It wasn’t until the 1960s when a typical middle class household had a television, but today, nearly all of us do—and not only that, but access to information and images of all sorts, all the time on our laptops and smart phones. One very useful and under-used tool that both the World Wide Web and Television can provide for modern-day children, other than keeping them entertained and quiet for a while, is the ability to look into the lives of others. What exactly do I mean by this? Read on.

“I am so hungry—I’m starving! No I do not want a banana or a sandwich or cheese and crackers or carrots and hummus….etc etc.”

To satiate this sort of starvation, I like to serve a hot, savory episode or two of “Survivorman.” “Do you see that man, there? He hasn’t eaten in three days and now he’s cooking up some juicy grubs that he found in a hollow log for dinner. He’s so hungry that even though those grubs aren’t the most delicious food in the world, he’s eating them because he’s really hungry and he needs to eat to stay alive. Oh, you think a banana sounds pretty good, after all? Good choice! I bet Survivorman wishes he had a banana right now too!” I am trying to teach Lauren, Kate and Cooper that food doesn’t have to be “their favorite” or the “one thing that they are in the mood for” if they are really hungry. Sometimes we need to eat for survival. You aren’t really starving if you have enough caloric energy to turn down half a dozen snack choices.

“I’ll clean my room later. It’s not even very dirty,” or “I’ll clean my room but I am emotionally attached to every scrap of paper I’ve ever scribbled on and every contraption I’ve ever made from paper-towel tubes, 8 feet of scotch tape, cotton balls and empty water bottles. That’s NOT trash. That’s a trap for bad guys!”

Time to Clean Your Room!

Time to Clean Your Room!

Time to watch Hoarders: Buried Alive. Yes, it is hard to throw things away sometimes and cleaning up isn’t always fun. But we do these things for a reason because if we don’t, we can actually be buried in our own possessions–just like that woman who can’t walk through her living room anymore on TV. I can relate to being emotionally attached to tangible possessions, books, my children’s artwork, old notes and souvenirs that I’ve saved since I was a child but I draw the line at holding on to actual trash. We don’t need to keep the ripped box Barbie came in—even though it is a pretty color pink and has pretty pictures on it. And the apple core under the bed? Yes, the way the mold is growing on it is really cool, isn’t it? It’s like a science project. In fact, it’s so much like a science project you can take it to school and show it to your class or you can throw it in the trash—where household science experiments involving old food belong.

“I hate brushing my teeth! Noooooo!”-followed by or while running away and/or kicking.  To combat the occasional  Toothbrushing Strike, I have Googled pictures of rotting teeth and shown them to the kids. I really have. Plaque, gingivitis, possible cavities and inevitable dental bills are something too abstract for a lot of kids to grasp and many remain convinced that toothbrushing is simply a cruel and pointless nightly ritual. Thank you Google for bringing Reality and Graphic Images into our home. A single close-up picture of rotting teeth truly does speak 1,000 words…while the 10,000 words spilling from a parent’s mouth often go unheard.

How do you use TV or the internet to convince your children to do things or to put things like “hunger” into perspective? Or maybe you don’t…but would you?