Disarming the TV (cont.)

Margaret Wilkinson, PhD, a Santa Barbara, Calif., psychologist, says she works hard to put this principle into practice with her own 9-year-old, Annalisa. "When we watch a show and a character behaves badly, I always ask, 'Does this happen at school, with any of your friends -- and if so, how did you handle it?' "

If she can't be in the room for the entire program, says Wilkinson, she at least checks in from time to time. "When the volume on the TV goes up, I get in there fast. The noise level is a cue that there's something controversial going on." (For more advice on watching with kids, see How to Watch TV.)

The Weverkas, too, have made peace with their television. Peter Weverka enjoys watching TV with Sofia, now 12, and Henry, 11, because they have family discussions -- and the kids are told to talk back to the screen. "Nearly every [prime-time] show has somebody getting their head blown off," he says. "We'll say, 'Hey, give me a break. Nobody in real life would solve a problem this way.' "

Now there are fewer arguments over the remote, the kids are practicing the piano and violin again, and they whiz right through their homework. Says Peter Weverka, "We got out of the TV trance."

Valerie Andrews has written for Vogue, Esquire, People, Intuition, and HealthScout. She lives in Greenbrae, Calif.

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