Trying to delay gratification in a DVR world

Our family made a huge leap this week, technologically speaking. We now have DVR.

When we first signed up for satellite television a little over two years ago, we passed on the TV recording service, not wanting to pay the extra $5 a month. We soon started to see potential value in it, though. My accountant husband loves to watch a line-up of Saturday morning investing shows, but never gets to catch them.  I’ve missed the boat on several new series I think I’d enjoy (“Glee,” “Modern Family”) because life with a 3-year-old just doesn’t seem to allow for regular TV watching. We could tune into Twins games late and still catch all the action. We could finish programs faster by fast-forwarding through commercials. I could watch something other than hokey infomercials during upcoming 2 a.m. feedings.

Our contract was up this summer and we got a good deal on new service, including DVR. So we excitedly started setting up our recording schedule. Newish movies on HBO that I had wanted to see but didn’t make the cut for theater viewing. Reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Married with Children” that Craig can watch ad nauseam and still laugh fitfully. Every new episode of “The Next Food Network Star” (our one reality TV obsession).

After that, we started to set up timers for Eve’s favorite PBS Kids shows: “Super Why,” “Cat in the Hat,” “Sesame Street.” And then I paused … 

Growing up, my family didn’t get its first VCR until I was 12. I didn’t have a CD player until high school. My first DVD player? College. I grew up making choices regarding my TV watching and other activities. I needed to rewind my tapes. I couldn’t just press a button to instantly skip the songs I didn’t like. Perhaps I’m over-thinking this, but I honestly feel the lack of technology contributed to teaching me the value I most hope to instill in my daughter: Delayed gratification.

Of course Eve is growing up with DVDs and CDs. She can easily jump to her favorite part of “Up” (Kevin, the bird) when we let her watch it, or hear the same song over and over on repeat. But up until this point, watching television hasn’t been as easy.

Her TV time is pretty limited right now. I really only let her watch PBS shows at home, and usually only one morning a week. There’s been inherent lessons with this set-up. For example, when she would ask for PBS shows at 2 p.m. on a Sunday, she’s learned you can’t always have what you want the moment you want it.

Now, with DVR, she could …

Of course I see the value in having a few educational shows on stand-by for rainy afternoons or days when I absolutely need to get something done. It’s why we have a handful of kid-friendly DVDs (and some of my old-school VHS tapes) on the shelf. But how quickly this could get out of control. How easily this new technology could erase opportunities to teach old-fashioned values …

But, as a friend reminded me, I am still in control of what she watches and when she watches it, even if the remote control now has more buttons.

2 thoughts on “Trying to delay gratification in a DVR world

  1. Sherri,
    I don’t think that you are overthinking this issue. I didn’t have a DVD player until I met my husband, and I remember being envious of classmates that owned a CD player. Now, I’m glad I didn’t have the instant gratification…it’s taught me patience and the benefits of living a simpler life. Well, sort of; I still have a long way to go. :)

  2. This is a struggle in our house as well. My 3 year old has even went up to the TV to try to “swipe” away a show so he could get to the next one. Like you said, there is divinity in patience. While we can use technology to our advantage in many ways as moms, we are wise to also teach them they can’t always get what they want.

    This reminds me of a story from a keynote speaker I heard who talked about lamenting to his aged grandfather about the dilemma of inappropriate shows his kids were exposed to through television. Gramps’ answer… “In my day, we didn’t need fancy chips to block rotten tv shows. We had mothers to do that.”

    Great post – you are always spot on with your observations!

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