First I'll explain what we've tried before.
1. I've tried the 'get all work done first' bit. That led to Pooh hurrying through things without paying attention to what he was doing. He would fuss/tantrum about having to do 'something else' because that meant tv time would be delayed.
2. I've tried the 'each boy picks one show to watch each day' bit. Somehow this just always morphed into more than I bargained for. Next thing I knew the tv time would be way up again.
3. We've done tv-free weeks where the boys just knew that there would be no tv until a certain day. That went well.
I really wanted to cut out the daily bargaining for tv. I didn't want to have the tv conversations each and every day. I didn't want to wonder if I was getting compliance/obedience simply for tv purposes. I wanted them to have to think about doing other things with their free time rather than thinking about which movie they would watch next.
So my big idea was (drumroll please)...
No TV Monday through Thursdays each and every week. They are allowed to watch a total of 4 movies (they each pick two) from Friday to Saturday. They choose the order and number each day. If they decide to watch 2 movies Friday night, that only leaves one for Saturday and Sunday. They can also watch them Friday and Saturday and skip Sunday all together. That's up to them.
Amazingly, after the initial shock, the kids haven't really argued with it at all. They just accept the tv vs no tv days. Pooh even reminds Tigger with a "Noooo, it's a no tv day!" When we went camping recently, we brought our dvd player in case of torrential rain. There weren't any arguments about watching anything. On Friday night, we stayed up a little late by the fire and the boys watched Tom and Jerry on the player. That was one--the beginning of the countdown for the weekend.
I think it helps that mom and dad follow that rule most of the time too. Mom and Dad have/had tv issues themselves! (hangs head in shame) I really get sucked into crime shows. And some reality shows (American Idol!). Most of the time the tv never gets turned on during the no tv days. Now that doesn't mean that mom and dad can't watch a show here and there or the news. If I don't get any tv during the weekend, I may slip a show in on Monday or something. However, I don't even like turning it on because it sucks me in. I've always been like that. My mom used to comment on how I could tune out the world when the tv was on. With the news, I just check an online channel for the big updates and a couple times a week I'll catch the local news on the tv (especially if it's weather related).
As far as what we watch, the boys usually pick their movies from the library (FREE!) and I have my standing time slot for Masterpiece Theater. I've considered getting Netflix for variety, educational stuff and up to date movies for mom and dad, but just haven't gotten around to it. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. I just can't decide on that for sure.
We're very happy with this set up. We're all watching less tv. The boys are finding other things to do with their time. There aren't any arguments over what is watched and when. No haggling. Chores are done regardless of tv time. In this aspect, things have relaxed and become a bit more peaceful. The boys can make decisions for themselves withing the framework we've set, allowing them the opportunity to make adjustments, respect each other's choices and live with the consequences of their choices.
It's very interesting to have Pooh come to me telling me how he's arranged to watch his movies for the weekend. Each weekend there are differences. He'll tell me "Ok, tonight I'll watch two movies and then one on Saturday and one on Sunday." Ok. Then the next weekend he'll watch two on Friday and come to me on Saturday and say he's getting ready to watch their 4th movie. My reply is something to the effect of "Well, that means there's no movie for Sunday." and he'll say "Yes, I know. That's ok." Or we'll discuss a couple different scenarios and he chooses what he'd like to do. Lot's of creative thinking going on! The boys even have to have discussions on whose movie comes first and how they'll arrange to fit each other's movies in on the weekend. Sometimes that requires a bit of moderation on the parents part, but mostly they work it out.
I'll even throw them a curve sometimes and let them know that during a specific time the tv is mine! Then they have to figure out if the movies they have are dvds or vhs and work around that little challenge. (They have the option of the portable dvd player.)
TV success at last!!!