to take only one exception to undo that 100 times! It’s hard! (on her and on me!). A few suggestions, I have found that there are programs on youtube where some programs are played over and over. My guess would be for an autistic child. There is one Wiggles program that goes on for hours! If you could find something that Janey likes that could be played on the computer like that it might be nice, also, a DVD player where she can fast-forward or rewind as much as she wants on a favorite DVD. Or you might be able to combine the two, burn a DVD with her favorite part of the shows so she doesn’t have to rewind repeatedly. I find headphones are great for my sanity too, while these segments are being repeated!

Freeyoke said...

My daughter yells if the TV is on turned on to cable at first. She wants me to play cartoons on Netflix or play a game called Fluidity. I grew up glued to watching 3 channels on TV and later there were years I didn't own a TV. Now I believe in watching only TV shows and movies that get a good rating or that is a genre I have a weakness for. My kids can watch quality shows listed on I hate it when my wife puts the the same Sesame St. DVD to calm the kids. I'd rather see them view something new than the same shows over and over again.
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