Child-behavior guru Noel Janis-Norton tells you how to make your kids watch less TV.
1) Make sure that you and your partner agree on the new rule completely, so you can back each other up.
2) Tell your children about the new rule several days before you plan to implement it, and at a neutral time (dinner, bedtime, etc.). Clearly explain what the new rule is once and ONLY once. ("Starting next Monday, we're going to have a new rule about when you can watch television. The new rule is that there will be no TV before school. You can watch TV for a half hour in the afternoon after you've finished your homework.")
3) Ask your children repeat the new rule back to you. ("So: What's the new rule?") Follow up with more questions, until it is clear they understand. ("And what day will we start it? And when will you be able to watch TV? And for how long?") This is called a "talk-through," and it will maximize the likelihood of your children cooperating by jogging their memories about the expectations: While they explain it to you, they are creating a mental image of themselves following the new rule.
The talk-through also gives them the respect they deserve. They receive a fair warning, and you can empathize with how they feel about it. ("This new rule may make you feel angry or disappointed because you've been used to watching TV in the morning, and I know you love TV.") If they ask you why you're making this new rule, just remain calm and friendly and let them answer their own question. ("Good question. Why do you think Dad and I are making this new rule?") Kids always know the answers. If they say, "I don't know," just ask them to take a guess.
It's important that whenever you are changing rules, you have many "talk-throughs" with your children in advance, because it will reduce their resistance. Talk-throughs always mean asking, not telling. When you ask them and they tell you, they are the ones doing the thinking, so whatever it is they need to do will stick in their long-term memories.
Don't get drawn into arguments or start reasoning about the new rules. If they complain, you can respond and let them know that you care and are on their side. ("You're probably upset because this is a rule you don't like, and you wish you could still watch TV before school.") Once again, if they ask you why, just ask them to take a guess -- and praise them for knowing the answer (or any part of the answer). If they say, "You're doing it just to be mean," stay calm and don't rise to the bait. Just say something like, "I can see you're angry about it." They will get over their upset feelings sooner if you don't argue or reason with them. They will also learn that it doesn't work to try to get you to argue when they aren't getting the kind of response they want.
We are trying Noel Janis-Norton's system out tomorrow!