Educational programming increases violent behavior!

Another shocker from “Nurture Shock,” preschoolers who watched educational programming increased in violent behavior almost as much as kids who watched violent programs did. Researchers were stunned when their data revealed that educational shows significantly increased relational violence in preschool aged kids. That means that the more educational television a child watched, the more likely they were to withdraw their friendship, tell others “You can’t play with me,” and lie about their friends. Kids were more bossy, controlling and manipulative, the more educational programming they watched!

Upon further investigation it was discovered that children’s programming is full of examples of relational violence, and often most of the program was about setting up a conflict and the resolution only happened for a few minutes at the end of the show. Unfortunately for preschoolers, they aren’t developmentally able to follow the story line very well, so they end up learning from everything they see, rather than learning the moral of the story. Oops!

OK, so here’s where I come down hard on all television and tell you that young people are infinitely better served by playing games, reading books, contributing to the household, and engaging in pretend play. But you already know all that, and it’s still challenging to keep the TV off. So here’s another take. If you feel you must allow your preschooler to watch TV, try watching along with them and talking about what’s happening.

Children learn best from real live human beings who engage in a dialogue with them. So, your little one is much more likely to understand the moral, if you talk about it together. You can mute the commercials and use the time to process what’s happening in the show. Probing questions like, “How do you think Arthur felt when his friend didn’t want to play with him?” or “What can Word Girl do to help her friends?” can help your child clarify and understand the story line.

I know this doesn’t solve the problem of the most common use of television, to get a few minutes away from the kids to do an adult task, but I have lots of articles and information about how to help your child engage in independent activities. So if you need a few minutes to yourself, I recommend setting them up with an engaging task, rather than plopping them in front of the tube.

So far, my daughter has seen about 10 minutes of television in her whole 16 months of life, so I think it’s pretty clear where I stand on this issue. But I can imagine that as she gets older we will allow her to watch some nature shows and an occasional movie. But you’d better believe, I’ll be right there by her side, describing, sharing, showing, and educating her about the emotional content of the programs she watches. After all, I can’t think of much that’s more important to me than her emotional education. And since I also have a strong personal commitment to compassionate communication, I want my daughter to have the information and tools she needs to empathize and connect, rather than to hurt and tear down others.

If I really start to think big, I’d like a complete overhaul of children’s programming so that it promotes compassion and emphasizes the resolution of the conflict, rather than the creation of it. Who’s with me?

Please leave me a comment and share this with your friends. And have an awesome day, Shelly


Hi, I am so glad I found you! I love your articles and I can feel your love and compassion for your daughter. It is very inspiring. Question: You mention you prefer promoting compassion and resolve conflict (I am all for it) but what if I were reaised in a very conflict oriented family without anyone teaching me about compassion? I had to learn on my own as an adult and now I am a mom to a 15 months old baby who has been raised very consciously... but I find that as he gets older my parenting style (when stressed) veers back to my old programming as a child from my parents... what would you recommend? More time spent practicing compassionate communication? thank you!

AwakeShelly moderator

Welcome @DanielleDove! I'm so glad you found me too! I hear you. I had to learn this stuff as an adult too. I'd recommend a few things. First, keeping a journal or recording the moments when you aren't at your best can be a great way to strategize how to handle your triggers in the future. There are also NVC practice groups all over and I've found them very useful since I enjoy processing through conflicts with other people. And lastly, my eCourse starting in May will address this issue. I would love to have you join us! Make sure you're signed up for my newsletter to get updates about the eCourse. And feel free to write to me any time at shelly at! Warm hugs, Shelly