Our society has an unfortunate tendency to value objects over human experiences. You talk about parents who buy their children toys to make up for their chronic absence. The irony is that parents are often absent because they themselves are pursuing inanimate objects; money and the things money can buy. As a result, the children learn to seek comfort in what they have, which is inanimate objects. That training sticks with them as they grow to adulthood and the cycle becomes self-replicating.
Likewise, you talk about using the TV to babysit after a hard day at work. I certainly understand that choice, my daughter is watching Peter Pan right now while my wife and I work on papers. For me, TV viewing needs to be managed with two interactive variables in mind. First, TV can be a positive for a child’s development, in the right doses and with the right content. Second, that dose of TV needs to be in proportion to the other stimulants in the child’s life. For example, our daughter had a full social weekend, including having family time with three children here this morning and the TV she’s watching Peter Pan – in Spanish. This educational downtime is in proportion with her life and, thus, passes the test.
Our friends shared a wonderful adage with us this morning, “Don’t cry for things that can’t cry for you.” Children learn what they live and it is essential for them to learn that inanimate objects are only a small part of a balanced, healthy life.