I'm concerned about how much TV my family watches. How do we strike a balance between TV and quiet time, especially since our kids are in school?

I can identify with anybody who likes to have the television on the background, because I’m one of those persons who can be that way. 

I fell in love with the television as a little kid. We would get up on Saturday mornings, turn it on to watch cartoons, and many times we got up so early that the programming wasn’t even on. There would be a thing called a test pattern. We’d sit and watch it. We’d watch it sometimes for an hour. I loved it. 

But you know, when I got married, I married a wise woman, and we, too, had four children. And she realized that if it were left up to me, I would have the television on like wallpaper in the background. But that can really do a lot of harm. 

I’ll tell you, though, why everybody should have a television in their house—and we have eight in our house. There are three reasons why everybody needs a television: NFL, NBA, and PGA. You know, you could put them all together in four sweet little letters: ESPN. 

See, I loves sports, and I love to watch television. But the fact is, television can consume us, it can distract us, and it’s a huge time-waster. And it can really undermine kids’ ability to handle quiet, to play among themselves, and to do well in school. 

So, my wife, Darcy, said, “Oh, look. We’re going to have to come up with a balance here.” So, even though we have a lot of televisions in our home, if you were in our home, you’d find out that basically they are off most of the time. We only turn them on when there’s something to watch, something that makes sense. 

And then we came up with a great rule once the kids were in school. It really helped us as a family, and really helped them in school. And that is, we instituted what we call “quiet nights.” That meant that on a night before school, starting Sunday night through Thursday night, the television couldn’t be turned on after 7:00. It was a quiet night. 

That way, they could get their homework done, they could get to bed in time, and get a good night’s sleep, and have this undistracted mind. And this kept up all the way through their high school years. Quiet nights were good. 

And they were good for Dad, too, because I learned that there are other things besides television. Yeah, I can be easily entertained, just like a lot of people in our culture can. But you know, the television is supposed to be there as a tool and an asset to the home, not something that controls us and constantly programs us. So, I’m not anti-television. 

When people say, “Well, how can you let all that junk in your house?”—well, we don’t let junk in our house. See, it has an on-off switch, and there’s a channel selector on your remote control. If there’s junk on your television, it’s because you put it there. But if you don’t put it there, it can be great for you. 

Now what’s great is that you can take these things and program it to record it for you and watch it on your timeframe. 

But I think you’re wise to keep the television under control, because if you don’t, it will control you and really undermine your kids.