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My wife, my two daughters (2 yo and 7 yo), and I live with my parents and my grandmother.

I don't really watch TV myself, but my parents and my grandmother are used to having the TV on when having supper, even though they sometimes complain that the TV programs suck. They'll keep watching TV at least from 19:00 to 22:30. My kids are invariably mesmerized by the TV and will almost stop eating. Sometimes they take almost 2 hours to finish their meal, leaving little room for homework, studying, and rest; causing my wife a lot of stress and anger.

It's not my place to tell my parents to turn off the TV.

Is there a way to immunize or desensitivize my kids against TV? By that I mean make my kids ignore the TV even when it's turned on.

  • How old are your kids? When the TV is running, how loud is it? Would it be possible to have a normal conversation in addition (to distract your kids)? Is it possible to rearrange seats in a way that your kids cannot see the TV (e.g. turn their backs to it)? – Arsak Nov 27 '18 at 15:48
  • @Marzipanherz 2 yo and 7 yo. It's the 7 yo who most needs ample time for homework, study, and rest, although the 2 yo also needs plenty of rest because she goes to the nursery during daytime. We make the little one sit facing away from the TV, but she just turns her head around. Sometimes my wife has had enough and sends the old one to eat in her room. We don't really talk during supper, it's a Chinese thing ("Don't talk when eating, don't speak when sleeping."). – Kal Nov 27 '18 at 15:56
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    off-topic, because you didn't ask for it, but it kinda stands out in your question: you wrote, it wasn't your place to tell your parents to turn off the TV, and I agree on that, if it's their house your living at. However, did you talk to them about the topic (kids are distracted by TV) in general? Maybe suggesting to turn off the TV during meals and talk more instead or listen to radio or whatever? Could your ask for their advice (since they successfully raised at least one kid)? Maybe such a conversation turns this issue to a no-issue :) – Arsak Nov 27 '18 at 15:57
  • @Marzipanherz We have suggested on numerous occasions that the kids are distracted by TV. My wife even scolds and throws a tantrum at the kids about it from time to time. If that's not enough suggestion, I don't know what is. Regarding my parents' success at raising children, I disagree, but I digress. – Kal Nov 27 '18 at 16:34
  • Thank you for your responses. It's a good, but tough question. – Arsak Nov 28 '18 at 16:26
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Unfortunately, I don't think there is a way to desensitize the kids to the TV. It's designed to be constantly changing and interesting, with something new and exciting to offer with each glance its way.

I do have a couple suggestions for mitigating this:

  • Eat dinner separately from your parents, either separated by time or location. While not ideal, it does remove the television from the equation.
  • Ask your parents for a 20 minute window of no television at the beginning of the meal. Phrase it as a way to connect with them, and to have dedicated time. This allows your children a period of time to eat their dinner without distraction, and your parents can watch their TV after the 20 minute window. When the time is up, you would then have the choice of ending the meal for the children, or leaving them an additional 20 minutes to finish up with TV and then shepherd them off to homework/etc.

Whatever you do, do not punish the children for your parent's behavior. It is not their fault that their grandparents do not have the self control to refrain from a pleasurable activity for their grandchildren's sake. However, this is a great opportunity to teach your daughters about delayed gratification and self-control ("I'd love to watch television, but I want to make sure I enjoy this lovely meal [person] prepared for us. After I've finished my chores I'll watch TV.").

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Assuming that you can not outright ask your parents to turn off the TV in the evenings, is there another room you could eat dinner without being able to see the TV? Can you set up a table in the kitchen? Certainly, the 7 year old needs a quiet space to do homework, and you really need to press on your parents that if there is nowhere else to go, then the TV must be turned off for a bit before their bedtime.

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