Jan 23, 2017

How we limited TV habit of our child

 Before I elaborate on the “discovery”, let me first state that I’m okay if my child watches TV or computer. I don’t think we can keep them out of it completely as the deprivation would lead to more anxiety and interest towards digital devices. But what matters most is the “time spent” in front of these devices. When my daughter was around 2 years old, we decided to disconnect from DTH services. I didn’t want her to watch any of the kids' channels that play the luring TV commercials of packaged junk food targeted towards children all day long.

Instead, we started buying her the Infobells DVDs - which are age-appropriate, educational and most importantly, without any commercials. When we gave her the TV time, she would be watching one of these DVDs. As months passed, she got so addicted to these DVDs. On top of it, due to her pestering, we ended up buying more new DVDs whenever we step into a toy store. Her collection of CDs were neatly arranged in CD pouches. Sometime, last year, we noticed that she would keep changing the CDs every 5-10 minutes. By then, she had learned how to insert a disc into the DVD player and how to operate the DVD remote. No amount of coaxing, pleading or shouting helped. She continued this behavior until one day, my husband hid the CD pouches deep inside a wardrobe. When she found out that her CD pouches were not on the coffee table, she screamed and cried for 10 minutes. Then she realized that there was one CD left inside the DVD player. She switched on the TV, watched for around 15 minutes and switched it off on her own. The crying stopped and she forgot about the pouches.

After a few days, she insisted on watching a different CD. So my husband and I told her that she needs to be a good girl and follow good manners, which Santa would note down in his notebook. Only if “good is more than bad”, he would reward her with the CD she wanted. We could see a noticeable difference in her, ever since we started this practice. Since she has access to only one CD at a time, she watches it for a short time and then switches it off on her own without being coaxed. And she has also started believing that if she needs access to another CD, she has to follow certain good practices - no whining, no crying for silly reasons, taking bath, eating less junk food, eating more vegetables etc. We made the reward sent through Santa. So when she is in school, Santa would come home and place the CD of her choice next to the DVD player :-)

I have read about the scarcity principle in Dr.Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence” and also have read about its extensive use in marketing and conversion optimization. But to see its effects on an important challenge of parenting is so satisfying.

The principle states that people are highly motivated by the thought that they might lose out on something. In simple terms, if the availability of something is less or limited, we tend to value it more.

The same principle can be applied to reducing our time spent online, binge-watching TV shows or any other behaviors we want to change, where excess availability is the problem.

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