Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sometimes breaking up a routine can be a good thing

For months I couldn't wait to have little r start kindergarten. This house needed a set routine in the worst way, and believe you me, it has made the best difference for us all. That aside though, there have been some other habits or routines that we've developed that have not been so great. It took breaking up our daily routine for a few days to make me finally see it.

We got back from our trip to Rome about a week ago now. I could not have been more pleased with how well little r did on that trip. It was unbelievable how easy he was. Sure, he had his moments now and again to remind us that he is still just two years old, but they were far and few between. For the most part he reminded us how very lucky we are to have an amazing child that lets us experience things like Rome. More than that, he actually seemed to enjoy Rome as well.

I had allowed little r (and myself) to fall into this terrible habit of using the tv to pass the time during difficult parts of the day. The morning was probably our worst offender. We had developed this awful routine of turning on a cartoon when little r would wake (BEFORE DAWN) and he would eat his "snack bar" and drink his milk while watching his favorite cartoon of the day. Sometimes it would allow me to sneak in an extra half an hour of sleep, or I would sit and read my book or do yoga while little r was watching his movie. This routine became insufferable, and I often wondered if it wasn't helping fuel little r's motive to rise to early in the day.

Not that I think TV is a bad thing because Big R and I definitely enjoy watching it, and the little man really loves his cartoons, but I knew that there were times we'd let little r watch too much. I could reduce the TV watching throughout the day without too much of a problem, yet that morning routine was impossible to budge. The last thing I was ready for was a full tantrum at 5 AM, but then again, who is?!

It dawned on me on our dreamy sleep on the train ride home that little r had watched hardly any TV on our Rome adventure. We downloaded "Toy Story" onto my iPhone, and it made very few appearances, none of which lasted more than 15 minutes. Like I said, I don't have anything against TV per se, but I do think that some children are better without it, and I was starting to see that little r probably falls into that category.

Since we've been home, little r has watched TV a total of 20 minutes. Yes, just 20 minutes. It's unreal how easy it was to transition him out of the TV watching routine, but more than that, it has been amazing to see the changes in my little man. I found myself using the TV as a babysitter more often than I care to admit, and it was because that was the only way I could get anything done. He refused to play on his own for more than a few minutes at a time, which meant he was after me to play with him all the time unless the TV was on and entertaining him. I was noticing that he was getting restless with the TV, too. He would change his mind often about what he wanted to watch, and he would get frustrated when it wasn't entertaining him as much as he needed.

So, here is a peek into our day now that TV is basically out of the picture:

We wake up in the morning and eat our snack bar and milk at the table (our new elegant dining room table, I might add - hehe), and we talk to each other as we wake up for the day. The best part? Little r has been sleeping. Do wonders never cease?! My early rising child that woke at 5 AM rearing to go for the day now wonders out of his room after 7 AM. Yes, 7 AM! It's nothing shy of a miracle. Yesterday I had to wake him up for school, and that almost felt illegal to me in some way.

Instead of having my days filled with the sounds of CARS 2 or Dumbo or whatever other movie little r has a fancy for that day, I instead hear the sweet sounds of little r singing and playing all day long. He now plays by himself and can stay incredibly entertained for hours. It's amazing! And he seems so naturally happy to create his imaginary world and tell stories to his toys. The songs are my favorite though. I recognize none of them, so I think he's either making them up or he's singing German songs from kindergarten. Either way, I'll take it.

With the exception of the teething monster that possessed our child over the weekend, little r has been much more well-behaved. He listens more and doesn't have as many tantrums as he used to. Time-out is a past memory that visits rarely. He's still two, so there are definitely some things that are unescapable, but for the most part, his behavior seems to have improved significantly.

I'm probably going to somehow jinx myself with this blog post telling all of you that he's sleeping now and never asks to watch TV, but I'm willing to take that risk to tell all of you about the great changes going on here. I have been impressed by what a difference it has made for little r to remove TV from his life. I'm hopeful that we can keep it this way. My plan is not to outlaw it - we all love TV and it can be fun to watch especially on cold rainy days or when you are sick - but I'm creating boundaries or limits on TV watching and I'm hoping to create it as a special occasional treat instead of an all-the-time thing.

If you're having discipline issues at all with your toddler, I would highly suggest removing the TV watching to see if that makes any improvements. Sometimes a break in our routines is exactly what we need to see where we need those changes. I am so thankful to have discovered that little r's mind needed a break from those artificial and fast moving characters on the screen.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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